By Dan Moren
June 16, 2017 11:01 AM PT
Thoughts on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
These days I replace my iPhone pretty much every year, thanks to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. But my iPad gets swapped out much less frequently—perhaps every couple years. A major reason for that is that over the past few years, it’s seemed like the pace of iPad improvement had slowed a bit, along with the sales. But when the company unveiled the 10.5-inch model at this year’s WWDC, I found myself once again subject to the upgrade siren song.
My previous model was a refurbished iPad Air 2, and it remains a very capable machine. There’s not a lot that you can throw at the Air 2 that it won’t handle, and the initial improvements in the Pro line—the Smart Connector, the display colors, the louder speakers—hadn’t been enough to persuade me to upgrade. But add in the larger screen in the 10.5-inch model, ProMotion, better support for Apple Pencil, processor improvements, well, yeah, you had a machine that was a substantial bump over what I was using.
So after a few days using the 10.5-inch, where am I at?
I love it. Unqualifiedly. Let’s break down a few of the reasons why:
The form factor Rumor had it that Apple would try to fit the 10.5-inch display in the 9.7-inch iPad’s chassis. That’s not what ended up happening here: the 10.5-inch model is taller and wider than its predecessor, though, in truest of Apple fashions, no thicker. It’s also a little bit heavier as well—to the tune of 0.07lbs—and it remains not the most comfortable iPad to hold in one hand for long periods of time. (The mini still holds that crown, undisputed.)
The thinner side bezels look great and if it’s not as big a difference as between the original iPad’s form factor (last seen in the fourth-generation iPad) and the iPad Air, it’s still a nice improvement. There is an unsightly camera bump on the back now, but it’s a fair trade off for a much better camera and I’ve gotten plenty used to it on the iPhone.
The display As Jason said elsewhere, the new ProMotion feature, which brings a 120Hz refresh rate to the display, isn’t a jump on the order of Retina displays, but combined with TrueTone, wide color gamut, and the larger display? Yeah, this is a huge jump. For the first time in years, I had to change up my wallpaper because the old one—a picture shot with a digital camera back in 2005—just didn’t do it justice.
I’m not a particularly color sensitive person, but the new display definitely pops when it comes to colors; I don’t know how else to describe it. The fact there’s more of it, even if it’s not a huge jump from 9.7-inch iPad, certainly doesn’t hurt.
There’s been a lot of discussion of ProMotion, and there’s no question that it takes some getting used to. But after a couple days, my overriding impression is that this is the way iOS is meant to be seen. Animations and scrolling are smooth and zippy and they look and feel natural—it doesn’t even feel like you’re using a device.
Overall, when it comes to a bigger screen on an iOS device, that’s not only important because it’s more room to display content. Unlike on a Mac, the iOS display is also the control surface, which means more room for user interfaces. With multitouch (and especially multi-hand) being something that Apple stressed in iOS 11, a larger screen is certainly a benefit. Add in more real estate for using the Apple Pencil, and there’s little argument that the bigger screen is all upside.
Better speakers One of those things that I probably wouldn’t have put on a wishlist for my iPad, so used am I to listening on my headphones or a Bluetooth speaker, but the Pro’s speakers are impressively loud—almost too much so at max volume. I feel like I’d have little problem doing a Netflix binge without connecting my speakers. (It’s not about to become my go-to device for listening to music, though.)1
Better cameras I haven’t had much of an opportunity to play around with the cameras yet—I don’t take a lot of pictures with my iPad—but even at a glance it’s clear how much sharper and less grainy the Pro’s new camera is. No surprise, given that it’s the exact same camera in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (without the Plus’s second lens), complete with flash and support for Live Photos. Same goes for the FaceTime HD Camera. No longer do I have to switch over to my iPhone to get the best picture.
Faster Touch ID sensor One of the upgrades of the last few iPhone models that sometimes goes overlooked is the new Touch ID sensor. It’s marvelously fast and accurate, and it’s a great addition to the iPad as well. It seems to fail for me way less than the original Touch ID sensor.
I’m sure there’s much more to love in the new iPad, but a lot of the test will be when iOS 11 comes down the pike later this year, bringing new multitasking features and more. I have full faith that the iPad Pro will prove to be more than up to the task, and I look forward to waiting a few more years before my next new iPad.
- And hey, there’s still a headphone jack! ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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