Apple held a little event in March of 2016, they announced a few new items including the iPhone SE, iOS 9.3 and the newest tablet, the iPad Pro 9.7. First shipping to consumers on March 31, the new Apple tablet combines the best of the iPad Air 2 before it and the accessories first found on the full iPad Pro.
First up, let’s set the tone for all future articles on these tablets, “iPad Pro” now a line of tablets, designating multiple devices, but we will continue to call the 12.9-inch version the iPad Pro and we will call this new 9.7-inch version iPad Pro 9.7, I hope that works for you.
As we work on our content for this new tablet, join us for our first impressions based on our first 48 hours with the iPad Pro 9.7.
Having been using the iPad Pro daily for the last few months, that’s the big one, by the way, the new iPad Pro 9.7 is, well, it’s the same tablet, just smaller. There you go, review complete. I’m kidding, obviously, but the abundance of similarities in look and feel are without question prevalent here.
Okay, so you have the familiar iPad look, you know the one, metal back, glass front, volume rocker on the right edge near the top, power button on the top edge off to the right, Lightning port situated dead center of the bottom edge with speakers grills straddling it. The camera is in the same place, as is the headphone jack, and we are very happy that the 4 speaker configuration carried through, it just sounds so much better than the old 2 speaker system.
The metal backing wraps around forward to that shiny, yet somewhat uncomfortable to hold, beveled edge. The Home button is still a circle and is still lives on the front of the tablet, dead center below the display – fingerprint scanner embedded.
The overwhelming conclusion of the iPad Pro 9.7, at first glance, is that it a worthy upgrade to the iPad Air 2 in the 10-inch size range tablet, but yet it packs the tools and accessories to keep you as productive as the original iPad Pro. This is all good.
I almost forgot, that’s a serious camera bump.
As before, we will not be looking at the Smart Keyboard, nor the Apple Pencil here today, let’s just focus on the tablet.
After the first day
Unwrapping the iPad Pro revealed a slab of pink. Sorry, I meant to say Rose Gold. For the first time in the tablet line, Apple has added Rose Gold as a color option, so you know we had to get our hands on it. That said, I personally might have opted for the familiar Space Grey or Silver, but that’s just me. Although, we have had more than a few Gold colored iPads in lately, so it’s nice to have a change.
I digress, the iPad Pro 9.7 is a solid feeling tablet, offering up the same rigidity we’ve come to expect from Apple products. Actually, looking at the spec sheet, the iPad Pro 9.7 and the iPad Air 2 are identical in weight and dimensions, this should make it pretty easy to upgrade without having to replace many accessories.
Turning on the iPad Pro 9.7 welcomed us to the first device to ship with iOS 9.3 pre-installed. Apple introduced the new OS the same day that they announced the tablet and new iPhone SE, with OTA updates beginning later that day. We’ve been using iOS 9.3 on our other iPads and we are liking what we are seeing.
While iOS 9.3 is a relatively minor update, we are seeing better battery life in stand-by time on our iPad Air 2. Other new features include better tools for education, better security for apps within the system and more. One major OS inclusion that will be significantly better on the iPad Pro 9.7 than the others is an option called Night Shift. Night Shift is a display color calibration tool that reduces the output of blue light, which is generally considered to disrupt brain functions for sleep.
The iPad Pro 9.7 comes with 4 ambient light sensors that do more than just adjust display brightness, they tap into the Night Shift functionality and more to adjust the overall display color calibration to best produce content. That was a mouthful. Bottom line, the iPad Pro 9.7 will do its best to ensure that you get the most out of the colors of your display. We are looking forward to putting this to the test.
Finally, full device setup was as easy as ever. We opted to recover from iCloud backup on this one, bringing all of our favorite apps forward with ease. While we did not invest in the big one, the new option for 256GB of internal storage means you can install apps to your heart’s content.
The full 48
Out of the box, the iPad Pro 9.7 comes with iOS 9.3, although an update to 9.3.1 was available for download within the first 48 hours. We received the same update on our iPad Air 2 as well, bringing both devices to the latest of iOS.
Naturally, we are treating the iPad Pro 9.7 as an update to the iPad Air 2, so we took the option to Restore from iCloud backup. Through no fault of this tablet, the process was a little cumbersome in that three times we had to tell it we were not going to set up a fingerprint for authentication at this time. It just keeps asking and asking. This is ignoring the fact that our backup was actually out of date, so we just went ahead and wiped the thing to start from scratch. In all, with the full reset and the iOS update, we had to bypass the fingerprint prompt seven times. Ugh.
Back to the tablet itself, setup was quick, we were up and running in under 10 minutes with all apps installed and updated in a few more after that. The new minimum storage capacity is great, starting with 32GB instead of the old 16GB means we were easily able to bring forward all of our apps and have room to spare.
Once setup, we proceeded to play with everything. Sound is loud and clear, the display is bright, colors well saturated. The OS and apps load and perform very well. Once again comparing to the iPad Air 2, the iPad Pro 9.7 loads almost everything much faster. We triggered that iOS 9.3.1 update at the same time on both tablets, with the iPad Pro 9.7 finishing a full 3 minutes faster.
The new 12MP camera is a serious upgrade over the 5MP shooter in the iPad Air 2, but we’ll stop talking about that until our full VS post comes out. Bottom line, the iPad Pro 9.7 camera is performing nearly as well as the camera on our Nexus 6P, the phone that Android Authority determined to have the best camera as of last December. Of course, the new Live photos are very fun, just shoot a photo and you are automatically treated to a short animation/video of the scene, just remember to keep your iPad still for a second before and after your shot.
We would be remiss if we failed to mention that the iPad Pro 9.7 includes all of the same hardware and software features that you can find on the iPad Pro. Connect a physical keyboard, fine tune your input with the Apple Pencil smart stylus then enjoy all of the split-view and picture-in-picture functions from iOS 9 onward.
We originally critized iOS on the iPad Pro for not being optized to the screen size, icons were too large, elements like buttons in games were way too large and more. The iPad Pro 9.7 brings all that power of the OS down to a more manageable device for in-hand use, but is still large enough to take advantage of the multi-tasking features with ease.
Understanding that Apple intends the iPad Pro line to support casual users and production needs alike, the iPad Pro 9.7 does well in offering a relatively light weight tablet with easy to see display and all the same features of the iPad Pro before it.
Measuring in at 9.4-inches tall, 6.6-inches wide and 0.24-inches (6.1mm) thick, the iPad pro 9.7 is 0.96lbs (437g) for the WiFi unit, or 0.98lbs (444g) for the cellular variant. The 9.7-inch display continues the iPad trend of 2048 x 1536 pixels of resolution.
Perhaps our favorite update tot he hardware is the inclusion of four speakers to create stereo sound. Well worth it, folks.
Despite coming equipped with the A9X chipset with M9 coprocessor, Apple actually reports lower processing and graphics capabilities than the iPad Pro with the same chips. Perhaps the chips in the iPad Pro 9.7 have been under-clocked to help improve battery life, but we’re jusdt making guesses there. Either way, this is still a powerful tablet ready to get you through your day.
In search of something to make you swoon over this new tablet? How about a new camera? That’s right, Apple has bumped up the shooter to their latest 12MP rear facing camera. The best part of that is the increase to slo-mo video capture up to 120 fps at 1080p or 240 fps at 720p. That’s twice as fast as previous.
Continuing the improvements in cameras, Apple has finally done better than the puny 1.2mp front shooter, you may now enjoy video conferencing in 720p off of a 5MP sensor. For stills, there is now Retina Flash, using the display as a camera flash.
How to FaceTime with iPad
We are very much looking forward to putting all these specs to use.
We feel the iPad Pro 9.7 is a solid iterative update to the iPad line. Taking the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro into consideration, this is the best of both in a powerful and capable device with a handy size and weight.
Pricing sticks with a similar starting point for iPad models, you’ll find the base 32GB WiFi model for $599, the 256GB WiFI model running you $899 and the cellular variants between $729 and $1029. Don’t forget that the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil will tack on $149 and $99 respectively.
As far as our opinion goes, we are liking what we are seeing so far, we need more time to really put this tablet to use, but I promise our full review of the iPad Pro 9.7 is coming soon.
Hit us up in the comments below if there are any questions we can answer about the iPad Pro 9.7, we’ll include what we can in our review.
(Also available straight from Apple.)