avatarby Jonathan FeistNovember 30, 20150 comments

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Announced in September of this year, Apple‘s new flagship tablet is the iPad Pro. Aside from a new name, this tablet has a huge new feature as compared to all iPads before it, a 13-inch display. Aside from the large new display, this tablet is packed with the best specs that Apple offers in a tablet.

We have been working on a full review of this device. While you wait, we put together our thoughts from our first 48 hours with it in hand. Here are our first impressions of the new Apple iPad Pro.

First impressions

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It is a rich time in the tablet market. Not suggesting that the only good tablets are expensive ones, but I can’t deny that there are some spectacular devices out there right now. When it comes to the mobile world, looking at the Apple camp, there is none more spectacular than the new iPad Pro.

Measuring in with a 12.9-inch display, the iPad Pro will most likely cause you pause when you first pick it up. It is surprisingly thin and light, relatively speaking, but the sheer size of it will make your jaw drop.

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I have been using the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, as you already know, which is a 12.3-inch device, but the iPad Pro feels significantly larger, even if it is only a 0.6-inches larger display. Rest assured, I have a full Surface Pro 4 vs iPad Pro article in the works as well, so you can see for yourself. Stay tuned.

Related:
Surface Pro 4 – the first 48 hours
iPad Pro announced
New iPad accessories, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil 

Although we have the iPad Pro in hand, we do not yet have the detachable keyboard, nor the Apple Pencil. We look forward to putting these accessories to task later in December, until then we’ll do our best to not hold this delayed shipping against the iPad Pro.

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Without the productivity accessories, we are holding this monstrous tablet in hand, and we dare say it is too large. Alternatively, propping it up and using it to consume media, whether a streaming video service or a nice photo slideshow, the experience is absolutely a treat.

After the first day

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Setup is a breeze for previous iPad owners, simply log in with your Apple account and watch your favorite apps and data populate your device. The iPad Pro is just another iOS 9 powered device, if you’ll forgive me for keeping it simple like that, but it sure is a large with a great looking display.

If there is only one negative thing I am allowed to say about this device, I would say that Apple failed to properly utilize the large display of the iPad Pro. At a glance, you may notice that the icons on the home screen are very large and widely spaced. I feel as though they could have easily doubled the number of icons across the line.

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After getting over our drop of the jaw at the sheer size of the iPad Pro, our first day impression is very positive. This is a powerful, fast and smooth tablet with a promise to fill a new aspect of iOS mobile computing.

The full 48

Software

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Luckily, the large app icons are some of the only disadvantages to the software on this king of iPads. The iPad Pro rocks the latest iOS 9 and all the multi-tasking richness that that provides. The experience is very fast and smooth, with app load times noticeably faster than we’ve seen out of Apple before.

As the iPad Pro enjoys iOS 9, you should expect to see the same basic layout and functionality, that is, a number of home screens with an icon for each of your installed apps, a persistent dock of icons across the bottom and a completely touch friendly interface. In contrast to the Surface Pro, which has elements that look somewhat shrunk, the iPad Pro will never leave you worried about tapping the wrong thing.

Related:
iOS 9 review
iOS 9 first impressions
Apple News on iOS 9

At not time has Apple’s new split keyboard been more necessary than when trying to hold the iPad Pro and type in hand. It is still a bit of a stretch, but the new functionality is welcome. With all of the available screen real estate, the Picture-in-picture video player is also a treat to use. Load up your favorite stream of music videos and allow them to take up just a tiny smartphone sized portion of the corner of your display.

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Slide-Over and Split-View are also well utilized with this large of a display. However, many of your favorite apps that have been previously designed for iPad may be a little stretched to fit. Not that the images are out of proportion, nor do they have to literally stretch all that far for the new screen resolution, you will simply notice that the play button on your favorite game may be a real life 4-inches across.

While we work on our full review, allow us to simply say now that iOS 9 shines on the iPad Pro. There is plenty of room for growth in terms of better utilizing this 12.9-inch display, but taking the iPad experience and making it super-sized is a wonderful experience under the right circumstances.

Hardware

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The jury is still out for us as we try to figure out what purpose the iPad Pro is intended to serve. In the Surface Pro 4 we see a tablet that excels as a productivity laptop. In the Samsung Galaxy View we see a tablet designed for entertainment. The iPad Pro is, as I’ve already mentioned, just a big iPad.

Just how big? Well, with that 12.9-inch display you will find overall dimensions in the range of 12-inches tall by 8.68-inches in width. At this size, it has a somewhat astonishing thickness of just 0.27-inchs, or 6.9mm. At 1.57lbs, or 713g, the iPad Pro is not going to be held in hand for very long, but it does weigh in slightly less than the Surface Pro 4.

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Apple claims that the new A9X chipset is up to 2.5x faster than the A7 found in the iPad Air or the iPad Mini 3. Coupled with 4GB of RAM, there is no doubt at all that the iPad Pro is the fastest iPad of them all.

Related:
iPad Pro announced, here is what you need to know
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 vs Surface Book vs Pixel C

In addition to the typical iPad buttons and I/O port layout, Apple has stepped up their game in terms of sound. Instead of just two downward facing speaker grills, there are now four, adding two across the top for full stereo sound. And make no mistake, the new sound profile is immersive and very clearly in stereo. The speakers still do not face you, filling a room with sound instead of directing it at you, but sound is loud, clear and fairly well balanced.

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Back to those normal features, the power button lives up top on the right hand side. Just down the right edge is the volume buttons. Front camera is centered at the top while in portrait orientation. The rear camera is right by the power and volume buttons. Finally, you’ll find the Lightning port dead center on the bottom edge.

Picture quality is as good as we’ve seen with other 8MP equipped iOS 9 powered devices. Battery life tests are still in the works, but we’ve seen 50% drain with mixed usage, including videos and gaming, in about 3 hours.

Conclusions

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Until we get our hands on the Smart Keyboard and Pencil, we feel at a disadvantage in terms of gaining a true feel for this device. We cannot deny that the large screen experience with 264ppi resolution and stereo sound makes this one of the best multimedia consumption tablets we’ve ever tested, but we want to be sure that it has more than just this one use before we make any real conclusions.

Starting at $799 for the 32GB WiFi model, you’ll jump to $949 for 128GB and $1079 to add LTE to the iPad Pro. Don’t forget that the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are also additional costs.

Check out the iPad Pro at Amazon

Don’t go far, we’re closer to finishing our full review of the iPad Pro than we let on. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions, just drop them in the comments below.