Apple iPad Pro 9.7 review: A little less pro for a little less

Price when reviewed

iPad Pro 9.7 review: Performance

Of course, a new iPad will be faster than an old iPad. But Apple claims the new iPad Pro is 2.4 times as fast as the iPad Air 2, which was itself no slouch. We’re still running our benchmarks, but there’s no doubt that this is one fast tablet. Using demanding apps like Adobe Photoshop Fix is just breezy.

The iPad Pro 9.7in isn’t as fast as its bigger sibling, however, for one reason: Apple has chosen to equip it with 2GB of RAM, rather than the luxurious 4GB that comes in the 12.9in iPad Pro. You only really notice the difference when working with large images and big video files, or when you have a million tabs open in Safari. However, if you’re used to the speed of the bigger iPad Pro, you will notice it.

But if you’re coming from an older iPad, or if this is your first iPad, you’ll be amazed about how quick this is. It’s still, as Apple always says, “desktop-class” performance. It’s just a bit of a slower desktop.

iPad Pro 9.7 review: Price

So far, so good. There’s no doubt that the iPad Pro 9.7in is a marvellous tablet, and I loved using it. But there’s a catch: you’re going to pay for it. In fact, you’re going to pay a lot for it.

On its own, the iPad Pro 9.7in will cost you anything from £499 for a 32GB Wi-Fi version up to £849 for one with 256GB of storage and both Wi-Fi and LTE. Add in an Apple Pencil (£79) and Smart Keyboard (£129) and you could spend as much as £1,047.Apple iPad Pro 9.7: Touch ID

To put that into context, the 13in MacBook Air with 256GB of storage, a Core i5 and 4GB of RAM will cost you £48 less than the most expensive version of the iPad Pro 9.7in with a keyboard and Pencil. Or, if you don’t want to live in Apple World, you could buy a Surface 3 LTE with 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and Type Cover for £688, then spend the near-£400 you’ve saved on a nice holiday.

Even the entry-level price is not exactly inexpensive. Add the Pencil and Smart Keyboard to the 32GB Wi-Fi version, and you’ll still pay £707 – more than the most expensive version of the Surface 3.

Yes, this is a machine that’s beautifully designed, runs the entire range of iPad apps, and is extremely portable. It’s packed with great technology and has the best screen you’ll see on any device. Leaving aside the iPad Air 2 (which Apple is keeping in the lineup for the time being), it’s also Apple’s cheapest computer. But no matter how you look at it, you’re paying a lot of money for a device with a 9.7in screen.

iPad Pro 9.7 review: Verdict

If you’re a business user, the iPad Pro 9.7in is the ultimate “carry about the office” device. It’s brilliant if you spend your time going to meetings, taking notes, managing people, and firing off emails from odd places. If you use OneNote, it’s the best experience for note-taking you’ll ever have, leagues ahead of anything on Windows.

And thanks to the keyboard and Pencil support, it’s also an incredibly capable device for creating. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “the iPad is only for consumption”. Use the Pencil with something like Photoshop Fix for a few minutes, and you’ll see how this combination makes you more creative than you’ll ever be with a laptop.

But unlike its bigger sibling, it’s not a machine that you can sit and work on all day. The 9.7in screen, which makes it an ideal note-taking device, will be too cramped for anyone who wants to write a long Word document or change around a big spreadsheet.Apple iPad Pro 9.7 multitasking

And that’s why I think the “Pro” name is a bit misleading. If you think of “Pro” as meaning “supporting the Smart Keyboard and Pencil”, then, yes, it’s a Pro device. But unlike the larger iPad Pro, it’s much harder to make the case that it can replace your laptop. This whole review was written on the larger iPad Pro, bar 500 words that were written on the 9.7in iPad and caused my fingers to ache.

It’s a laptop replacement for a more sizeable number of people than any 9.7in iPad before it. It chips away at the reasons someone should buy a laptop, but to a lesser degree than its bigger sibling.

It’s much better than the iPad Air 2, thanks to support for the Pencil and the Smart Keyboard

And that’s okay. At first, I felt like the fact that this “Pro” iPad couldn’t replace a laptop to the same degree as the 12.9in version was a big deal. As I’ve spent more time with the device, though, I’ve come to realise that it matters much less than I initially thought.

Despite Apple’s hype, for most people the iPad will be a second device. But Apple has created a tablet you’ll want to spend  time with, one that makes your laptop look and feel clunky and old-fashioned. This is a tablet you’ll want to use more of, and there’s no higher praise for any piece of technology than that.

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