A new iPad Pro hits stores this week. Its display is bigger, brighter, and less reflective than last year's Pro tablet, but it's somehow the same weight and just as thin. It's a hell of a lot faster, too.
And, as one would expect of an Apple product, it's pretty expensive (starts at $649, but you can spend well over $250 on accessories if you want an Apple Pencil stylus and a keyboard) — more than an iPhone, but less than a MacBook. This pricing makes sense because an iPad, especially the Pro, can *do* more than an iPhone but, in many ways, falls short of a Mac. In other words, the iPad is an in-between device. People don't *need* a tablet in the same way they do a smartphone and, for some, a computer.
So, who is this high-performance not-just-a-tablet-but-not-quite-a-laptop for, exactly?
The short answer is:
Last year’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro corrected many of the flaws of the original GigantiPad Pro.
Let's start with the Big News, which is that this new iPad Pro is literally bigger than the previous model.
The iPad’s roomier 10.5-inch display can accommodate a full-sized keyboard onscreen as well as off, on Apple's Smart Keyboard cover (though you can technically use any Bluetooth keyboard with it). This makes typing more comfortable and more laptop-like, and makes the iPad Pro more deserving of its "pro" moniker.
That bigger screen is also brighter at 600 nits (lol, what a name for a spec) versus 500 in last year's model, and has a new anti-reflection coating that makes the tablet easier to work with in direct sunlight, especially outside. I used it next to a bright window, and the iPad display was still perfectly visible, but started to heat up with the brightness turned up to max.
The battery life is about a day and a half with regular, but not constant, use.
Apple says the battery life is 10 hours, and the iPad Pro ate through about 10% of battery per hour, which is close to Apple's claims. In my three days of testing, with regular use, I got about a day and a half out of the battery. That includes a lot of word processing, internet browsing, Slack-ing, and Hulu watching. (People don’t actually use their iPads for 10 hours straight, do they??)
The camera has better aperture for low-light conditions, and is AR ready.
The iPad got a huge (like, yuuggeeee) bump in computing power.
This iPad Pro is a beast. It has Apple's latest chip — the A10x Fusion — which boasts 30% faster CPU speed and 40% faster graphics, compared with last year's devices.
Everything feels really smooth and fast, from zipping in and out of apps to playing graphics-intensive games like Samorost 3. I used the iPad as a primary computer for two days, and it handled running Slack and Google Docs side by side, with constant switching between all the other apps I need — Twitter, Notability, Safari, Gmail, Calendar, and LastPass — very smoothly.
But that doesn’t really put the Pro’s capabilities into perspective. Numbers do.
This performance upgrade defines everything around it, thanks to a new feature called ProMotion.
The new iPad Pro's most significant update is one you can't see: a new technology called ProMotion. The feature improves anything that's moving onscreen, including zooming and drawing. So when you scroll really fast through a web page on Safari or pan around an immersive 3D game, the movement feels more smooth and detailed.
With ProMotion, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro can support a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. That's updating the screen 120 times per second, which is on par with many high-end 4K TVs (but it’s not always running at 120Hz — only when it needs to — to save battery).
It’s not just apps that feel faster either: The Apple Pencil's latency is now down to 20 milliseconds, thanks to ProMotion.
It’s an impressive feat, but, for the already-impressive Pencil, the difference in performance between an iPad Pro with ProMotion and one without is nearly imperceptible to the untrained eye.
I switched back and forth between this year’s Pro and last year’s and didn’t notice a difference for quick note taking and document markup. But when you’re writing fast, with small print, or sketching a detailed drawing, you start to see not only where latency's been reduced, but also how much iOS’s prediction capability, which tries to anticipate where the Pencil is going, is at work.
Overall, however, unless you're working on something that's seriously demanding – like 4K editing or 3D rendering – it's not obvious where ProMotion is helping. ProMotion makes the entire iPad experience zippier for everyone, but only subtly so. It’s the pros, the content creators — people who are using the iPad as a drawing and editing tool — that will really reap its benefits.
The Apple Pencil is still the best stylus I've ever used, but after a year with it, it's not the pen replacement I'd hoped it'd be.
This is the iPad of Very Incremental Changes — at least until iOS 11 arrives this fall.
This iPad’s release is coming at a strange time. For starters, Apple will only say the tablet ships “this week,” but won’t say exactly when. Secondly, it arrives ahead of the newest mobile operating system, iOS 11, which is full of iPad-centric updates.