Hands on review Apple’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro
The new iPad Pro 10.5, or iPad Pro 2 to others (and how we’re referring to it here) has finally been announced – and it’s bringing a raft of features that Apple hopes makes it even more of a competitor to the common laptop.
The main thing that’s different about the iPad Pro 2 – well, one of them – is the fact the screen is so much less bezel-heavy than before.
The new model packs a 10.5-inch screen into a similar footprint to the iPad Pro 9.7, making it one of the slickest-looking iPads ever made.
On top of that Apple has pushed a few of its other technological advancements into the mix, narrowing the gap between the iPhone and iPad in terms of the tech – and it’s just the sort of thing we needed to see.
Of course, we’re skirting around the question of whether this iPad is the one to ‘save’ the tablet form factor – many wondered if we’d ever see another iPad because the sales are still falling.
But there’s a lot to be impressed with on the new iPad Pro 10.5, and as such it could, at the very least, stop the death knell ringing for the tablet sector.
DESIGN AND SCREEN
In terms of design, we’re looking at something that’s both a big step forward and a clear evolution from the past. While this is clearly an Apple tablet from the moment you pick it up, there’s still something more ‘futuristic’ about it.
Well, actually that’s a pretty easy one: it’s the larger screen that takes up more of the front of the device.
The idea that you need such bezels on the side to allow your fingers to rest there makes sense, but Apple’s palm rejection technology is such these days that you shouldn’t get many mis-presses.
With that out the way, we love the way this thing looks – if it was transparent, it wouldn’t look out of place in Minority Report (fun fact – we rewatched that movie the other day, and the design and concept still hugely holds up. Would recommend).
It’s more iPad mini in the way it looks – the thinness of the sides is slightly diminished by the thicker bezels at the top and bottom, but it makes a lot of sense.
The display has also been upgraded to pack in the TrueTone technology – well, we say upgraded, but that tech debuted on the iPad Pro 9.7 and that’s technically the device this evolved from.
This means the display will monitor the color levels around you and tweak the screen’s hue to match, trying to mimic the look of a book when viewed in different lighting conditions.
More impressive is just the general color gamut on the iPad Pro 10.5, which is clear and easy to see. The sharpness has reportedly been boosted to 2224 x 1668 to make sure the dots per inch are the same across the screen, presumably to make things as simple as possible for developers making apps for the iPad.
But the most impressive thing is both the improved screen refresh rate – up to 120Hz – and the color gamut / brightness on offer through the new ProMotion Display.
This means the screen feels so, so smooth under the finger, the digit response feeling akin to the upgrade from HD to 4K on a TV.
The tablet can also dynamically change the refresh rate, depending on what’s on the screen, to save power and battery when needed.
The colors are clear and vibrant, and the whole device just chugs along so smoothly under the finger… when more HDR content is made available, it’s gonna look great on this tablet.
Sure, we would have like Dolby Vision support, but that would never happen with Apple.
The design of the iPad Pro 10.5 – screen aside – is pretty classic Apple as mentioned, but has a lot of the things we loved about the first, larger, iPad Pro.
The four resonance chambers are back again, meaning that the sound output on this thing is far beyond what you’d expect. The metal back feels smooth and light in the hand, and the new iPad Pro is great to hold in the hand.
The Smart Connector obviously makes its way back into the mix as this is the defining feature of the tablet, and it sits proudly along the side of the tablet, the three golden dots hinting at the extra accessories on offer.
The home button is still present and correct on the new iPad Pro, but unlike the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus this still clicks into place physically; there’s no haptic buzz under your finger to give the illusion of a press without any actual movement.
This is because the new iPad sadly isn’t waterproof so you won’t be able to watch a movie in the bath and not worry about dropping it in. Is that a big issue? Not really, but would have been nice to see.
The new iPad Pro 2 will come with iOS 10 when it launches, but it’s clearly meant to be the poster child for the new iOS 11 software that’s on its way – and we got a chance to see that new software.
It’s clear that Apple has designed this new operating system in a way that really enhances the iPad Pro 2, as there are more features than ever before to help users shed the laptop and start using a 2-in-1 device that’s more tablet than it is computer.
The first iPad Pro did this pretty well – but mostly just in terms of word processing and browsing the internet. For anything more powerful there wasn’t really a direct comparison, although the sleeker tablet form factor is enabling the computing power to be used in more places – such as retail – to open up new possibilities for consumer experiences.
Anyway, back to the user interface: iOS 11 looks great on this tablet, but that’s partly to do with the fact that the screen just looks so much better being closer to the edges.
The new Files system looks a touch complex, but being able to actually interact with files will be a real boon once you get your head around it on an iPad.
We especially liked being able to drag and drop different files between apps – messages to mail to Safari, for instance – and being able to grab multiple options felt rather intuitive.
This still doesn’t feel like a full PC experience, but the floating split screen model works better than before in terms of letting you switch between apps and pass stuff between each one.
The dock that lifts from the bottom of the screen – and can be massively expanded, just like on a Mac – makes a lot of sense, and the finger swipe upwards to see your currently open apps really works well.
The whole thing whips along without an issue under the finger – and given that there’s an A10X processor chugging things along, you’d expect just that.
We don’t know how much RAM is in there yet, but we’re assuming it’s 4GB to match the iPad Pro from 2015, given we’re two years further down the line now.
BATTERY AND CAMERA
Apple hasn’t given out the battery size – obviously, as it never does that – but has quoted a battery life of 10 hours, which is the same as what was there with the iPad Pro 9.7.
The battery pack is unlikely to be much larger, given that the iPad Pro 2 doesn’t have a larger frame to cram it into, but the use of the new A10X chip should be enough to help optimization and see Apple making those battery life strides through a more efficiently run machine.
However, there are more pixels to drive, so that could have an effect – but then again, the tablet doesn’t need a lot of charging time unless you’re using it daily as a laptop replacement, in which case you might have it connected to the power anyway.
The camera setup on the tablet – something we’ll never tire of saying shouldn’t be there, for the simple reason that it encourages people to use an iPad when it’s socially unacceptable – is a 12MP affair on the back (with optical image stabilisation), with a 7MP snapper on the front.
Actually, it’s not entirely fair to say it shouldn’t be there, as actually there are some clever scanning apps and such that do make good use of the camera, and the tech Apple’s chucked in here should make it a half-decent experience.
The document scanning is baked right into the device as well now, through the Notes app, so you’ll need a high res snapper to make it work well.
We took a few demo shots in the press area, and essentially we learned that the iPad Pro 2 is capable of taking pictures of decent sharpness – we’ll try it out properly when we put together our full review.
Apple’s range of accessories for the iPad Pro is important, simply because this is what marks out the device as different from a ‘standard’ iPad.
The Smart Keyboard is back as expected, with the soft-touch keys clicking away as before beneath your fingers, and providing a part-cover for the device – and the ability to have all the keys in a smaller form factor, rather than a cut down set, is good to see.
Annoyingly there’s still no full case with a keyboard cover for the iPad Pro 2 from Apple, but there should be enough third-party accessories to help out and still make use of the Smart Connector.
The Apple Pencil is also in place, ready to be gripped and sketched with, and there are more apps than ever to make use of this implement – and it’s clear Apple wants people to use this more than ever.
There were more accessories on offer with the new tablets – the first being a leather cover with a slot for the Apple Pencil.
It seems pretty roomy and presumably could fit in the new iPads with the Smart Cover attached – they’re a bit fancy but look good… and there’s a place to hold the Apple Pencil.
Well, if you don’t want to buy this cover you can still – inexplicably – protect the Apple Pencil with a special sheath. Why you’d need to do this is beyond us, as the Pencil can survive years in a bag, but if you want to leather it up, that’s an option now.
We were perhaps surprised to not see Apple revolutionize the accessories line-up for the iPad, but at the same time what’s there is adequate.
The iPad Pro 2 is a tablet from the future in many ways. The expanded screen size, the raw power underneath and the overall design just make it more desirable than any iPad Apple has ever made.
It’s still got the same limitations as previous iPads – namely that it’s not a MacBook, and to some people that means it’ll only ever be a luxury entertainment device, not something to replace a computer completely.
But again Apple has added in some big changes towards making the iPad Pro a viable choice for the modern worker, with a more beautiful design likely to make the fans want one just… because.
Actually – there’s more than that. This tablet will function more slickly under the finger, not cost a huge amount more and has a low-glare and colorful screen – it’s ticking the boxes for a tablet and closing in on being a desirable 2-in-1 as well.
Is this the tablet to save the industry? Of course not. But it’s an excellent move towards something that works well enough to replace more of the ageing laptops out there, as well as being a top entertainment device… and that’s just what Apple wanted to make.
OUR EARLY VERDICT
A smooth upgrade with lightning fast internals and a much more impressive screen – combined with a real update to iOS 11, Apple has shown it’s certainly not giving up on the tablet market.
- 120Hz refresh really impresses
- Screen is clear and bright
- So much more display in your hand
- A still-expensive laptop replacement