Apple has seen a lot of success with the iPad Pro line already. The series represents quality, features and technology. But more than all of that, it represents the change in stance – a tablet as great as it is a consumption vehicle, now attempts to transcend into laptop space. And this transformation is paramount – for the entire product category to sustain.
The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 launched in September 2015 was very well received, but Apple realised that size wasn’t everybody’s bailiwick. Introspection on the lines of usability, and of course that most people preferred tablets to be portable – one didn’t always need a tablet that was the size of an aircraft carrier, or the international space station, led them to be more realistic.
So, they’ve just concocted the same magic, in the more palatable 10-inch frame.
They call it the iPad Pro (we’re having to add the ‘9.7’ to help you distinguish between the Pro’s).
The iPad Pro 9.7 is smaller but just as powerful as the one on the bigger brother; the display feels better thanks to the same pixel density in a smaller frame.
But we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s do this the right way – head over to our Display section to begin discovering the Apple iPad Pro 9.7!
This part is exciting.
Lets start with the basics first – The newest Apple iPad Pro has a 9.7 inch Retina display with 264 ppi (the same as that of the iPad Pro 12.9) and the iPad Air 2. Pretty much the same old story here isn’t it? So why the excitement? Allow me elaborate.
The iPad Pro 9.7 may have the same specs as that of the other two iPads mentioned earlier, but this is the area where it actually is the most different!
The display of the Pro 9.7 blows earlier displays out of the water; Apple has introduced three new elements that come together to create the best display ever, not just on a tablet.
They’ve improved upon the anti-reflective coating, they’ve moved to a wider color gamut and introduced something called a True Tone display on the new iPad.
Let’s start with True Tone – the company has used that moniker before, with reference to the LED flash on the iPhones (since the iPhone 5s), but this is the first time the technology has been used on a screen!
What Apple has done is to build on the Night Shift mode introduced in iOS which plays with the quantity of yellow and blue light powering the screen. Apple has used two ambient light sensors to detect the color temperature of the environment around you, day or night, and uses that input to adjust the iPad Pro (9.7)’s display to match the temperature and shade of light similar to how your eyes adjust biologically.
The difference it makes to the screen, although very subtle (by design), is undeniable. To test it, you could use another phone or iPad – you’ll be surprised by the difference between a standard display and this one. Regular displays seem too blue, all of the time.
Yet, this technology is not always useful though. If you need natural colours on your screen (for example to enjoy photos, or to edit them, or even while watching movies) you will have to turn it off. So, its best used while reading or browsing the internet.
That said, the new colours are far more soothing to the eyes than the regular blue-tinted screens. You can spend far more time on this tablet, and yet come away not even 30% as fatigued! Like Night Shift, you forget about the colour modulation in just a few minutes of usage. In fact, this tech really needs to get to every device out there – it is one of the things that nobody expects to need, but every one loves once they have it.
Moving on, the colour gamut too has been improved by 25% and Apple claims this display to be the first to use the same colour space as the cinema industry.
Professional tests yield that the new screen covers an excellent 98.2% sRGB colour gamut, with fantastic contrasts and the lowest black points on an LCD panel. All this is helped by the fact that the screen is much brighter than the iPad Air 2’s screen. Apple uses a new backlighting array that plays hero in a double role – in providing the highest ever brightness and also the widest ever colour gamut on a tablet!
In fact, while Apple states that the device has 500 nits of brightness, it actually rides all the way up to 520 nits all by itself, when the sensors assess that you’re in really bright surroundings. This puts it at the top of our brightness list for tablets, and that’s no small feat.
And since the screen comes with a new low-reflective surface that relies on disambiguating light differently, this bright, light-absorbent screen improves outdoor visibility significantly even under direct sunlight. The iPad Pro (9.7) is much more legible, irrespective of where you are.
In short, this is a truly wonderful display unit and easily the best screen ever, on a tablet. In fact, it currently beats the iPad Pro (12.9) hands down!
The iPad Pro 9.7 looks a lot like the iPad Air 2. The latter also shared a lot of resemblance with the iPad Pro 12.9. That’s three devices released at different times, that all look alike. This is something we do not usually encounter with Apple devices.
To clarify further let me express the context of the statement. Apple has primarily been assoiciated with innovation above anything else, then comes quality and then everything else.
Now we experienced a spell like this with Apple during the iPhone series previous to the iPhone 6. The designs of three to four consecutive devices were essentially the same. Something similar seems to be happening with the iPad series.
The device does stand out with its glistening chamfers and to be honest, the device does look very good as it were. It has that high-end, classy and expensive look to it.
The iPad Pro is all aluminum and glass. At the front sits the 9.7 inch display. Below the display is the iconic home button which also houses the fingerprint sensor. The device is 6.1 mm thick and weighs in at around 437 g. These statistics suggest that this an extremely light and thin tablet. Well, yes it is, and in addition the weight is perfectly balanced too.
Apple seems to have gotten comfortable with the design philosophy and seems reluctant to change it. This is not a bad thing because it does have its perks and a lot of other companies do it. But it just doesn’t feel like Apple when you see different devices rolling out with the same design.
That’s what a lot of people are bemoaning. The newer iPad Pro looks like a twin of a leap-generation past. The iPad Pro (9.7) is the same size and weight as the iPad Air 2, but there are a few differences in terms of design but they are minimal.
First, the very subtle – the iPad Pro (9.7) has been strengthened inside-out, considering how much abuse tablets face these days, in being work devices, and game stations, and with kids. This is important, but discrete.
One of the more obvious changes is the inclusion of four speakers (like the bigger iPad Pro (12.9)), but interestingly, on the iPad Pro (9.7) has asymmetric speaker grilles – the two at the bottom are larger than those of the 12.9 inch model, while the two at the top are smaller than the 12.9’s. This is likely a customisation in honour of the lesser space inside the the 9.7’s smaller form factor.
Last, and most significantly the iPad Pro (9.7) is the first tablet from Apple to do incorporate the simple, linear antennae as found on the iPhones 6 and 6s. There’s no more of the plastic window at the top that encased the wireless radios. This unibody effect is much more pleasing aesthetically and it makes the device that much more classy since it appears more designed by form than function.
People would’ve liked to have seen a move to USB Type-C, but it was never really on the cards since Apple doesn’t have that kind of a port on any mobile device, yet (hopefully this may change in the future).
All in all, the iPad Pro (9.7) looks very cool – it is beautiful and classy and one look at it will make you absolutely sure that this is a product that’ll last. Also, the way the device feels in your hands is very very comforting – very compact and comfortable to hold. with all metal body and amazing finish that we’ve come to expect from Apple and no one else has been able to match!
Thumbs up to Apple in the design arena. The design is a winner despite the fact that it is repetitive.
Oh! You can also get the iPad Pro (9.7) in Rose Gold if that’s your blend!
Let’s start with a definitive fact – the iPad Pro (9.7) run circles around it’s brother, the full-function, 13 inch MacBook Pro!
Apple’s Pro tablets come with a background of a performance boost, basis some amazing circuitry. They carry Apple’s high-end A9X SoC, which includes the M9 co-processor to enable the always-on Siri mode. There are two 2.2 GHz Apple Twister cores.
So this dual-core A9X processor is based on the A9 chip that powers the iPhone 6S, with a more capable 12-core PowerVR graphics processor to drive the extra pixels. But surprisingly, Apple saw fit to reduce the RAM down to 2 GB (from the 4 GB found on the iPad Pro (12.9).
2 GB of RAM? Really? well, this is a question I too find myself asking but it is not worth pondering about when you read on further.
The RAM seems to be managed by the iOS in the most effective way that I have seen yet. And the 9.7 version makes do with lesser memory bandwidth which is actually offset to some degree by the lower resolution of the screen, and hence lighter demands on the GPU and the main processors.
Professional testers have reported that although the 9.7 inch version consistently scores lower in memory benchmarks, the difference in performance to its bigger brother is not equivalent to the 50% drop in physical RAM. They surmise that Apple is electronically throttling the processors, as the smaller iPad has lesser surface area to dissipate heat.
In our (fairly stressful) usage the lesser amount of RAM did not really seem to make much of a difference in terms of real time use. The performance of the device was amazing. Opening up apps, closing them, switching to different apps, opening up multiple windows, browsing and scrolling through the net are tasks that will never ever bother you with this device.
CPU intensive tasks such as playing 4K videos and high-res photo editing also do not cause any stutter or slowdown and are lag free. We’re confident that this tablet can easily cope with the most graphically demanding mobile games available. In fact, if you are someone who constantly edits photos you will find this device very pleasing and could even consider using it as your primary device (depending upon if your photo editing workflow and habits are touch-capable).
On the battery front, Apple has always provided for at least 9-10 hours of usage time on their iPads. With the iPad Pro (9.7) they fitted a slightly smaller battery than that on the iPad Air 2. But not to worry, there’s easily enough for a day’s worth of usage from a single charge, provided you’re not using the Apple Pencil significantly (as that drains the battery a lot faster since a lot more sensors and processing units are involved, to stay up with the delicate nuances triggered by the Pencil). Recharge time to 100% has reduced from the iPad Pro (12.9)’s 5+ hours, down to 3.75 hours (which is a lot, though). Fast charging is certainly missed on tablets!
Finally, the price is somewhat of a downside here. The device comes with the 32 GB base storage option. For 128 GB, you’ll have to part with around INR 61,000, and 256 GB models cost a whopping INR 73,000 (approximately).
So – yet again, the performance of the iPad is spotless but you do have to consider the price for higher variants of storage.
The iPad Pro (9.7) runs the iOS 9.3 and while the 9.3 does not have a whole lot different to offer than iOS 9, this device will upgrade to the newer iOS 10 when it is released to the world later this year.
Having said that, there were a couple of new features introduced in iOS 9 which really seem to work perfectly with this device.
One of the features that seems very significant here is the Split Screen multi-tasking ability which has been called for a lot. One of the perks of using a tablet, theoretically, should be the ability to run two apps side by side and this feature on the iOS allows you to do just that.
While this feature is plenty useful it still feels like an early version, one that requires some work to be done on the future. Also the apps that you intend to open side by side must support this feature.
Let me give an example. Apps like Google Docs and Netflix do not support this feature, yet. Also you will not be able to open two Safari windows side by side.
There’s also a Slide Over feature in iOS 9 which lets you pull a separate app out momentarily – to check the football scores on Twitter, for example, or quickly check your email without leaving Safari – and videos can be put into a floating box. Again, apps needs to support this. All you can say about this feature really is that it is not at a level where it can replace your laptop… but it still is a start.
There is another feature called the Night Shift which reduces the amount of blue that the screen throws at you. The display does not throw a lot of blue light to start with, but still, this is a nifty feature that may provide some relief to your eyes during the later hours of the day.
All in all, apart from these few features, there is nothing different here to the previous iOS versions that we’ve seen. I’m not being harsh – trust me. This is probably the best OS out there (maybe challenged functionally by Windows 10 to an extent), and it seems hand-built for the Pro level tablets, yet, it feels not new.
The best thing about this software though, is the RAM’ management for your apps. It really does not let the scaled down amount of RAM become a factor and ensures the overall consistent performance of the device.
Tablet cameras to me, have always been a lost cause. Not only is the technology from flagship smartphones not transitioned to their tablets – and that seems to be for good reasons too. Tablet photography is deemed impractical by almost all the sane-minded folks out there.
But that shouldn’t mean that Tablets shouldn’t have the capability to take decent photos, should the owners decide to utilise them for photographic purposes.
Thus Apple decided to take the high moral ground, once again – bucking the industry and it’s foster-child approach (perhaps with the exception of the Huawei MediaPad X2).
The iPad Pro 9.7 receives the entire camera tech from the vaunted iPhone 6s’ arsenal – there is a 12-megapixel camera on the back with f/2.2 aperture and the same 5-megapixel FaceTime HD sensor around the front. In fact, it is 4K capable as well!
This is a huge improvement over the previous iPads. Ironically, even the larger (and internally more spacious iPad Pro (12.9) doesn’t even have cameras as nice as those on the 9.7 – It relied on an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.2-megapixel selfie camera.
Not only does the higher resolution sensor enable Ultra HD video recording, but since the sensor is larger and has more pixels, you get extremely good quality photos in both, good and poor lighting. Using Apple’s latest SoC also allows for 1080p (120 frame) slow motion video and even Live Photos!
The shots pack a lot of detail and colour. The camera does suffer a little while capturing moving shots as it lacks optical image stabilization. The 4K video looks great and the device is powerful enough to shoot and edit it using iMovie. Impressive for a tablet.
When you compare the images from the iPad Pro 9.7 Pro to those of any other tablet, they’re in a completely different orbit. Android based tablets are unceremoniously let down by significantly inferior cameras, worse image signal processors, and rock bottom processing – to the point where you basically can’t use them to take photos in low light.
The front camera also packs enough punch to enable you to click some really good selfies and also provides a good face time experience. The iPad Pro is also blessed with Retina Flash that causes the screen to flare up, make it cast a super bright, but tone-balance glow on your face, to make sure that you’re perfectly lit when you’re taking a selfie.
In summary, the iPad Pro (9.7) is undeniably, irrefutably, the best tablet camera around.
Entertainment on this device is simply superb.
To compliment the wonderful display and processor horsepower, Apple’s provided an equally good set of speakers placed strategically at the top and the bottom of the device.
Like the iPad Pro (12.9), there are four speakers on this device, two on the top and two along the bottom. While the audio quality does seem to be a step down from the larger iPad Pro (12.9), yet it is still miles ahead of anything else on a non-Apple tablet of this size. In fact the speaker set up is a significant improvement from even the iPad Air 2.
Movies, TV shows, home videos – all sound louder, and music sounds deeper, richer and more consistent. The iPad Pro (9.7) is the second-best tablet for listening to music without headphones since it is at least 3 times as loud as the iPad Air 2!
Apple once again shows how simple thought, can be used to harness technology to change user experience significantly – Apple uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to understand the orientation you’re using the device in and then uses the two speakers at the top of that orientation for spatial separation (stereo) audio, and the bottom two speakers to deliver low-frequency sounds. This jugal-bandi, along with the superb display makes video watching a simply amazing experience.
Also, all of this helped by the spot on performance of the device. And due to all of the above factors the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 is a solid entertainment unit.
If you’re used to contemporary Apple devices, then you’d understand when we say you’re well catered for, on the Business and Security front.
The device can set up on professional Wi-Fi, emails and even remote printers right from within the OS (with no need for any additional Apps or configuration). However if work requires additional security then the iOS enables Enterprise-grade “Profiles” to be created and managed by your organisation’s IT admin.
From a device security standpoint, Apple supports you with a brilliant Find-And-Lock a misplaced device routine. For data and identity security, there is a fingerprint sensor integrated in the home button.
The performance of this sensor is satisfactory but it still would have been good to see the one used on the iPhone 6S used here as well – as it is the faster one and far more efficient.
That said, the fingerprint sensor (called Touch ID) is integrated with Apple Pay, too – so you can authorise in-app payments quickly. There’s no NFC on this tablet, so you cannot use Apple Pay in store (should you be in a country that accepts Apple Pay – India still doesn’t), but given the size of the tablet, this really wouldn’t make sense..
Well, the iPad Pro (9.7) is a cracker of a device, but for it to transcend from being a ‘play’ machine to a more utilitarian one, it needs some limbs and muscles.
Those come a in the form of a couple of accessories – both of which are charged for separately.
The first of the two is called the Apple Pencil (which you can use with both, this device and the 12.9 inch Pro as well).
The Pencil is packed with a lot of technology in it’s lithe and simplistic looking form. It includes two sensors, that sense orientation and pressure, a brilliant, soft tip that works in tandem with the sensors, as well as an integrated battery. Which is why it is one of the most expensive styli in the world. In fact it costs upwards of INR 8,000!
Price aside, the Apple Pencil has been voted as the fastest, most responsive, and utterly accurate stylus ever. And with some special treatment to the iPads’ screens, and excellent integration of technology on the Pencil, feel like you’re actually drawing with a real pencil on a sheet of paper, capable of drawing incredibly fine lines and variations in darkness simply by varying pressure as you would with a regular pencil! In fact, it’s use is not limited to drawing/sketching, you could just as easily use it for note taking – so there’s use for it across all types of apps and use cases.
The other accessory is Apple’s Smart Keyboard (which also doubles as a smart case for the tablet). It connects to the tablet using magnetic connectors on the side of the tablet, which deliver power and enable data exchange. The keys are nice (a bit close together, but easy to get used to), and have a fairly laptop-like travel when pressed. In fact, with the keyboard in place, you can even use keyboard shortcuts to speed up typing and switching between apps.
The keyboard unlike the Pencil is specifically designed in context of the size of this device and hence is not compatible with any other. The keyboard costs you around INR 14,000 extra.
The Smart Keyboard comes with some downsides though – unlike Microsoft Surface’s Keyboard Apple’s version has no trackpad, hence you lose that functionality and have to rely on the iPad’s touchscreen or the keyboard’s cursor keys to move around. And my biggest peeve – it doesn’t have backlit keys which is a big miss as it reduces usability of the keyboard, significantly.