In terms of their tablet line, when Apple says “pro” they are talking about the new 13-inch iPad Pro. Announced in September, this monster of an iPad serves up the very best that Apple has to offer, both in terms of hardware and the functionality of iOS 9 inside.
As we write this, the accompanying accessories have not been made available for us, so we’ll strictly be looking at the tablet today. Adding on the Smart Keyboard and Pencil will have to wait a little while longer.
Thank you for joining us, let’s get started on our iPad Pro review.
With this new size, Apple was able to embellish the iconic iPad design with, well, nothing all that new. Despite the size, you will find a very familiar tablet, adding just one new feature as compared to most other iPads out there. The new piece is little more than a smart dock, which we’ll talk about later.
Looking around the tablet, the iPad Pro offers the same Lightning port and speaker grills along the bottom edge, with a new pair of speaker grills along the top edge as well. That’s right folks, stereo sound. The grills are further spread out, but similar in size to previous. You’ll find the same volume and power buttons gracing that top right corner and a headphone jack up top. Front and center along the bottom bezel is the Home button with embedded fingerprint scanner.
As you are likely accustomed to, the iPad Pro is a full metal back design, with that polished front edge meeting up with the full glass front of the tablet.
At 12.9-inches, this is officially a large tablet. Not a monster tablet, like the 18-inch device Samsung has on the go, but still pretty big. As such, the iPad Pro may not be your typical portable device for reading books on your commute or otherwise holding in hand for extended lengths of time. This is the kind of tablet that is best used when propped up in a dock or stand and used as a laptop.
With a new resolution value on deck, the iPad Pro measures in at 12.9-inches with 2732 x 2048 resolution. I shouldn’t have to mention that this is brand new territory for Apple, at least in terms of mobile devices. The iPad line previously included the just under 10-inch iPad and the just under 8-inch iPad mini.
Avoiding compromises, the display of the iPad Pro is just as good, if not better than previous models. Images are crisp and clear at 264ppi, which is the same as the full size iPad, colors are well saturated and overall brightness is more than adequate for dark rooms or direct sunlight.
Other familiar display features include Apple’s fingerprint resistant oleophobic coating, full laminated display and an antireflective coating.
Before we talk about our impressions on device performance, let’s first run down the specs of the iPad Pro. Starting with that A9X 64-bit processor, backed by the new M9 motion coprocessor, Apple says you should expect general processing up to 2.5x faster than on an iPad Air or iPad Mini 2/3. Graphics processing, on the other hand, is claimed to be 5x faster than the older devices.
Perhaps a better reference is that the iPad Pro is designated as nearing double the speeds of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 4.
In terms of memory, Apple never really releases specs like these, perhaps they believe that consumers do not care. But we care, and by all accounts, we are unconfirmed in saying that the iPad Pro rocks 4GB of RAM. Entirely doubling the installed RAM on the best of the older iPads.
Despite this bump in RAM, do keep in mind that there are now nearly double the number of pixels on the display to control, despite this, you will still notice improved performance. Apps load faster, heavy games play smoother, even swipes through the UI of the OS have a marked improvement.
Apple has a blanket battery life rating for all of their tablets, claiming you should be able to reach up to 10 hours while surfing the web on WiFi, watching video or listening to music. We cannot deny that this is completely possible under the right circumstances, but we have never beat 6 hours with the screen on and a few long YouTube videos playing through.
We have not had the iPad Pro in hand for very long now. Check back in a few weeks, we’ll either give this section an update or we’ll give the iPad Pro battery life a full article, especially if we find anything unexpected or overly interesting.
If the raw specs are what you are looking for, Apple says the iPad Pro comes with a 38.5Wh lithium polymer battery.
There are no broken molds in terms of the installed camera on the iPad Pro. This is the same 8MP sensor you’ve seen on the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 and a few of the later iPhone models. Your FaceTime experience also remains the same with the 1.2MP 720p front facing sensor.
As I downplay the installed camera, do not take that as a negative for the overall camera experience and photo quality. Despite this relatively low MP count, Apple’s camera capabilities have consistently outperformed most higher MP sensors, at least in mobile devices. The general takeaway is that this 13-inch tablet can take photos with the best of them.
Let’s look at a few photo samples. This gallery includes a mix of natural and artificial light sources, and dark as well as well-lit situations. We were sure to also include up-close/macro shots and at least one of the horizon. A good sampling of photos to get a feel for the overall capabilities.
Although iOS 9 was first announced this spring, made available as a beta for a few months, and finally fully released in September, it is still a powerful and well performing operating system. The iPad Pro is perhaps one of the best devices around to get the most out of iOS 9, particularly the multi-tasking features like split-screen and picture-in-picture video playback.
As we mentioned in our performance section above, navigating the OS and your favorite apps is crisp and smooth. There are no additions to the software here, just the same functions you’ve come to know and respect on your iPad Air 2, but in a larger display.
It is a good thing that Apple introduced the new multi-tasking features before launching the iPad Pro. I fear that this size of display suffers a little when handling apps and the OS in the old non-multi-tasking configuration. This is simply a large device, larger even than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, at this size, you almost need to have split screen to produce apps in a reasonable size.
Home button with integrated fingerprint scanner
Optional - Apple Pencil
Optional magnetically connected keyboard - no touchpad
Up to 10 hours
Dimensions & weight
12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches (305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm)
1.57 - 1.59 lbs (713 - 723 g)
Pricing and final thoughts
I need you to pause for a moment. Before we start talking price, it might be appropriate to discuss the expected uses for this caliber of tablet. The iPad Pro is not the typical tablet you’ll be lugging with you everywhere you go. It is more portable than the 18-inch Samsung Galaxy View, but it is my opinion that this device should be thought of as a laptop. Mind you, it is not like a laptop in terms of its capabilities, no, it is like a laptop in that you’ll end up using it at a table or desk, then packing it into a bag if you are going somewhere.
We are looking at the iPad Pro today without the optional detachable keyboard. The Apple Smart Keyboard is an accessory that near entirely converts this tablet into a laptop. As a laptop, I am inclined to set it up either at home or in the office and leave it there until I need to be productive again.
My approach is as a writer, mind you, the creative sort that plans to use the iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil smart stylus will see things in an entirely different light. We plan to cover the Pencil at a later date as well, but for now, it is safe to say that we were fairly impressed with the precision with which this stylus operates.
(SSD in Surface Pro 4)
128GB + LTE
With a price tag easily creeping over $1000, the iPad Pro is not the device for everyone. Approaching it as a productivity tool, however, you have a more than capable computer on your hands here. I will not recommend it as a true laptop replacement, but for many it will be enough to get through a work day.
If your goal is purely to sit on your couch and surf the web on the iPad, I dare suggest this tablet may be too big. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great experience for web browsing and consuming media, but it suffers when you try to use it held in hand. It weighs enough to cause fatigue and it’s large enough that holding it comfortably for your arms may be too close to your eyes to see the entire display with comfort.
For those looking for a powerful iPad, one that is speedy, easy to use and easy to transport, sorry guys, the iPad Pro may not be the best option for you, perhaps check out the iPad Air 2 instead.
What do you say, is this monster iPad the device for you, or will you live with the smaller offerings for now?