On Wednesday, Apple will announce new iPads.
I bought an iPad Pro earlier this year and think it’s the best digital comics reading device out there.
Before there are even newer iPads to talk about, though, let’s stop for a minute to look back at the most recent edition and why it’s the best thing ever for my comics reading….
How It All Began
I blame my daughter for this, entirely.
We stood together in the Apple store. An iPad Pro 10.9″ demo unit sat next to an iPad Pro 12.9″ demo unit on the sleek wooden table.
Did I really need that gargantuan screen? Would it make any difference? Is it worth the extra money?
We went to Safari on both machines. I loaded up Izneo.com. Selected a comic with a pretty detailed page of art on it.
I think it was a “Spirou & Fantasio” album. It’s not exactly Francois Schuiten-level art, but the page had a lot of panels on it, and the inking work showed a great variety of weights.
We looked at what a comic book page looked like on both machines next to each other.
I went back and forth between the two. My neck was getting tired, even though I knew the answer.
“Daddy, you have to get this one.”
She was pointing to the 12.9″ screen. She was right.
So I did.
What Pushed Me Over the Edge
Those two inches don’t seem like a big difference, but it opened up the lettering in the book tremendously.
It’s like reading the Absolute edition of any comic you pick up.
The screen is so big in fact, that North American comics don’t fill it up. (Well, that and the fact that the ratio is off.)
But when it comes time to read a Franco-Belgian comic book? This is, hands down, by far, the best digital comics reading experience ever. Full stop.
A full page of BD is nearly the same size on this screen as it is in print from Europe. In this picture, I placed an “Asterix” volume right on top of the iPad Pro. The only parts of the iPad you can still see are those small black strips just above and below the book.
Keep in mind that there’s a relatively wide white border around the art on the pages inside the album. It’s fairly close to being the same size.
Let me show you:
Here’s a side-by-side comparison from “Valerian and Laureline”. The lighting is a little off because I had to dim the screen all the way to get near the same exposure as for the printed book. But the size stands. The art is almost imperceptibly smaller on the screen. Even then, if you zoomed in a tad, there’s enough white space in the gutters that can move out of the way to equalize the two sizes.
If you still have trouble reading it, turn the iPad on its side to go into landscape mode, and watch everything zoom in. You can see about half the page on the screen and the art will look so large that you’ll think you’re reading an Artist’s Edition. It’s huge. You can see every brush stroke, and the lettering is easier on the eyes.
The down side is that you’ll need to do a little scrolling to get through the page and over to the next. Everything in life is a trade-off. If it’s a better reading experience for you, then it’s a price worth paying.
For size comparison’s sake to the North American comic book, here’s what a random Giffen/DeMatteis-era “Justice League” comic looks like on top of the iPad. The iPad screen is almost the exact same height as the printed comic, but with a much wider screen.
All images in this article are shown using Izneo.com’s iPad app, though the Comixology app works the same way.
Close to the Screen
This is something that’s been an improvement over time, but I see it now especially as I upgrade my five year old iPad. The image that you see on the screen feels a lot closer than it used to. There’s no visible glass between the image and your finger when you’re sliding or tapping to the next page. The image feels just that close to you.
This is especially helpful when paired up with an Apple Pencil for the purposes of drawing in Procreate or somewhere else.
The Battery Lasts
I don’t have scientific measurements for you on this, but the battery lasts a longer time than I’d have expected to power a big screen like this. I read on this device nearly daily, but only need to charge it up once or twice a week, at most. It takes a while to charge up, but I usually leave it plugged in overnight and wake up to it fully charged.
A Big Bonus
Paired with an Apple Pencil, the iPad is a pretty great Wacom Cintiq wannabe. Using ProCreate, I can draw all day with some fancy brushes and layer tricks and all the rest of those features. And given the even higher costs of Cintiqs, this iPad Pro almost look like a steal.
The big elephant in the room is that this is not a cheap device. It’s the most expensive iPad in the line-up. And you might not be able to write it off on your taxes.
I can’t argue with you there. I just know that I kept the last iPad for five years and plan on doing the same for this one. It’s something I use every day. I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.
Also, it was my combination Valetine’s Day/Birthday/Anniversary/Father’s Day present. I think I might have to throw in Memorial Day/Groundhog Day/Presidents’ Day/July 4th/Labor Day, too, on that list.
On the other hand, as I already mentioned, I use it every day. I read comics, play games, watch videos, and even draw on it.
I’m getting my money’s worth, is what I’m saying.
The Next Generation
Now that I’ve had this device for six months, Apple is updating it. I don’t regret for one second buying this one. I’ve had six great months of comics reading I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I’ve read most of the comics I’ve reviewed on this site on the iPad. Many of the images in those articles have been screenshots from the iPad. Those images are plenty large for this site.
I still have my 9.7″ iPad, but it looks so tiny now. And slow. Technological progress marches on!
Sure, I like new tech things, but I’m not tempted to buy the new one at all. I just got this one. It serves my needs and will continue to do so for years to come. I can’t honestly think of what killer feature they could come up with for the iPad now that would make it a better comics reader.
For the size, the screen quality, and the portability, the iPad Pro 12.9″ is the best digital comics reader to date. And after the event this week, this generation will likely cost a hair less. That’s a good start.
(And, hey, if Apple wants to start seeding iPads to comics journalists, I’m open to it… Contact me, Apple! )
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One More Example: Blacksad
Here’s how the iPad Pro stacks up with Dark Horse’s “Blacksad: A Silent Hell”. I’ll show you some close-ups to give you an idea of how large the comic page is on the screen as compared to print:
This is side by side with the print edition. Pardon the brutal glare on the page.
You can see that the “live area” where the art is on paper is about the side of the total screen, as far as the height goes.
If you zoom in on the digital reader to eliminate the whtie margins, though, it’s the same height.
What about width? Check this out:
Again, if you zoom in on the digital display just a bit to eliminate the white space in the margins:
Now it’s the same width exactly.
To be fair, it’s a bit fiddly to have to zoom in slightly on every page to enlarge it on the screen. You can do it, for sure, but the minor bit of size different to me is more than made up for in the brightness of the display and how great the colors look.