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Tuesday
Apr122016

Review: Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

iPad Pro is truly evolving into a platform. While the iPad mini and older iPad Air devices will continue to offer all the great content consumption features and still be the best tablets on the planet, the iPad Pro line can focus on more serious and mission critical applications.

Apple’s iPad Pro 9.7-inch offers the biggest evolution in the tablet space by bringing many of the key features of the larger iPad Pro (12.9) into a more familiar size as well as a lower price point. 

Apple’s always positioned the iPad as a Post PC device and the heir apparent to personal computing. Larger than the iPhone, yet smaller than a MacBook, the iPad’s evolved thanks to a supportive ecosystem of applications and accessories as well as Apple’s quest to consistently make it thinner, lighter and more powerful. With the iPad Pro, Apple’s actually managed to make their tablet’s performance match that of a PC’s and even surpass some PCs in terms of display quality, 4K video capture and editing right on the device.

 

In many ways, the iPad line has been a victim of its own early success. The tablets are so well-built and receive constant software updates that owners don’t feel the need to replace them on regular cycles.

My original iPad 2, bought on the first day they were made available, was passed down to my wife and years later to my toddler son and while it is a bit beat up, it continues to work without any major issue. It is easy to see why iPad sales have slowed, people just don’t see the need to replace a reliable device.

 

The introduction of the iPad Pro line, which started with the 12.9-inch model, pushed the iPad upmarket and aimed it at a more serious demographic. The iPad Pro was a big hit with its intended market of artists, creatives and enterprise workers but many were wishing for a smaller, cheaper iPad that could tap into the Smart Connector ecosystem as well as work with the genuinely innovative Apple Pencil, which is one of the best digital representations of an age-old creative and writing tool.

 

The new iPad Pro is now also more versatile, the single Lightning port is good for charging and connectivity but a Smart Connector opens up a whole new opportunity for Apple-made and third party accessories that can really push the ‘pro’ functionality out of this latest iPad.

People have been trying to turn the iPad into a 2-in-1 device or a notebook, ever since it first came to market. I am one of those persons that’s accompanied each of my iPad purchases with a Bluetooth keyboard case with the hope that I could finally leave laptops behind and embrace the power and portability of my post-PC device.

 

Out of the box, the smaller iPad Pro bears a stunning resemblance to the iPad Air 2. Save for the inclusion of the the Smart Connector, the camera bump and the new LTE antenna design are the only tell-tale signs that this is the beast mode iPad. 

Firing up the new iPad Pro, you quickly see a vibrant and almost non-reflective display. This is likely the most advanced display on any Apple device right now, and incorporates a bevy of features a wider colour gamut, 25 per cent greater colour saturation and a True Tone display.

 

True Tone uses new ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the colour and intensity of the display to match the light into your surroundings. The idea is to make the iPad’s display look more natural and organic and more like a piece of paper. 

This is hardly noticeable when you are using the iPad Pro, but place it against any other tablet and you suddenly realize how blue the hue is on other displays. The result is that the iPad Pro is the best iPad to use for reading anything from eBooks, text from websites or even Word documents. The same goes for watching video or looking at photos, the combination of less reflection, true tone display and wider colour gamut combine to make everything look tack sharp.

The iPad Pro has also inherited the larger 12.9 model’s quad speaker layout which makes it a better device for consuming content or for FaceTime calls.

 

These features, the availability of the Smart Keyboard (sold separately) and the inclusion of the same 64-Bit Apple A9X processor with the M9 coprocessor as the larger iPad (although it apparently features only half the RAM at 2GB compared to the 12.9’s 4GB of RAM), make the iPad Pro a formidable tool.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro does have features that the larger iPad does not have, that’s the 256GB storage capacity at the high-end. The larger iPad Pro maxes out at 128GB of onboard storage. The smaller iPad also has a better rear camera; it is the same 12 megapixel iSight camera found in the iPhone 6S which has taken all those impressive ‘Shot on iPhone 6s’ billboards. This camera can also shoot 4K video that the iPad Pro can edit, which is pretty crazy since there are notebooks out there that can’t do either.

 

What does the 12.9-inch iPad Pro have that is lacking on the smaller version? It has double the RAM at 4GB, a larger resolution (given its larger size) and can handle faster High Speed Lightning USB transfer. The A9 processor is also clocked higher than the smaller model.

 

I’ve been using the smaller iPad Pro as my main device for writing articles in tandem with the Smart Keyboard. The Smart Keyboard is way smaller than the one included in the 12.9 version but it is easily the best keyboard I have used for the 9.7-inch iPad.

If you are planning to harness the full power of the iPad Pro as a content creation tool, the Smart Keyboard should be a consideration. The only thing missing are backlit keys, but this doesn’t matter in the long term, since I’ve managed to learn how to touch-type very quickly and accurately on the Smart Keyboard even with my eyes closed.

The smaller iPad Pro similarly accepts input from the Apple Pencil, the 9.7-inch size is more portable and works nicely for quick sketches or getting ideas down on the screen. The ability to accept input via the Pencil makes the iPad Pro truly versatile and I can see various applications in the enterprise making their way to this platform. 

Conclusion


iPad Pro is truly evolving into a platform. While the iPad mini and older iPad Air devices will continue to offer all the great content consumption features and still be the best tablets on the planet, the iPad Pro line can focus on more serious and mission critical applications. While I love Apple’s notebooks, I can clearly see the future of the iPad evolving and eventually becoming the go-to portable productivity device for some users.

 Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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