I've always been a big fan of the iPad. There was a time when I purchased every generation on launch day, since the iPad 2, in fact. The 9.7-inch screen size and the 4:3 display always felt like the perfect combination for consumption tasks like reading books, watching movies, playing games, and checking social networks. The iPad Mini always felt too small, the 12.9-inch Pro too big, and we won't get into why I'm not interested in Android tablets.

But then Apple launched the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and for the first time, I simply wasn't interested. While it was clearly a nice device, I found the pricing offensive. New iPads have historically been priced at $499, increasing in $100 for each storage tier and $130 for cellular connectivity. Now, Apple wanted $599 to start and $749 for the next storage tier, and I'd pay another $130 on top of that, and for what? A Smart Keyboard and Pencil that didn't look remotely interesting and would cost an additional $258?

No thanks.

But alas, I'm a tech guy, and my iPad Air 2 was aging. Prices of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro eventually dropped to something somewhat reasonable (back to $100 per storage tier, but still starting at $599), but I knew that something new would be coming soon. And then Apple announced the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

I can't say that I was in love with the $649 price tag, especially since I knew I'd be bumping it up by a storage tier and adding on LTE, AppleCare+, a Smart Keyboard, and a Pencil, but hey, it's enough to justify an upgrade from my Air 2, right? Right?

Since it came out, I've been using the 10.5-inch iPad Pro for just about everything, from consumption tasks like reading books and watching movies to productivity tasks like writing articles and editing videos. Read on for more.

Specs

Chipset 2.38GHz hexa-core A10X Fusion, M10 coprocessor, 12-core GPU
Display 10.5 inches, 2224x1668, 264ppi, IPS LCD, 600 nits, 120Hz
Body 9.8x6.8x0.24 inches, 477g (Wi-Fi only model is 469g)
Storage 64/256/512GB
RAM 4GB
Camera 12 megapixels, Front - 7 megapixels
Video 4K - 30fps, 1080p - 60fps, Front - 1080p - 30fps
Aperture f/1.8
Colors Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold


Design

The biggest issue that I have with the design is the colors that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is available in, which are the same as last year's 9.7-inch model: Space Gray, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. After all, the firm ditched Space Gray when it released the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I understand the Jet Black and (PRODUCT) RED omissions, but shouldn't there at least be a Black model to match the iPhone?

That question was rhetorical. Of course there should.

I also take issue with the camera bump on the back. I'm of the school of thinking that no one should be taking pictures with a tablet (that's what smartphones are for), so putting the same camera that the iPhone 7 has into a tablet doesn't make sense to me. You might use your iPad for scanning documents and such, but you don't need such high-end hardware for that, and you wouldn't have a camera bump.

Other than that, the design is all pretty familiar. The body is only 10.6mm taller and 4.6mm wider than its predecessor, so you probably won't even notice a difference. The bezels are much smaller, which is what allows Apple to fit a larger display on the device without increasing its footprint by much.

When you see an iPad Pro in a promotional image, it's almost always standing in portrait mode, so when I refer to the top and bottom, assume that it's standing vertically.

On the top of the device, you'll find the power button and the 3.5mm headphone jack, along with two speakers. On the bottom, there are another two speakers (the four speakers are meant to provide sound no matter how you hold it) and a Lightning port. On the right is the volume rocker and the SIM slot. It's all a pretty standard design.

The bottom bezel is where you'll find the home button, and the top bezel is where the front camera is located. This design is beginning to feel dated to me. For the first time in an iPad review, I've had to define the top of the device, because a lot of the time, it's sitting on the Smart Keyboard, where the top becomes the left. This ends up making for an awkward FaceTime call.

ProMotion Display

The display on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is definitely one of its biggest selling points; Apple calls it ProMotion. It offers a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, as it is adjusted as needed. The firm also says that it's the brightest iPad display yet at 600 nits.

I'm really not sure what to say here other than that it looks awesome. I almost feel like it ruins me for other displays that aren't as smooth. It's not something that I looked at at and said "wow"; instead, after using it for a few days, I realized just how pleasant it is.

Another part of ProMotion is that it's True Tone, meaning that it adjusts the white balance of the display depending on the light in the room you're in. This is something that you can opt in or out of in the out-of-box-experience (OOBE), and can toggle in Settings. I'm really not sure how I feel about it, but I can say that I've never felt the need to turn it off in a fit of disgust over how the display looks.

The other issue of the display is the size. Yes, it's bigger than its predecessor, and bigger isn't always better.

I'm finding it to be a better overall package in terms of size. It's obviously better for productivity-related tasks, and some consumption tasks, such as playing games and watching 16:9 movies on a 4:3 screen. For other things like reading books, I sometimes find myself falling back to the iPad Air 2, which is not to say that 10.5 inches is particularly bad at the task.

Pencil

The Apple Pencil doesn't come in the box with the iPad Pro; it costs an additional $99, which is almost as much as Microsoft's Surface Pen. But when Microsoft announced its new Pen in May, it called it the "fastest digital pen on the planet" with 21ms latency. But just a couple of weeks later, Apple announced its new lineup of iPad Pro devices, which offer 20ms latency (this is another part of the ProMotion value proposition).

While the Apple Pencil beats the Surface Pen in terms of latency that you'll never be able to consciously notice, one area where Apple has Microsoft beat is that you won't actually need a new Pencil to achieve this. It's all in the new iPad Pro.

The Pencil very famously can be charged via the Lightning port on the iPad Pro itself, in the most awkward position imaginable. You don't have to charge it that way though. Along with an extra tip in the box, it comes with an adapter that you can use to plug it into a standard Lightning cable.

The 20ms latency is mind-blowing, if you've ever used a device with a pen/pencil before. If you haven't, it will just feel natural, but it really feels like there's no lag at all.

I actually really like controlling the iPad Pro with the Pencil. For some reason, it just feels comfortable to use it to perform tasks that I'd normally carry out with my finger. Also, while it's a minor issue, it's nice knowing that I'm not smudging up the screen with fingerprints every time I interact with it.

But the Apple Pencil is not without its issues. When you take it out of the box, you'll have to plug it into the Lightning port of the iPad, and it will ask to pair it via Bluetooth. The Pencil won't work at all until you do this.

Occasionally, when waking the device, it won't automatically connect to the Pencil. While it's not a major hassle, this needs to be solved by removing the cap from the Pencil and plugging it into the device, just for a moment.

I do give Apple a lot of credit for making it rechargeable. For me, the biggest pain point in pens comes from the removable batteries. I tend to use them rarely (although I use it more with the iPad), so with my Surface Pen, the battery tends to be dead by the time I go to use it to sign a document or something. In other words, I'll get about a minute of use out of a AAAA battery.

The Pencil also famously has no clip, leaving you with no real place to put it. It does magnetically attach to the Smart Keyboard, but it's not a strong magnet, meaning that if you put it in a bag, expect the Pencil to be at the bottom of the bag next time that you open it.

Smart Keyboard

Also not included in the box, the Smart Keyboard will run you an additional $159 ($169 for the 12.9-inch model).

I've actually found it to be a pretty comfortable keyboard to use, if a bit small. It's very comfortable to use while typing on the go, but I probably wouldn't use it to type a full feature article, and I'm not using it to type this review.

Also, while you're not likely to navigate through the device via the keyboard, there are some handy shortcuts. Cmd-tab lets you switch between apps, and Cmd-H brings you to the home screen. There's also a dedicated button for switching between keyboards, which allows you to bring up the emoji picker while typing.

Of course, there are some issues. For one thing, you can't adjust the angle of the iPad with the folio-style case. Also, since its used as a cover, it's sort of problematic that it doesn't stay closed. It would be really nice if the Smart Keyboard included a magnet to keep it shut like the Smart Cover has.

But that's not the only advantage that the Smart Cover has. With a Smart Cover, you can prop the device up at a low angle, which is how I often would use my iPad Air 2. It's great for doing something that's touchscreen-only or drawing when you want it to be almost flat on the desk.

Naturally, you're free to shell out an additional $49 for a Smart Cover.

Camera

Just buy a damn smartphone.

SIM

This isn't a new feature to the 10.5-inch model, as it first appeared in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but this device contains an electronic SIM card. It's awesome. I noticed that when I went to insert my own SIM card, there was no Apple SIM.

Although I'm sure that this was an unintentional side effect, it solves one annoyance that I had with previous cellular models, which is the message that appears when there's no SIM card inserted. For some reason, all cellular devices feel the need to constantly remind you when you're trying to use it as a Wi-Fi only device. Since there's a SIM embedded in it, there's never a time when there's no SIM installed.

I've always preferred cellular tablets so I can have connectivity anywhere, but I really shouldn't have to use it that way.

Fast charging and battery life

One of the more interesting parts of the announcement of the new iPad Pros is that Apple is finally building an iOS device that supports fast charging. Hooray, right? Well, not so much.

I did all kinds of testing to see what kind of charging times I could come up with. The good news is that the device does support fast charging. The bad news is that it's just not with the charger that comes in the box. Yes, you read that right.

The device itself comes with the standard 12W USB Type-A AC adapter, which will get you about 8% every 15 minutes. Of course, there's also the USB Type-A to Lightning cable that you'll use to charge it.

If you want fast charging, you're going to have to replace both of them. You'll want to head down to your local Apple Store and grab a USB Type-C to Lightning cable, which starts at $25 ($35 for the 2m cable). You'll also need to grab a 29W USB-C Power Adapter for $45.

12W charger with USB Type-A to Lightning cable 29W charger with USB Type-C to Lightning cable
12:00 0% 12:00 0%
12:15 8% 12:15 18%
12:30 16% 12:30 34%
12:45 24% 12:45 46%
1:00 30% 1:00 58%
1:15 39% 1:15 70%
1:30 46% 1:30 80%
2:00 61% 1:45 89%
2:45 83% 2:00 94%
3:22 95% 2:15 97%
3:33 100% 2:30 100%

Tests were performed with both devices turned on and the screen off, except to check the battery percentage at the specified times.

By the way, at this point, we're talking about the iPad Pro (256GB with cellular), Smart Keyboard, Smart Cover, Pencil, USB Type-C to Lightning cable, and 29W USB-C Power Adapter for the best experience. Right now, your bill is $1,355 plus local taxes, with AppleCare+ included for good measure.

Let's not forget that you can actually damage your iPhone's battery by using the 12W charger that comes with iPads (so Apple says), so don't think that you'll be able to conveniently be able to use the 29W adapter for both devices.

As far as battery life goes, it's as good as ever. In fact, for all of my charging tests, it took days to drain the battery with normal usage. Apple's claim of nine hours (ten hours in the Wi-Fi only model) seems to hold up.

On a bit of a side note, Apple's online support and in-store employees both assured me that I'd need nothing more than the charger in the box for fast charging, and that all of the improvements were made in the new device.

Audio

As I noted above, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro does have a 3.5mm headphone jack, which I think shows a lack of direction from Apple after removing it in the latest iPhones, but that's neither here nor there. The headphone jack works as expected, and you can still use your Lightning headphones in its respective port.

There are four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom. This is designed so that you'll get quality audio no matter how you're holding the device, particularly when it's being held horizontally.

Have you ever been playing a game on a device and accidentally held your hand over a poorly-placed speaker? Right, you don't have to worry about that anymore.

The audio quality from the speakers is great, and they're loud as well. It sounds natural, which is to say that there isn't that tinny sound that you tend to find in phones, tablets, and even some laptops. It's also loud enough that you'll be able to comfortably listen to music and such; of course, you shouldn't expect it to replace your home stereo system.

Performance

I actually hate it when people say this, but I'm going for it. The new iPad Pro is a beast. It contains a hexa-core A10X Fusion processor clocked at 2.38GHz, an M10 coprocessor, and a 12-core GPU.

I want to be very clear about something. Apple's custom-designed ARM processors almost always outperform their competition, at least at the time of launch. I've reviewed many an Android device, and over and over again, they seem to not be able to handle heavy tasks.

My favorite example is games that have lots of moving parts on the screen, or high definition graphics. Even a game like Plants vs Zombies begins to stutter on devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (full disclosure: I haven't yet reviewed an Android device with a Snapdragon 835) when you plant enough pea-shooters, and I don't have that problem on my iOS devices, even my older iPad Air 2. Apple supplies that kind of GPU power, and I'm noting how much better it is on the Air 2 because you're about to see how much more powerful the new iPad Pro is.

I use three apps for benchmarks: Geekbench 4, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First, let's take a look at Geekbench 4.

As you can see, the A10X is super-impressive compared to its predecessors, especially when it comes to multi-core, where it's nearly double that of the iPhone 7 Plus. Next up is AnTuTu.

A score of 234,522 is really impressive. To put that in perspective, it smokes the 163,288 that the iPhone 7 Plus scored in September.

Thinking about how powerful the new iPad Pro is, it really makes me wonder just how much juice Apple is going to pack into the new iPhone that will launch in three months, which should contain a new A11 processor.

Finally, GFXBench is great for testing the GPU. There are two variants of the app, one that tests OpenGL and one that tests Apple's own graphics API, Metal.

Productivity: or iOS 11

Obviously, productivity is a major issue with the iPad Pro. Is it really a "computer" like Apple says? Can it really replace your laptop? Earlier, we priced out $1,355 for the best experience, so why would someone buy all of that stuff when they can get the regular iPad for $329 and still have money left over for a premium laptop?

These are all great questions, and there's no one answer that applies to everyone. Apple's lineup of iPads have always been laptop replacements...for some people. There's a whole subset of users that legitimately don't need to type up documents. The Pro expands on this user-base, as you can be pretty productive on an iPad Pro.

In fact, I found that I could complete most of my day-to-day tasks on it, although it got complicated at times. It's a bit like learning how to use a PC all over again. We've grown up using a mouse, and switching to touch and a Pencil completely simply isn't a natural transition.

But while Microsoft is working to scale Windows down to mobile, Apple is working to scale its mobile platform to the desktop, and it's getting there, little by little. iOS 11 is still in beta, and while I ran iOS 10.3.2 on the iPad Pro for the first week or so, I needed to get the full experience.

iOS 11 delivers a lot more power, and one of the key features is that there's a new way to do Split View and Slideover. There's no more swiping in from the side of the screen; instead, you need to take an item from the new dock and drag it to the side of the screen. If the app supports it, the Slideover window can be expanded to Split View.

This gives you a lot more freedom. For one thing, you can drag the Slideover window to either side of the screen. Also, once you expand it to Split View, you can open yet another window for Slideover; indeed, for the first time, you can have three apps in view at the same time.

Also, iOS 11 remembers which apps you have in Split View, so you can head back to the task switcher and go right back to what you were working on. Unfortunately, your Slideover window won't be there, so you'll have to drag an app out of the dock to get it back.

My only real issue with how this works is that the app needs to be in the dock. There might be a time that you want to throw up an app that you don't use as frequently.

Another great feature in iOS 11 is Drag and Drop, along with a new Files app. Oh, and don't forget built-in screen recording.

Drag and Drop, well, it does exactly what it sounds like. The Files app isn't quite there yet. I still can't get it to show me any files that exist locally, and Drag and Drop doesn't work from OneDrive yet (that's where the images that I actually know about exist).

Conclusion

The truth is that I've been loving the 10.5-inch iPad Pro since I opened the box. It's a fantastic device, and it's actually a wonderful 2-in-1, and I know that there will be a lot of people that aren't happy to hear that.

As far as productivity goes, it's not nearly as good as a Windows 2-in-1, but as far as consumption goes, Windows can't hold up to iOS. There's no Kindle app for PCs in the Windows Store (that you can find via a simple search, at least, and the old one is four years old), and Microsoft's Movies & TV service is only available for Windows devices. The lack of games is real, and there are no touch-centric apps for Amazon's, Apple's, and Google's music services. The list goes on.

While iOS obviously has Kindle, iBooks, a massive games selection, and much more, many users will have the ability to be as productive as they need to be. Microsoft's iOS Office apps are great, and they're all that the average user will ever need, and iOS 11 brings another layer of productivity.

I think though, that if you're planning on doing some serious typing on it, you might want the 12.9-inch model for the bigger keyboard, which was also refreshed with the ProMotion display and faster processor.

But is it worth that $1,355 price tag for the device and all of the accessories? Probably not, unless you're really looking for that all-in-one package where you can type up a document in Word and then take it to read a book or something. It is a wonderful device with a beautiful display and a ton of power, but the truth is that most people would get more out of the regular iPad and a premium laptop.

While the price of the full package is quite unreasonable, it is a very pleasant device to use. If you can afford it, I don't think you'll regret it.

 

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