More than just an upsized iPad

More than just an upsized iPad
iPad Pro.
PHOTO: Reuters

The iPad Pro is Apple's newest and largest tablet with a huge 12.9-inch display that offers a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 pixels. The large display means the iPad Pro is most adept at multitasking, especially when using Split View - the mode where two apps take up half the display each. Even with two documents opened side by side, I had no problems reading text. However, one thing to note is that multitasking is only available for compatible apps, and there's no getting around the fact that it's a pretty restricted list yet.

Size aside, Apple has also made other improvements with regards to the display. To conserve power and to give the iPad Pro the same all-day battery life that users have come to expect from iPads, the iPad Pro's display supports a variable refresh rate. At times when the display isn't showing anything that is animated, the refresh rate drops to 30Hz. But the moment where there are videos or animations, the refresh rate gets bumped up to 60Hz for more fluid looking graphics.

In terms of design, the iPad Pro looks just like an upsized version of the iPad Air 2. But amazingly, weight is kept down to just 723g for the Wi-Fi and cellular version that we tested. This is the same weight as the very first iPad Steve Jobs introduced in 2010. The iPad Pro is also supremely thin. At 6.9mm thick, it is only slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 4, but thinner than an iPhone 6s.

The iPad Pro still has chamfered edges, but look around and you will notice speaker grilles at all four corners of the device. Apple has thoroughly upgraded the iPad Pro's audio system to make it a more capable device for listening to music and watching movies. The speaker units have special housing machined directly into the aluminium enclosure and have carbon fiber caps to produce deeper, fuller bass. Additionally, the iPad Pro will automatically adjust output depending on orientation such that the top

two speakers will always be responsible for producing the mid and high frequencies.

Of course, the new iPad Pro would not be complete without a new processor, and underneath the display is Apple's latest A9X mobile processor. In fact, the new A9X is so powerful that Apple claims that it is faster than 80 per cent of all portable PCs that were shipped in the past year.

In our SunSpider benchmark tests, the iPad Pro was over 37 per cent faster than the already very quick iPad Air. And on 3DMark, it recorded an improvement of over 55 per cent when compared to the iPad Air 2 and over 80 per cent when compared to the iPad Mini 4. It's simply a beast of a tablet.

However, you cannot have your cake and eat it. And what was disappointing about the iPad Pro was its battery life. Despite having a significantly larger battery than the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4, it recorded a battery life of 4 hours and 17 minutes - over an hour less than iPad Air 2 and nearly two and a half hours less than the iPad Mini 4.

In my time with the iPad Pro, I found it to be an extremely capable device for media consumption. The upgraded audio made watching movies more enjoyable and thanks to the large display, you'll feel like reading an actual magazine, and multitasking actually works for productivity apps.

Speaking of productivity, Apple has introduced two new accessories specially designed for the iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil is a stylus designed for digital artists and it is the best stylus I have ever used on any iPad. There is very little latency, is extremely precise and accurate, and thanks to sensors in the tip, can detect force and orientation for shading effects.

The other accessory is the Smart Keyboard, a portable keyboard and cover for the iPad Pro all rolled into one. Unlike iPad keyboards of old, the Smart Keyboard connects to and draws power directly from the iPad Pro using the Smart Connector. It has fullsized keys and a comfortable amount of travel making typing a joy.

All things considered, the iPad Pro is an excellent tablet. The larger display makes a big difference when it comes to multitasking, and had a profound impact on the way I consumed media. The only problem is its price. Beginning at $1,188 for the basic 32GB Wi-Fi only model, the iPad Pro commands a significant premium over older iPads. And unless you are an iPad power user, it's really hard to justify this over the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4.

CONCLUSION: The iPad Pro is an excellent tablet with a real use case, but its high price might turn people away.

Display

12.9-inch, 2,732 x 2,048 pixels resolution

Processor

Apple A9X

Storage

32GB, 128GB

Dimensions

305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm

Weight

713g

Price

$1,648

Tested and Rated: 8.5/10

This article first appeared in the Jan, 2016 issue of HWM.  HWM, Singapore's #1 tech magazine is available in both print and digital. Subscribe atwww.hardwaremag.com.

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