iPad Pro – Apple Pencil
The Apple Pencil acts like a trackpad to some extent. It isn’t like the digitiser styli found on Wacom graphics tablets or the Galaxy Note 5. It’s a far simpler proposition, but still has a bunch of sensors for some nifty features.
There’s far fewer pressure sensitivity levels when compared to the 1,000+ offered by Wacom. Still, if you like to sketch or write by hand then it’s a useful addition to the iPad Pro.
Related: iPad Pro and Apple Pencil – Ultimate tools for artists?
Although it isn’t as sensitive, the Apple Pencil is super-responsive. There’s no annoying lag that I’ve experienced with other devices.
It comes with a few tricks up its sleeves, too, thanks to the sensors in the Pencil. Hold it at an angle and it can be used to shade or colour in, just like a normal pencil. I used it successfully to quickly sketch out plans for new kitchen cupboards, so that a carpenter could provide a quote.
The Apple pencil will be a boon for those wanting additional precision for editing presentations or making tweaks to a CAD or Photoshop file.
There already quite a few apps out there that support the Pencil, but some don’t yet use all of its functionality. Paper 53 and SketchBook are ones that do.
Where I believe a keyboard is an essential part of the iPad Pro experience, this isn’t true of the Pencil. Yes, it’s neat, but it doesn’t provide the level of sophistication an artist will want, nor does iOS have the apps and shortcuts that a graphic designer craves.
Adobe has created a range of apps for the iPad Pro but these are much lighter than, say, Photoshop or InDesign. The keyboard shortcuts you’ll be so used to in those apps don’t transfer to the iPad Pro’s counterparts, either.
The Pencil combined with the iPad Pro is for people who want to touch up, tweak and dabble with design and photo editing, rather than professional graphic designers who make a living from it.
Finally, the lack of any sort of holder for the Apple Pencil is a real pain. Over the past week, I’ve misplaced it or found it lurking in a fold of my bag following much rummaging. Why Apple didn’t design the Smart Keyboard to accommodate it, I don’t know.
iPad Pro – Screen
12.9-inch Retina display; 2,732 x 2,048 resolution 264ppi; oxide TFT layer; Variable refresh rate
The 12.9-inch Retina screen, alongside the 5.6 million pixels it packs, make this the biggest and most high-resolution iPad screen ever made.
Not only that; Apple has used what it’s learnt from building the great screen on 2015’s 5K iMac and applied it here. The iPad Pro uses a similar oxide thin-film transistor (TFT) to the 27-inch desktop, as a result delivering uniform brightness across the screen. There’s none of the patchiness you’re likely to see on tablets such as the Amazon Kindle HDX 8.9 here.
The oxide TFT has another benefit: for the first time, it has enabled Apple to add a variable refresh rate to an iPad. When you’re flicking through photos in your library, for example, or reading an article on the web, the refresh rate is halved from 60Hz to 30Hz. This leads to greater power efficiency and therefore a longer battery life for the iPad Pro.
Quite how much battery is saved with this feature I’m not certain, but every little helps – especially with a screen of this size on a portable device.
The advantage of all this tech is a screen that’s simply stunning, in terms of colour accuracy, uniformity and peak brightness. Move the slider all the way to the right and the iPad Pro is almost too intense. Much of the time, a level of 60% was about right, moving up to 80%-100% when it’s sunny outside. Note that the glossy screen is reflective, especially when used outdoors during the day.
While there’s a faint reddish tinge to whites, it’s less pronounced than seen on previous iPads. Both photos and videos look superb and are packed full of detail. There’s a naturalness to the iPad Pro’s screen that’s hard to find elsewhere.
Contrast levels are good, too, but they don’t reach the levels of Samsung’s AMOLED displays on devices such as the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Still, dark scenes in movies have plenty of nuance and depth.
When Smaug attacks Laketown in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, both the vibrant flames and night scenes look immense on the pixel-packed screen.
The iPad Pro may be geared towards work, but it’s great for entertainment too.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.