The iPad Pro is a superb tablet – Apple quoted us on that in its keynote – but it has one big problem, and that’s the very bigness that defines it. And not only that, it turns out the smaller iPad Pro 9.7-inch is actually a much better device in a number of ways too.
The original iPad Pro is enormous, and that’s great in a studio but not so good on a building site, in the high street or on the sofa.
If Apple managed to deliver all the goodies of the iPad Pro in a device the size of an iPad Air, would you buy it? Apple hopes so, because the new iPad Pro is exactly that – with one clever new addition.
So what’s different?
The size, for starters: where the iPad Pro is built around a 12.7-inch touchscreen, the new iPad Pro sticks with the familiar 9.7-inch display of the iPad Air.
It also has a genuinely innovative new feature that Apple calls True Tone Display. When you’re working on paper, the way that paper looks changes according to the ambient light, so in direct sunlight it’s almost bleached, under LEDs it can be bluish and in incandescent light it takes a yellow cast.
The new iPad Pro can do the same courtesy of twin ambient light sensors that can detect not just light levels but colour temperatures too. It offers a wider colour range too.
There’s another really obvious difference: the new iPad Pro is available in Rose Gold, and the bigger iPad Pro isn’t.
One thing you won’t be able to see is that the new iPad Pro can have a powered USB adapter via the new iPad camera connector. That’s good for podcasters and anybody else who needs to use an external USB device such as a powered microphone.
9.7-inch iPad Pro: who’s it for?
Apple’s pitching the new iPad Pro as “the ultimate PC replacement”, and it’s telling that the bulk of the promotional images show it with the optional Smart Cover or with the Apple Pencil doodling on Microsoft Office documents.
This is Apple’s Surface Pro, the iPad for people who currently use PCs – and for businesses who currently use PCs but would rather use tablets for their easier admin, better security and general grooviness.
Which has the better display?
The new iPad Pro display isn’t just smaller. It has fewer pixels too, so it displays 2048 x 1536 resolution compared to the bigger Pro’s 2732 x 2048. Both displays have the same pixel density, however, so both little Pro and big Pro deliver 264ppi. The bigger Pro doesn’t get True Tone…just yet.
As you’d expect, the smaller display means a smaller, lighter iPad Pro. The big Pro is 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm and weights 713g; the new iPad Pro is 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 and weighs 437g.
9.7-inch iPad Pro: CPU and storage
Both Pros get the same processor, Apple’s A9X, plus the M9 co-processor. Both devices come with 32GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage, but there’s no 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model for the larger iPad Pro.
While we’re on the subject of data, the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi systems are identical but the new iPad Pro supports LTE Advanced on 23 bands while the existing Pro has plain old LTE on 20 bands.
New iPad Pro: speakers
We were pleasantly surprised to see that the new iPad Pro has the same clever four-speaker setup as the bigger Pro; it knows what way you’re holding the device and tweeters become woofers and woofers become tweeters as required. It sounds great, and it’s twice as loud as the iPad Air 2.
Sadly, there’s still a camera… and it’s better
The new iPad Pro camera is better than the one in the bigger Pro: it’s 12MP compared to 8MP, its aperture is f/2.2 compared to f/2.4, it supports Live Photos and 63-megapixel panoramas (the bigger Pro’s panoramas are up to 43MP), it has Auto HDR, improved tone mapping and noise reduction and a sapphire crystal lens cover.
The new Pro does 4K video recording at 30fps, while the other Pro tops out at 1080p, and the new Pro can do 1080p at 60fps as well as 30fps. Its slo-mo goes up to 1080p too.
The front camera is better too. It gets the same Retina Flash as the iPhone, where the screen acts as a flash for those important selfies, and it’s 5MP instead of the 1.2MP in the older Pro.
Which one will last longer?
Apple claims identical battery life for the new iPad Pro: that’s up to 10 hours web browsing over Wi-Fi or 9 hours on mobile data.
It’ll be interesting to see if that’s the case though – surely with fewer pixels to drive but the same power processor, it should last a little longer? Then again, there’s a smaller battery pack in there (unsurprisingly, Apple hasn’t told us just how big it is) so that’ll probably be why the time between charges is the same.
Does the new iPad Pro cost loads more?
Here’s the clincher: size aside, the new iPad Pro delivers everything the bigger iPad Pro has to offer plus a few extra things for considerably less money.
The 12-inch starts at £679, rising to £1,019 for the 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model; the 9.7-inch starts at £499 and tops out at £839.
That’s still more than the iPad Air 2, but you can be sure there are lots of credit cards twitching in creatives’ pockets and purses right now. That price doesn’t include the Apple Pencil or Smart Cover, of course, but neither does the full-sized iPad Pro’s prices.
New iPad Pro: what we think
Short version: if you like the iPad Air 2, you’ll want one of these.
Slightly longer version: Yes, it costs more than an Air 2, but it does more too. The new iPad Pro is a genuine alternative not just to a Windows hybrid or a Surface, but to MacBooks too.
It has the best display and camera ever fitted to an iPad, it has desktop-class performance and unlike its bigger sibling it’s not going to give you Gorilla Arm from holding it.
Apple’s digs at Windows are predictable and pretty tedious, but this iPad looks custom-designed for the enterprise market: it’s a tablet for work as well as play, and the price means it can be considered for roles the bigger iPad Pro is too big and expensive for.
Could this iPad be the ‘normal; slate to reverse the tablet’s declining sales? It could well be.
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