The Apple 10.5-inch model could herald a whole new way of working. With a blazing-fast A10X processor and a new generation of apps, the Apple slate is finally capable of doing many of the things you would typically use a laptop for. But the entirely new workflow involved with professional-level tasks on an iPad user takes some getting used to.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro replaces the 9.7-inch model that was released last year. As far as design goes, it’s still an attractive metal slab with a glass screen. It’s slightly taller and wider, but slimmer than the 9.7-inch model and the current non-Pro iPad, with somewhat narrower but still quite visible bezels.
There’s a Touch ID home button at the bottom of the screen, volume buttons on the side, and a power button and headphone jack on top. Both cameras are oriented to be used in portrait mode, and the main, rear camera produces a noticeable protrusion on the back of the tablet, which is otherwise flat.
At 1.03 pounds, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is easy enough to tote around in one hand, which can’t be said for its 12.9-inch sibling. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro packs a 2,732-by-2,048 screen with the same pixel density.
The 2,224-by-1,668 screen is the same 264 pixels per inch as other iPads have used since the first “retina” display model in 2012. There’s a little more room to play on this screen than on the current 2,048-by-1,536 iPad or the earlier iPad Pro 9.7; the connection elements, in general, tuck into the new edges. Screen reflectivity is delightfully low, which is a big plus over the current non-Pro iPad. Backlit, or in outdoor light, it’s noticeably easier to work on the iPad Pro because you aren’t squinting through reflections. The screen is also slightly brighter than the current iPad, at 600 nits compared with 500.
The iPad Pro’s TrueTone display is supposed to optimise colour temperature to be more compatible with ambient light. To me, it makes everything look yellow. I prefer the screen with TrueTone turned off. The iPad Pro is also the first tablet of any kind with a 120Hz refresh rate display, which is supposed to make everything smoother and more fluid. I can’t perceive it. Seriously, I can’t. Many users and other reviewers say that this is a revolution in terms of the sharpness and smoothness of scrolling, though. I realise I’m in the minority here, and you may well be able to appreciate these differences.
802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 are integrated. If you get the LTE model (for an extra $130), there’s a single global unit—unlike with iPhones—with an embedded SIM card that works on all four major US carriers and most international carriers. It has almost all the bands that US and Canadian carriers use, except for T-Mobile and Freedom’s new band 66 (that said, it has enough other T-Mobile bands that it will do just fine on its network). The tablet is Category 9 LTE, capable of top speeds of 450Mbps—not as fast as top-of-the-line phones, but still fast.
You don’t need to sign up for a plan when you get the LTE model, and you can switch carriers at will. In the US, you can choose between prepaid plans from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, AlwaysOnline, and GigSky on the tablet itself (The last two carriers specialise in global roaming.) The tablet also works on Verizon, but not with Apple’s SIM—you need to remove it and replace it with a Verizon SIM card.
The iPad Pro uses Apple’s new A10X processor, which is like the A10 chip in the iPhone 7 series, but with better graphics performance. When we benchmarked it against other iOS and Android tablets, we found that it’s the most powerful processor in the ARM realm now.
Comparing the iPad with X86 or Windows tablets is a lot trickier because the operating system’s overhead comes into play. iOS is much lighter, faster, and more stable than Windows 10, and it uses fewer system resources. Up until now, though, iPad apps generally haven’t been powerful enough to earn the tablet a “pro” designation from a workflow perspective.
Keyboards may be a fading relic of ancient times, but I can’t work without one. Apple’s $159 Smart case has a keyboard that’s a bit roomier than the previous 9.7-inch model’s, and that makes a difference. It really does feel like a full-size keyboard
You can use another Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad Pro, by the way: Apple keyboard and a Logitech keyboard worked just fine. The iOS has no way to interpret mouse input, though. So no matter what, you’re going to be doing a lot of work by tapping on the screen.
When the $99 Apple Pencil first came out. The Pencil isn’t new, but the Pro’s screen updates more quickly so it feels more responsive. It remains the most accurate, sensitive stylus I’ve used on a tablet, including the Samsung S Pen and the Surface pen. On the new iPad Pro, it’s lag-free, and the pressure sensitivity is impressive. In an app like Autodesk Sketchbook, it’s positively glorious.
Apple uses the iPhone 7’s front and back cameras here, and they’re excellent. It has a 12-megapixel main camera with a f/1.8 aperture, a LED flash, 4K video recording, and fast autofocus, and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera with a f/2.2 aperture and 1080p video recording. The cameras are terrific for snapshots and FaceTime.
There’s a bigger, better use for the iPad Pro’s cameras that’s coming with iOS 11, though: ARKit. High-quality cameras are going to be a big deal for augmented reality. We’ve seen a few AR apps on the iPad before—star charts and the like—but Apple’s official AR SDK will probably lead to an explosion of AR options next year, and the iPad Pro is well-positioned to take advantage of them. This makes me wish that Apple would have included dual rear cameras like on the iPhone 7 Plus, though, because you need two cameras to detect depth properly.
In our battery rundown test, the iPad Pro 10.5 managed 6 hours, 54 minutes of LTE video streaming with the screen set to maximum brightness. That’s better than we saw on last year’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which lasted 5 hours, 38 minutes, and on the current iPad, which managed 5 hours, 15 minutes. It also means you’ll see about 10 to 12 hours of real-life use with the screen brightness set to 50 percent, which is solid.