Apple has launched a new iPad Pro with an advanced rear camera and new work-from-home possibilities. Picture: Supplied
Apple has launched a new iPad Pro with an advanced rear camera and new work-from-home possibilities. Picture: Supplied

Is iPad 2020 a #WFH dream?

APPLE'S newest creations will arrive in Australia this week at the best of times and the worst of times.

On one hand, it's uncanny that Apple chose this moment to launch two machines to help you work from home.

On the other hand, all Australian Apple Stores are shut and it will require steely blind faith to throw hundreds of dollars at new tech, sight unseen.

So should you risk it? Is the new iPad Pro worth the gamble? And what about the redesigned "Magic" keyboard on Apple's newest Mac?

We've been testing both in a real-world home office to find out.

 

MADE TO WORK HARD

Ten years after launching the iPad as an entertainment device, and five years after going Pro, Apple is taking the next step towards recognising this tablet as a laptop replacement.

Even its website yells, "your next computer is not a computer". Except, of course, that the iPad is technically a computer and the new model is a capable one at that.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 will be compatible with a Magic Keyboard stand that elevates the device. Picture: Supplied
Apple iPad Pro 2020 will be compatible with a Magic Keyboard stand that elevates the device. Picture: Supplied

Apple's 2020, $1329+, top-of-the-line tablet features a faster chip and graphics processor, 6GB RAM in all models (up from 4GB), and even the cheapest iPad Pro will get you 128GB storage (up from 64GB).

But its biggest change is its new compatibility with accessories more commonly used with desktop computers.

You can connect an Apple Magic Trackpad to this device and move a cursor around its screen without actually touching it (like social distancing but for machines).

It might sound naff, and even Apple says the iPad is still a "touch-first experience," but it's quite useful in practice.

Scrolling down an iPad screen from a comfortable distance feels like a minor Minority Report moment, and multi-finger shortcuts can help you sweep between open apps or close them.

And the biggest change could come in May with the release of the much-discussed Magic Keyboard; a $499-$589 cover and stand combination that will let your iPad "float" above the desk with a hinged design. That stand, which arrives with its own touchpad and redesigned keyboard, will elevate this iPad beyond being just a second screen.

Apple has launched a new iPad Pro that will arrive in Australia this week. Picture: Supplied
Apple has launched a new iPad Pro that will arrive in Australia this week. Picture: Supplied

In isolation, a lot of this tablet's inner workings are similar to the November 2018 model, however - it features the same screen, co-processor and Pencil, and is just 10g heavier - leaving only a small justification for those looking to upgrade.

 

ALTERNATIVE REALITIES

Cameras are often overlooked in tablets for good reason: no one wants to be the person in the front row, blocking everyone else's view with a 12.9-inch viewfinder.

Apple has come up with a new set-up and purpose for the photographic features inside this device, though.

It comes with two cameras on its rear panel for the first time but also adds a LiDAR scanner. This feature, which stands for "light detection and ranging" uses the light that bounces back to the camera to measure distances and is used in gadgets from rivals makers to find focus fast.

Apple is instead using it to deliver augmented reality: a technology it's been backing for some time that is amazing to see but difficult to sell.

We tested this feature by adding a dinosaur to the lounge room in Monster Park, placing a virtual desk in a corner using the Ikea Place app, and helping the Very Hungry Caterpillar to eat some apples to entertain a stay-at-home student.

All three were compelling to use and easy to set up with this device. If Apple wants to sell everyone on augmented reality, this device will give them their greatest chance.

 

PUTTING THE MAGIC INTO KEYBOARDS

Apple's MacBook Air continues to be the Zoolander of the range: ridiculously good looking.

But infrequent updates and what some users classed as a problematic keyboard has seen it fall out of favour.

This year's Air reissue should reverse that criticism.

The keyboard on this slender laptop is a touch-typist's dream, with generously sized buttons that travel enough for you to register you've hit them but land like soft-close kitchen cupboards.

Apple MacBook Air 2020 features the redesigned “Magic Keyboard”. Picture: Supplied
Apple MacBook Air 2020 features the redesigned “Magic Keyboard”. Picture: Supplied

The keyboard boasts the same scissor-mechanism as the 16-inch MacBook Pro released late last year and should finally settle disputes about its productivity skills.

This 13-inch laptop also retains its reputation for being lightweight (1.29kg), slender (1.6cm), and stylishly crafted from aluminium, but it also adds an Intel processor offering twice the grunt, a more powerful graphics processor, and a minimum of 256GB storage.

It's not the powerhouse pro users will demand but, in our tests, this MacBook Air has proved more than capable of handling RAW photos in Lightroom, maintaining three virtual desktops filled with apps, and doing it all from the couch (because your home office is where you make it).

 

APPLE 2020 VERDICT

These are strange days in which most of us aren't taking our work home but actually starting it there.

The fact that Apple's new pro-level iPad can operate more like a desktop machine seems incredibly prescient and useful for Australia's growing work-from-home army. We need more screens and shortcuts than ever.

The 2020 iPad Pro won't reach its full potential until the Magic Keyboard arrives in May to literally elevate this device, however.

This year's update, though more than competent, will also be difficult to justify for recent iPad Pro buyers, though it's worth noting they can also use the "floating" stand when it is launched.

Upgrading to Apple's new MacBook Air should be much easier to justify, though.

With more power under its stylish hood and a new keyboard to smash out emails, it could be the work-from-home gadget that makes the best of trying times.

Originally published as Is iPad 2020 a #WFH dream?


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