10.5-inch iPad Pro
Apple‘s tablet gets a second wind
From $649 From Apple, apple.com Features 2224x1668-pixel display, A10X processor, Lightning port, Smart Connector, Apple Pencil support, up to 512GB of storage
There’s an adage for most new tech: don’t buy the first version. No matter how groundbreaking and good it is, the second will be even better. And so it has come to pass that the smaller iPad Pro’s second version leaves its predecessor looking like an unfinished thought.
With its eye firmly on the “Pro” side, Apple has improved things in three key areas from the 9.7-inch iPad Pro: the amount of working space, the quality of the display, and the performance. The move to a 10.5-inch screen with a higher resolution of 2224x1668 pixels adds about 20 percent display area, while keeping the same sharp pixel density – and barely any extra size to the chassis, due to the new design.
Items on the screen generally look the same size as on the 9.7-inch model, but you have more space to play with, and it allows for extras – such as the on-screen keyboard (and separately purchased Smart Keyboard) being just about full-size, which helps with typing speed. It’s subtle overall, but instantly obvious if you work in Split View a lot. It was usable but a little cramped before; now we find we can happily do all kinds of work with our email app locked to a quarter of the screen.
Of course, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is even more comfortable for working in Split View, and will be the best platform if you want to use four apps simultaneously (coming in iOS 11), but the 10.5-inch display here is now a wonderful balance between space and portability.
But size isn’t the only interesting change to the display. One big feature is support for a 120Hz refresh rate, which doubles the number of frames per second the screen shows compared to Apple’s previous displays. It makes animations look extremely smooth, and scrolling text more readable. This is lovely but, more importantly, it also makes the screen twice as responsive, because it shows the result of any interactions twice as fast. That’s huge in the case of the Apple Pencil.
The display is powered by ProMotion tech, which varies the refresh rate; if you’re watching a TV show or reading a book, the screen runs at a lower rate to save power. This is all essentially unnoticeable, but results in excellent battery life: We typed this review for a couple of hours, spent another hour browsing the web and viewing photos, then left it on standby overnight – and the battery was still at 80 percent the next morning, so ProMotion seems to do its job.
The screen’s brightness has been amped up, too. Combined with the wide color gamut, it makes photos look astoundingly vibrant, and helps with viewing in bright light, in conjunction with an improved anti-reflective coating. It’s even good enough to display high dynamic range (HDR) video, though support for this won’t arrive until iOS 11. The 2017 iPad Pros have Apple’s best screens to date.
There’s another huge boost when it comes to the iPad Pro’s sheer, raw computing power. The new A10X processor is a triple-core chip (up from the dual-core A9X), with 4GB of memory and a new, more powerful graphics unit. Opening and switching between apps is very fast, but other iPads don’t feel slow in comparison. It’s in intense tests that you see its power: in Geekbench 4, the A10X scores 81 percent higher than its predecessor, and 42 percent higher than the latest generation of 12-inch MacBook. In fact, its score even beats most 13-inch MacBook Pro models.
In real-world tests against its predecessors, you’ll see less dramatic results, but still considerable gains. To test the processor, we used WinZip to compress a 1.2GB folder of files, and the new Pro finished the task in 25.16 seconds – 37 percent faster than the 39.93 seconds of the 9.7-inch Pro.
Not many apps use this much power now, but it helps futureproof this machine as more and more powerful apps appear. Take Affinity Photo, which is basically the equivalent of Photoshop on the iPad. On the old Pro, it works great, but with some pausing after you apply certain brushes. There’s no such waiting on the new iPad Pro.
There are improvements for pros in other areas too, such as up to 512GB of storage, and USB 3 support over the Lightning port. The Pro’s speakers are still great, and the Smart Connector, though unchanged, is handy for things like the Smart Keyboard (which still costs an eye-watering $159 – wait for a cheaper option if you can).
So, should you get this iPad? Absolutely – if you’re looking for a portable work machine. If you just want 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 display, oodles of power, and amazing drawing prowess, this really can be a laptop replacement for some. In fact, it might just be our favorite computer in years.
The Bottom Line. A stunning display and powerful futureproofing make this a top mobile working machine – and it’ll only get better when iOS 11 is released.
The new A10X processor and graphics performance improvements provide real pro power.
The 120Hz ProMotion display makes the Apple Pencil feel more fluid and realistic than ever.