With New iPad Pro, Has Apple Finally Gotten The Multi-Touch Laptop Right?

Ever since Apple introduced the original iPad 10 years ago, companies have been trying to create an iPad-killer Windows-based alternative. But, while devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro are powerful mobile computers, Windows multi-touch support still feels like a tacked-on bullet point.

Apple today announced a new iPad Pro, with features that firmly position it as a full-on laptop replacement. It offers laptop-level CPU performance, a high-definition touchscreen display, 4K video recording, ‘pro audio’ and trackpad support.

With the new iPad Pro, has Apple finally gotten the multi-touch laptop right?

Here’s what the company has to say about the new iPad Pro:

Now with the A12Z Bionic chip, iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops. The new iPad Pro adds an Ultra Wide camera, studio-quality mics and a breakthrough LiDAR Scanner that delivers cutting-edge depth-sensing capabilities, opening up more pro workflows and supporting pro photo and video apps. The LiDAR Scanner, along with pro cameras, motion sensors, pro performance, pro audio, the stunning Liquid Retina display and powerful apps, extends the lead of iPad Pro as the world’s best device for augmented reality (AR). The new iPad Pro is available to order starting today on apple.com.

With iPadOS 13.4, Apple brings trackpad support to iPad, giving customers an all-new way to interact with their iPad. Rather than copying the experience from macOS, trackpad support has been completely reimagined for iPad. As users move their finger across the trackpad, the pointer elegantly transforms to highlight user interface elements. Multi-Touch gestures on the trackpad make it fast and easy to navigate the entire system without users ever lifting their hand.

The iPad Pro For Musicians and Media Creators

In the last decade, the iPad has been widely adopted by musicians as a platform for music-making. Developers have created thousands of music apps, ranging from software synths to MIDI controllers to digital audio workstations.

For most musicians using iPads, though, the devices have been a secondary platform for music – used primarily for mobile music making and live performance.

In the last few years, though, the list of the iPad platform’s shortcomings has gotten smaller, as the hardware has gotten more and more powerful and iPadOS has added features like AU support and a more capable file system.

With the new iPad Pro, Apple is positioning it as a device for users that want a laptop replacement with power. The key features for the device focus on content creation, vs content consumption:

  • The new Magic Keyboard features a backlit keyboard and a trackpad
  • The A12Z Bionic Chip at the heart of the iPad Pro is powerful enough to handle editing 4K video or designing 3D models. An eight-core GPU gives iPad Pro the highest performance ever in an iPad.
  • The iPad Pro features an edge-to-edge high-definition display with up to 120 Hz refresh rate, True Tone color management and anti-reflective coating.
  • The camera system on iPad Pro features a 12MP Wide camera for capturing 4K video and a 10MP Ultra Wide camera and can capture 4K video
  • It also features five microphones high-quality microphones and immersive sound with four-speaker audio. The combination of 4K video, multiple microphones and high-def display will make it an all-in-one option for video, podcasting and other media creation.
  • The new iPad Pro also features a LiDAR Scanner that can measure 3d space at nano-second speeds. The company says that this “enables a whole new class of AR experiences”.

A Multi-Touch Laptop Done Right, Or The Refrigerator/Toaster?

When competitors introduced early multi-touch Windows machines, Apple CEO Tim Cook famously responded, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.” He was making the case that adding multi-touch to decades-old, mouse-based operating systems was inherently kludgy.

The new iPad Pro makes the case that taking the opposite approach – adding a trackpad to a multi-touch OS ecosystem – will result in a ‘converged device’ that’s not a ‘refrigerator/toaster’, but in a mobile device that can tackle more and more tasks that used to call for a traditional computer.

While there’s no doubt that both MacOS and Windows have deeper benches of professional audio and media apps, what’s most interesting about the evolution of the iPad is that it is carving out its own territory for content creation.

Is the new iPad Pro the multi-touch laptop done right – or a refrigerator/toaster? Either way, mouse & trackpad support is coming to iPadOS next week.

Share your thoughts in the comments!


Pricing and Availability

The new iPad Pro is available to order now.

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $949 (US) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $1,149 (US) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

iPadOS 13.4 with trackpad support will be available on March 24 as a free software update for all iPad Pro models, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and later. Trackpad support will be available on any iPad running iPadOS 13.4, and work with Apple’s Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2 and the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Third-party mice connected over Bluetooth or USB are also supported.

36 thoughts on “With New iPad Pro, Has Apple Finally Gotten The Multi-Touch Laptop Right?

  1. The claim about it being “faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops” is ridiculous. It is only true because most pc laptops are A LOT cheaper than the ipad. You can get several pc laptop models that are about the same price and a lot faster than this, especially in longer continuous workloads (like making music) where cooling matters.

  2. You be hard pushed to find a windows laptop that is not more powerful at the price of the IPAD PRO + a keyboard (100-1200+ bucks), total nonsense marketing, or if you prefer, a lie! Windows is simply better for many tasks, iOS is good for casual tasks/home use.

    1. Sorry to rub salt in the butthurt, but the CPU in last year’s iPad Pro matches the Surface Pro, which is Microsoft’s alternative::

      iPad Pro – 17145 geekbench:

      Surface Pro – 17273 geekbench:

      There’s no geekbench for the new iPad Pro yet, but expect at least a 50% speed bump.

      Windows will still be better for some tasks, iPad better for others.

      1. You are somewhat missing the point- apple only make iPAD, Microsoft is just one very minor specialist PC manufacturer! Surface is expensive and not a normal laptop, try a laptop from Dell, Lenovo, ASUS,HP, Acer. MSI and many more, configured the way you want, screen size as you mat it, USB ports as you want them and much cheaper than iPAD. A Surface is expensive but at least has an open operating system that can run all of the industry standard music software from Protools to Live and all of the standard plugs and fx without having to buy ‘again’ from an ‘app’ store. The iPAD is great (I have a PRO) but it isn’t close to a laptop due to the closed hardware and software architecture.

        1. Now that your statement was easily shown to be false, you’re moving the goalposts. Sad!

          The market has shown that the Microsoft’s refrigerator/toaster approach has completely failed to keep the iPad from dominating the tablet market.

          What Microsoft apologists won’t admit is that iPadOS is WAY better than a desktop OS (Mac or Windows) for many things, just as desktops are way better than tablets for many things.

          1. This is not an example of moving the goal posts.

            Microsoft is one of the very few laptop makers whose products don’t concentrate on delivering at least some bang for buck in terms of cpu power. They concentrate on the form and function above all else, much like Apple does with it’s Macbook Air line.

            Microsoft’s products are the very worst example of cpu power in the PC market.

            This does not make Microsoft’s or Apple’s products bad (they are very good for some stuff), but Apple’s claim on the processing power compared to ALL pc laptops is clearly ridiculous.

          2. Perhaps you are struggling to comprehend what I wrote, I never mentioned tablets in my OP, someone else suddenly brought up the Surface which is irrelevant as it is just one of many thousands of different ‘laptops’, not the only one. – why compare the iPAD to a MS Surface, why not a DELL XPS or any other laptop which is far more prolific?

  3. If you can’t use your DAW/Interface of choice what is the point? Apple just keeps missing the point. People want a touch screen macbook pro not a super limited thing that is destined for coaster duties.

    1. There has been a steady rise in the quality of music production tools for iPad/iOS, a lot of folks are happy with it now for serious production work. Every time I take a look at what’s available, I’m super impressed at the progress being made in this space.

      It seems to me like the point is that this is a newer computing paradigm with it’s own benefits, drawbacks and interface considerations which differ significantly from a desktop paradigm; trying to force them together is a big compromise to the experience for both.

      I wonder if that really is what people want, or if what you’re imagining is just slapping a touch screen onto a macbook– if it were simple to do this at a high standard of quality, they would probably do it. We’ve seen this with Windows– it is very challenging to get right and if any of your software is not updated for touch control, it will require extreme hand precision to interact with the tiny UI of a desktop app on such a small screen. Doesn’t seem like something Apple would want to do.

      1. That’s what people using Linux have been saying for the last 20 years. The reality of it is that either you have professional applications or you don’t. The ipad is not a new concept by itself either, we are talking about 10 years now since the first one.Then it was an ultra-portable device with an idiot proof interface . Now it resembles pretty much every slim laptop out there, with worst connectivity, a locked system and an identity crisis.

    2. Agreed. Software devs need to start taking iOS porting seriously. Even the 2019 iPad Pro is fast enough for serious software, but we’re still waiting for the apps to catch up. Photoshop for iPad is a step in the right direction, but even that app is still seriously unfinished ( = not even nearly at feature parity with the desktop version )

  4. The iPad has evolved from a handy tablet with specific functions, into an increasingly shitty laptop. Really bad product management direction.

    I still get some specific use out of my current iPad, but I can’t see ever buying another one. It seems it would have been faster and more effective to iterate backward from a Macbook to add touch capabilities and removable keyboard… because iOS is so limited in it’s bones that it will need completely replaced to ever really become what it thinks it wants to be. The current iPad is the tipping point for me into, “Just get a Surface if you need tablet style computing”, because it solves all those problems so much better. As for being a laptop replacement? Just get a laptop! Any flavor you prefer is a better “laptop”.

    1. “iOS is so limited in it’s bones”

      At its core, iPadOS is Unix, like MacOS and iOS and most of the servers that run the world. You can even compile apps for either platform.

      The fact that iOS is a variant of MacOS is why iOS has had professional audio and MIDI for a decade, while it’s still missing in action on Android and a pita on Windows.

      1. You obviously have no idea what “professional and and midi” is …With that interfacing and the lack of professional music programs, it is just a toy.

    1. You can get a headphone adapter for a couple of bucks, or $8 for the Apple one.

      Receivers all have Bluetooth support these days, too. If your using a daw, you’d want an audio/midi interface.

  5. The single most important thing on my iPad (12”) and what would justify continuous iPad upgrades is MidiDesigner Pro. I use it for a performance control environment for Live and I LOVE the screen real estate and flexibility of object layout and object functionality. My needs are simple and the app is elegant, rock solid, and indispensable to me.

    All the synth apps are cool to be sure but I just can’t connect with them because of the lack of physicality. The whole idea, since day one, of having to switch between apps to see what is going on is a total turnoff for me as well.

    Plus, there hasn’t been anything that even touches Ableton Live on the IPad. BM3 comes close but falls way too short. Touch really only goes just so far at the end of the day.

    The lack of physical audio i/o sucks ass.

    The only thing i use my Mac Mini for is Ableton, my iTunes music library, and photo repository. All my previous softsynth elements are slowly being transformed into hardware interpretations and I couldn’t be happier in the challenge, process, and end result. I have an impressive collection of quality softsynths but Omnisphere would be the one that is a keeper at the end of the day (and should be a bitchin’ workstation for crying out loud).

    People may be wisening up to breaking the cycle of hardware upgrades that we really are slaves to. Some people’s wealth depends on us and it’s gotta be limited. If it wasn’t for MacOS, I’d seriously consider just getting a decent & basic Windows laptop to drive Ableton midi sequencing and light audio recording and triggering.

  6. apple make quality stuff. it is pricey but its quality some moves they make usually eventually jive well months down the road. we need a dedicated audio and video out as well as a proper file managment system in ios. other then that it looks like a step in the right direction in my opinion

  7. Damn.. Despite the typical “MY OS (platform) is better then YOUR OS” arguments .(sigh! Gets so old guys!!!) I gotta commend Apple on its IPAD website!!!! I love the drilling in experience… It’s rather impressive! Just on a Web browsing experience! Anyhoo…. … after I recently leaned that the app “StaffPad” is now available on IOS.. I AM seriously considering this new Ipad! My very old Ipad Air is getting rather rusty.

  8. I have an older iPad Pro and it’s a great device, but it is in no way a decent replacement for a laptop. The new ipad is just a continuation of the same. Unless you’re doing something really simple, you need a real computer.

  9. No point is saying what Apple products really are. (basically crap products at ridiculous prices). Fanboys will always try and twist it.

    It’s not a Pro device, it’s Pro marketing!

    You can’t run 99% of the pro applications out there. If it was pro users would’ve owned the iPad Pro already and use it in a Pro environment, not as an expensive Netflix device, sent emails or to browse the web. What the AppStore offers is still a joke in comparison to what’s out there for MacOS, Windows and even Linux.

  10. I have an iPad Pro (amd almost everything else Apple makes) and no, it’s definitely not a replacement for a laptop. It struggles with the simplest tasks sometimes. Connectivity, compatibility, file management are a drag. It’s good for simple web browsing or noodling around, but I don’t see it replacing professional tools anytime soon.

  11. I use the iPad Pro 12.9 2nd generation, which still has a headphone jack. A mobile device for musicians without earphone-/headphone jack is nothing but a funny amateur joke to me, and I regard the Apple managers who are responsible for this kind of decisions as completely clueless morons concerning music business. Bluetooth connections introduce unuseable latency to recording. And the only other port may be needed for charging while using Cubasis. I would not accept needing some silly headphone interface hanging there for on the fly use anyways. So no, this thing is no Pro tool for musicians at all.
    If Apple goes on to produce this nonsense even in big iPads, my next portable device for music and recording will be a lightweight Windows 10 device with some fast AMD next generation mobile CPU. I’m using half a dozen iOS devices so far, but I’m done with such arbitrary and poor Apple management device degradation choices. And no, using midi and audio with Windows 10 systems has been no problem at all for me.

  12. Until they fix the crap file handling and crap IO, it will still be what it is – a niche device that can make music if you buy the right apps.

    Right now, it requires a “computer” (god god, what idiots) to download, say, the Hainbach sample pack you report on in a recent post. The file system is designed to serve on a device built to sell you more things, to facilitate corporate and national surveillance (it is not alone in this), and to hide not only the system, but – in too many instances – your own work (without that “computer”). Until we can use this device in standalone fashion, it will continue to be an accessory to another device, one most useful to people with very long airplane and train/bus commutes and those confined to bed.

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