Why it matters: Apple's new iPad Pro is as close as any iPad has gotten to being a true laptop replacement. It's ridiculously powerful, highly portable and polished yet even still, it's not as flexible as a real laptop and iOS 12 really limits its potential. Perhaps a tablet-minded fork with additional functionality could help get the iPad Pro over the hump?
The new 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 while the larger 12.9-inch variant commands a minimum of $999. Several publications got their mitts on the new slate ahead of launch on November 7. What's new? Should casual users even consider it? These questions and more get answered as we present our 2018 iPad Pro review round-up.
Aesthetically speaking, the new iPad Pro deviates from Apple’s familiar formula in a number of ways as Nilay Patel with The Verge highlights:
It’s also impossible to look at the iPad Pro and not be struck by its design. This is the first truly new Apple mobile hardware design in a long while, and it has a deeper connection to the MacBook Pro than the iPhone or previous iPads. Instead of rounded corners and soft shapes, the iPad Pro is all hard corners and flat sides, with massive, asymmetrical antenna lines on the back and a huge camera bump. Most people I showed our space gray review unit to thought it looked cool, but I think it’s kind of brutal looking — almost like a reference design.
Another take on the redesign, this time from Wired’s Jeffrey Van Camp:
The first thing you’ll notice about the new iPad Pro is what it’s missing. Like the iPhone XR and its peers, the Pro has no home button. Instead, its screen stretches from edge to edge... to edge to edge. All four sides are rimmed with thin and equally-sized black bezels, making it easier to forget where the top of the device really is. Sometimes iOS will actually point out where the power button is on the edge because, rightfully, it thinks I may have forgotten.
The back of the 5.9mm aluminum shell feels incredibly sturdy, and sheds the tapered edges that have defined the iPad for most of its existence. The back is now flat like the bottom of a box, right up to the side. The design looks like a refined version of the iPhone 5. The shape also feels like what the original 2011 iPad was trying to accomplish—this time with no bump in the back, except for the camera.
(Image courtesy Dustin Drankoski, Mashable)
Stuart Miles with Pocket Lint tackles the new Liquid Retina display:
Following in the footsteps of the iPhone XR, the iPad Pro 12.9 features a "Liquid Retina" LED-backlit IPS tap to wake display with a 2732 x 2048 resolution, for 264ppi. The laminated display is anti-reflective - although still expect some glare in bright conditions - and there's an oleophobic coating that does a good, but not perfect, job of coping with grubby fingerprints.
There's no formal HDR support, however at 600 nits brightness and given the screen size, we don't suspect many will notice, because this display is big, rich in colour and packed full of detail. Watching the very dark (in terms of luminance) Stranger Things on Netflix, we could still see plenty of detail on screen and that's replicated across the experience - it's a great display.
The iPad Pro’s biggest new feature? USB-C, says Chris Velazco with Engadget:
By now you're probably aware that Apple finally ditched its proprietary Lightning port here in favor of the ubiquitous USB-C standard. Forget the screen, and the A12X Bionic chipset and just about everything else: This might be the single most important change to how people actually use the iPad. My main work computer is a MacBook Pro, and to really get anything out of it, I had to buy a USB-C dongle with a load of extra ports: a few USB-As, an SD card slot, Ethernet and so on. Turns out, this little accessory has come in remarkably handy in testing the iPad Pro, because I've been able to put every single one of those ports to good use.
(Image courtesy Chris Velazco, Engadget)
The new iPad Pro is a performance machine according to John Gruber with Daring Fireball:
“No one buys an iPad because of CPU benchmarks”, I wrote last year. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think there are people who will and should buy the new iPad Pro because of its performance. At the hands-on area after last week’s event, Apple was showing Adobe Lightroom editing 50 megapixel RAW images from a Hasselblad camera. The photos were by Austin Mann, who was there, and helpfully demoed the software, showing what a real pro photographer would do in real life with real images. The experience was completely fluid and instantaneous.
The main appeal of an iPad has always been about the experience of using one. It still is. But put that aside for a moment and consider the new iPad Pro only as a portable computing device. Its performance, both from the CPU and GPU, is simply bananas. It’s nuts. Astounding performance per dollar, astounding performance per watt.
Matthew Panzarino with TechCrunch covers the new camera:
This new camera is just fine image quality wise. It offers Smart HDR, which requires support both from the speedy sensor and the Neural Engine in the A12X. It’s interesting that Apple’s camera team decided to do the extra work to provide a decent camera experience, rather than just making the sensor smaller or falling back to an older design that would work with the thickness, or lack thereof.
iPad photography has always gotten a bad rap. It’s been relegated to jokes about dads holding up tablets at soccer games and theme parks. But the fact remains that the iPad Pro’s screen is probably the best viewfinder ever made.
I do hope that some day it gets real feature-for-feature parity with the iPhone, so I have an excuse to go full dad.
(Image courtesy Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch)
Gareth Beavis from TechRadar talks Apple Pencil:
The Apple Pencil is synonymous with the iPad Pro, having launched at the same time as the original, and now Apple has finally added something we've been crying out for: a way to keep your Pencil attached to your iPad.
There's now a magnetic strip that locks it to the top of the device, on that flat edge, so it should in theory be charged and ready to use when you need it.
We say 'in theory' as we had a few issues with the Pencil. The first is with synchronization: when it clips on magnetically it's supposed to pair with the iPad Pro (which ours did) and then be ready to use when removed (which ours did not always do). The Pencil also came unclipped easily when the iPad Pro was taken out of a rucksack, slipping off into some dark recess rather often.
Scott Stein from CNET on the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement:
But the iPad Pro just isn't flexible enough, yet. The browser is not the same as a desktop-level experience, which can make it hard to work with web tools. No trackpad on the optional keyboard and no support for mice makes text editing cumbersome. Furthermore, iOS hasn't changed enough. It's way too much like an evolution of the iPhone, instead of a fully evolved computer desktop. And the current crop of available apps don't yet exploit this awesome new hardware. A true version of Photoshop is on deck from Adobe, for instance, but it won't be available until 2019. (I got an early peek and it looks great, but it's not here yet.)
(Image courtesy John Brencher, The Washington Post)
Geoffrey A. Fowler with The Washington Post on the iPad Pro’s biggest problem:
The iPad Pro’s biggest problem is its software. In iOS 12, the iPad has some ability to make between two and four apps share the screen simultaneously, but not all apps play ball. For example, you can’t make Spotify split the screen with Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Getting apps into these sharing modes also requires finger yoga that’s a lot more work than moving around windows with a mouse.
While iOS 12 has a few keyboard shortcuts that help zip between apps, what I was missing was a degree of information density. Everyone has a different way of working, but sometimes on a Mac I’ll have five windows open at once, passively monitoring messages, email, Slack, Twitter and music. On the iPad, I had to keep flipping through apps in an attempt to stay tuned in. Some iPad apps don’t even show you the time and battery level along the top edge.
Mashable’s Raymond Wong on who should buy the iPad Pro:
The new iPad Pro inspired me to want to do more, to make more, to “Think Different” just like the original Mac did when I sat down in front of its all-in-one design, boxy mouse, and drew in MacPaint for the very first time.
But if you’re just planning to use the iPad Pro to watch videos, browse social media, or play light games like Candy Crush, its potential will be wasted, and any older or cheaper iPad or cheaper brand of tablet will do.
You should only get a new iPad Pro if you’re gonna be pushing its power. Otherwise it’s like getting a sports car and never driving faster than 35 mph — people will ooh and ahh at your shiny new thing, but you’ll return home feeling empty every time.
Lead image via Amelia Holowaty Krales, The Verge