iPad Pro Review

The iPad Pro with its proud 12.9-inch screen size and the corresponding Apple Pencil has been around for half a year now. In my opinion, the launch was a step in the right direction, but its size and weight is not suitable for students who are looking for a portable replacement of pen and paper.

This spring Apple introduced the newest member of the Pro-family, an 'small' 9.7 -inch iPad Pro that looks very much the same as its predecessors of the iPad Air series. Weighing only 437 g and paired with the smaller display size, it becomes attractive again for the modern student.

As an advocate of the paperless study and self-proclaimed lecture notes scatterbrain I have already tested several devices (Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, Wacom Cintiq 13HD, HP Pro Slate 8) and in the end I chose the Galaxy Note 10.1 / 2014 for its weight and ease of use that has served me well for a long time now. Due to hardware and technical problems the time has come to replace my loyal companion. With the 12.9-inch iPad my curiosity was already piqued, but as mentioned before, I chose not to buy it because of its size. The recent introduction of the 9.7-inch iPad was now the opportunity to take the plunge and to check whether my prejudices against iPads are still justified.

First impressions

First things first: the price. The iPad Pro 9.7-inch is available in three versions with 32/128/256 GB of storage respectively and cost from CHF 689.- to CHF 1049.-. I opted for the version with 128 GB of storage space for CHF 869.- because I wanted to have the possibility to store and edit images while on the go. Add another CHF 109.- for the Apple Pencil that is sold separately. Additionally, since it is advisable to get a protective case to cover and protect the screen, I picked one from Apple, always demonstrating brand loyalty, which added a further CHF 118.- up to a total sum of CHF 1096.- for the package.

Such a sum has a non-negligible impact on an average student’s expenses. Nevertheless, the iPadPro’s price is within the range of other tablets (see Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix or the HP Elite x2). Although it must be said that most other tablets with a pen run a full version of Windows so the comparison might not hold too much water.

The first impression of the packaging is as you would expect it from Apple: white, plain and high quality. A charger and a very short instruction manual are included. The iPad Pro itself looks externally very much the same as the iPad Air 2 series, except for the protruding rear camera (more on that later) and the four speakers that are characteristic for the Pro series. The Apple Pencil also comes in a sleek, white cardboard. A spare tip and an adapter for charging the pen on the iPad charger are included.

What strikes me is the weight – it is the lightest device so far according to my experience with other tablet brands. Otherwise, the device makes a very solid impression. Starting and setting up the iPad Pro is very simple. After I logged into the home WLAN and followed the step by step instructions, I got the option to disable the "true tone" feature of the screen and compare the colors. Since the image without "true tone" had an unpleasant blue tint, I suppose that the color settings were not configured yet and not that this was the standard calibration of an iPad Air.

The iPad Pro as a daily driver

According to Apple the iPad Pro can replace a laptop. In my opinion, the biggest disadvantage compared to Windows tablets is the installed iOS, because it can only be used with applications that are available in the App Store. For technology or natural sciences students who often use complex tools, the iPad Pro is unable to completely replace the laptop.
However, as a small, mobile companion for simple tasks like reading and writing e-mails, office work, or photo editing, the iPad Pro is in the lead. The handful of preinstalled apps cover e-mailing and taking notes, for everything else the motto is "there is an app for that". The Microsoft Office Suite, for example, can be downloaded in the AppStore (free download, an existing Office license is required).
Using the device proves to be very pleasant, as it easily fits into your bag or on one of these narrow tables in the lecture halls.
Apple promises the same 10-hour battery life of every iPad that has come before. After several weeks of usage, I can confirm this statement.
One complaint would the design of the camera lens, which protrudes from the back of the iPad and therefore always runs the risk of being scratched on an uneven surface. Using a protection case solves the issue, but makes the device slightly thicker.

The Apple Pencil

For note-taking in lectures I use, like on my prior device, the OneNote app from Microsoft. The use of the Apple Pencil during lectures proves to be very comfortable, it has a good size and a pleasant weight. My concern that it would just roll off the table turns out to be unjustified. The weights inside the Pencil are positioned in such a manner that one side of the Pencil is heavier and it therefore it remains stationary on a level and even on slightly inclined surfaces if they are not too steep.
Writing or drawing is very accurate, the pencil slides with little resistance over the display. Somewhat unusual is the fact that there is no cursor displayed in the place where the pen would hit the screen. The laminated display and the high accuracy of the Apple Pencil create the illusion of writing on paper. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the pen is very exact in each area of the screen. With most other devices the pen behaves differently on the edges of the display, making it either noticeably inaccurate or completely useless for writing.


The iPad Pro proves to be a very useful device in the life of a typical student and is hereby awarded sole lead in terms of pen and display. Unfortunately, it loses a lot of points because of the lack of a fully featured operating system and the dependence on the App Store. According to the slogan "Faster than a speeding laptop.", the installation of an fully funcional OS X instead of the iOS should not be impossible.
Therefore, I can recommend the iPad Pro as a loyal companion throughout the studies, but not as a substitute for a "real" laptop.


About the author: Matthias Leutenegger is a master student in the Compotational Biology and Bioinformatics programme at ETH Zürich. He is a longtime Projekt Neptun webmaster, passionate webdevelopper and gamer.


Get Office 365 Free for Students

Microsoft offers Students of eligible universities the possibility to use Office 365 for free. Students can download Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote & 5 TB Online Storage) on all their devices, incl. Mac & iPad.

Click here to find your university, enter your student E-mail address and download Office -> it’s that easy!

If you cannot find your university on the list, try this link or contact the IT-department of your university

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When downloading the free Office version, you receive the full and locally installable version of Office including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and OneNote. You can install Office on up to 15 devices, no matter what device or operating system (5 PCs/Macs, 5 Tablets, iPads, 5 Smartphones/iPhones).

Additionally, you will receive 5 TB free Online Cloud storage with OneDrive for Business to make sure you can access your documents from any device and whenever you need it.

Who gets the free Office?

Basically all Students of educational institutions can benefit from the free Office offer. However, it is the university itself that chooses to enable the free Office Benefit for their Students. Check here whether your university has enabled the free Office for Students.

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Neptun Demo Days Spring 2016

Come and visit us during the Neptun Demo Days, where we will showcase brand new hardware from Apple, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, NEC and more. You can have a look at the Neptun hardware here or download the Product Flyer (.pdf).

During the Neptun Demo Days you have the opportunity to check out all of the Neptun products live at an university near you. Along with the Neptun team there will also be representatives of the respective notebook manufacturers and shop owners on site to demonstrate the equipment and answer all of your sale and technical questions. Demo Days run from 10:00 - 14:30 on each given date.

We are looking forward to meet you at the Neptun Demo Days which are currently ongoing until March 7, 2016: 

 23.02.2016 | ZHAW, St. Georgen Mensa

23.02.2016 | ETH Zürich Center, Alumni Pavillon

24.02.2016 | University of Bern, Gesellschaftsstrasse Foyer           

24.02.2016 | PH Bern von Roll, Main Hall

25.02.2016 | FHNW, Passarelle

25.02.2016 | University of Basel, Kollegiengebäude Foyer

29.02.2016 | ETH Zürich Hönggerberg, HIL D

29.02.2016 | PHZH, LAB Foyer

01.03.2016 | University of Zürich Center, Lichthof

01.03.2016 | University of Zürich Irchel, Lichthof

02.03.2016 | University of St. Gallen, 09-FOY

02.03.2016 | University of Luzern, Foyer

03.03.2016 | University of Fribourg, Pérolles

03.03.2016 | BFH Biel, Cafeteria EG

07.03.2016 | University of Geneva, Uni Mail EG


Microsoft Surface 3 and Pro 4 Exclusive 15% Discount

In collaboration with Microsoft, Projekt Neptun is offering an exclusive deal on both hybrid-tablet models, the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 4, as well as selected accessories, all with a 15% discount. The offer is available for students and university personnel only. 

The Surface 3 Bundle comes with the Type Cover keyboard included, the pen is optional for this device. There is also a 4G LTE version available. 

The Surface Pro 4 Bundle includes both the Type Cover and the Active Digitizer Pen. Different configurations with Intel i3, i5 or i7 processors and more disk space are possible. The device is just thick enough to have a full USB Port and it provides also a Mini DisplayPort and a miniSD Card Slot which allows you to be even more productive and efficient on the go.

The Type Cover for Surface Pro 4 has been redesigned: With more space between the keys it offers a great typing experience. The new trackpad is 40% bigger and the sensitivity has been enhanced significantly compared to the previous model.

The Surface Pen is also more sensitive then its predecessor so the writing and drawing feels more natural.

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Surface and OneNote

What makes the Surface especially useful for university life is the integration of the pen with several Microsoft software such as Office OneNote. The buttons on the Surface Pen can be defined to preform specific actions such as opening OneNote with one click or make a screenshot and open it automatically in OneNote with two clicks. Here you can find a complete overview of the possibilties of your Surface with OneNote.