9.7″ iPad Pro Review

My parents have a 2011 iMac. I noticed it would get very sluggish whenever more than one app was open. This is a symptom of having too little memory. It just couldn’t do everyday tasks. It only had 4GB of RAM, half of what I recommend as a minimum for a Mac. So, I tossed an additional 16GB in there for them. I tested it by opening a number of apps and, while the hard drive kept them from launching quickly, once the apps opened, they didn’t interfere with each other. There were no hang ups, it was just super speedy. I was so proud of my work, it was faster than ever. I asked my dad what he thought of the new speed and… he said he didn’t notice it. I was crushed. But I asked him if he was less frustrated with it than usual. He thought about it and agreed, it didn’t frustrate him like it normally did. People don’t notice when things work well, they notice when things break. That’s what my move to the iPad Pro from the iPad Air initially felt like. At first, using the iPad Pro felt about the same as the iPad Air. It nearly eliminated my frustrations over iPad Air memory problems, keeps up with me through my tasks, and doesn’t leave me frustrated, something I can’t claim of my iPad Air. I then started pushing the iPad Pro more, using multitasking features, a Smart Keyboard, the Apple Pencil, even the camera. I paid close attention to the screen and ran it through some simple tests. The iPad Pro upgraded my workflow in ways I couldn’t have predicted. As a broke lady living in a costly city, it was a huge expense for me. But that ding on my credit score was definitely worth it, because the iPad Pro has made me rethink what an iOS device can be.

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Design

I was moving from the iPad Air, which is only slightly thicker and slightly heavier than the iPad Pro, so I wasn’t expecting it to feel so different. The iPad Pro felt much thinner and lighter than the iPad Air I was coming from. It might look like the iPad Air’s design, which hasn’t changed much in three years now, but holding it reveals just how much of an upgrade this is. It’s remarkably thinner and lighter. Looking closer, the four speakers, Smart Connector, and even the camera bulge promised an entirely new experience. I was excited to start using it. So, I restored what I could from my backup (losing one of my favorite apps along the way), and started playing working with my new iPad Pro. 

Performance

The first thing we have to discuss is the power of this iPad. The iPad Pro comes very close to the power of Apple’s MacBook, and it runs a slimmed down operating system. The end result is a smooth experience, even while multitasking. Apple made a regrettable decision regarding memory (again) when they decided to give the 9.7″ iPad Pro only 2GB of memory while they gave the 12.9″ iPad 4GB of memory with the same processor. Still, I haven’t noticed issues with the iPad Pro reloading app content nearly as much as I saw on the iPad Air. It feels like the iPad Pro has three times the memory of the iPad Air, not twice the memory. I frequently work with two apps open at a time, a Safari page, which I have for researching posts, and the other side of the screen is either my text editor, a photo editor that I use to make photos for my posts, or one of the social networking apps I use to share posts. The iPad Pro switches between apps quickly, and loads them up when I need them. Photo editing and gaming is fast and smooth as well. I’ve been very happy with the performance, and I think people who use their iPad for everything they do would be happy with it as well. It’s been my primary computing device for a week now, and I haven’t ever felt like it was holding me back. Though not all apps support split screen multitasking, many do, and those that do, such as Safari and WordPress, have completely changed my workflow. I feel like I’m able to write articles more rapidly and efficiently thanks to being able to check my sources without leaving WordPress. I can never go back to a version of an iPad that doesn’t have this feature.

Screen

The space between the glass and the display has been reduced between the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2. From the right angle, you can see the gap between the glass and screen is almost non-existent on the iPad Pro, but clearly visible on the iPad Air. The elimination of space between the glass and screen on the iPad Pro reduces internal reflections, making the display appear sharper, brighter, and easier to read in direct light. While reading content on the iPad Pro outside on a sunny day isn’t as easy as it is on a Kindle or Pebble, it’s certainly easier than the iPad Air thanks to this thinner display technology. And thanks to a brighter screen and improved color accuracy, the iPad Pro is also easier to read than the iPad Air 2. Finally, Apple added an anti-reflective with coating that makes the iPad Pro 40% less reflective than its predecessor. I had a brief moment of sunshine, so I ran outside with my iPad to test it in direct sunlight. Sure enough, text is easy to read and photos are easy to see. Apple’s worked very hard to eliminate the shortcomings of full color LCD screens in bright light. The 9.7″ iPad Pro is the culmination of Apple’s attempts to improve the mobile display. DisplayMate called it the best performing LCD screen ever made. My testing wasn’t as thorough as DisplayMate’s, but I tend to agree. 

The iPad Air reflection is much brighter and more distracting than that on the iPad Pro

The 9.7″ iPad Pro has a few features that are lacking from the larger iPad Pro. One of those is the True Tone screen. This observes the temperature of the light in the room, whether or not it has a blue or red hue, or somewhere in between, and adjusts the screen temperature, much like the True Tone dual LED flash on the back of this device and all current iPhones. Paper notebooks reflect the light of the room, but the iPad emits its own light. In the past, this has lead to harsh displays. True Tone adjusts the display so it looks like it’s reflecting the light in the room instead of emitting its own light. True Tone is a feature you forget about, but turn it off, and it’s quickly apparent that it’s making a huge difference. 

Sound

One of four powerful speakers

The iPad Pro has four speakers. Apple took the same sound system from the iPad Pro, which dynamically decides which speakers are on the left or right, and top and bottom depending on how the device is being held. It then creates stereo sound, and uses the lower speakers for deeper notes, and the top speakers for higher notes. This creates vibrant sound with more detail than a two speaker system is capable of producing. The speakers can also be louder with this configuration. The end result is loud and clear music that can fill a room, especially if you put your iPad down on a flat table, since the speakers are still sticking out of the sides of the device, and pointed slightly away from the screen. I tested the sound with some videos and music, and the iPad did not disappoint. I’ve never heard an iOS device sound this good. This is the best sounding iOS device Apple’s ever created. There’s room for improvement, but that will always be said of portable device speakers. You can’t cram the sound quality of full sized speakers into such a small package. Still, the iPad Pro speakers manage to punch above their weight class, producing sound that tiny speakers like these have no right creating. 

Battery life

With a tablet, battery life is vital. One of the key advantages tablets have over larger and more powerful notebook computers is battery life. Fortunately, the iPad Pro excels here. Apple claims the iPad Pro lasts up to 10 hours of surfing the web on WiFi, watching videos, or listening to music. I keep the brightness between 50% and 75%, which is a comfortable brightness level, and I’ve been able to keep the iPad alive and off the charger for more than 10 hours a day, doing far more than web browsing. I’ve been playing Oceanhorn and Vainglory on it, and it still lasts all day. Apple’s battery testing reflects real world usage, and understates the real power of these batteries, which seem to last longer than they claim. 

When it comes to charging that battery, Apple did something a little strange. The iPad Air came with a 12W charger, capable of charging the larger battery in the iPad Air quickly. However, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro come with a 10W charger, instead of the 12W charger. The iPad charges faster with the 12W charger, but for some reason, Apple decided to include the slower charging 10W charger. You can buy a 12W charger yourself if you want to charge it more rapidly, or continue to use an old charger if you upgraded to the iPad Pro from an iPad Air.

Camera

Apple put the same camera from the iPhone 6s in the iPad Pro. Like the iPhone 6s, the camera protrudes from the back of the device. Unlike the iPhone 6s, the iPad Pro can still sit flat on a table without wobbling. In fact, the iPad Pro seems to sit completely level on a table, something the iPhone cannot do. The camera itself is a little awkward to use, thanks to the size of the iPad Pro, and I didn’t test it extensively. However, in my limited testing, I found it to take photos that were just as good as the photos taken by the iPhone 6s. It’s capable of shooting 12MP photos with deep trench isolation, Focus Pixels, stabilization, and 4K video at 30fps. This is a powerful camera in the iPad, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever use it for photography. I will, however, use it very often for document scanning. The iPhone is much more convenient to use as a camera, but the iPad is more convinient for filling out forms and file management.

Touch ID

I had an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6s, and the iPhone 6s definitely has a much faster Touch ID sensor. On the iPhone 6s, simply tapping the sensor quickly is enough for it to scan a fingerprint. The iPad Pro does not have this sensor, it appears to have the same sensor as the iPhone 6. This is still an accurate sensor, and it’s fantastic unlocking my iPad with my fingerprint, but it’s not as fast as my iPhone 6s. Apple may have used the older technology to save money. It’s not a huge difference, but coming from the iPhone 6s, I notice it.

Reliability

During the eight days I’ve had the iPad Pro, it’s crashed on me three times. I don’t mean apps have crashed, I mean the entire operating system has crashed. This was on iOS 9.3.1, which has been replaced with iOS 9.3.2. Since updating, I haven’t had a crash. I’ve tried switching between apps, loading up extremely large images in Pixelmator while browsing the web with over 10 tabs open, and much more, yet I was unable to get it to crash again. It’s possible that this was merely a bug in iOS 9.3.1, which is fixed now. Still, it’s something I’ll be looking for, and I will update this review if I notice problems.

Finishing thoughts

I got the iPad Pro thinking if it wasn’t a grand enough improvement over the iPad Air due to having 2GB of memory instead of 4GB of memory, I’d simply return it. Well, you can pry this iPad from my cold dead hands. The speed, multitasking capabilities, and fantastic accessories make this tablet the greatest touchscreen experience you can get. For many computer users, it can completely replace a laptop, and even outperform it in tasks like drawing and note taking. I’ve used the larger iPad Pro, and I found it to be too big. The extra memory and slight speed increase for the larger iPad Pro just isn’t worth the weight. Unless you absolutely need a larger screen for artwork, the smaller iPad Pro is the better choice. I primarily use my iPad for writing, some light photo editing, web browsing and news reading, email, and social networking. As such, I’ve been able to go the past week using only my iPad Pro. Sure, there might be a few hiccups with file management, but for the most part, my iPad Pro was able to do everything I needed. It’s fast, capable of multitasking, looks and sounds great, has fantastic multitasking features, and it’s efficient. What more could you want in a tablet?

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