iPad Pro 10.5 - Performance, iOS and Pencil Review


iPad Pro 10.5 – Performance

The iPad Pro 10.5 is Apple’s fastest tablet yet, by quite some distance. Although, during my time with the tablet I often felt all that power was almost overkill, at least right now.

Running the show is Apple’s A10X Fusion CPU, which has an extra core when compared to the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7, totalling six, along with with 4GB RAM. That’s double the memory of the 9.7-inch version, but the same as the previous 12.9-incher.

There is so much power here that comparing it to other tablets is downright unfair. In Geekbench 4, the iPad Pro 10.5 scores 9300 in the multi-core tests which is double that of both the Pixel C and Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. It also blitzes even the top phone flagships, with the OnePlus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S8 scoring below 6800.

In-fact, that multi-core score is only slightly lower than a MacBook Pro. Keep in mind that benchmark comparisons across different platforms (iOS, MacOS and Android) are very sketchy, so I wouldn’t read much into these results beyond the fact that the iPad Pro 10.5 is ridiculously fast.

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All this power is great, but there’s not a whole lot that takes advantage of it. iPad apps on the whole are great, but devs need time to really translate the new grunt into apps that make the most of it. If you buy a powerful laptop you know the apps will run better, but here there isn’t a huge boost to day-to-day apps because they were so fast anyway. I think with iOS 11 (see below) this power will finally get its time to shine.

There are a few scenarios I have tried that demonstrate the power, and they really do make me very excited about future iOS app development. I could edit a 100MB RAW photo through Affinity without a stumble, and editing 4K video recorded on the device in iMovie exported in a matter of seconds.

64GB is now the base storage, which is great to see, and you can also jump to 256GB and 512GB if you really need the space. There’s a cellular LTE version, too.

iPad Pro 10.5 – Software and Apple Pencil

While the iPad Pro 10.5-inch is a great tablet now, it’ll really shine later in the year when iOS 11 launches. iOS 11 is almost purely focussed on the iPad, adding in a host of features that could finally turn it into the laptop replacement Apple desperately wants it to be.

In iOS 11, the iPad feels more like a Mac. There’s a new file system that stores all your pictures and documents and can be accessed from anywhere along with improved multitasking that lets you have three apps open and live simultaneously. There’s a dock that can be brought up anywhere with a swipe.

I have only used iOS 11 briefly, but it really feels like the iPad Pro comes of age with it. Things feel decidedly siloed and limited when you go back to iOS 10.

But that’s where you’ll be stuck for the next few months, and it still does have some iPad Pro focussed features. There are keyboard shortcuts, multi-window app support and videos can be popped out into a separate window so you work and watch at the same time.

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The reason why I would always recommend an iOS tablet over an Android is the apps, and with the launch of the new iPad Pro devs already seem to jumping on board and trying to utilise that extra power.

Affinity Photo, an image editing app shown off at WWDC, is one such example and it’s the closest an iOS app has got to feeling like its desktop counterpart. Adobe’s Lightroom is excellent too, and Microsoft’s Office suite again feels very fully featured.

There are still gaps though, and this ultimately holds the iPad Pro from truly feeling like a MacBook or laptop replacement. If you rely on specific features in other browsers like Firefox, need full fat Photoshop, or simply require software not available directly through the App Store then this won’t replace your laptop. The iPad Pro has the power of a computer, but the apps are still very much mobile-focussed.

The Apple Pencil was unveiled alongside the iPad Pro 12.9-inch in 2015, and thanks to the benefits of the ProMotion display its usability has improved here without Apple releasing a replacement. At £99, this is an expensive stylus, but for me it’s the one essential iPad Pro accessory.

The faster-refreshing ProMotion display has reduced latency on the Pencil to a Surface Pro-beating 20ms, meaning there’s basically no delay between your action and it appearing on the tablet. Drawing feels smooth and responsive and while my drawing skills aren’t up to much, more talented artists I’ve given the Pencil to keep saying it’s the most natural drawing experience on any consumer-priced device.

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I’d still pick the larger 12.9-inch if I was serious about art, but the 10.5-inch version is just about perfect for notes. Speaking of which, the Notes app is another area that gets huge improvements in iOS 11. You’ll finally be able to search through your handwritten notes via text searches, and double-tapping the Pencil on the lock-screen takes you straight to a new Note.

The other big accessory, the Smart Keyboard, has been updated to make use of the extra space but at £159/$159 I still don’t like it. The textured, fabric keys are a pain to type on and the lack of a shortcut row really hampers productivity. There’s also still nowhere to stow the Pencil, which is frustrating.

The problem is there aren’t really that many alternative keyboards for the iPad Pro which take advantage of the Smart Connector. So you’re stuck with this overpriced option from Apple or Logitech’s attempt that I have yet to review.

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