The 9.7" iPad Pro Reviewby Brandon Chester on June 1, 2016 9:00 AM EST
In late 2015 Apple launched a tablet that they called the iPad Pro. It had been rumored for quite some time, and it had a number of features that differentiated it from other iPads. The most notable was its 12.9" display, which has a width equal to the height of Apple's 9.7" iPads, allowing it to use two essentially full sized iPad applications at the same time in a split screen view. In addition to its massive display, the iPad Pro came with two accessories that had not existed for any prior iPad. It seemed that in Apple's eyes the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard really defined what made the iPad Pro worthy of the "Pro" name.
Meanwhile, the launch of the iPad Pro came and went, and there was no news of a successor to Apple's iPad Air 2, which had just turned one year old. I thought that this move may have had to do with Apple not facing much competition in the tablet market. On the other hand, with iPad sales down it wouldn't generate much excitement to keep selling the same tablet for a second year.
After the launch of the iPad Pro the rumor mill continued to churn out new info, and there were whispers of a so called "iPad Air 3" coming in early 2016. Later, the story became that Apple was actually planning another iPad Pro to take the place of the iPad Air 2 as Apple's flagship 9.7" iPad. In the end it turned out that Apple did exactly that, and along with bringing the specs of the larger iPad Pro to a smaller size, the smaller iPad Pro comes with some surprises of its own. Below you can view the current state of the iPad line now that Apple has two devices called the iPad Pro.
|Apple iPad Family|
|Apple iPad Air 2||Apple iPad Pro 9.7"||Apple iPad Pro 12.9"|
3 x Apple Typhoon @ 1.5GHz
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
|GPU||PowerVR 8 Cluster Series6XT||PowerVR 12 Cluster Series7XT|
|RAM||2GB LPDDR3||2GB LPDDR4||4GB LPDDR4|
|NAND||16/64/128 GB||WiFi: 32 / 128 / 256 GB|
|WiFi + Cellular:
32 / 128 / 256 GB
|WiFi + Cellular:
128 / 256 GB
|Display||9.7" 2048x1536 IPS LCD||12.9" 2732x2048 IPS LCD|
|Size and Mass||240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm
437g WiFi, 444g LTE
|305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm
713g WiFi, 723g LTE
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
f/2.2, 1.22 micron
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
|1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2||5MP Front-facing f/2.2||1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2|
|Battery||27.3 Wh||27.5 Wh||38.5 Wh|
|Launch OS||iOS 8||iOS 9|
|Cellular||Category 4 LTE + GPS/GNSS in Cellular SKU|
|Other Connectivity||2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, Apple Lightning, Smart Connector on iPad Pro|
|32 GB: $599
128 GB: $749
256 GB: $899
|32 GB: $799
128 GB: $949
256 GB: $1079 (LTE)
The 9.7” iPad Pro has the same core industrial design that Apple’s iPads have used since the launch of the iPad Air. The back is almost entirely flat, curving up quickly near the edges and meeting the cover glass with a shiny chamfered edge. Like the 12.9” model, the 9.7” iPad Pro changes things up by moving to a four-speaker audio setup, which requires holes drilled on both the top and bottom of the chassis. Interestingly, the 9.7” iPad Pro uses asymmetrical speaker grilles, with the bottom two being larger than those of the 12.9” model, and the top being smaller. This is likely due to the more constrained space inside the chassis. As for the speakers themselves, the audio quality did seem to be a step down from the larger iPad Pro, but it’s still miles ahead of anything else that I’ve seen on a tablet of this size and a significant improvement from the iPad Air 2.
The 9.7” iPad also comes with some changes of its own. The camera now has a hump, which will undoubtedly upset those who focus heavily on the uniformity of the design. There was no good way to improve upon the iPad Air 2’s camera within a 6.1mm chassis without putting a hump, and as we’ll see later, the camera in this iPad Pro is a huge improvement over Apple’s other iPads. While the hump is there, with such a large chassis the angle it makes with a flat surface is so small that the tablet doesn’t rock back and forth when using it on a table, which is extremely important to ensure the usability of the Apple Pencil.
Apple has also changed up the antenna design. Going back to the first iPads, the cellular models have sported a plastic RF window at the top of the chassis to allow for RF propagation. With the 9.7” iPad Pro, Apple adopts a similar antenna design to that of the iPhone 6 and 6s, where the top now has a metal segment for the antenna with insulating plastic lines surrounding it.
I think this is a significant upgrade to the design of the cellular model for a couple of reasons. Aesthetically it simply looks better, as the plastic inserts weren’t color matched and so they stood out from the rest of the aluminum back cover. They also weren’t always aligned perfectly, and so at the edge between the plastic and the aluminum you could feel a noticeable seam due to the plastic being either at a higher or lower level than the chassis. The new antenna design eliminates both of these issues, and brings the 9.7” iPad Pro as close as it can get to an unbroken aluminum unibody when also having to support cellular networking.
Beyond the changes with the camera, speakers, and antenna on the cellular model, the 9.7” iPad Pro has the same design as the iPad Air 2. They share the same mass and dimensions, and as I mentioned before the core ID is the same. Whether or not Apple could improve upon the design further is up for debate, but they don’t really have any true competition in this space and so they’ve been able to maintain their design lead by making iterative improvements on the original iPad Air design. That design still works very well, and so I don’t see much reason to change things up significantly just for the sake of saying you have a new design.
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Meteor2 - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - linkUnlike the commenter above, I did notice you say that. Would've been good to name a smartphones which are better though.
hlovatt - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link@Brenden,
Which note taken app do you use? Is it OCR?
Brandon Chester - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - linkI used to use Notability but now I use Goodnotes. It has OCR for searching but I don't think it can do translation to a text doc format.
KPOM - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - linkI love Goodnotes.
hlovatt - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - linkThanks for the Goodnotes suggestion, I will give it a try.
Loved the review particular the display analysis.
Wolfpup - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - linkGlad for the explanation of True Tone...quite simple/obvious when it's spelled out like that, and sounds like something we'll eventually take for granted everywhere.
That said, don't be scared off of the 12.9" model! I personally don't understand an iPad at all for "productivity"-to me they're fancy eReaders. I bought the 12.9" model because 9.7" has always seemed too small to me for graphic novels and magazines. Like it's usable, but it's compromised.
The 12.9" model, while it's limited compared to like a Surface, is still pretty awesome at being an eReader. The screen's fantastic, and Apple really nailed the weight and size and whatnot. IMO that's not as important in a 10" tablet, but at nearly 13" it could get out of control if it weren't well done-but they've come close to the weight and size and "in hand feel" of my iPad 2 with a screen that can finally display a full sized page without compromise. I was tortured over the decision for ages, but finally decided to go for it, and am glad I did...everything just looks so much better and I don't feel like I'm squinting or compromising anymore.
Apple's scaling hardware or software or whatever seems to do a nice job too. I'm pretty sure that Marvel Unlimited supports the 9.7" screen's resolution, but NOT the 12.9" one yet, but it looks fantastic on the larger screen. Okay, I still prefer physical paper, and I'd prefer an eInk equivalent to this, but it's really good..
Meteor2 - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - linkThat's a really good point. The 12.9 Pro, with its 3:2 screen, basically replaces paper. That said, I find the compromise that the 9.7 screen (in an Air for me) makes in terms of size v weight advantageous.
arsjum - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link12.9 iPad Pro has 4:3 screen resolution, Surface tablets have the 3:2 one.
andrejg - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - linkThat is one expensive reader :-)
trewtrew - Monday, June 6, 2016 - linkAgreed, iPad Pro 12.9" has been perfect for textbooks reading as well as note taking.