- Storage capacity
- Multitasking limited by iOS
There’s no disputing that Apple’s iPad is one of the most popular tablets in history. With each release, they manage to add something new to the mix that keeps things interesting. When the original iPad Pro released, it made waves with it’s huge screen and powerful specs. But some questioned the sheer size of the tablet.
Much has changed since then. With their latest release, Apple is cramming all of the power of the Pro series into a smaller format. But does the iPad Pro’s smaller sibling have what it takes to keep up with the pack? We’ve scoured the reviews of the biggest tech sites on the web so that you don’t have to.
Let’s see what they have to say!
If you’ve seen any pictures of the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, you’ve probably come to the same conclusion most reviews were quick to point out. On the outside, the new iPad is essentially an iPad Air 2. The two exceptions are a slightly protruding camera lens and the small dots along the edge for the Smart Connector.
Reviews indicate that the standard metal and glass construction of the iPad series is back in full effect with this latest release. TechRadar praised it, saying, “[the tablet] feels dense and rigid -- almost too nice to just toss in your briefcase sans protection. The anodized aluminum body is cool and comfortable to the touch, and per usual, Apple's attention to detail on button machining is obvious here.”
Wired loved the size of the tablet, noting, “The 9.7-inch model is the closest thing yet to a perfect middle ground: Big enough to give you space to work, small enough to hold with one hand. It's the Goldilocks iPad.”
Looking around the edges of the device, you’ll find the Apple Lightning connector, four sets of speaker holes and volume and power buttons. Many reviews questioned the lack of USB support in a “Pro” tablet. However, Apple does offer adapters if you need to connect flash memory or other devices.
The speakers, on the other hand, received endless praise. While they were quick to note that this isn’t a replacement for a home theater system, that the speakers offer both volume and clarity in abundance. AppleInsider rated them, “On par, if not better than, pretty much any laptop speakers you've ever heard.“ DigitalTrends declared, “The iPad Pro is the best tablet for listening to music without headphones, hands down.”
Heading around to the front of the tablet, you’ll be greeted with a 9.7-inch Retina display running at 1536-by-2048 pixels. While it’s standard for the latest iPad releases in terms of pixel density, it comes with a few new features that reviewers all agree set it apart from any other tablet currently available.
The first is Apple’s True Tone technology. Using sensors hidden in the face of the tablet, it can adjust the hue of the display to match the surroundings. Browsing on the patio of your favorite coffee shop? The screen shifts bright and blue to counter the effect of direct sunlight. Lounging at home with a book? You’ll find warm red tones to help reduce eye strain.
The second change is a new anti-glare treatment. Apple claims this reduces glare by up to 40%. While reviews weren’t scientific about it, most agreed that the treatment combined with the True Tone feature created a great experience. Apple Insider was thrilled, labelling it, “the best Retina display Apple has ever put on a mobile device, thanks to glare reduction and new True Tone technology.” Engadget described it as “sharp and beautifully saturated.”
One thing to note--if you’re doing color-sensitive work, such as video or photo editing, you might find True Tone to be a problem. Fortunately, you can disable it in the settings with a few taps.
Pushing your apps, movies and games to the display, you’ll find Apple’s A9X Processor. Clocked at 2.16GHz, the dual core processor received rave reviews across the board. Techradar states, “It runs iOS like a champ. Performance simply wasn't an issue as we whisked through apps, loaded up Procreate for iPad, and proceeded to get our doodle on.” Wired agrees with this sentiment, saying, “It used to feel like a reach to call an iPad a ‘desktop-class’ device, but not anymore. This thing screams.”
Looking at the spec sheet, you’ll see that the iPad Pro 9.7 only offers 2GB of RAM. With the larger model offering 4GB and newer flagships commonly pushing in that direction, many reviewers worried that Apple’s decision to go with 2GB might pose a problem. Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case. DigitalTrends put the iPad to the test and said, “The 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s A9X processor and 2GB of RAM seem to hold their own with laptop-level performance.”
Whether you’re scanning in documents or taking 4K videos of your latest holiday, the tablet has the camera kit to keep up. Using the same hardware as the iPhone 6S, the tablet blows virtually any other tablet out of the water on paper with a 12MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing lens. The rear camera includes Apple’s True Tone flash technology and is capable of recording 4K video as well.
While few reviews put the cameras through rigorous testing, the reviews for camera on the iPhone 6S indicate it’s one of the best cameras currently available in a mobile device.
Apple’s iPad series is known for its exceptional battery life. While reviews varied slightly, all agreed this one’s 27WHr battery meets Apple’s 10-hour runtime standard. Most noted that it won’t push the 11 or 12 hour barrier as other models might. DigitalTrends summed up battery life opinions well, stating, “Apple promises 10 hours of battery life from the iPad Pro, and it appears to achieve that, just like every other iPad has in the past.”
If you’re looking for additional input options, the tablet supports a small keyboard through the Smart Connector as well as the Apple Pencil. Both add to the total of your purchase but receive positive reviews overall.
Connectivity options include both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE models. Again, the 4G LTE connectivity will increase the price of the device. However, most reviews loved the way that Apple implemented activating or deactivating data service.
Finally, you’ll find that the tablet supports Apple’s TouchID system with a fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button at the bottom of the display. Reviews on the scanner were hit-or-miss. Some had issues with sluggish response while others had no issues at all.
This brings us to the one of the two major concerns that most reviews noted. Storage space in the base model is only 32GB. For a device with no memory card expansion and a “Pro” label, many reviews felt this was inadequate. Especially considering the price. However models are available with capacities up to 256GB if you need more room to install apps or store media.
Last, and one of the most debated aspects of the tablet among reviewers, is the cost. While Apple’s iPad series has always topped the tablet price charts, the cost of getting a full iPad Pro 9.7 kit with accessories climbs quickly.
This lead many reviewers to question whether the increase in cost was worth it compared to the iPad Air 2 and the full-size iPad Pro. The Verge says, “The iPad Pro is a stupefyingly good iPad. But if you aren’t sure that you need all those ‘Pro’ features, the iPad Air 2 is still a great iPad, too. And a lot cheaper.”
This is largely a matter of buyer opinion, but be sure to take a look at the complete price of what you need before making a decision.
Overall, the tablet was applauded for its performance, design and functionality. Those that used it with the Apple Pencil and optional keyboard found it to be a great productivity and creation hub. Engadget calls it, “Easily the best conventionally sized tablet Apple has ever made.”
But does it live up to Apple’s claim of being a complete PC replacement? Reviews were mixed here.
Most felt that the multitasking features of iOS make it less intuitive for dedicated productivity work than a laptop. Digital Trends noted, “The iPad Pro works best if you’re willing — and able — to alter your workflow to its favor. It’s not going to change how it operates to fit what you do, and despite the new split screen option, that often means focusing on one task at a time.”
AppleInsider summarized the verdicts in most reviews well, saying, “There's a lot to like about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro — the hardware is second to none, and the addition of the Smart Connector and Apple Pencil are game changers for the future of Apple's tablet lineup. This is Apple's most powerful, versatile and capable iPad to date, and it's by far the best tablet in this price range on the market.” If the cost doesn’t scare you off, it would appear that the iPad Pro 9.7 is one of the best tablets out today.