Despite being consistently one of the best tablets on the market, the iPad Pro has often felt like it’s struggled to justify its existence. Between being what many consider to be an over-sized iPhone, or a more limited MacBook, the iPad Pro lineup has long needed a spark.
And yet despite that, iPad's remain the household name when it comes to tablets. Much like your grandma used to call all video games consoles "Nintendo", these days we still have people who call any tablet an iPad, such was the impact of this ground-breaking device when it's first version launched. But does the iPad Pro still deserve this kind of adulation, or has it been overtaken by the upstarts from Samsung and Amazon?
With 2018’s redesign and the addition of the tablet-focused iPadOS in 2019, the iPad Pro is in a better place than it’s ever been – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy one.
iPad Pro review: Design
- Available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes
- Space grey and Silver color options
Apple has long wanted consumers to feel like the iPad line of devices are a mystical piece of glass that can become whatever they want it to be, and the latest iPad Pro models feel as close as they’ve come in that regard.
Available in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, both offer a rounded ‘liquid retina display’ that offers incredible color accuracy, as well as ‘ProMotion’ that adjusts the refresh rate of the screen depending on the content being displayed. That means whatever you’re doing on the iPad Pro, there’s no slowdown and everything is buttery smooth.
There’s no home button on this model, with the bezels being made much thinner, with a FaceID camera at the “top”. We use quotation marks because honestly, FaceID has a magical way of unlocking your device regardless of which way you hold it. There’s also a rear camera, too.
Available in both Space Gray and Silver options, storage options go from 64GB to a whopping 1TB. One side offers a volume rocker and the top has a lock button, while the bottom offers a single USB-C port.
iPad Pro review: Performance
- Powerful hardware
- Great screen and speakers - perfect for Netflix
There’s no other way to say this – the iPad Pro is a beast when it comes to handling any task, whether that’s a simple browse of social media all the way up to editing a video or playing an intensive game.
In fact, the A12X Bionic chip inside runs rings around many Windows laptops, and many of Apple’s MacBook Pros (opens in new tab), too – despite the iPad Pro weighing less than half a kilo. Factor in advanced graphics capabilities for both gaming and more intensive tasks, and you’ve got a portable device that doesn’t skimp on power.
Both screen sizes have their benefits, but if you’re likely to do a lot of typing we’d opt for the 12.9-inch. For one, the on-screen keyboard is much larger, offering more comfortably arranged keys, but the additional Smart Keyboard Folio accessory also offers extra comfort (more on that later).
While neither the 11-inch or 12.9-inch are bulky, they aren’t likely to be your go-to camera device. That said, both offer identical 12MP cameras on the rear that are capable of 4K video, and the 7MP FaceID camera offers animoji and memoji capabilities.
Each corner of the iPad Pro houses a speaker, offering stereo output and surprisingly deep sound when you’re binging on Netflix (opens in new tab) content or your latest podcast obsession.
The USB-C port is a big step in the right direction, which much more utility offered than the previous Lightning port but it isn’t without its issues. For one, while you can connect DSLR cameras directly for photo importing, as well as USB-C thumb drives, some simply won’t work. Expect Apple to keep refining this as time goes on, but for now, it’s inconsistent. If you’ve got the right cable, though, you can charge your iPhone from it.
Perhaps more so than any other Apple product, the iPad Pro’s utility is somewhat dependent on the accessories you pick up for it. The Apple Pencil has been redesigned to charge magnetically on the side of the device, and offers a way to draw, sign documents, or just prod around in apps when you’re bored of tapping.
Then there’s the Smart Keyboard Folio, an attachment that offers a solid keyboard and two viewing angles for the iPad. Both are sold separately, so if you’re looking to use the iPad Pro as a graphics tablet or laptop replacement, it’s an expense to keep in mind (although you can pair the device with any Bluetooth keyboard).
All of the above was true of the iPad Pro when it was revised in 2018, but one of the big draws here is iPadOS. This offshoot of iOS finally offers some tablet-focused features that make the iPad Pro feel more like a laptop replacement than ever before. There’s finally a file-browser, which means storing documents and accessing Google Drive and Dropbox folders is a much easier process.
Speaking of Google, Safari now offers desktop-class browsing and means you could feasibly use the browser to work on Google Docs and Sheets.
Then there’s improved multitasking, the ability to open two instances of the same app (like two notes to cross-reference) and the ability to pin widgets to your home screen. These sound like minor additions, but all-in-all it adds up to the most satisfying tablet experience around – even if the lack of a home button will mean learning some new gesture controls that take some time to get used to.
iPad Pro review: Battery Life
Apple suggests that both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models offer 10 hours of web surfing on WiFi, while versions with 4G offer an hour less but improved connectivity options.
As with any device, battery life is dictated by what you’re doing. If you’re browsing social media or typing out a document or two, you’ll be able to go a full working day, whereas editing in Photoshop or Lumafusion is likely to cut that in half.
iPad Pro review: Price/Value for Money
As you’d imagine by the Apple logo on the back, the iPad Pro isn’t cheap. The base 64GB 11-inch version will set you back $799, while the same storage but larger screen size starts at $999.
That’ll likely push many consumers towards the iPad Air or even the standard iPad which are both priced considerably lower. In fact, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a higher storage capacity will cost more than a 13-inch MacBook. If you’re likely to need a keyboard and/or Apple Pencil, things can quickly add up.
Should I buy the iPad Pro?
While the iPad Pro did not receive any new upgrades in 2019 (aside from the new operating system), Apple has just announced the latest iPad Pro model, which we'll be reviewing soon. That might knock prices down on this older model, which makes it a much more tempting prospect.
That makes it a little bit more of a ‘wait-and-see’ than a ‘must buy’, especially when factoring in the price. If you really must have a tablet, the iPad Pro is a sensational piece of tech. If you’re looking for value for money, though, we’d recommend an Apple laptop instead.