Even if the new iPad is Apple’s nicest iPad yet, it still is just another iPad.
However, as long as critics continue to hold up the idea of not trying to fix something that isn’t broken, can we really blame Apple for sticking so closely to the formula? How hard can you really come down on a square-shaped peg for not being round?
Even if it outperforms its predecessor on most fronts, iPad Pro essentially makes the same pitch to the same audience. Of course, once you’ve heard one Apple pitch, you’ve heard them all.
Every press conference, Apple wheel out a device that’s pretty similar to last year’s product – only better! And despite the frustration and ire this approach inspires in many tech writers, the company’s fans don’t care. They know what they like, and they’re perfectly happy to pay more for a leaner, cleaner take on what’s come before. On some level, it’s less about making a product for people who want to be creative and more about marketing it at the people who want to be.
Enter the new iPad Pro. Available in 12.5-inch and 10.5-inch sizes, the sell here is that it’s the company’s “most powerful iPad ever” (again) and one that’s more than a poor substitute for a laptop. By their reckoning, it’s an entirely valid alternative. Or, at least it will be once iOS 11 rolls around.
At the moment, it’s packing 6-core CPU and 12-core GPU that promise a 30% improvement on the A9X processors used by its predecessors. In practice, these heftier-than-ever specs make for a machine with a lot more grunt than past efforts.
Unsurprisingly, the iPad Pro’s display holds up as one of the package’s strongest aspects. Though the lack of support for HDR and 4K-quality content does sting, the 120Hz ProMotion Retina Display keeps things equally sharp and smooth. The tablet even juggles between refresh rates when not in use, or whenever it can afford to – conserving battery life as it chugs along. This comes accompanied by another new feature called True Tone, which works to adapt the colour-tone of the screen based on the ambient light around you and promises to keep things clear regardless of the situation or environment.
Speaking of, Apple have pegged the iPad Pro’s charge life at close to ten hours on a single charge. This claim lines up pretty well with my experience. I even managed to go a whole weekend without a charge at one point. However, given my past experiences with Apple products, I’d hesitate to weigh in on how that might degrade over time. Still, if you want to shelve your old iPad and go in on a new one, this feels like the option you’ll want to go with.
In action, the iPad Pro never misses a beat. Even more processor-intensive tasks (like multitasking or rendering) played out with silky smoothness. Obviously, this might vary if you venture outside the realm of Apple’s own proprietary software library and will almost certainly over the long-term. Still, despite these looming potential caveats, I had barely had anything but positive experiences when it came to performance.
In order to really immerse myself in the product and get the most out of it, I ended up using the iPad Pro as my main workstation – and it proved more than up to the task. Whenever I expected the device to get bogged down, it kept on trucking. Games ran fast. Apps loaded faster. Apple say it’s been designed and built to get the most out of the big new features being added in iOS 11, and while I wasn’t able to test-drive those feature, I came away reasonably confident about the iPad Pro’s ability to deliver on the company’s promises here. At least, the technical ones.
Zooming out a little, some of the similarities become a little harder to shake. While definitely thinner, and lighter, the iPad Pro is definitely just another iPad when it comes to design. Pretty much everything is where you expect it to be, wrapped up in a clean metal shell.
Aside from the headphone jack (dropped from last year’s iPhone 7) and usual Lightning Port (used for charging), the only disruption to the device’s sleek surface comes in the form of the rear camera. The iPad Pro’s main shooter features a lot of the same tech as Apple’s most recent iPhone, packing in a 12-megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation, This is rounded out nicely by the device’s 7-megapixel front-facing shooter.
As a consequence of this, it feels like the iPad Pro is a device designed and built to be enhanced by accessories. I spent a bit of time with the new full-sized Smart Keyboard and reworked Apple Pencil to put this theory to test, coming away reasonably impressed. Typing felt reasonably tactile, though I did occasionally run into some issues when web-browsing. Still, this accessory snaps together really well – adding very little to the device’s form factor – and don’t get me wrong: utilizing keyboard shortcuts and alt-tabbing between apps on an iPad feels a little mind-blowing well beyond the first time.
Then, there’s the Apple Pencil. Going from the pen-less iPad Mini to the stylus’ current iteration, I was initially really impressed with the versatility and power. On it’s face, it still feels a little ridiculous and inconvenient to have to a stylus that you have to recharge. Despite that, I did find the Apple Pencil to be really responsive and accurate to use. It accounts for things like pressure and, according to Apple, leverages predictive technology to all but eliminate input-lag.
For what it’s worth, I did also run the stylus past a few of my more artistically-inclined friends and they came away a little less buzzed on it. Though it has a number of clear advantages over most other stylus accessories, they still found it a little finicky compared to what they get out of a dedicated drawing tablet.
It feels like pretty much every tech and business journalist has their own little short-hand metaphor, simile or parable they use to dissect Apple’s approach to product design. Depending on who you ask, can be an elephant in the room or the surveyor of a walled garden. For me, it’s never really been surprising that big-name features like waterproofing or wireless charging have remained absent from the company’s flagship products. Apple’s eyes have always been set on refinement over advancement. The iPad Pro embodies this idea in its purest incarnation yet.
With the iPad Pro, Apple further cement themselves as a company for whom the lustre of the past trumps the innovation imperative of the future. This is reinvention at its finest – but don’t confuse it for true innovation. Will it replace my laptop? Probably not.
Will Apple’s legion of fans love it? Of course they will.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro comes in silver, space grey, gold and rose gold at an RRP of $979 for the 64GB Wi-Fi-only model and starting at $1179 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Meanwhile, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is available in silver, space grey and gold from $1199 for the 64GB Wi-Fi-only and $1399 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model.
Both are available through Apple’s online and retail stores, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey-Norman