Apple's grown up tablet

The new iPad Pro,
PHOTO: The Straits Times

iPad Pro 9.7 inch review

I have used off and on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I like its size especially as a "portable TV" for catching up with all the TV programmes shown on iTunes. Reading the glossy digital magazines like Vanity Fair or Vogue becomes more enjoyable because the pages feel more like a real magazine.

But it is heavy to lug around and I can feel all of its 713 grams in my work bag. When Apple released the iPad Pro 9.7-inch - which weighs in under 450gm - I knew it would be a permanent fixture in my work bag.

Specs

Users can now choose from four colours instead of three. In addition to silver, gold, space grey, there is an exclusive colour for the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, Rose Gold. Prices for the 32GB iPad Pro starts from $898 for the wifi only and from $1098 for wifi and cellular model. There is no 64GB

I consider the iPad Pro 9.7-inch - which I will now call the Pro for this review - an upgraded Air 2. It has quad speakers and the latest A9 chip with 2GM of RAM powering it. In comparison, the Air 2 only uses an A8 chipset.

It is the same size as the iPad Air 2. It is a natural fit for two hands although it is quite comfortable to hold in one hand. It comes with the signature aluminium frame, Touch ID fingerprint scanning home button and a 9.7 inch retina display.

Key features

The Pro has a 2048x1536 resolution but better colour saturation. Apple introduced a new feature called True Tone which uses sensors to get a feel of the surroundings before adjusting the screen colour temperature. According to Apple, this makes looking at the screen for many hours more comfortable. But I didn't feel that way. Looking at a small screen for a long time, does make my eyes tire.

The big 12.9-inch Pro had quad speakers and sound. It is smart enough to know when I'm holding it horizontally or vertically, automatically adjusting the audio balance between the four speakers to maintain a consistent performance. It's the same with the Pro 9.7-inch. The sound is really loud and crisp.

Like its bigger sibling, the key accessory for the Pro is the Apple Pencil. It works like a charm especially when used with a good handwriting software like Microsoft OneNote. What I really liked about OneNote is that it can convert handwriting to text automatically. The handwritten notes can also be emailed as PDF files.

It's not all hand-me-down features from the big brother to the new and smaller sibling. Apart from True Tone display technology, the Pro has a new 12MP camera and can shoot 4K video which is rare for a tablet.

Can the iPad Pro 9.7-inch replace the laptop?

For people who use computers for no more than a couple of hours a day, the Pro is a good replacement for checking and writing e-mails and surfing the Web.

If you're like me who spend hours banging away on a keyboard, then the Pro isn't for you. I don't like the feel of typing on glass. Typing short emails is fine but not 1000 word articles. Besides, the Apple and other third-party keyboards are less than 10-inches wide. Often my shoulders feel pinched and tired after long hours of typing.

Conclusion

The iPad Pro sports the latest technologies which leaves me to conclude that Apple may terminate the iPad Air series. When the Pro arrived, Apple dropped prices of the Air which signals that change is coming.

Battery life is excellent, lasting more than 24 hours with steady use. It also re-charges in less than four hours.

If you're looking to buy an iPad, go for the iPad Pro 9.7-inch although you have to cough up at least $300 more. So it is not cheap with prices starting at more than $800 for a wifi only 32GB model. There is also no 64GB model. It is not for someone who is on a budget. But the Pro boasts the latest tablet features and is fast with crisp sound and brilliant display.

  • Grace Chng is a senior correspondent with The Straits Times who is a long-time Apple user and close observer of Apple.


This article was first published on April 26, 2016.
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