Australian T3 - - APPLE BITES BACK -

There’s an adage for most new tech: don’t buy the first ver­sion. No mat­ter how ground­break­ing that first one is, the sec­ond will be even bet­ter. Re­mem­ber how much bet­ter the iPad 2 was than the iPad 1? And the iPhone didn’t re­ally hit its stride un­til it had 3G ac­cess, no mat­ter how much peo­ple loved that first model. And so it should be no sur­prise that the smaller iPad Pro’s sec­ond ver­sion leaves its pre­de­ces­sor look­ing like a halffin­ished thought.

With its eye firmly on the ‘Pro’ side of things, Ap­ple has im­proved things in three key ar­eas from the 9.7-inch iPad Pro this re­places: the amount of space to work; the qual­ity of the dis­play; and the per­for­mance. The move to a 10.5-inch screen with a higher res­o­lu­tion of 2224 x 1668 adds around 20 per cent more area, while keep­ing the same sharp pixel

den­sity (and barely any ex­tra size to the chas­sis, thanks to the new de­sign). Items on the screen gen­er­ally stay the same size as they were on the 9.7-inch model, but you have more space to play with, and it al­lows for bonuses, such as the on-screen key­board (and at­tach­able Smart Key­board) be­ing just about full-size, which does help for typ­ing speed. The size dif­fer­ence is sub­tle over­all, but it’s in­stantly ob­vi­ous if you work in Split View a lot. Be­fore, it was a lit­tle cramped on the smaller Pro – us­able, but you tended not to stay long in Split View if you could help it. Now, we found we could hap­pily do all kinds of work with our email app locked per­ma­nently into the right-hand quar­ter of the screen. That lit­tle bit of space tipped it over the thresh­old from awk­ward to to­tally com­fort­able. Ob­vi­ously, the 12.9-inch model is even more com­fort­able for Split View work, and will be the best plat­form if you’re con­sid­er­ing us­ing the op­tion of four apps si­mul­ta­ne­ously that iOS 11 will en­able (see be­low), but this screen is now a re­ally strong bal­ance be­tween space and porta­bil­ity. Whether you go for it or the big Pro comes down to pref­er­ence, and the kind of work you’ll use it for – they’re es­sen­tially iden­ti­cal oth­er­wise. But the new 10.5-inch size isn’t the only up­date to the screen. The mar­quee fea­ture is 120Hz sup­port, which dou­bles the num­ber of frames per sec­ond the screen shows com­pared to all of Ap­ple’s pre­vi­ous dis­plays. It makes an­i­ma­tions look su­per-smooth, and scrolling text more read­able, which is lovely, but is ul­ti­mately su­per­flu­ous (though it does make all other screens look old-fash­ioned in com­par­i­son).

But it also makes the screen twice as re­spon­sive, ef­fec­tively, be­cause it shows the re­sult of any in­ter­ac­tions twice as fast. This is huge in the case of the Ap­ple Pen­cil, since apps can now show what you’re draw­ing pretty much ex­actly as you draw, rather than a no­tice­able frac­tion of a sec­ond af­ter.

But the point of the Pro­Mo­tion screens is that they don’t al­ways op­er­ate at 120Hz. If you’re watch­ing a movie at 30 frames per sec­ond, the screen only runs at that rate, sav­ing power. If you’re read­ing a book, it keeps the frame rate low, since the im­age on the screen rarely changes. And if you start draw­ing, it ramps the frame rate back up in­stantly, to give you the best feedback. Of course, this is all es­sen­tially un­no­tice­able, but the Pros do have ex­cel­lent bat­tery life, so it seems to do its job.

We spent a cou­ple of hours writ­ing this re­view, then an­other hour brows­ing the web, and view­ing and edit­ing photos. Then left it on

standby overnight. In the morn­ing, we still had 80 per cent bat­tery left. Dif­fer­ent tasks use up more bat­tery, but in light work use, 12 hours (or more) is no prob­lem for this ma­chine, or its big-screen brother.

The screen has one more im­prove­ment too: the bright­ness has been amped up. Com­bined with the wide colour gamut, it makes photos look as­tound­ingly vi­brant, and helps with view­ing in bright light (along with an im­proved anti-re­flec­tive coat­ing). And it’s even good enough to dis­play HDR video, but sup­port for this won’t ar­rive un­til iOS 11, so mark that down as po­ten­tial for the fu­ture. Even be­fore that ar­rives, these are still surely the best screens Ap­ple has made yet, and they make ev­ery­thing else look dull af­ter just a few min­utes with them. (The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has also gained the bril­liant True Tone fea­ture that changes the colour tem­per­a­ture to match the am­bi­ent light – the smaller Pro al­ready had this.)


The screen is the big change that ev­ery­one ben­e­fits from in the new iPad Pro, but there’s an­other huge boost that’s less im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous: the sheer, raw com­put­ing power. That the new A10X chip is based on last year’s tech is a tes­ta­ment to how far ahead of its com­peti­tors Ap­ple is, be­cause the pro­ces­sor in this thing is a barely caged beast. It’s a triple-core chip (up from dual cores in the A9X), with 4GB of RAM (an im­prove­ment in this 10.5-inch model, but is the same for the 12.9-inch), with a new, more pow­er­ful graph­ics unit to match.

When you just switch be­tween apps, you’ll no­tice that it’s very fast, but then other iPads don’t tend to feel slow. It’s in in­tense test­ing you see its power: in Geek­bench 4, it scores 81 per cent higher than its pre­de­ces­sor for pro­cess­ing power, and 42 per cent higher than the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of 12-inch MacBook. In fact, its score beats most 13-inch MacBook Pro mod­els…

In real-world tests against its pre­de­ces­sors, you see less dramatic re­sults, but still big. To test the pro­ces­sor, we used WinZip to com­press a 1.2GB folder of files, and the new Pro per­formed the task in 25.16 sec­onds, which is 30 per cent faster than the 39.93 sec­onds of the 9.7-inch Pro.

The thing is, apps on iOS tend to work fairly dif­fer­ently to desk­top, with even cre­ative ones ac­cel­er­at­ing tasks us­ing the graph­ics chip, mak­ing pure CPU power not that im­por­tant – but then, the GPU com­put­ing power is also around 80 per cent higher in bench­marks.

It all makes this ma­chine hugely fu­ture-proof as more and more pow­er­ful apps ap­pear. Take Affin­ity Photo, which is ba­si­cally full-fat Pho­to­shop on the iPad. The old Pro han­dled it well, but with some paus­ing af­ter you ap­ply cer­tain brushes. No such thing on the new Pro – it has acres of head­room for more desk­top-level apps.


There are im­prove­ments for pros in other ar­eas too, such as the op­tion for up to 512GB of stor­age (for a price), and USB 3 sup­port over the Light­ning con­nec­tion (pre­vi­ously re­stricted to the 12.9-inch model only). The speak­ers are still great, too, and while the Smart Con­nec­tor hasn’t been changed, it’s handy for ac­ces­sories like the Smart Key­board, which is ar­guably es­sen­tial if you’re to use this as a lap­top re­place­ment, but is still eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive – we’d wait to see if third-par­ties beat Ap­ple at this game with an op­tion that has back­light­ing and me­dia fea­tures, if you can wait.

So should you get this iPad? Ab­so­lutely – if you’re look­ing for a por­ta­ble work ma­chine. For just an en­ter­tain­ment tablet, its HDR sup­port is great, but it’s very much overkill – the fifth-gen­er­a­tion 9.7-inch iPad is al­most half the price, and fan­tas­tic for non-pro stuff. But with its gor­geous screen, raw power and amaz­ing draw­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, this re­ally can be a lap­top re­place­ment for a lot of peo­ple. It might be our favourite por­ta­ble com­puter in years.

There’s a new mem­ber of the Xbox fam­ily of con­soles: the Xbox One X. When it’s re­leased on 7 Novem­ber this year, it’ll be the most pow­er­ful 4K con­sole on the mar­ket. But don’t mis­take it as the start of a new con­sole gen­er­a­tion; Mi­crosoft is call­ing this a midgen­er­a­tional up­grade. This means that the One X won’t have any hard­ware-ex­clu­sive games, and 4K-sup­ported games that are cre­ated for it will also have to be playable on the cur­rent Xbox One S.

If it plays all the same games, what’s the point in choos­ing the Xbox One X over its pre­de­ces­sors? Well, it’s sig­nif­i­cantly more pow­er­ful and that brings ben­e­fits. The most lauded fea­ture of the Xbox One X is that it’s ca­pa­ble of ren­der­ing top-end games at a na­tive 4K res­o­lu­tion, rather than up­scaled 4K.

Though they look good, games up­scaled to 4K aren’t truly 4K. In­stead, they’re games be­ing ren­dered at near-4K res­o­lu­tions, and stretched us­ing clever tech­niques to look like 4K. This re­sults in some­thing in­cred­i­bly close to a 4K res­o­lu­tion. How­ever, if you were to place an up­scaled 4K game be­side na­tive 4K game, the vis­ual qual­ity and level of de­tail in the lat­ter would be no­tice­ably higher. Mi­crosoft has promised that from now, any first-party ti­tle it re­leases will sup­port na­tive 4K, but it’s also made it pos­si­ble for game de­vel­op­ers to patch older games so that they can take ad­van­tage of the Xbox One X’s power and bulk out the con­sole’s 4K game li­brary. One older ti­tle re­ceiv­ing a na­tive 4K up­grade is

Gears of War 4. When we got the chance to see it run­ning na­tively in 4K we were im­pressed by the level of de­tail vis­i­ble on the pro­tag­o­nist’s ar­mour. The sharp­ness of the game’s back­ground was ac­tu­ally as im­pres­sive as its fore­ground. Where dis­tant rock faces would usu­ally be blurred, earthy clumps, they were now dis­tinct against the sky and we could even pick out breaks be­tween rocks.

When it comes to raw spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the Xbox One X is much more pow­er­ful than any other con­sole. With 6TFLOPS of pro­cess­ing power and 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, Mi­crosoft prom­ises all games should look and per­form bet­ter on the Xbox One X than any other con­sole, with sharper vi­su­als, more con­sis­tent frame rates and faster load times.

The Xbox One X’s ad­di­tional power means it’s likely to have more na­tive 4K ti­tles, while the PS4 Pro will prob­a­bly con­tinue to lean to­wards up­scaled re­leases. The PS4 Pro’s checker­board up­scal­ing method is un­de­ni­ably ex­cel­lent, and with the chaos of most games in full swing, we ex­pect the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple won’t get hung up on the dif­fer­ence. What is likely to be no­tice­ably bet­ter on Xbox One X, though, is the sharp­ness of these vi­su­als and the speed and con­sis­tency of frame rates.

As well as 4K, the Xbox One X boasts High Dy­namic Range (HDR) ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This means the con­sole is ca­pa­ble of show­ing more colour con­trast, which pro­vides a more ac­cu­rate im­age and brings more depth to two-di­men­sional im­ages. The ben­e­fit of HDR was re­ally no­tice­able when we tested

As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins. The sun was in­cred­i­bly bright in the sky and the shad­ows of build­ings and the pro­tag­o­nist stood in sharp con­trast to it, cre­at­ing a much richer, more three-di­men­sional game world.

The Xbox One X also of­fers a high-qual­ity au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence with Dolby At­mos sup­port. This ob­ject­based sur­round sound is use­ful when it comes to gam­ing be­cause you can more ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine which di­rec­tion sounds are com­ing from (use­ful

when pin­point­ing a sneak­ing en­emy). De­spite this be­ing the most pow­er­ful con­sole Mi­crosoft has ever made, the Xbox One X is also its small­est, so you don’t have to worry about it tak­ing up too much room. No­tably, the Xbox One X is also a pow­er­ful home me­dia cen­tre, sup­port­ing Ul­tra HD Blu-ray (which the PS4 Pro doesn’t) as well as 4K stream­ing.

If you’re buy­ing an Xbox, though, pri­mar­ily you want great games. New con­soles nor­mally suf­fer from lim­ited launch li­braries, but Mi­crosoft’s com­mit­ment to back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity means the Xbox One X is able to play all Xbox One games as well as a large num­ber of Xbox 360 and orig­i­nal Xbox ti­tles.

It should be noted that not all of these games will run at 4K – not every de­vel­oper will add 4K sup­port to their game. At this year’s E3, Mi­crosoft re­vealed 42 games that would sup­port the con­sole’s 4K ca­pa­bil­i­ties, 22 of which would be exclusives.

At $649, the Xbox One X is more ex­pen­sive than Sony’s PS4 Pro, and nearly twice the price of the Xbox One S. It’s the X’s cost that will make it hard for many to jus­tify the up­grade. To make the most of it, you’ll need to have other high-end vis­ual and au­dio equip­ment. If you’re al­ready en­trenched in the 4K rev­o­lu­tion, it’s a worth­while up­grade. If not, you might want to up­grade other ar­eas first.

ABOVE Size mat­ters: the 10.5-inch screen is 20 per cent larger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro screen

ABOVE The cam­era matches the qual­ity of the iPhone 7 – nice for tablet photo fiends

The Xbox One X is Mi­crosoft’s most pow­er­ful con­sole ever. It’s also its small­est.

The Xbox One X’s in­nards are so pow­er­ful, it fea­tures cool­ing tech akin to what’s used by the most pow­er­ful PC graph­ics cards.

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