Ars Technica reviews Apple’s iPadOS: It’s now viable to replace your MacBook with an iPad

Dark Mode in iPadOS 13 brings a dramatic look to iPad for an immersive visual experience.
Dark Mode in iPadOS 13 brings a dramatic look to iPad for an immersive visual experience.

Samuel Axon for Ars Technica:

The updates to Files and Safari are game-changers. For skilled users who can handle its complexities, this update to multitasking will make productivity and content creation tasks much more efficient. And as is the case with iOS 13 generally, a focus on privacy and giving powerful tools to third-party app developers goes a long way to distinguish this from other platforms in a positive way. It doesn’t hurt that Apple’s iPad hardware is almost universally outstanding, either.

If you’re looking to replace your laptop with an iPad, congratulations; Apple has listened to your feedback and made it viable for the first time. That’s no small feat. But as a famous fictional mathematician once said, Apple was so preoccupied with whether it could that it didn’t stop to think if it should.

For the types of users who read Ars Technica — who seek out knowledge to maximize control and mastery of their personal technology — most of these changes are quite welcome. I’m just a little worried about what it all means for everybody else. Year by year, the iPad is being reimagined for a new mission. But to do that, Apple has to abandon — or at least compromise — the original mission. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on exactly who you are.

In any case, Cupertino’s efforts to respond to long-time user feedback herald a very interesting new chapter for the Apple ecosystem. And doing serious work on a true tablet has never been easier.

MacDailyNews Take: Axon’s conclusion is exactly why we’ve long advocated for a simple toggle in the operating system for iPads. All iPads should come “simple” by default. Power users can choose to flick a toggle to access advanced features that might be highly confusing to average users.

Imagine an “iOS Pro” mode.

Turn on iOS Pro on your iPad Pro
1. Tap Settings > General, and make sure iOS Pro is turned on.
2. There is no step two.

Hey, we can dream, can’t we? — MacDailyNews, December 29, 2015

As usual, Ars’ full review is worth the read. Check it out here.

Interns: TTK. Prost!


  1. yada yada yada maybe so for web browsing and emails but not for serious (scientific) research purposes – large databases (2m records), mapping and report writing…
    yada yada yada, it’s horses for courses – for some people maybe so, but the idea of a pad replacing my MB Pro or desktop is laughable – and I have an iPad so I speak from experience.

    1. I agree. This talk is nonsense. If all you do is surf the Web and send e-mail, it works. If you want to do serious work, it is a waste of time. I have an iMac with 32 GB of RAM and a large solid state hard drive for serious work. I run Windows 10 Pro under Parallels and use a variety of Mac and Windows applications simultaneously exchanging data between them.

  2. I was hopeful, but the iPad is still held back by the lack of a decent file manager and limited multitasking support, among other things. I’m increasingly frustrated that Apple isn’t making better progress on iPadOS usability. Perhaps a Mac in an iPad form factor (with keyboard and trackpad) would be helpful…

  3. Will an iPad playback seven 4k video streams in multi-camera editing mode with multiple LUTs on every track? I didn’t think so. Ars Technica certainly have lowered their expectations for what a computer is, as well as what it should do.

    1. Does 90 percent of the computing public need to “playback seven 4k video streams in multi-camera editing mode with multiple LUTs on every track”? 80 percent? How about half? Maybe a quarter? Not even 10%?!?

      Ars Technica knows both what iPads and Macs do AND they know how most folks use them. The truth is for MOST people, even an iPad is overkill for what they need to do regularly.

    1. Precisely. I’m not looking to replace either what works with what is more limited and clunky to use in certain applications. What’s the point? I love my iPad for what it does do well. As soon as you slap on a keyboard the distinction begins to vanish and it’s obvious a MBP or Mac Book is better.

    2. Yep. I want a MacBook with a large trackpad and a solid keyboard firmly attached to the screen, so I can comfortably use it on a desk or my lap.

      With a clean screen the I never have to touch.

      A laptop in fact.

      Better yet, a MacBook. Air.

  4. Wow. I find these new features to be amazing. I realized when I bought my first iPad Pro, I was NEVER going to buy another Mac. So, I started doing my “Mac” tasks on my iPad. With every update it gets easier and easier to do what I was previously doing on my Mac. I love this! I work in a BYOD environment. There are PC’s you can use if necessary. I don’t even know how to log in on them. iPad Pro. All I need. Keep making it better. I applaud you, Tim Cook!

  5. OBVIOUSLY there are people who will need the power of a full blown OS and a powerful platform like a MacBook Pro. The iPad is currently not targeting those people, though over time, things will change. More and more people are reporting that the iPad has become the only computer they need. Others like heavy video editors or people working with extremely large data sets as mentioned above, might find that given a chance, the iPad can handle their less demanding chores better than the MacBook Pro does, even though it can’t touch their heavy load work.

    I have gotten to this point. I run my business and do all kinds of work on the iPad now, and primarily use the MacBook Pro for systems engineering, network management, and software development. I would say that at least 90% of my non-technical tasks have been taken over by the iPad Pro. 100% of content consumption is now handled by my iPad Pro.

    Over the last decade, Apple has done a very poor job of explaining the iPad. Admittedly its not easy to describe, but the direction they took, i.e. telling people it’s not a computer didn’t do the iPad any favors.

    First of all the iPad is most definitely a computer. It’s a general purpose computer like any Mac, Windows, or Linux computer. It can perform the vast majority of tasks that the vast majority of people use a computer for. It can handle communications, i.e. email, VOIP, text messaging, and so on. It can handle browsing the Internet and using web based applications. It has countless apps available on the App Store for word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring, sound editing, video editing, art, photography, science, education, games etc.

    1. Unfortunately many people who are curious about the iPad hear that it isn’t a computer and decide it isn’t for them. Those who decide to give it a try quickly start trying to make it fit the paradigm they are accustomed to. They connect a mouse and start looking for the menu bar and conventional overlapping window multitasking.

      When they can’t quite suss the nature of the device, they basically write it off as an obscure content consumption contraption that busy people really don’t need. Or they refer to it as nothing more than a big iPhone and claim that it cannot compete with or replace a laptop.

      For work I do lots of research. On the iPad I will find a source and open up a web browser to that and pair it with a notes app. I will often do this app-pairing form of multitasking for quite a few research pairs. On top of this I can add apps in the slide over context. Multitasking works quite well.

      You can get into “the zone” with an iPad and the combination of the touch interface and what I would call highly focused multitasking, allow you to be more productive than you can be with a normal computer. Whether or not you’re willing to learn to do this is up to you though.

      1. Claiming that it is not a computer is like telling someone in the lane next to you that their car isn’t a car because it’s smaller than your Dodge Ram Pickup.

        Professionals who can use iPad with no problem would include people like writers, lawyers, doctors, educators, accountants, biologists, librarians, cartoonists, small business entrepreneurs of almost every type, CEOs, COOs, CIOs, clergy, counselors, producers, actors, criminal investigators, farmers, geographers, developers, students, photographers, creative directors, recruiters, web developers, and so on. The list could go on for quite some time.

        Perhaps the iPad cannot meet your highly specific need, but it can for the majority of people.

        The iPad is becoming the right tool for the job for the majority. If you already have a MacBook of some kind, you don’t need to replace it. Still if you’re at the point of considering a new computer purchase, the iPad is definitely worth a look.

  6. My wife first introduced me to the iPad as she has had one almost from the start for web browsing and personal use. She is Chinese, so the touch screen is ideal for her to write in her home language (the device could have been designed for the Chinese).

    I first got one as electronic manuscript to play music without having to carry around a heavy folder of music, scanning with iPad camera into dedicated music app. When the iPad Pro first came out with Smart Keyboard I started to also use for business while travelling (I am owner of my own international company selling brass musical instruments). Whenever I could not work out how to do something on the iPad, I Googled and usually found a way, or App to help me achieve my objective. Over the last three years the software has got better for real work with each update and I have used more and more of the time and my Mac less and less – and actually enjoy using the iPad Pro a lot more – it seems the future. The new Multi-tasking features in iPadOS and desktop Safari has at last made it the computer device I have long wanted. I now use for 99% of my online work running my business. Only when software/facility I need which is not ‘yet’ available for the iPad will I pull out the Mac, maybe only 1% of the time. I travel the world for weeks at a time running my business entirely from my iPad Pro. I know the work of other people will require them to use a Mac or Windows PC, but for me the iPad is perfect.

    For my wife, she still uses it exactly as she did several years ago. The new facilities are really hidden from general users and don’t have to be used. For example I have have never found her using split screen and I don’t think she even knows how. So I think the the genius of Apple is they have built up the iPad to fulfil the wishes of power users like me – while still keeping the interface familiar and apparently simple enough for general users who just want to browse or chat with their friends.

  7. I wish this were true, but there are also some serious software deficiencies. For example, Adobe CC only has Lightroom for the Web for the ipad. If you have been using the Desktop Classic version and loaded it with keywords, they don’t transfer to me Web version. You’re just out of luck.

  8. You can replace a Mac with an iPad just like you can replace an automobile with a bicycle.

    That is the honest truth, except more bicycles on the road would lead to decreased gridlock, happier fitter people, and dramatically reduced healthcare costs. The iPad simply makes it more frustrating and slower to do practically everything including email, web surfing, and media consumption — leading to a couch potato nation full of unhappy people driving up healthcare costs. That’s why Apple felt the need to pivot to the wrist health nanny.

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