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June 17, 2017

iPad Pro 10.5-inch review

by John_A

Research Center:
Apple 10.5‑inch iPad Pro

Today, we have an iPad Pro review for you, but first let’s explain the growing confusion over the iPad lineup. In March, Apple unveiled a new iPad matching the size of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro — but it lacked “Pro” specifications and capabilities, such as support for the Apple Pencil. But there was still 2016’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro model and the original 13-inch iPad Pro.

Our iPad Pro review is for the new 10.5-inch Pro tablet, which replaces the 9.7-inch model.

That leaves us with a 9.7-inch regular iPad, a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro — the latter saw a performance refresh matching its smaller brother. Oh, and don’t forget the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4, which did not get an update. There are four distinctive sizes in the iPad lineup. If you want to know exactly which one to buy, we have an easy, practical guide on How to choose an iPad.

So how does the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro fare? It’s the best tablet in the world, period. Admittedly, the tablet market is hardly what it once was just a few years ago – there isn’t real competition in this space, and that has allowed Apple to easily take the top spot, But the new iPad Pro exceeds expectations on all fronts. Let’s take a closer look.

A brilliantly-fast display, premium build

In Apple tradition, 10.5-inch iPad Pro hardly looks different from previous iPads.

The aluminum back is minimal, housing some antenna bands, the rear camera and flash, as well as the Apple logo. The volume rocker sits at the right (when holding the tablet in portrait mode), and a power button sits nearby on the top-right edge. You’ll find a Lightning charging port on the bottom center, and the quad-speaker set up means there are four speakers — two on the top, and two on the bottom, offering a surround sound experience. On the front, the camera sits at the top, and the home button on the bottom.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

But the spotlight here is the 10.5-inch size, and it’s fantastic. It’s big enough to comfortably enjoy watching movies and videos, but it’s still portable enough to carry around — the same can’t necessarily be said for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. If you’re familiar with the 9.7-inch iPad, Apple has only slightly altered the dimensions, but retained a larger display — that’s because the edges (or bezels) have been reduced by 40 percent. This all comes in the same 1.03 pound package, meaning it’s the same lightweight tablet as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Many of the Best iPad Pro 10.5-inch Cases we’ve picked out look similar to previous models, too.

As usual, the build quality is great, but the iPad Pro does seem to attract smudges and dirt marks easily on both the front and back — you may want to keep it in a case or a sleeve.

We have yet been able to push this tablet to its limit.

The display is another standout features with this tablet. While the 2,224 x 1,668 pixel resolution is a slight improvement over last year’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution, Apple has introduced ProMotion technology, which bumps up the refresh rate of the display to 120Hz.

A screen’s refresh rate, which is measured by Hertz (Hz), is the number of frames shown per second. So if a display has a refresh rate of 120Hz, it means it has the capacity to show you 120 frames in a second. Most smartphone and tablet displays have a hard cap at 60Hz, but Apple has effectively doubled it. What does that mean? Everything on the screen should move far more smoothly — it’s easy to see the difference in person.

What happens on the screen fluidly follows the movements of my finger. Scrolling through websites especially shows the difference of 120Hz. It makes the iPad Pro feel buttery smooth — but constantly offering 120Hz would put a massive strain on the battery. It’s why ProMotion technology varies the refresh rate depending on what you’re seeing. If you’re looking at the static home screen, the refresh rate is 24Hz, which uses little power. If you open up a game, it will ratchet up the refresh rate to 120Hz to your game runs smoothly and doesn’t seem jittery. Developers will have to add support to make use of more varying refresh rates, but the iPad Pro will automatically provide the highest 120Hz to intensive apps and games that need it, like Affinity Photo.

This ProMotion technology certainly sets a high bar, and the screen itself is also a joy to use. It’s bright — 20 percent brighter than before, in fact — making it easy to view in direct sunlight; colors are vivid, and everything looks stunningly crisp.

iOS 10 is smooth, but iOS 11 offer more

The iPad Pro is powered by Apple’s latest A10X Fusion processor, which is faster and more powerful than the A10 Fusion processor on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. In our benchmark tests, the iPad Pro’s scores were impressive:

  • AnTuTu: 219,599
  • 3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme: 4,102

As a comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus’ AnTuTu score was 174,530. It’s safe to say the 10.5-inch iPad Pro outperforms the latest iPhone, and benchmarks aside — the performance improvement is easy to see. We have yet been able to push this tablet to its limit — at most, it got a little warm after playing games like Transformers: Forged to Fight, Crash of Cars, and Battle Bay, but we hardly ran into issues editing with Affinity Photo for an hour.

Alongside impressive performance, you get 64GB of internal storage for the base iPad Pro model, though you can also opt for 256GB or 512GB. It’s great that Apple has done away with the 32GB storage option for the Pro models. It just isn’t enough space to store a decent amount of apps and photos/documents. A 64GB model should last you for several years unless you are a super heavy duty user.

Apple 10.5‑inch iPad Pro Compared To

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Apple iPad 9.7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (8-inch)

Apple iPad Air 2

Lenovo ThinkPad 10

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface 2

Razer Edge Pro

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Dell Latitude 10

Dell XPS 10

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

Acer Iconia Tab W700

Acer Iconia Tab A700

iOS 10, as seen on the iPhone 7, is even more impressive on a bigger screen — thanks to robust app support for the iPad. Unlike on Android, where you usually get the same smartphone-sized app on a tablet, the iPad offers a large number of apps with a specific user interface for a larger screen. This, along with the 10.5-inch size, the performance, and display improvements, makes iOS 10 a joy to use.

But iOS 11 is on the way, and Apple is introducing a host of features available only to the iPad. These include: Drag and drop, a new dock, the Files app, and a redesigned app switcher. All of these features help improve multi-tasking, making the iPad Pro even closer to a laptop replacement. We’ll update this review when the public beta for iOS 11 rolls around.

Best camera, speakers in a tablet

If the impressive display, great build quality, powerful performance, and tablet-supported apps weren’t enough, Apple has also included the same camera set up as the iPhone 7. The 12-megapixel rear camera will produce almost the same, if not better, photos than the latest iPhone. It’s overkill, for sure, but Apple says it can be useful it taking photos of high-resolution documents in the Notes app (in iOS 11). The 7-megapixel front-facing camera is great for video calls and quick selfies.

While there are some tablets with four speakers, Apple’s iPad Pro delivers unmatched sound for a tablet — the speakers are loud, filling up a room easily, and they sound great.

Great battery life

Apple promises up 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi, including watching videos or listening to music. We found that it lasted a lot longer — mostly because we weren’t using the iPad Pro continuously throughout the day like we use our phones. Using it for a few hours, watching videos, playing games, and browsing the web, we saw the battery drop to 70 percent.

The standby time is what excels here, as iOS uses very little battery when you’re not using the operating system. We left it on for two full days without use, and the iPad only dropped to 90 percent. Our only qualm? The lack of fast charging. Android smartphones and tablets have long-used some type of fast charging technology, but Apple has yet to adopt it. The iPad Pro takes some time to charge, which can be a little frustrating if you’re in a rush.

Can it replace your laptop?

The iPad Pro remains a fantastic tool for artists, especially if you purchase the compatible Apple Pencil as a companion. It’s fantastic for a lot of things, and is our favorite tablet stylus. Check out our list of top iPad Pro drawing apps for an idea of what you can do with the Pencil. The Apple Pencil hasn’t changed, but using it with the new iPad Pro is an even better experience — the ProMotion technology that allows for the 120Hz refresh rate means the Pencil has a lower 20ms latency, the amount of time from when you draw to when it appears on the screen – 20ms is nearly unnoticeable lag.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s just as fun, accurate, easy to use — and Apple’s palm rejection technology never ceases to impress us.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard, on the other hand, is not great. We like the design and how thin it is, but it does not have a comfortable texture when typing. More importantly, it’s not satisfying to type on at all. There’s hardly any feeling when you tap on a key. It’s also $160, which is expensive. Hopefully there will be some great iPad keyboards for the Pro soon.

Regardless, the answer to whether the iPad Pro can replace your laptop is mixed. Yes, it can perform powerful tasks like video and photo editing, you can use it to draw amazing art with the Apple Pencil, and it crushes everyday tasks like email and using Microsoft Word. Even compared to earlier iPads, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is far more suitable of a replacement — but it’s still not as comfortable as a laptop. I don’t find myself working as quickly as I do with my laptop. iOS 11 should help with this immensely with the new multitasking features, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Warranty information

Apple’s iPads come with a standard limited warranty that offers one year of hardware repair from the date of purchase. Apple’s numerous brick-and-mortar stores (You can find an Apple store here) also house the Genius Bar brimming with technical experts, meaning you can always head to one if you need support. If that’s not enough, you can buy AppleCare+, which will extend your warranty an extra year, but it will cost you $100. It also adds coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage.

Our Take

Apple’s latest iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy because it excels in nearly every category.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re looking for a tablet for entertainment and media consumption, you’re probably better off with the new iPad, which costs $330. If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 is a solid tablet for $80, but you get what you pay for.

The 64GB variant of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro costs $650 — you have the option of putting that money towards the new MacBook or Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

If you’re interested in more tablets, please check out our recommendations for the Best tablets you can buy (hint: this is the best), which has options for cheaper and smaller tablets as well. We also have a roundup of Best tablets for kids, and if you’re wavering between this and a full PC, our list of Best cheap laptops or Best Chromebooks may help you.

How long will it last?

Apple products have great build quality, so expect them to last for a few years. Better yet, iOS updates arrive instantly, and Apple usually supports older devices far longer than most Android manufacturers. Expect this device to last more than three to four years.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There’s no real reason to upgrade if you already have an iPad Pro, and look to the regular iPad or Android alternatives if you’re looking for a tablet for casual use. But if you’re a creative professional, the Apple Pencil is a great tool that complements the iPad Pro, and the wide variety of photo- and video-editing apps makes this device a much more robust package.

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