Apple iPad Pro review: The big tablet that's great for work and play
The iPad has been reborn as a 12.9in tablet that's light, super-powerful and a surprisingly capable business device
12.9 inches?! Yes, the iPad Pro is one big tablet. A gargantuan tablet. In fact, it's about as big as a tablet can feasibly get. If it's too big for you, but you like the idea of an iPad with a proper keyboard, desktop-class performance and multitasking, it might be worth considering its smaller sibling, the new Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch. This loses a little RAM, but is otherwise a perfectly formed iPad Pro that's been hit by a top-secret Apple shrinking-ray.
In fact, the little iPad Pro is such a sizable step forward that we've given it a recommended award. Click here for the full Apple iPad Pro 9.7 review. Otherwise, continue reading for our original 12.9in iPad Pro review. Bigger is better, right?
Apple iPad Pro review
The year 2015 was an odd one for Apple's tablet business. In the face of falling sales of its previously evergreen 9.7in iPad Air, it decided against an incremental update, opting for a major shake-up instead. The result was the 12.9in iPad Pro, a tablet, it seems, designed specifically to target Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and prevent it having the whole of the hybrid market all to itself.
So far, the tactic is working. In February 2016, analysts at IDC reported iPad Pro sales in the fourth quarter of 2015 had exceeded the entire Microsoft Surface product line, by 2million to 1.6million total sales. It's a stunning victory for Apple over Microsoft, and a real vote of confidence in the iPad Pro by consumers.
iPad Pro review: Design
The success of the iPad Pro, even so early in its lifespan, is surprising considering how dramatically different it is to previous iPads, but it helps that there are plenty of elements of familiarity here. One glance tells you this is still very much an Apple iPad, thanks to its glass front and aluminium rear, chamfered-edge front and all-over immaculate build quality.
It has an identical design to the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4. The front is all display, surrounded by narrow bezels on the longer sides and wider ones at top and bottom. A camera lens peeps out from the centre at the top and the home button with Touch ID capabilities nestles at the bottom.
Every other detail, almost, is the same as on the smaller-screened Apple tablets. Power button on the top edge: check. Volume up and down buttons on the right edge: check. Whacking great Apple logo on the middle of the back: check. On the Wi-Fi and cellular model – plastic stripe on the back and SIM card slot on the right edge: check and check. Single loudspeaker on bottom edge: oh, hold on.
The iPad Pro, uniquely in Apple’s iPad range, has four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom edge. As you’d imagine, this design change seriously upgrades the tablet’s audio capabilities.
There’s one other difference: on the left edge, three small circles sit innocuously in the middle. These form the Smart Connector, which attaches Apple’s Smart Keyboard or third-party accessories such as the Logitech Create keyboard case.
For all the similarities to previous iPads, the Pro has one major difference: its size. The 12.9in display may not sound much bigger than the previous iPad’s 9.7in screen, but it looks huge in comparison.
It’s much heavier than the iPad Air 2, but still lighter than the first iPad, weighing 713g for the Wi-Fi-only edition, and 723g for the Wi-Fi and 4G model. That’s heavier than many rival tablets, but it still feels light relative to its size.
Apple iPad Pro specifications
|Processor||Dual-core 2.16GHz Apple A9X|
|Screen resolution||2,732 x 2,048|
|Front camera||1.2 megapixels|
|Rear camera||8 megapixels|
|GPS||Yes (Cellular model only)|
|Compass||Yes (Cellular model only)|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||No|
|Wireless data||4G (Cellular version only)|
|Dimensions||306 x 6.9 x 221mm (WDH)|
|Weight||713g (without keyboard)|
|Operating system||Apple iOS 9.1|
|Part code||iPad Pro|