iPad Pro 9.7

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Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Introduction and design

Update: iPad Pro 9.7 will soon get its first major software upgrade with iOS 10, which Apple announced at WWDC 2016. Here’s our updated review.

The iPad Pro is ambitiously touted as Apple’s new tablet that has the guts to replace your laptop, and it now comes in an ideal size that perfectly demonstrates bigger isn’t always better for everyone.

Even though I was thoroughly impressed with the grunt behind the powerful iPad Pro 12.9, I longed for that standard 9.7-inch display and form factor with the same pro-level features.

It’s taken Apple a year and a half to launch a proper iPad Air 2 successor and, in that time, it fit almost everything from the giant iPad into a smaller frame. It’s way more than an iPad Air 3 upgrade.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

I can now listen to amped up music through its four loud stereo speakers, doodle away with the Apple Pencil and seamlessly attach a keyboard without fumbling with Bluetooth. Its Smart Connector port may be my favorite new feature inherited from the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

It’s not all hand-me-downs. The iPad Pro 9.7 actually strikes out on its own with a few advancements. Its True Tone display technology adapts to my environment by subtly adjusting the white balance, and there’s a much wider color gamut behind its anti-reflective coated glass.

Its camera is 12MP and shoots 4K video, taking cues from the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus camera specs. That’s incredibly rare for a tablet of any size. So is the rose gold color option and debut of a 256GB configuration.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

What we have ended up with is a tablet juggernaut – but without looking like a juggernaut. On the other hand it also has a serious asking price to match its power, and several easy-to-spot software limitations.

The iPad Air 9.7 costs $599 (£499, AU$899), higher than the iPad Air 2 launch price of $499, (£399, $699) and even higher than the current iPad Air 2 price of $399 (£349, AU$599).

Is there enough here for Apple to retain its best tablet status? Let’s explore the current iPad that wants to be your laptop-replacement of the future.

Be sure to watch our video review of the iPad Pro 9.7

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGBR4hKrJHo&feature=youtu.beDesign

From across the room, I couldn’t tell the difference between this iPad Pro 9.7 and my iPad Air 2 when I was charging both during my battery life tests. They’re nearly identical on the outside, and that’s a good thing.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

The new iPad Pro has the same sub-pencil-thin dimensions of 240 x 168 x 6.1mm, making it a natural fit for two hands and easy to stow in a backpack. Surprisingly, its weight matches, too, despite the specs upgrade: 437g for Wi-Fi and 444g for Wi-Fi + Cellular again. The new “Pro” label doesn’t mean bigger, it just means bolder.

You get the same polished aluminum frame, fast Touch ID fingerprint scanning home button and a 9.7-inch Retina display. The lightning port hasn’t moved from the bottom, the headphone jack and sleep/wake button are still on the top, and the volume rocker remains on the right side.

In fact, the only surefire way to tell the difference from afar is to opt for the new finish. There are now four colors instead of three: Silver, Gold, Space Gray and the iPad 9.7-exclusive Rose Gold. This isn’t the only way the tablet matches the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, though.

There’s a slight camera bump on the back that no one likes, but it’s a fair trade off. It makes way for a 12MP rear-facing iSight camera, just like its smartphone counterpart, and now there’s a True Tone LED flash. Yes, that’s right, your tablet camera is as every bit as good as your phone camera. Still, please don’t awkwardly take photos with it in public.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Of course, upon even closer inspection, you’ll see two more changes from the iPad Air 2 by way of new speakers at the top and bottom and a Smart Connector port on the left side. They’re flush with the aluminum frame and almost hidden, but make no mistake, they’ve have acted as game changers for the iPad Pro series design.

Four speakers, two at the top and two at the bottom, give the new iPad Pro 9.7 a proper stereo setup, and they’re loud enough to drown out the bottom-firing, twin-speakers of the iPad Air 2 at full volume. Best of all, they’re not blasting music and Netflix movie dialogue out just one side.

I no longer felt the need to cup my hand around the speaker to get a decent volume for myself without bothering other people around me by cranking it up all of the way. Turning the tablet in landscape mode to watch a movie, I found everything sounded natural. Part of that balance is due to the fact that the upper top speakers always handle mid and high frequencies and they’ll change depending on how you hold the iPad Pro, rotating the sound as the screen orientation does.

Apple smartly refined the iPad Pro 9.7 design, and that’s not the only clever way it changed up its traditional tablet look and feel in its push to the professional leagues.

True Tone Display, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil

It’s easy to say that the iPad Pro 9.7 has the same display as the iPad Air 2. It’s technically true, but not wholly accurate. It has the same size, resolution and pixel density as the Air 2.

There’s more to this year’s Retina display, however, and the screen specs literally outshine what you will find on the bigger and seemingly more powerful iPad Pro 12.9.

Apple has introduced True Tone display technology, which dynamically adjusts the white balance of the screen to adapt its color and intensity to my environment. Just like the brightness slider, it’s also handled automatically using four-channel ambient light sensors.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

It’s sort of like the new Night Shift mode that made its debut in iOS 9.3. True Tone is easier on the eyes, making the screen look more natural and, more often than not, less blue.

Apple’s goal isn’t sleep here, but to ever-so-slightly nudge the iPad Pro 9.7 glow so that look like a piece of paper. That’s something that should (I’m hoping) become a standard feature across all of the company’s device in the future. It’s odd-looking at first, but you get used to it over the course of a few days. I really can’t turn it off now that it’s on.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

With a 2048 x 1536 resolution and 264 pixels per inch, it’s hard to pack in more pixels into a display of this side and having it matter. However, Apple decided to crank up the color gamut to give its new iPad Pro 25% greater color saturation than the iPad Air 2.

It touts the fact that this tablet uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry, and it’s true, the screen uses a wider array of colors and look more vivid. That said, the average user I’ve shown this to sees this as a minor addition to an already excellent-looking display. This is really meant for digital artists and photo editors who are putting the Pro-level display to work.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Everyone can get behind the return of the iPad’s fully laminated display that presses the screen up against the glass without gaps and its even more important anti-reflective coating. Outdoors, I found the new iPad to be bright enough in sunlight for me to keep working, uncomfortable and likely sunburned.

Smart Keyboard

The iPad is slowly transforming into a computer before our eyes, and the latest move by Apple is the most striking: developing a keyboard for the iPad Pro line. This one, I must point out right away, is different than the third-party keyboards that are always Bluetooth-connected and often unreliable. Don’t shrug it off as an optional accessory you should never consider.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro 9.7, in fact, isn’t Bluetooth at all. It uses the new Smart Connector that magnetically fastens the new keyboard to the bottom (in landscape) of the tablet. It combines the tri-fold Smart Cover design with an extra fourth flap for the ultra-slim keyboard. It loudly snaps into place, but that just means it’s secure enough to carry this iPad-keyboard combo by the tablet screen (the opposite of how you grab a laptop, unless you’re under the age of 5).

The company boasts “No plugs. No switches. No pairing.” To translate that into more iconic Apple words, “It just works.” I’ve never had to charge this keyboard or set it up through a menu, since both power and data flow through the Smart Connector. But that’s just where it gets started. How does the keyboard perform?

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

This is definitely a low-pile keyboard, and while not everyone will take a liking to it at first, I’m used to that given my everyday use of the New MacBook and new Magic Keyboard that’s connected to my Mac Pro. It may be a challenge for others, but it’s all a learning process. The good news is that while the keys are naturally smaller on the iPad Pro, they’re made of fabric.

A fabric keyboard sounds like an odd choice, but it’s been comfortable and resilient against my thousands of my mostly accurate keystrokes so far. In fact, I feel more confident with this iPad keyboard than my New MacBook keyboard, which uses plastic keys and has a more delicate butterfly mechanism. I’ve already had to get its entire top case replaced once.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

I won’t have an issue of getting crumbs, sand or grass in between these springy keys. Gone are the days when I blow debris off the keyboard only to have it lodge underneath the keys every single time. This keyboard is also water and stain resistant. How? Apple says it’s made from a single sheet of custom-woven fabric and, of course, etched out the keys using lasers. Because – the future.

The future sure is wildly expensive, though. It costs $149 (£129, AU$229) for this fabric case, which is only slightly cheaper than the larger 12.9-inch Smart Keyboard. There are also a few compromises compared to a traditional laptop keyboard.

You won’t find function keys along the top or an escape key. That’s okay. Control Center (swipe up from the bottom on the touchscreen) handles most of the fn key workload: display brightness, volume slider, music playback controls, etc.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Keyboard shortcuts are also here: exiting to the home screen, switching apps and initiating a system-wide search. So are the usual bold, italics, underline and select all, and every app can have its own shortcuts.

Naturally, the shortcut list for non-Apple apps is extremely limited right now and there are no modifier keys letting me switch control and command like on my Mac.

I’m also hurting for a backlit Smart Keyboard. iPad Pro 9.7 is meant to be used in all sort of situations, and it’s a bummer to have to shine an iPhone 6S Plus on the keyboard when it’s lights out and I think of one more thing to add to this review before bed. I’m less confident we’ll ever see backlighting from a fabric keyboard.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Finally, I can’t use this keyboard case in every situation, as much as I like the fabric design. It just won’t sit on my laptop unless I’m sitting flat. It’s the exact problem I have with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (and every single one before that). In fact, Apple’s tablet is like the Surface Mini that Microsoft never launched.

Apple Pencil

I spent a lot of time toying around with the Apple Pencil and, thankfully, there are a more key apps today than when the 12.9-inch iPad Pro launched with the accessory. There are a variety of blank canvas apps out there encouraging freehand art for this pressure and angle-sensitive stylus. But they’re not all the same. It’s the toolset on the sides and along the bottom that really matters.

I found FiftyThree’s Paper to be one of the easiest drawing apps within the App Store followed by very customizable Procreate. What’s surprising is that Apple didn’t bother to make much use of its lag-free Pencil accessory with its own Notes app.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

Notes has very basic capabilities, and that’s fine for a pre-loaded free app, but I was shocked to learn that I couldn’t annotate on screenshots through the Photos app. It should really be among the editing tools. Annotation is a key feature of the Microsoft Surface Pen, but here, I had to download an app called Skitch to circle some lines of text and show people the very important information.

Not a freehand drawing prodigy? That’s okay. The Apple Pencil can still be a fun accessory thanks to apps like Pigment. It turned my 9.7-inch iPad Pro into a coloring book. I’ve never owned a coloring book this expensive before, but some things never change: I did get mad when drawing outside the lines.

As much as everyone joked that Apple’s Pencil doesn’t include an eraser on the other end, there’s some truth to that cliched observational humor -especially when the Surface Pro’s Pen does.

The biggest problem with the Apple Pencil is that it’s expensive at $99 (£79, AU$165). I mean, people are buying inexpensive 8-inch Lenovo tablets running Android for that price, not a plastic tablet accessory. This Pencil doesn’t have mainstream appeal for that reason, but it will tempt creative types who gravitate toward Apple products already.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

A smaller issues is in the way it charges. There’s a very loseable cap on the end of this plastic input device and it reveals a Lighting connector – a male end of Lightning. This means in order to charge the Pencil, I had to either plug it into my iPad in an awkward looking, very breakable setup, or remember to bring the equally loseable Lightning-to-Lightning adapter (both sides female) with me in my backpack.

I chose to cautiously charge is via the iPad and endure strange looks. The good news is that the Pencil doesn’t take long to charge and lasts 12 hours when at 100%. When I was down to 0%, I didn’t have to panic, either. Apple built its stylus to regain 30 minutes of juice with just 15 seconds of charging. I can pretend I’m not with my iPad Pro 9.7 for 15 seconds.

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Specs and performance

This is where the iPad Pro 9.7 are where this tablet earns its “pro” label, even though it’s smaller in stature and the processor and RAM inside are slightly different than that of the iPad Pro 12.9.

At the heart of the new iPad specs is Apple’s latest A9X System-on-a-Chip, which includes the the embedded M9 motion co-processor and a 12-core PowerVR Series 7 graphics chip. It sits right next to 2GB of RAM.

Review: Updated: iPad Pro 9.7

All of that means this tablet can pretend to be a computer, handling opening as many apps as you want, scrolling through menus without hiccups, summoning Siri at a moment’s notice and watching video while multitasking in Mail and Twitter. I experienced no slowdown whatsoever.

Backing that up are a series of GeekBench 3 scores that average out to 5227. That’s slightly inferior to the iPad Pro 12.9, at least on paper, because it scored an average of 5472 in the same tests. It shares the same Apple A9X chip, so what’s the difference?

Apple’s clock speed for the 9.7-inch model is 2.16 GHz and it has 2GB of RAM. The larger 12.9 tablet can run at 2.26 GHz with 4GB of RAM. But they’re marginally different speeds for different tablet sizes (and more pixels), so I didn’t notice a change between the two and you won’t either.

While the iPad Air 2 is by no means a slow tablet, it scored an inferior 4506 and I did notice apps and menus loading more quickly on the new Pro.

The more important thing to pay attention to is the internal storage configurations. The iPad Pro 9.7, like its bigger counterpart, comes in 32GB, 128GB and now 256GB. There’s no 16GB option any more, like on the iPad Air 2. That’s for good reason – everyone was running out of space and couldn’t upgrade to iOS 9.

What’s frustrating is the 32GB iPad Pro 9.7 price remains the same as the iPad Air 2 32GB launch price. That sets the entry-level fee for the new iPad much higher for consumers shopping for the best tablet. $599 is harder to justify, no matter the upgrade compared to the $499 price point the iPad Air 2 16GB option was offered at.

The excuse of “Well, it’s technically under $500″ is no longer a small lie if you still think that while waving your phone around to trigger Apple Pay.

iOS 9.3 and apps

The iPad Pro 9.7 runs iOS 9.3 out of the box and be upgraded to iOS 9.3.3 right now, and what’s here is a brilliant interface and app ecosystem that gets tablet software right… for a powerful tablet.

It builds on top of iOS 9, which was already a very tablet-focused refresh of Apple’s mobile operating system with new features like split screen multitasking. With more finger waggling than a Beyonce video, I can transition from typing up my work on Pages while editing photos in Lightroom; uploading the resulting media in Transmit FTP while entering everything into our content management system in Safari; and reading it all through on techradar via Safari while blasting it out to our followers on Twitter.

Multitasking isn’t as easy as using a laptop’s mouse and keyboard. Sometimes swiping the split screen view into place doesn’t compute like, you know, on a computer. Sliding my finger across the screen from the right edge leftward reveals a small window that takes up just a third of the display. I can make the same left-swiping gesture to initiate the half-and-half split screen mode. Videos on YouTube and played through Safari and be minimized to any corner in a picture-on-picture mode, which rounds out the multitasking feature-set.

The other problem is only about two dozen of my apps currently support this split screen view and a lot are Apple-made apps; some I care about and some I do not, like the generic and always-empty Videos app. I watch video on YouTube, movies on Netflix and television on HBO Go. Home videos are all in the Photos app.

It feels as if iOS stops short of really testing those powerful internal specs with this helpful, but ultimately limited split screen interface. As slick as it is to navigate via a touchscreen, I’m much better off on a machine running OS X El Capitan where I can daringly run three or more apps at once and the full Safari browser with extensions.

I can get far more research and reporting done on a laptop thanks to a dock at the bottom of my screen at all times and a seemingly unlimited number of windows and tabs open at once. But for focus-driven writing days, I can almost as capably use this iPad Pro 9.7. The Smart Keyboard attachment and fast processor make for a fluid day outside of the office with the right work.

There’s hope that the software limitations I’ve experience with the iPad Pro 9.7 will be fixed with the iOS 10 update. However, I don’t see many iPad-specific features as part of the iOS 10 beta changelog.

Apps

Apple’s tablet software has always been considered better than what you’ll find on an Android tablet. This is partly because several app developers don’t properly scale tablet apps on Google’s mobile operating system.

Most apps here run happily on the large screen and work cohesively with my iPhone. I get iMessages and SMS texts right on my tablet, while my Android tablets stay silent – unless I plead with my friends to use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or another similar non-SMS service.

I can also easily transition from a text message to a FaceTime video chat with other iOS users, or make a ridiculous-looking phone call on the tablet. This app-to-app linking feels seamless and about the person I’m talking to rather than siloed apps and multiple home screen visits in between.

My Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has an HD video call button now, but the person I’m trying to reach also has to have a Samsung phone (not just an Android) and belong to the same carrier (one of four in the US). Really. Who knows if that’ll ever come to a Samsung tablet, either.

Apple’s software is starting to get a lot of big stuff right. Siri is smarter in iOS 9 and Apple News has been tweaked to look a little better and more personalized as of iOS 9.3. It’s pre-loaded software has otherwise not made big changes in several years, but it’s the small stuff that the company always brings together better than anyone.

A great example of this is walking into a local cafe I hadn’t been since last year, opening up my brand new iPad Pro 9.7 and immediately being connected to the Wi-Fi. What’s the password? I don’t know, but I entered it into my New MacBook almost a year ago one time and now it’s on the week-old tablet. That just saved me a critical step.

Movies

Apple boasted that its wider color gamut matches what major Hollywood studios use, and while I could see more vivid colors when editing photos, the new display is best experienced watching an action-packed flick like Mad Max: Fury Road or an animated movie like Bling. Both really popped on the 9.7-inch screen.

The speakers didn’t just pop, they boomed. There are four on the frame of this iPad, and despite being at opposite corners, they sound balanced no matter how you hold the tablet. The fact that this tablet changes audio orientation the same way it changes screen orientation is clever.

Picture-and-Picture mode goes hand-in-hand with watching bite-sized videos in which the quality and color don’t matter. This feature, launched by Apple in iOS 9 last year, allowed me to minimize the screen to any corner I wanted while getting work done.

Music

Playing music had the same positive effects as watching a movie on the iPad Pro 9.7 – it sounded louder and crisper on this tablet’s four speakers as opposed what I heard (or didn’t hear) from the twin speakers of the iPad Air 2. I’m no longer always running to wirelessly connect a Bluetooth speaker accessory every time I blast playlist in my apartment. That’s an incredible satisfying upgrade only the Pro tablets are capable of right now.

Downloading Pandora or Spotify is still the easiest free option to play music besides tapping into your own local music, but the new iPad comes with the company’s fee-based Apple Music service, too. This is meant for anyone who wants a more “pro” level of song curation on their Pro-level tablet.

Gaming

This productivity-enhanced tablet isn’t all about churning out work with the Smart Keyboard. I’ve been easily distracted by the casual game Agar.io (Frank Underwood’s favorite new game in House of Cards: Season 4). It works better on the tablet than the iPhone due to the expanded screen, and playing it on an iPad Pro 12.9 is just too big.

The iPad Pro 9.7 also felt “just right” in my hands when I was able to set new records on Real Racing 3, a serious test for 3D graphics on any iOS or Android device. That said, I didn’t find too much difference regarding the game app performance other than reduced load times when compared to playing the same game on an iPad Air 2.

Camera and samples

The iPad Pro 9.7 cameras have gotten a pro-level upgrade, even though taking photos with a tablet is considered a major tech faux pas, at least in public. Its still-photo specs are 12MP on the back and 5MP on the front, which, amazingly for a tablet, matches the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus.

I see tablet cameras being useful for simple reference shots and work situations. Realtors and store managers take photos on devices all of the time where I live. For them, snapping photos on a more capable phone only to transfer them to a tablet to show a client is an extra step. Airdrop and iCloud Photo don’t always work 100% of the time. The iPad Pro 9.7 solves this problem, something the last-generation iPad Pro 12.9 camera can’t even claim to do.

If you’re going to violate your contract with society to by taking pictures with an iPad, you might as well make it worth your while. I risked being shunned from the world forever many times over by wielding four tablets at once, simultaneously testing out the cameras of the iPad Pro 9.7, iPad Air 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and Google Nexus 9 and I found vast differences.

The 12MP iSight camera shows markedly better photo quality over the 8MP camera that’s in the iPad Air 2 and also the iPad Pro 12.9. There’s less noise in low light photos, giving every subject a brighter, yet cleaner look than every other tablet I have tested. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 trailed, and the HTC-made Google Nexus 9 finished last.

There’s really no comparison on a tablet, and everything I photographed on the newest iPhone turned out exactly the same, as unheard of as that is. Only the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge I was also carrying around offered photos that looked better. That’s no surprise, given the fact that Samsung has the best camera phone that takes brilliant pictures, even in low light settings.

The 5MP front-facing camera is also a considerable upgrade over the 1.2MP sensor found in recent iPads. This FaceTime Camera, as it’s officially called, has a Retina Flash, meaning it shines the display three times brighter than normal to achieve the proper True Tone lighting.

All photos comes with Apple’s Live Photos feature, which captures a snippet of video and sound 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after you press the shutter button. This is a neat, though not groundbreaking feature when scrolling back through vacation pictures. Seeing a little bit of life as you thumb through your photo gallery to people makes it seem less like you’ve trapped them into looking at the 21st century version of endless family vacation slides.

Both front and back cameras also stitch together Panorama photos, with the main rear-facing camera able to shoot 63MP, topping the 43MP pieced together by the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro.

The rear camera also is capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps now and Slo-mo video mode has been upgraded to 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240 fps. Before, we were limited to 720p at 120 fps. You won’t find any of these video features on its tablet competitors. Not even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can do all of this.

Battery life

Battery life is of key importance for any tablet because the it’s designed for work and multimedia experiences. It needs to run all day for me to use it more than my laptop.

The good news is that the iPad Pro 9.7 has excellent battery life that has lasted me 24 hours with steady use. Apple says constant battering will give out 10 hours of power and that check out.

It contains a 27.5Wh battery, but I found it to last longer than the iPad Air 2, which has a 27.6Wh battery. Clearly that newer A9X processor now only works overtime when it has to, but is also generally more efficient.

Running our battery life test that plays a HD video for 90 minutes at full brightness, I found that a full battery diminished only by 22%. It was at 78% by the end of the looped video. That edges out the iPad Air 2, which dropped 26%, leaving me with 76%. The iPad Pro 12.9, with its bigger screen but bigger battery trade-off, sank 28% to 72%.

The opposite is true when it came to charging the batteries. The iPad Pro 9.7 took 3 hours and 50 minutes to recharge, while the iPad Air 2 was at full capacity in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Both were at about 17% after 30 minutes before the iPad Air 2 started pulling away with the victory.

The iPad Pro 9.7 isn’t slow to charge, but it could have used Apple’s new fast-charging feature that is so far exclusive to the bigger iPad Pro 12.9. The company sells a Lightning-to-USB C cable that provides a quick charging boost for its big 38.5Wh battery.

Verdict

I put down the iPad Pro 12.9 way too quickly because it didn’t fit into my life. It didn’t even fit in my backpack. The iPad Pro 9.7 the proper size for most people without giving up too much horsepower and adding a little extra to the front (screen) and (back) camera.

Does it have enough of “grunt” be a laptop replacement and sway defecting Windows users, like Apple hopes? Not exactly. The iOS software, more than what’s under the hood, is its biggest limitation. It ends up being a really great iPad tablet with some crossover laptop appeal.

We liked

The iPad Pro 9.7 looks, sounds and performs better than the iPad Air 2 in every way, though you have to look a little closer to realize any of these changes on the outside. Its color-rich display impresses with white-balance adapting screen technology and its four speakers drown out the audio of other tablets I have used.

The faster specs keep this tablet running smoothly, while 4K video and the choice of a 256GB iPad make for an excellent combination. I’m also impressed with the 12MP for a tablet. It keeps me from always having to reach for my phone when I want to take a simple photo to send to someone in iMessages. I still refuse to be seen doing this in public on a tablet. It’s unseemly.

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That’s just what’s in the box. Accessories like the Smart Keyboard hooked me with durable fabric keys that beat the New MacBook’s plastic keys. I won’t be getting any crumbs logged between the keys due to its innovative one-piece design. The Apple Pencil was fun to doodle with and I know designers and artists are going to appreciate the pressure-sensitive stylus.

We disliked

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This could be a more convincing laptop replacement if iOS took some more cues from OS X El Capitan. I can’t work nearly as quickly or efficiently as I can on a MacBook in which I can open multiple programs, windows and tabs. Split screen on an iPad, with limited apps supporting it in full, can only get me so far. And as much as I became an expert as swiping through the interface to make use of two apps at once, I couldn’t properly multi-task throughout my entire day.

It’s technically slower than the iPad Pro 12.9 and missing out on its faster-charging capabilities with an optional USB-C-to-Lightning cable. A bigger issue, however, is the price. It’s not cheap and I feel forced into 32GB for the same price at it was for the 32GB iPad Air 2 and year and a half ago. Shouldn’t the 32GB option just replace the $499 price point?

Final verdict

There’s a question over whether or not the iPad Pro 9.7 is “innovative,” and I think the question should be posed differently. If the niche-focused iPad Pro 12.9 didn’t come out six months ago, would this new iPad be “innovative?” I think there’s enough here to justify that label.

It has the looks with its True Tone display and wider color gamut technology, the sound with its four booming speakers, and the feel with its pressure-sensitive Pencil and its Smart Keyboard via the Smart Connector. It’s all faster performing, there are more storage options and the 12MP is camera phone-worthy.

Apple ruined its own best surprises for everyday tablet-using consumers by launching most of this in the unreasonably sized (for most people) iPad Pro 12.9. Six months later, it’s old news, but exactly the leap I wanted from an iPad Air 3.

The iPad Pro 9.7 ends up being more than an a simple specs bump a year and a half after the iPad Air 2, but it’s not quite the laptop replacement that Apple poses it to be. Its software is simplified, while its high price makes it a complicated purchase. It’s the best tablet option for anyone who doesn’t want to opt for a full-on MacBook experience, but isn’t on a budget.

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45 thoughts on “iPad Pro 9.7

  1. Create art on a 9.7 inch tablet? Don’t be ridiculous and no mention of the extra high cost for the pen and keyboard which without its just another ipad though I do expect them to relaunch the original iPad shortly with the SE moniker.

  2. Apple lowered the price of the iPad Air 2. People that keep asking for a touchscreen version of OS X crack me up. You’re asking for a touchscreen version of the OS that is presently apple’s least popular in terms of developer support and market penetration? This all smacks of people wanting to get a cheapmo macintosh and getting angry at Apple because they AREN’T chopping their own neck to make a product you won’t buy anyway.

  3. It’s just too expensive now, the iPad Air2 is already a premium priced product with high margins, why step up the price even more? Surface Pro4 has sewn up the hybrid device replacing PC’s. iOS is simply not up to it. An iPad Pro running a new touchscreen version of OSX is needed.

  4. The price is actually the same as the iPad air 2 when it came out, except now the entrance model offered is 32gb, so it is sold at the 32gb iPad Air 2’s price, because no more 16 gb

  5. Looks like a nice iteration of the iPad line but why has it jumped 25% in price in the UK and 50% in the US?! I don’t see anything major in the specs that deserves such a price hike, just seems like opportunism.

  6. Not true. Mac has been trying to converge them for years.

  7. Why would you want to run OSX on an iPad? OSX isn’t optimised at all for a multi-touch screen, and having use Win8.1 on a Surface Pro3, I can report it’s awful, trying to use stubby fingers to control an OS that’s design around pointers. Besides, iOS IS OSX – but a version that’s optimised for a multi-touch screen. Where Apple is going wring is in the iOSification of their OSX apps. What was iWorks – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – have become dire on OSX since the iOS UI was grafted on to them. Acres of wasted screen real estate with no tear-offable menus… a bizarre thing to do for a company that’s supposed to be user interface experts.

  8. Agreed! iPad Air 2 with keyboard case, with a bit of practice become my one and only university companion to take notes, do research, and the new iPad Pro just replaced my pen and paper too! Just stupidly expensive

  9. I’ve been using an iPad Air as a laptop replacement for 2 years. I got a keyboard case and it works like a charm for Office and social media / browsing. So good I sold my Windows 10 laptop. I still have 2 W10 desktops – one for Photoshop/Premiere/WordPress and the other for Sonar audio. The iPad gets the most use.

  10. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 keyboard is also 00a3100 too.

  11. When I can plug in an external drive and play saved video files or movies, give me a call, until it acts like a laptop, it isn’t a laptop replacement, but since Apple wants to charge $400 for 250gb of space, it will limit the device for the sake of greed!

  12. Good review overall and certainly relevant to my current research for my next mobile device solution as a small business owner who is always on the go. One thing that strikes me as blatantly apparent is: if this review was written on an iPad 9.7, clearly there is MUCH work to be done with its spelling and grammar checking. That or, as seems to be all too common in today’s journalism – the article might have been written on a phone and/or in such haste that missing words, incorrect words and misspelled words go unnoticed or disregarded by the author. Whatever happened to pride of accuracy in journalism? A good number of the sentences in this article don’t even make sense due to their construction. It appears acceptable today to test the reader’s comprehension by forcing them to decipher sentences and context via inclusion of extra words, incorrect words, missing words, etc. Crazy… Valuable information, loosely presented.

  13. I’ll take my iPad Pro and my iMac over any Windows garbage and I would HAPPILY switch to Windows if it wasn’t horrible.

  14. I’m still getting over ios9 bricking my ipad2 and iPhone 4s. I understand there is a class action lawsuit by owners like myself. I bought Apple for the security and quality, not for planned obsolescence. My 6 year old i5 HP notebook computer handles Win10 just fine thank you. What a mess Apple has made since Steve left us. Forcing folks to spend money might seem like a great idea in the boardroom, but for me I now own an Android tablet and phone. Good decision! Bye apple and your snobbery.

  15. Call me greedy, but what I really would like is an iPad Pro 12.9

  16. This is a reasonable and fairly accurate tagline:

  17. I personally would go for the Dell 7000. It’s a fantastic tablet for writing, don’t forget to install Office HD. Probably the only Office Suite available for a mobile platform that has the same features as a desktop version. That’s becasue it is the desktop version, OpenOffice, completely rewritten for Android and it’s simply fantastic. MS Office for mobile or any of the rest cannot hold a candle to it. If your not already committed to Apple’s ecosystem I would stay away from the iPad Pro. As someone who bought one himself, iOS isn’t really a good OS. I know I will get flack for saying this here but it’s true. IOS is a media player OS, maybe a phone OS, but is definitely not a tablet OS, especially not one that deserves to have a Pro insignia. Everything modern about a typical OS in 2016 is simply missing in iOS.

  18. Can a comparison article be written covering: * Apple iPad Pro 9.7 with Official Keyboard * Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 with Official Keyboard * Sony Xperia Z5 Tablet with Official Keyboard All three compete with each other more than they do the Surface Pro. I’m interesitng in reading which is the best writing device?

  19. But I think that’s the problem. it might well be the best tablet ever, but it’s supposed to be more than that, and for the price it should be.

  20. I have the pro 9.7 it’s awesome def best tablet ever fast great pic just awesome

  21. What is the point of adding even more expensive a space consuming ram that would never be used? The apps you can run on the iPad will not exceed the 2 gigs, so instead of judging on pure specs, check how it all works together.

  22. What about the fact that it only has 2GB of RAM? This may be a deal breaker.

  23. I sold my original iPad2 as it was too tricky, fiddly, to create content. The irony is the iPad DOES support BT mice, if you jailbreak it! Steve Jobs’ dogma… a finger is all you need. That said – i’m revising my point of view with the pro line up – due to the pencil. I tried styluses on the iPad2, but they just didn’t cut it. The pencil, however gets it right. So now I’m figuring out how to afford one… Project management tools are available on the iPad, I’m sure the iPadPro has enough grunt to run MSProject, were MS to make it available for iOS. I don’t think you can criticise the iPad for not running software that isn’t available for it… same with Autocad really – although as far as I understand it, that’s a seriously heavyweight application and your expectations may be too high today.

  24. I still don’t see the iPad fixing what I thought a huge shortcomings of all of the iPad products. The fact that I can’t print to any printer I want to. The fact that I can not choose a location where I want to place my file is another. The fact that you can’t really run industry-standard strong applications such as AutoCAD or MSProject still puts this tablet in the definition of a toy. iPad doesn’t even support using a BT mouse or trackpad. How can you be a PC replacement if I can’t use a mouse or the trackpad. It’s still a toy. It’s a pretty toy but still a toy.

  25. Nah, Surface book isn’t robust. I’d rather get a convertible laptop. Surface Pro 4, however, is in different class and is truly amazing.

  26. Surface Pro sucks because of the software IMHO.

  27. two words – surface book. having tried it, it really does live up to the hype

  28. I have an iPad Air, I really like it, but it will never replace my desktop PC or a laptop.

  29. I guess it all depends on the usage you have of it. I totally agree, iOs is stupidly closed, but stable as hell. And with some habit you learn how to counter the initial issues to take full advantage of it. Sure its not really permissive, but for example googe drive allows you to manage all your files, and the app is enabled everywhere in the sharing options, pdf editing apps, etc. I personnaly find the iPad pro fantastic for the usage i have of it. I had the iPad air 2 which was already my best study companion, and iPad Pro does double the work. Its definately not fit to replace a hardcore use of a computer, but does its job pretty amazingly when it comes to note typing, drawing, writing, doing research, reading and recreationnal use. But its a shame for the usb c, as the bigger version has it, and hopefully a jailbreak will come out soon!

  30. Dude, most of the iOS customers wouldn’t even understand 99% of what you’ve just wrote. Let alone having any more significant needs than Hulu, Netflix or Facebook. Well sadly even OS X is going down that path. I was surprised they took away many features from the GUI disk utility, even the repair file permission option is gone. Apple is pursuing dumb mass customer at a cost of power (or even normal) users and I’m afraid it’s only going to be worse in the coming years. I still don’t get the point of Pixel when you have decent Win10 ultrabooks / tablets available.

  31. Neither of which I would replace with an iPad Pro. As an iPad Pro owner myself I can without a doubt say, it is not a laptop replacement, even one that is 5 years old despite what Tim Cook suggested. As this was my first iPad I have to say I was actually surprised about the amount of missing or limited features. Something as simple as running a terminal app in the background, in which I need for work, wasn’t possible, despite the Pro’s 4GB of memory. When I brought it to the Apple Store to find out what I was doing wrong and to find out why iOS kept pausing all of my background processes, they just told me it was to save battery life. Okay, fair enough, but why isn’t there an option to keep apps running in the background while I’m pugged in. I mean I can’t even stream a film to my TV and look up an actors name with IMDB at the same time, the video just stops. That was just a simple example, I needed to put it into a context for those who keep saying that they don’t need to run anything in the background. Which is the number answer from almost every iOS user I asked about this. Basically, if it doesn’t have it, we don’t need it, oookkkkkaaaayyyy???? So after some research, it turned out, except for a few apps and iOS’s new PIP feature, iOS is almost a completely linear OS, one task at a time, ignoring almost 30 years of multitasking progress. The last time I used an OS that couldn’t run apps in the background was ironically also an Apple OS, Mac OS 9.2. A system by the way that could be completely stopped in it’s tracks simply by holding down a mouse button, talk about There are some nice attributes about the iPad Pro, specifically surfing the net and reading magazines using the app Issuu, however there is absolutely nothing Pro about the iPad Pro. Everything I tried which was productivity related literally had one compromise after another. I also found the lack of a file-system really disturbing and I frankly hated it, I would even dare say that iOS has the worst file management paradigm I’ve ever used and I’ve used some really awful systems. When I tried to connect my monitor to it so I could have an extended desktop, nope, not supported, just mirroring, not only that but neither the resolution or aspect ratio of any of my monitors were supported and the DPI in which iOS’s desktop was being displayed at was crazy huge. Now I realize this is a mobile OS but my new Pixel C, something I just recently purchased do to the issues I’ve been having with my iPad Pro, supported my monitor’s beautifully, even my ThinkVision 28

  32. Theyre not targeting hardcore windows user, as they mentionned pretty clearly they’re targeting people who have old laptops and are looking for a replacement, theyre just placing themselves as an option on the laptop market. The iPad was never meant to compete with all windows laptops, but more the surface and all the new ultrabooks

  33. Well, then why even drag it into the discussion. Cook didn’t say ‘This new iPad will convince you to upgrade from the iPad you already own…’ He specifically took a shot at laptops, which are mainly Windows laptops.

  34. idk i see cool kids caring them on tv non stop. not sure how serious this is for them

  35. But they don’t have enough people buying their tablets, the sales of iPads have become a major concern to Apple over recent years. The iPad pro really is just a poorly though out idea which has zero to no chance of replacing any laptop unless that laptop is used for basic browsing.

  36. they have enough other people buying their tablets. no need for hardcore windows users.

  37. Windows converts? Tim Cook can’t seriously believe that many people with an i5/i7 computer with 8-16+gb of RAM, a mouse, ability to have 2+ displays, etc.. is really thinking, oh wow look a little tablet with a keyboard (there have always been 3rd party ipad keyboard cases) and a stencil, who needs a Windows PC now!

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