Apple has launched the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro to replace the now-defunct 9.7-inch iPad Pro. I tested the 512GB version during a long-haul flight for a working trip.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro looks similar to its 9.7-inch predecessor with the same sleek aluminium solid unibody chassis and chamfered edges. Apple has somehow managed to squeeze a bigger display into a chassis that has the same 6.1mm thickness of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. But, with the bigger screen, it is slightly wider and taller. Still, it can fit snugly into the tablet compartment of my laptop bag, which was designed for 9.7-inch iPads.
At 477g (Wi-Fi + 4G model), the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is only 33g heavier than the 9.7-inch version. But it is 0.8mm thinner and 215g lighter than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
The weight loss and smooth surfaces mean it is great to hold the 10.5-inch iPad Pro in your hands without fatigue setting in when using it, compared with the 12.9-inch model.
Like all iPad Pro models, it has four speakers - one at each of the four corners of its chassis. As a result, watching movies with the speakers turned on is as close to a cinematic experience as you can get on a tablet.
On paper, the slight 0.8-inch increase in screen size seems minimal. During actual use, I found it to be quite significant, especially when this iPad does not have the bulk of the 12.9-inch model.
Its 10.5-inch (2,224 x 1,668 pixels) display has the same pixel density and aspect ratio of its 9.7-inch predecessor, so developers don't need to rework their iPad apps.
It supposedly has the best anti- reflective coating in the industry. While some reflections are inevitable, I can't "see" myself while watching downloaded Netflix shows on a dark, long-haul flight.
PRICE: $968 (64GB Wi-Fi) to $1,618 (512GB Wi-Fi + 4G, the version tested)
OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS 10.3.2
PROCESSOR: A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture, M10 co-processor
DISPLAY: 10.5 inches, 2,224 x 1,668 pixels
CAMERA: 12-megapixel rear camera, 7-megapixel front-facing camera
WEIGHT: 469g (Wi-Fi), 477g (Wi-Fi + 4G)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
The display's ProMotion technology delivers refresh rates of up to 120Hz. In other words, the screen is updated 120 times per second. That's faster than you can blink.
Whether it is swiping, playing games or sketching on ProCreate, screen response is much smoother than in previous iPads.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has the same rear 12-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 7. But you will look silly if you use it to take photos during concerts.
But the better camera allows for future use of augmented reality (AR) when iOS 11 is out. For example, an upcoming Ikea app allows the use of AR to "place" furniture to see if it fits your living room.
The upgraded 7-megapixel front-facing camera means higher resolution. I was told during my FaceTime Web chats that picture quality was better than with my previous iPads.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is powered by the new Apple A10X Fusion chip that Apple claims is faster than the main processors in most other laptops.
The new model scores 4,144 (single-core) and 9,797 (multi- core) in the Geekbench 3 benchmark test. In comparison, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro scored 3,076 in the single-core test and 5,291 in the multi-core test. Its score is even faster than Apple laptops like the 2016 MacBook (multi- core: 4,782) and 2015 MacBook Pro (multi-core: 7,082).
There is no lag when playing the graphics-intensive games Implosion and Infinity Blade III. Textures are smooth and the lighting effects are fantastic. Using Pixelmator to edit photos and iMovie to edit videos was a breeze.
Perhaps, when the new iOS 11 comes along with native drag- and-drop and file management support, the 10.5-inch iPad Po could be your default "laptop".
In our intensive battery test (looping a 720p video with Wi-Fi switched on and the display at full brightness), it lasted 8hr 40min before the battery went flat. This is around 30min longer than the 9.7-inch version.
But, using it for checking e-mails regularly, typing interviews and reading news articles on Safari and the News app before sleeping, I found myself needing to charge the iPad only once every two days.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro has its own Smart Keyboard ($248). Its magnetic strip docks with the iPad Pro's Smart Connector. Folded, it works like Apple's Smart Cover to protect the display. Unfolded, it becomes a full-sized keyboard.
The iPad Pro and the Smart Keyboard, when docked, fit nicely on the tray table of an economy class seat. I was able to comfortably type this review during my long flight.
As with any iPad Pro, the 10.5-inch model works with the Apple Pencil ($148). With its ProMotion technology, there's no perceivable latency when I was sketching on ProCreate with the Apple Pencil.
•Verdict: Without a doubt, the Apple iPad Pro (10.5-inch) is the best tablet that you can get. It might be a tad pricey, especially when you add a Smart Keyboard. But, with its portability and performance, it is worth every cent you pay.