avatarby Jonathan FeistDecember 19, 20168 comments

This is one large tablet. In terms of their tablet line, when Apple says “pro” they are talking about either the 9.7-inch 12MP camera equipped iPad Pro 9.7, or this, the 13-inch iPad Pro. Announced in September of 2015, this monster of an iPad serves up the very best that Apple has to offer, both in terms of hardware and the functionality of iOS 9 inside. With a more recent update to iOS 10, there is even more to love.

Perhaps the best and newest news on the iPad Pro is the addition of a 256GB model, while not the only product in the Apple camp to receive this storage capacity, it certainly breathes new life into the large tablet.

Thank you for joining us, let’s get started on our iPad Pro review.

Buy the iPad Pro now
Update December 2016: We will update this article when new and relevant updates or information arrises that changes out opinion of this monster tablet. This month, nothing new to report, iOS 10 is still going strong and our previous thoughts remain relevant: As more and more large format tablets hit the market, particularly ones with detachable keyboard, the iPad Pro finds new competition at every corner. Can 256GB of internal storage and iOS 10 keep this tablet relevant for you? 

Need more iPad Pro material:
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4
iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2
iPad Pro 9.7 – the first 48 hours

Design

iPad Pro review

With this new size, Apple was able to embellish the iconic iPad design with, well, nothing all that new. Despite the size, you will find a very familiar tablet, adding just one new feature as compared to most other iPads out there. The new piece is little more than a smart dock, which we’ll talk about later.

Looking around the tablet, the iPad Pro offers the same Lightning port and speaker grills along the bottom edge, with a new pair of speaker grills along the top edge as well. That’s right folks, stereo sound. The grills are further spread out, but similar in size to previous. You’ll find the same volume and power buttons gracing that top right corner and a headphone jack up top. Front and center along the bottom bezel is the Home button with embedded fingerprint scanner.

iPad Pro review

As you are likely accustomed to, the iPad Pro is a full metal back design, with that polished front edge meeting up with the full glass front of the tablet.

See also:
iPad Air 2 vs iPad Mini 3

At 12.9-inches, this is officially a large tablet. Not a monster tablet, like the 18-inch device Samsung has on the go, but still pretty big. As such, the iPad Pro may not be your typical portable device for reading books on your commute or otherwise holding in hand for extended lengths of time. This is the kind of tablet that is best used when propped up in a dock or stand and used as a laptop.

Display

iPad Pro review

With a new resolution value on deck, the iPad Pro measures in at 12.9-inches with 2732 x 2048 resolution. I shouldn’t have to mention that this is brand new territory for Apple, at least in terms of mobile devices. The iPad line previously included the just under 10-inch iPad and the just under 8-inch iPad mini.

Avoiding compromises, the display of the iPad Pro is just as good, if not better than previous models. Images are crisp and clear at 264ppi, which is the same as the full size iPad, colors are well saturated and overall brightness is more than adequate for dark rooms or direct sunlight.

Other familiar display features include Apple’s fingerprint resistant oleophobic coating, full laminated display and an antireflective coating.

Performance

iPad Pro review

Before we talk about our impressions on device performance, let’s first run down the specs of the iPad Pro. Starting with that A9X 64-bit processor, backed by the new M9 motion coprocessor, Apple says you should expect general processing up to 2.5x faster than on an iPad Air or iPad Mini 2/3. Graphics processing, on the other hand, is claimed to be 5x faster than the older devices.

Perhaps a better reference is that the iPad Pro is designated as nearing double the speeds of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 4.

iPad Pro review

See also
iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 4

In terms of memory, Apple never really releases specs like these, perhaps they believe that consumers do not care. But we care, and by all accounts, we are unconfirmed in saying that the iPad Pro rocks 4GB of RAM. Entirely doubling the installed RAM on the best of the older iPads.

Despite this bump in RAM, do keep in mind that there are now nearly double the number of pixels on the display to control, despite this, you will still notice improved performance. Apps load faster, heavy games play smoother, even swipes through the UI of the OS have a marked improvement.

Battery

iPad Pro review

Apple has a blanket battery life rating for all of their tablets, claiming you should be able to reach up to 10 hours while surfing the web on WiFi, watching video or listening to music. We cannot deny that this is completely possible under the right circumstances, but we have never beat 6 hours with the screen on and a few long YouTube videos playing through.

We have not had the iPad Pro in hand for very long now. Check back in a few weeks, we’ll either give this section an update or we’ll give the iPad Pro battery life a full article, especially if we find anything unexpected or overly interesting.

If the raw specs are what you are looking for, Apple says the iPad Pro comes with a 38.5Wh lithium polymer battery.

Camera

iPad Pro review

There are no broken molds in terms of the installed camera on the iPad Pro. This is the same 8MP sensor you’ve seen on the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 and a few of the later iPhone models. Your FaceTime experience also remains the same with the 1.2MP 720p front facing sensor.

As I downplay the installed camera, do not take that as a negative for the overall camera experience and photo quality. Despite this relatively low MP count, Apple’s camera capabilities have consistently outperformed most higher MP sensors, at least in mobile devices. The general takeaway is that this 13-inch tablet can take photos with the best of them.

iPad Pro review

Let’s look at a few photo samples. This gallery includes a mix of natural and artificial light sources, and dark as well as well-lit situations. We were sure to also include up-close/macro shots and at least one of the horizon. A good sampling of photos to get a feel for the overall capabilities.

Software

iPad Pro review

Although iOS 9 was first announced this spring, made available as a beta for a few months, and finally fully released in September, it is still a powerful and well performing operating system. The iPad Pro is perhaps one of the best devices around to get the most out of iOS 9, particularly the multi-tasking features like split-screen and picture-in-picture video playback.

As we mentioned in our performance section above, navigating the OS and your favorite apps is crisp and smooth. There are no additions to the software here, just the same functions you’ve come to know and respect on your iPad Air 2, but in a larger display.

iPad Pro review

See also
iOS 9 review
Apple News on iOS 9

It is a good thing that Apple introduced the new multi-tasking features before launching the iPad Pro. I fear that this size of display suffers a little when handling apps and the OS in the old non-multi-tasking configuration. This is simply a large device, larger even than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, at this size, you almost need to have split screen to produce apps in a reasonable size.

But wait, iOS 10 is freshly released, surely that should make a big difference for this tablet? To be honest, we’ve been running the iOS 10 beta on our iPad Pro for a while now, we will say that the latest features and OS capabilities are well handled on this large tablet, but we’ll save further for our iOS 10 review, coming soon.

iOS 10 announced – everything you need to know

iPad Pro review

Related:
Surface Pro 4 vs iPad Pro

Specifications

 iPad Pro
Display12.9-inch, 2732x2048 resolution, 264ppi
ProcessorApple A9X
Internal Storage64GB, 128GB and 256GB
Operating systemiOS 9
Camera8MP iSight rear
1.2MP front
Connectivity optionsWiFi a/b/g/n/ac, dual channel
Bluetooth 4.2
LTE
I/O buttonsPower
Volume up/down
Home button with integrated fingerprint scanner
I/O portsLightning port
3.5mm headphone
StylusOptional - Apple Pencil
KeyboardOn-screen
Optional magnetically connected keyboard - no touchpad
Battery lifeUp to 10 hours
SensorsAmbient light
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Dimensions & weight12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches (305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm)
1.57 - 1.59 lbs (713 - 723 g)

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

I need you to pause for a moment. Before we start talking price, it might be appropriate to discuss the expected uses for this caliber of tablet. The iPad Pro is not the typical tablet you’ll be lugging with you everywhere you go. It is more portable than the 18-inch Samsung Galaxy View, but it is my opinion that this device should be thought of as a laptop. Mind you, it is not like a laptop in terms of its capabilities, no, it is like a laptop in that you’ll end up using it at a table or desk, then packing it into a bag if you are going somewhere.

iPad Pro review

We are looking at the iPad Pro today without the optional detachable keyboard. The Apple Smart Keyboard is an accessory that near entirely converts this tablet into a laptop. As a laptop, I am inclined to set it up either at home or in the office and leave it there until I need to be productive again.

My approach is as a writer, mind you, the creative sort that plans to use the iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil smart stylus will see things in an entirely different light. We plan to cover the Pencil at a later date as well, but for now, it is safe to say that we were fairly impressed with the precision with which this stylus operates.

Internal storageiPad Pro
32GB$799
128GB$949
128GB + LTE$1079
256GB$1099
256GB + LTE$1229
Smart Stylus$99
Detachable keyboard$169

With a price tag easily creeping over $1000, the iPad Pro is not the device for everyone. Approaching it as a productivity tool, however, you have a more than capable computer on your hands here. I will not recommend it as a true laptop replacement, but for many it will be enough to get through a work day.

If your goal is purely to sit on your couch and surf the web on the iPad, I dare suggest this tablet may be too big. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great experience for web browsing and consuming media, but it suffers when you try to use it held in hand. It weighs enough to cause fatigue and it’s large enough that holding it comfortably for your arms may be too close to your eyes to see the entire display with comfort.

Apple iPad Pro tt 13

For those looking for a powerful iPad, one that is speedy, easy to use and easy to transport, sorry guys, the iPad Pro may not be the best option for you, perhaps check out the iPad Air 2 instead.

Update: Let’s rethink this all just a little. Apple has since released the iPad Pro 9.7, for all intents, a replacement for the iPad Air 2. This leaves the larger iPad Pro and the older iPad Air 2 in a precarious place. On the one hand, the iPad Pro is still more powerful than the newer Pro 9.7, but we’re not feeling it, it may be perception only, but the smaller Pro feels just as fast, if not faster. On the other side, if cost is not of concern, the iPad Pro 9.7 is a significant upgrade over the iPad Air 2. Don’t get me wrong, the Air 2 is still a solid performing tablet, and the differences between the two look minimal on paper, but put those things side by side and there is no question, you’ll want to spend the extra pennies for the Pro 9.7.

Related: iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2

I won’t tell you that the iPad Pro 9.7 is the better purchase over the larger iPad Pro, certainly the larger display is great for productivity and entertainment, but for the in-hand experience, I wouldn’t trade the smaller tablet for the larger. Both models now have 256GB storage variants available too.

What do you say, is this monster iPad Pro the device for you, or will you live with the smaller offerings for now?

Buy the iPad Pro now

What’s next:
Best Windows tablets
Best Android tablets
Which iPad should I buy?
Best iPad – what are all the offerings?

  • Dt Bell

    I am not a fan of Apple, but 4gigs and LTE, they get it.
    It ends my rant to Android for post 4.4.4 upgrades, they will see the light.
    Thank You Apple.

    • No kidding, Dt Bell, 4GB and LTE would make a world of difference in the Android world. I think we’re just about there, once this current ‘budget’ tablet craze saturates the market and people realize they need more. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the Fire 7’s of the world to go away, but decently spec’d and moderately priced Android tablets are just few and far between, we want more!

      Cheers!

      • Dt Bell

        here,here!!

    • ChrisLaarman

      1) If you should need LTE on a wifi-only device, consider buying a mifi (mobile access point). Mine, a Huawei E5786, also features a slot for a micro(?)SD-card. Haven’t yet studied that.

      2) My Nexus 10 won’t get Android 6.0, but my iPad 2 runs iOS 9.2. (Well, it stumbles iOS 9.2.) 😉

  • ChrisLaarman

    1) “we are unconfirmed in saying that the iPad Pro rocks 4GB of RAM” – True, but an app like AIDA64 would confirm it. 🙂

    2) I agree with the “couch” consideration. To /me/ the iPad Pro (with a keyboard) is more like an alternative to a MacBook Air than to an iPad Air 2. If it’s to you (any reader) may depend on your need for OS X for certain operations, apps or use with certain hardware.
    I wouldn’t be surprized if the iPad Pro would be an alternative to the 12″ MacBook: no keyboard unless wanted, easily rotated, touchscreen with Pencil support, optional LTE, probably (figures not at hand) better CPU.

    3) For me personally, the iPad Air 2 is the default device at all. Few times daily assisted by a MacBook Air for file operations and by an aging Windows/Linux notebook for specific tasks. With iPad Pro, Surface Pro 3 (Windows) and Pixel C (Android) ready to take over.

    • Thank you ChrisLaarman. I like the comparison to the MacBook, I try to keep it all about tablets, but maybe I should squeeze more laptops in, especially when talking about ‘productivity’ tablets. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I completely agree, OS X is a great partner to iOS powered hardware, (obviously,) and the Air 2 is a more ideal hand-held size with the MacBook being the productivity device.

      Sadly, this still means I am considering the iPad Pro best suited as an entertainment device and little more. I almost feel bad about that.

      Cheers!

  • Sergiu

    the silver one looks nice

  • Noah LaRoy

    In the specifications list, 64GB is listed as an available capacity… The only capacities are 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. I think that needs to be edited in the article.