As much as it was different this year (and it really was very much so), Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations were actually... wonderful.
Absent were the usual hustle and bustle involved. No need to make cross-country trips, no sweaty discomfort from wearing our new traditional garbs. And not having to change out of my pyjama pants? Splendid.
Like many other families across Singapore, it was a day filled with feasting over multiple video calls with loved ones. Commemorating the festive day was made even easier, I realised, with the presence of a package from Apple: their 2020 iPad Pro ($1,199), the new Magic Keyboard ($439) and an Apple Pencil ($189) stylus.
Pretty advanced (not to mention pricey) tech for a day dedicated to tradition, but these are strange times anyway. Covid-19? More like Cov-Eid ’20, am I right?
Moving past that paltry pun, the new iPad Pro setup came in handy early in the morning when my wife started baking some sweet treats to last us for the rest of the day. Bon Appetit chefs are culinary gods in our house — so the dessert of the day was Chris Morocco’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Hooking up the 11-inch iPad Pro to the Magic Keyboard was pretty dummy-proof because it’s as simple as sticking the tablet (magnets, how do they work?) to the very sturdy Magic Keyboard. Portability was key for our relatively small kitchen counter, and the surprisingly heavy keyboard meant that the entire kit isn’t going to flip over easily. It really is that stable as a floating iPad stand.
The fancy iPad keyboard proved to be a game-changer when it came to browsing online for the recipe. Having a trackpad with zero lag on the iPad really establishes the idea that it could actually replace standard laptops. Beyond clicking and scrolling, the support for multi-touch gestures enables seasoned MacOS users to pretty much navigate the iPad like they normally would on a MacBook. Useful when you don’t want to smudge up the screen with flour and butter.
Oh, and this iPad is fast. Downloading and running apps were swift, and switching between multiple tasks didn’t even cause any stutter. One could even call it overkill — this tablet holds Apple’s new A12Z bionic chip with an eight-core CPU and eight-core GPU. Essentially, this tablet can run graphics-intensive apps smoothly without heating up.
No issues at all too when it came down to crafting special Hari Raya cards for our family and friends. With the Apple Pencil and the Procreate app, churning out some greeting cards to send out to family and friends (and for the ‘gram) was a cinch.
This probably needs to be said again — the inbuilt webcams on this year’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models just ain’t gonna cut it these days, chief. Thankfully, the iPad Pro escapes my quibble with a front-facing camera that offers way better clarity for video calls.
The iPad Pro comes with a 7MP TrueDepth camera at the top of the display, the same one that’s on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. With the ability to shoot 1080p videos, our extended family were getting clear views of our faces during our virtual reunion. Plus the lontong, rendang, sambal prawn, etc, of course.
We had to construct a little studio first though. The iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard were mounted on a tower of books (before switching to a box instead) on our dining table, and that's where it stayed for the rest of the day.
It's a two-dimensional simulation of what would normally take place in normal times. Teleconferences can't capture the actual interactions of Hari Raya gatherings — you don't hear your cousins cracking jokes with your aunties; you can't see the elder gents of the family sitting in the corner talking about cars; you won't feel the warmth of your grandmother making you pile on more food onto your plate.
Still, my grandma was definitely appreciative of getting to hear me coming through her screen loud and clear. There’s an array of five “studio-quality” microphones packed inside the iPad Pro, so our family members were receiving a lot more audio clarity from our Zoom rectangle, catching me and my wife’s voices amid the typical din of Malay aunties getting together.
An efficient processor makes for better battery life too, and Apple’s claim that their iPad could last 10 hours of usage is... actually believable. We went through at least three lengthy Hari Raya zoom calls (on top of running Procreate and browsing Bon Appetit) without even needing to juice it up.
It eventually hit the low-battery point the next day while watching instructional videos on YouTube on feeding sourdough starters. Don't judge; what else is there to do besides taking care of your own health and bake bread?
Beyond Hari Raya festivities though, the iPad Pro would still come in handy during a time when people could use a portable-yet-capable device to maintain communications while sheltering in place.
It’s yet another screen in the house — and one that potentially couldn’t fit in your spending budget these days — but I’d be willing to say it’s an exceptional apparatus for creative pursuits while we hunker down at home for another month or two. You can’t go wrong with non-grainy video calls to loved ones, too.