Editor’s Note: Apple contacted me on February 16th, suggesting the short battery life is abnormal. We discussed tech support option but I chose instead to replace the whole kit—iPad Pro and keyboard—to see if the short battery life with Smart Keyboard is a one-off hardware problem. Look for an update in the sixth post. The hardware exchange will take a day or so to sort out, before the series can resume.

The follow-up post, on February 24th, countermands the negative conclusions stated in this review. Battery life from the second kit is hugely satisfying and plenty long enough for the typical workday. The user experiences aren’t comparable. I debated about deleting the original story but that feels like hiding something. Hopefully this addendum sufficiently retracts the original conclusion.

I cannot presently recommend Apple’s big-ass tablet as a laptop replacement—using the official-issue Smart Keyboard. The reason may surprise you. The foible isn’t the utility of iOS, available apps, or overall hardware performance but the battery and charging system. Inadequate combination is an understatement.

Two weeks ago, I purchased iPad Pro through T-Mobile’s Jump On Demand program. My 13th day using the tablet as my primary PC progresses with acceptance that an ongoing problem is a deal breaker. When I use iPad Pro like a laptop, even primarily working only with mail and two browsers (Chrome and Safari), battery burns down too rapidly and subsequent topping off takes too long. Oddly, battery-life is exceptionally good for tablet use. 

With Smart Keyboard attached, I can deplete iPad Pro’s battery in about four hours, while recharging takes six or more hours. More disturbing: When plugged into the Lightning cable and 12-watt brick, and in-use. the tablet typically reaches a steady-state where the battery charges little to not at all. Yesterday, i got the thang from 14 percent to 100 percent in under 5 hours by powering off and detaching the accessory.

The fundamental problem might be partly remedied. Apple’s 12-watt charger is insufficient for the 10,307mAh battery. But the device is capable of 29 watts with right brick and Lightning cable, neither of which the company offers. A bigger brick wouldn’t increase battery life, but it should substantially reduce recharge time and make more feasible using the tablet when plugged into electrical outlet.

Restated, there are three related problems with the current configuration:

  • Battery depletes too quickly with Smart Keyboard attached
  • Little to no recharging occurs when tablet is used with keyboard
  • Recharge time takes too long, particularly set against actual usage time

For nearly two weeks I’ve limped along using iPad Pro as much as possible as my primary PC, but shifting back to laptop when the battery depletes. I have tried working with the tablet plugged into power, but there’s something disconcerting watching the charge percentage go down, which can’t be good for the battery.

Tablet experience is quite different, however; the overall UX surpasses iPad Air 2. Battery blows past a full waking workday of use, and is easily replenished overnight. The 12.9-inch display delivers content consumption wallop. Now that I’m more accustomed to the size—305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm (12 x 8.68 x .27 inches)—content consumption benefits are better appreciated. Finally, I can read magazines as full page, without pinching to zoom text, for example.

[green_box] Also in this series:

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I will have much to say about content consumption and apps usage in a follow-up post. Teaser: Apple’s News app is transformative on this tablet like no other or from any competing software-service.

If big is your thing, iPad Pro is a fabulous tablet. But the battery/charging system limits use as a laptop replacement, and that’s ignoring other gotchas to be discussed later.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appears on BetaNews.

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