|Style & Handling|
|+ Lots of power||- Unwieldy|
|+Great for productivity||- Expensive|
|+ Impressive screen||- Not quite a laptop replacement|
Verdict: The iPad Pro is the most powerful tablet Apple has ever made and great if you want a slate for more than just entertainment.
The iPad range has long been the tablet king, offering a slick operating system, loads of apps and great hardware.
But it’s also been focussed more on entertainment and light productivity than as something that could rival a laptop. With the iPad Pro though Apple is muscling in on hybrid territory, competing with the likes of the Microsoft Surface Pro range. So does the iPad Pro have what it takes to compete or is Apple better off sticking with what it knows?
The design of the iPad Pro isn’t a million miles from that of the iPad Air 2 and other Apple slates. It has a slim metal shell, curved edges and that iconic circular home button with Touch ID embedded into it.
It is of course bigger though, coming in at 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm and a weighty 713g (or 723g for the 4G version). That makes it more of a pain to cart around with you. You’ll need a bigger bag than you would for an iPad Air 2, let alone the iPad mini 4 and it will weigh you down more too.
But to Apple’s credit it’s done what it can to minimize the impact of the extra screen size. For example the bezels are smaller here than on other iPads. It’s not something you’ll just throw in a bag without a second thought like smaller tablets, but it’s no bigger than it needs to be and it’s stylishly designed.
The iPad Pro has a huge 12.9-inch screen. That’s even bigger than the display on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, so this really is one of the largest tablets around.
That’s a double edged sword. It makes it great for reading, writing, drawing and watching movies, but it’s unnecessarily large for many apps.
The resolution of 2048 x 2732 gives it a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch, which is identical to what’s offered by the iPad Air 2. It’s pretty sharp then and it’s great quality too, displaying bright images that are full of colour.
Apple often undercooks the specs on its devices but with 4GB of RAM you can’t really say the same about the iPad Pro. It only has a dual-core processor, but it’s a powerful 2.26GHz Apple A9X one. This is easily the most powerful tablet Apple has ever made in fact and it needs to be if Apple wants to position it as a serious productivity device.
In practice performance is near perfect, even when running two apps side by side. The iPad Pro may not be quite as versatile as a laptop, but it certainly seems as powerful.
You shouldn’t really be taking pictures with a tablet, especially a 12.9-inch one. But if you’re happy to look stupid the 8MP snapper on the iPad Pro isn’t too terrible. Though you’ll still get far better results from any half decent smartphone.
The front-facing camera, which is arguably more useful here, is limited to 1.2MP. That’s a shame, but it’s adequate for the occasional selfie or video call.
With iOS 9.1 on board the iPad Pro has much the same interface as any other mobile Apple device. It’s slick, simple and likely to be familiar. But the simplicity of it is more of a weakness on the Pro, as it makes it less ideal for carrying out desktop tasks where you might quickly want to jump between tasks and apps.
That said, Apple has done its best to help you out. For one thing there are a selection of split-screen modes, allowing you to run two apps side by side or have a video open in a window while continuing to interact with another app.
The iPad Pro also supports the new Apple Pen and Smart Keyboard. If you plan to do any serious amount of typing then the Smart Keyboard or a third party alternative is vital and it works pretty well, but there’s no mouse or trackpad, so it can’t quite match up to the experience of working on a laptop.
The iPad Pro has a massive 10,307 mAh battery, but with a huge screen and a whole lot of power its life is if anything slightly worse than what you’ll get from the iPad Air 2.
It’s still good though, giving you up to around 10 hours of life on a single charge. For a normal tablet that would be plenty, but if you plan to use this as a proper work device then you’ll be using it a lot more heavily than a normal tablet and the life may seem less impressive as a result. Still, it exceeds most laptops.
Memory comes in at 32 or 128GB. Apple tends to miss out at least one useful size and here it’s 64GB which for some reason isn’t an option, but at least there’s no 16GB model, which on the iPad Pro would be borderline useless.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC (for Apple Pay). Opt for a cellular version and you’ll also get 3G and 4G support, though you’ll have to pay more for that.
The iPad Pro is a brilliant tablet and a strong competitor to the Surface range. Limitations in the interface and accessories mean it won’t be replacing your laptop, but it’s a lot more viable for working on than a normal iPad and still great for using apps and media.
If you don’t feel the need for a larger screen and don’t plan to work on it then the iPad Air 2 is probably a better choice. It’s smaller, lighter and more affordable. But if you want a powerful, versatile tablet and can stomach the price (£679+), then the iPad Pro is a brilliant option.