My Biases

The most important thing you should know about any reviewer (whether it is an individual reviewer like Roger Ebert or Andy Ihnatko or a corporate reviewer like the Sweet Home or Consumer Reports) are their preferences and biases. If you know these, you can gauge what part of their response to the thing under review you should listen carefully to and which part you should dismiss. I stress the you here because it is absolutely not the generic you. It is you personally. What I should ignore about and focus on in a review is not the same thing as what someone else should ignore and focus in on.

The iPad Pro

My first bias that you should know about is that I really, really like the iPad mini's form factor. I love how small it is, in terms of its portability and use. I don't find the screen too small to type on (because I have fully adjusted to it) and it packs easily into the slim line bag that usually serves as my briefcase.

As a result, the iPad Pro feels, even after several weeks of use, too big.

I freely admit that the size provides some great advantages. When editing text, a lot of screen real estate is nice -- especially when the iPad Pro is in portrait mode. The difference between using a note taking app like Notability or working with a PDF in an app like iAnnotate is the difference between using a steno pad and a legal pad.

If you travel economy, the screen size can be an issue -- as I will discuss in more detail in a later post. Once it is set up with the keyboard, it gets crowded. It is possible to use the onscreen keyboard lying flat on the fold-down table, but the angle is less than ideal.

And yet, as I type this and look at the screen, it still feels too big. I don't like that I am carrying around my old notebook backpack again (although its larger capacity is more than a little useful -- especially when traveling.) I had thought that I would have adjusted to both

the size and the bag more by now. Since I haven't, you should know that I appear to remain biased against the size.

The Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is a game changing device. I was not prepared for how much of a difference it makes even when compared to some very good styluses.

From the moment I figured out how to get a paper onto my iPad for marking, I have been using a stylus and I have found two that are -- at least for me -- worth using.

One is Adonit's Jot Pro. The illusion that the clear Precision Disk creates means that I feel like I can be much more precise in my lines. The first generation does have a problem, in that the nibs do eventually wear out and, once that happens, it quickly becomes unusable. The company does offer replacement nibs for purchase and the second generation of the stylus, it is said, has improved reliability (I haven't used it, so I can't comment on whether this is true or not.). Still, it is well worth using and I still have a Jot Mini in my bag.

The other is Applydea's Maglus stylus. I initially backed this as a :fund:it project (an Irish crowdfunding site) and have not regretted it. Before the Apple Pencil came in, I replaced my original, which had developed a small tear in the nib after many years of use, with a next generation model. The replaceable nibs are a nice feature and I am really impressed with how much of an improvement the microfiber nib makes, in terms of the feel. I would like to tell you about the graphite nib, but it was on back order. Whatever happens with this test, I expect that the graphite tip may mean the Maglus is in my bag even if I have access to an Apple Pencil. As I am not an artist, I am not quite sure what to do with the brush nib -- although it is cool to look at and fun to play with.

Even though I still recommend these two styluses, I am amazed by the feel of the Apple Pencil. When I now electronically sign a PDF, I no longer zoom in on the signature line -- as I do even with the high-quality Adonit Jot and Maglus. I can just sign like I would if I was working with paper. The same is true with note taking using Notability. I used to use the magnified area at the bottom of the screen to write my notes (Incidentally, cursive is much easier to write in than printing on a glass screen. Given the choice, I tend to print when taking notes on paper. On the screen, I almost exclusively write in cursive for the speed and for the fewer clicks it produces as the stylus hits the screen.) For an art app like Paper by 53, it is stunning.

I mention this because I did not expect to be overwhelmed by the Pencil. It, more than any other single thing, is what has made me think I should conduct this test.

The Apple Keyboard

I am troubled by the keyboard.

I am not troubled by its design or its keys. I know that internationally beloved technology columnist Andy Ihnatko does not like the feel of the keys. Like iMore's Rene Ritchie, I find them very usable.

Indeed, I think they may be too usable.

I cannot shake the feeling that all external keyboards are legacy input devices. It is something that watching those who use their mobile phones to text and search brings home. And while the individual user choice is, and should be, a matter of personal preference, it is something that educators need to consider. What should we use, model, and expect students to use as they are positioned for a future that not only includes next year but ten years from now. I cannot shake the feeling that in ten years, when my daughter heads off to university, she will not be using an external keyboard. And while it is true that I want her to have every advantage possible, it is equally true that my current students will eventually be her competition in the workplace. And if they are wedded to legacy devices, they will be at a clear disadvantage.

Dr. Matthew M. DeForrest is a Professor of English and the Mott University Professor at Johnson C. Smith University. The observations and opinions he expresses here are his own. You are very welcome to follow him on Twitter and can find his academic profile at