Review Price to be confirmed
- iPad Pro release date: November 2015
- iPad Pro price: From $799, UK pricing TBC
- iPad Pro specs: 12.9-inch, 2,732 x 2,048 screen; A9X processor; 6.9mm thick; 712g
Hands-on – Apple wants the world to think (and buy) big
Apple's latest latest iPad is a big-screened beauty it’s calling the iPad Pro. It has a 12.9-inch screen, so it’s significantly bigger than the iPad Air, whose screen measures 9.7-inches on the diagonal.
In fact, the new screen is as wide as the iPad Air is tall. This makes for a very big display that takes you by surprise when you see it in the flesh. Even so, when you pick it up, it feels remarkably light. It’s a few grams heavier than the original iPad, and that was no featherweight, but it’s comfortable when held in two hands. It’s big, but it doesn’t feel overpowering.
Whether it will be more for home use than carting around remains to be seen – the first few iPads seemed too cumbersome to be truly portable. And this is very much an iPad to be used for serious programs like, you know, a real computer.
So the multi-tasking features being introduced to the iPad Air 2 with iOS 9 come to the fore even more with this big-screen real estate. Split this screen in half to show two apps simultaneously and they’re each nearly as big as the regular iPad screen.
Add in the increased firepower of the iPad Pro – Apple says it’s the most powerful iOS device yet, with a processor, the A9X, that outstrips even the latest iPhones – and the optional keyboard accessory and you have a real laptop replacement. Well, potentially, anyway.
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The truth is, in brief tests at least, that it was always evident that this was an iOS device which that lacks the fully-rounded capabilities of the latest Windows or Mac laptop. Still, if you fancy a lightweight and attractive computer with a knockout screen, this is a decent alternative to a laptop.
Of course, this is a gadget designed for media consumption as well as heavy computing. And here it’s a no-brainer as the classiest tablet yet, from any manufacturer.
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The iPad Pro, with its 5.6 million pixel screen looks sensational, displaying colours with a subtlety and fidelity that’s highly attractive. Apple demonstrated the screen with footage from Mad Max Thunder Road. That’s a film where sand dominates the picture. Even so, the yellows that covered the screen were distinct, bright and eye-catching, drawing your eye into the story, as every decent screen should.
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This is definitely not a tablet for one-handed use (maybe keep your Kindle for reading books or, even better, buy real books) but prop it up to watch a movie and it’s just great.
Sound is strong, too, thanks to four, count’em, speakers on each corner. What’s more, the sound system is intelligent, so if you turn the iPad from landscape to portrait, the sound adjusts automatically so it still sounds right. Note that in portrait mode, a widescreen movie looks like a sliver of colour between big, black borders. At least the blacks are deep and contrasty.
Back to that keyboard accessory. First impressions here are also very good. When Apple announced it had a woven cloth finish, I wasn’t hopeful. But in fact it’s stiff enough to be reasonably supportive and the keys themselves are just the right balance of clicky and yielding. Naturally, every physical keyboard is a big step up from typing on glass, but this is as effective as the best clip-on QWERTYs on the market, even if it can’t compete with one from a proper laptop.
The other productivity accessory, driving home the point that this is much more than a video playback device, is the Apple Pencil. Any stylus for a capacitive screen will work here, but the Pencil offers greater precision and functionality.
The iPad Pro has a new touchscreen system that scans at a faster rate to increase accuracy. And a Bluetooth connection in the Pencil means it knows what angle you’re using the stylus at and how much pressure you’re using (the iPad Pro screen does not have the 3D Touch capabilities of the iPhone 6s).
These features combine to make for a fluid, rich interface for writing and drawing apps. Although Apple didn’t show this in its presentation, the Pencil is compatible with palm rejection, so you can rest your hand on the display and the app will ignore it. It’s pretty impressive.
Overall, this is a really remarkable piece of kit. It’s big – oh boy, is it big? – but it feels much less weighty than you’d imagine. And the payback in terms of the gorgeousness and grandeur of the screen is hard to overstate. Portability is still better addressed by the iPad Air 2 and the smaller-screened mini options, of course.
But this iPad is a workhorse. Add in the keyboard and you have a reasonable laptop substitute unless you need those programs only a fully-fledged computer offers. Or you need greater multi-tasking than this offers. Still, the power of the iPad Pro is considerable and could give many a laptop a run for its money.