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October 31, 2018

iPad Pro (2018) hands on review

by John_A

Computers and video game consoles. That’s what Apple compared its latest iPad Pro to at a launch event in New York City, pinning its tablet as the most versatile tool you can have in your arsenal. It’s tough to argue against that. The iPad Pro (2018) has spectacular performance with a stunning 120Hz screen, the most tablet-optimized apps, Face ID, and a downright attractive design we can’t stop staring at.

Gorgeous design, speedy Face ID

Shrinking down the bezels around a screen is something we’ve been seeing for quite some time across all products, from TVs and smartphones to tablets. The new iPad Pro does exactly that, cutting down the edges for a more modern look.

There are two iPad Pro sizes: an 11-inch model, which is the same size as 2017’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro thanks to the shaved bezels; and a 12.9-inch model, which is 15 percent thinner with 25 percent less volume than the largest iPad Pro of old, despite having the same screen size.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro still feels massive in the hand, but it’s lightweight enough to become at least kinda manageable. The 11-inch is easier to maneuver – but we’ve fallen in love again with the 12.9-inch screen size. It’s a fantastic canvas, whether you’re drawing or watching a movie.

It’s a fantastic canvas to work on, whether you’re drawing or watching a movie.

Still, we’re a little concerned about the slimmed edges. It made holding the 12.9-inch iPad Pro a little tough without interrupting the screen, though the flat edges did help. We’ll need to spend more time with the tablets to see if it impacts overall usability. We mostly used the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in our brief hands-on time, so that’s what we’ll be referring to the most, but both iPad Pro devices share the same features.

Another big change is the home button, or lack of. It’s gone! That’s already happened in Apple’s iPhones, so it’s hardly a surprise. Instead, you’ll navigate iOS with gestures akin to what you’ll find on the iPhone XS and iPhone X. It’s intuitive, and it’s a navigational change that came to all iPads with iOS 12.

So, how do you unlock the tablet? You guessed it. Apple has brought over Face ID, and unlike the iPhone, the iPad Pro can unlock by detecting your face in any orientation it’s held. You won’t need to worry about keeping the iPad in portrait orientation or tilting your head sideways when the tablet is in landscape mode. We tried it, and the iPad unlocked as swiftly as Face ID on iPhones.

We’re baffled why Apple would axe the headphone port on the iPad Pro.

In portrait orientation, the volume rocker sits on the right edge with the power button up top. The same quad-speaker setup is still here, but there’s a crucial component missing — a headphone jack. While we’ve come to terms with the omission on the iPhone, we’re baffled as to why Apple would axe the headphone port on the iPad Pro. It supposedly targets musicians, and we can’t imagine they’ll take this well.

Apple has we moved around the smart connector, which is how accessories like the Smart Keyboard connects to the iPad. It’s now on the back. The Smart Keyboard also got a revamp — there are now two viewing angles, but we’re still not fans of the typing experience. It’s also too expensive at $200 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and $179 for the 11-inch. If you want to use the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, that puts the total cost close to $1,000 for the smallest iPad Pro. That’s a lot!

A much-improved Apple Pencil

The original Apple Pencil worked well, but there wasn’t an easy way to keep track of it. It was easy to misplace because there’s no good way to store it on the iPad. Apple has fixed that with the second-generation, though it means the new Apple Pencil is only compatible with the new iPad Pro, according to Apple’s website.

The new Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to the right side of the iPad Pro (when held in portrait). The magnetic connection is strong, and it doesn’t feel as though the Pencil will easily break away. As soon as it connects, you’ll see a notification on the iPad indicating so, which also means the Pencil pairs with the iPad and will automatically start charging wirelessly. It’s much more elegant than charging the Pencil with the Lightning port on older iPads.

The Apple Pencil feels more like a pencil than ever before.

We love the feel of the new Pencil. It feels more like its namesake. Writing on the iPad is natural, and everything feels responsive. You can now double tap any part of the Pencil to swap to the eraser when drawing or writing (or the last used tool), and this action is customizable and open to third-party developers. Tap the screen of the iPad, and it will automatically launch the Notes app. That’s a nice touch.

These improvements come at a cost. The new Apple Pencil costs $30 more at $129. Yep. Another price hike, one that comes alongside a higher price for the iPad Pro itself.

120Hz display, unrivaled performance

The iPad Pro’s display is breathtaking, using Liquid Retina LCD technology similar to the iPhone XR. The 12.9-inch offers 2,732 x 2,048 resolution, while the 11-inch model packs 2,388 x 1,668. ProMotion technology delivers a screen with a refresh rate of 120Hz, meaning you see incredibly smooth scrolling and an overall more responsive experience. It’s excellent, and while we’ll be doing more testing in our review, we expect to be impressed and think you will be, too.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The iPhone XS and XR have unrivaled performance thanks to the A12 Bionic processor. Apple has taken that up a notch with the A12X Bionic powering the new iPad Pro devices. There’re eight cores, and the neural engine is present for speedy machine learning. You won’t have an issue with performance.

Apple says you should expect twice the graphics performance of last year’s iPad Pro, saying it performs better than the Xbox One S console. However, if Apple’s going to make comparisons to video game consoles, it should make sure it has console-quality games on iOS, like NBA 2K. It has the best mobile games — that’s undeniable — but we’d like to it run more AAA titles, like Civilization VI, which arrived on the iPad last year.

Apple iPad Pro (2018) Compared To

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

ReMarkable tablet

Apple 10.5‑inch iPad Pro

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

LeapFrog epic

LG G Pad 10.1

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Dell Latitude 10

Acer Iconia Tab W700

Motorola Xyboard 8.2

Lenovo IdeaPad K1

BlackBerry PlayBook

The iPad Pro comes in a variety of storage sizes, from 64GB for the base model to 1TB. The price for the new iPad devices has jumped, and we think Apple should get rid of the 64GB option and make the 128GB the base size.

Battery, USB-C, and camera

Apple said the iPad Pro should last all day, and we’ll certainly be testing that, but the biggest improvement is the addition of a USB-C charging port instead of a Lightning connector. That means you can use the iPad Pro to charge your iPhone via a USB-C to Lightning cable, and you can connect the iPad to external displays. It’s a long-overdue feature, but we’re happy it’s finally here.

More from Apple


The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why


New Macs, a faster iPad Pro, and higher prices – Here’s what Apple announced


The new Mac mini gets six cores, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a huge price jump

Apple didn’t say much about the camera in the iPad. Your phone camera is likely better, so you shouldn’t use the tablet to take photos. Still, it’s used for augmented reality applications, so it’s worth mentioning. It’s a 12-megapixel camera on the rear with a f/1.8 aperture, and it supports the new Smart HDR feature Apple introduced on the iPhone XS. The 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera can be used to take Portrait Mode photos, so you can create and send Memojis and Animojis.

Price and availability

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999. That’s a big price jump considering the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro cost $650. That’s without accessories like the Apple Pencil or the Smart Keyboard.

The new iPads are expensive, yes. But in the announcement video, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said the 2018 iPad Pro is “like a computer, but unlike any computer.” This is tablet is calling itself a legitimate laptop replacement, and we’ll be testing it that way. There’s so much you can do with the iPad Pro that it really does feel unlike any other computer.

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