Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

End users aren't your enemy! Kolide gets users to fix their own device compliance problems–and unsecure devices can't log in. Click here to learn how.

By Jason Snell

The case for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro (right) next to its 9.7-inch predecessor.

I’ve made no secret of my love of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Most of the time I’ve spent with the new iPad Pro models has been that larger edition, which is still pretty swell, thank you very much. But I wouldn’t recommend the larger model to most people. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which manages to cram more screen space into a device that’s not appreciably larger than the old 9.7-inch model, is clearly the more mainstream choice.

When a device is as (relatively) light as an iPad Pro, a little bit of overall weight difference can seem humongous as a percentage. This is my way of saying that losing half a pound from a pound-and-a-half product is a big deal. That’s the reality with the iPad Pro: The larger model weighs in at 1.51 pounds (685 grams); the smaller model is 1.04 pounds (473 grams). The bigger model weighs half again as much. It makes a difference.

Personally, I’m not bothered by the weight of the 12.9-inch model, though. It’s the dimensions that make it unwieldy. Even now I still find them somewhat cumbersome to carry—at 8.68-by-12 inches (221-by-306 millimeters), that’s a pretty broad surface, and when you grab it at one end, the leverage of the weight across the device makes it feel heavy and unstable in a way the smaller model never, ever does.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s surface area does make it a much better device to type on than the previous 9.7-inch model. The new Smart Keyboard is excellent, and I liked the one on the 9.7-inch model a lot. Bigger letter keys make a huge difference when it comes to typing, and the 10.5-inch model delivers. I was able to type at essentially full speed on the 10.5-inch Smart Keyboard, with the iOS app TapTyping registering me at a full 115 words per minute.

I read digital comics a lot on my iPad, and while the 10.5-inch model has about 560,000 more pixels than the old 9.7-inch iPad, it’s not the ultimate comic-book-reading iPad—that’s still the 12.9-inch model. But all the comics I tried to read on the iPad Pro 10.5 were readable without needing to zoom and pan, and a definite upgrade from the older model.

…The case against?

It’s not just the extra screen size, it’s the extra pixels. In landscape orientation, the 12.9-inch model can show two iPad apps, side by side, in their iPad (portrait mode) layouts. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro can’t quite manage it.

Every app behaves differently when put in different size configurations; for some apps, the difference between the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models is almost nonexistent. For others, it can make a big difference. After a year and a half using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the screen of the 10.5-inch model just feels… cramped. It’s better than the old 9.7-inch model, to be sure, but everything’s squashed a little bit more tightly in order to get it to fit.

Although the software keyboard on the 10.5-inch model is slightly wider than that on its 9.7-inch predecessor, I didn’t find that I could type appreciably faster. The 12.9-inch model, which is so big that it can offer a full-sized software keyboard including number row, has a huge advantage when it comes to typing with fingers on glass.

I’m also disappointed in the lack of good third-party keyboard/case support for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro model. The Logitech Create case for the 9.7-inch model was really great—but the Logitech case for the 10.5-inch model has a different design philosophy and is, by most accounts, not very good. It’s a shame.

The brilliance of the latest generation of iPad Pro is that both models are equally capable at pretty much everything. The weird feature disparity between the first-generation models is gone. These models are the same iPad, with just one difference: you can pick the bigger or smaller screen, depending on whether you’d rather have a larger screen or a lighter device in your hand.

As someone who always preferred the 11-inch MacBook Air to the 13-inch model, I find it peculiar that I’ve gravitated to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I suspect the reason is that, on a touch-based device like the iPad, having more space to see and touch the interface appeals to me. I think I still prefer the 12.9-inch model for that reason, but the 10.5-inch screen on the smaller iPad Pro verges on being large enough to eliminate any doubts.

I think I’ve decided to stick with the 12.9-inch model, but it’s a close thing. And I think for most people, the 10.5-inch model is the right iPad to buy. It’s easier to carry, its accompanying Smart Keyboard is much lighter, and its screen is big enough to satisfy most people. It’s the one to get.

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors