Apple iPad Pro 10.5 is Apple's best tablet
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Apple iPad Pro 10.5 is Apple’s best tablet


What is the optimal size for an iPad? Is it 9.7 inches? 7.9? Maybe 12.9 is the right size?

No, the new sweet spot is 10.5 inches. 

That’s the new in-betweener size Apple come up with for its latest iPad Pro, which replaces the 9.7-inch model introduced a little over a year ago.

You can still buy a standard 9.7-inch iPad, but, after spending some time with this device, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Apple’s essentially reinvented its premiere tablet and instantly set the bar for tablet hardware.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro looks a lot like the 9.7-inch model. The aluminum chassis is, at 9.8 in. x 6.8 in., only slightly larger than the 9.7’s (9.44 in. x 6.6 in.). It’s also only an ounce or so heavier than the iPad Pro 9.7 (1.03 lbs. versus 0.96 lbs.). Quite a feat when you consider the screen is almost an inch larger. Apple did it by significantly decreasing the bezel surrounding the screen. They even shifted the Touch ID button a bit to accommodate the larger screen. Aside from moving the microphones from their position near the camera to the top edge where the antenna sits, Apple left the design virtually untouched.

Here's how you make a bigger screen without making the tablet much bigger: Cut down the bezels, a lot.

Here’s how you make a bigger screen without making the tablet much bigger: Cut down the bezels, a lot.

Image: lili sams/mashable

The rear camera, which sticks out a couple of millimeters from the base, is the exact same one you’ll find on the iPhone 7 (and slightly larger than the one on the iPad Pro 9.7). Apple did add a couple of megapixels to the front-facing Facetime camera (not insignificant when you consider how often these tablets are used for Facetime calls).

On display

Even though the iPad 10.5’s larger Retina screen offers, at 264 ppi, the same pixel depth resolution as the smaller one, it does use the extra screen real estate to add hundreds of pixels. The 9.7 Pro had a 2048-by-1536, while the iPad Pro offers a 2224-by-1668 resolution. 

You get more pixels and you get more pixels and you get more pixels (but the PPI stays the same).

You get more pixels and you get more pixels and you get more pixels (but the PPI stays the same).

Image: lance ulanoff mashable

However, at a deeper level, this is a very different display and does something virtually unheard of in the mobile display market: it manages refresh rates on an in-app basis, meaning, the number of times the screen redraws per second will adjust based on the needs of the app — moment-to-moment. Apple calls this feature ProMotion and it has built silicon and rearchitected the display down to its liquid crystal elements to support it.

It sounds incredible and I can tell you that everything on the Retina display (which is also 20% brighter) looks good and moves smoothly, but I also can’t tell when or if the refresh rate is adjusting. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t, but the human eye usually only detects when there is something wrong with a moving image like stuttering, dropped frames or image tearing. I saw none of that. Is that ProMotion at work? Maybe. However, in side-by-side tests with the 9.7 Pro model, I didn’t detect a noticeable difference.

These benchmarks are stunning.

These benchmarks are stunning.

Image: Geekbench

In addition, the iPad Pro 10.5-inch’s smooth, effortless response to virtually every task is certainly also attributable to the new A10X Fusion mobile CPU and the 4 GB of RAM (double what you get in the iPad Pro 9.7).

Benchmark numbers for this chip were off the charts. It’s single and multi-core scores beat my Intel Core i5 Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

In practice, the A10X Fusion supported fluid gaming with AsphaltXtreme and the Escher-influenced Monument 2, image deformation and animation in Plotograph, pro-level photo editing in Affinity Photo and 3D manipulation in Shapr3D.

Apple's A10X Fusion Chip has enough power to  swiftly handle complex photo editing tasks. Affinity Photo has Photoshop-level power that it ably squeezes into a touch, tablet interface.

Apple’s A10X Fusion Chip has enough power to  swiftly handle complex photo editing tasks. Affinity Photo has Photoshop-level power that it ably squeezes into a touch, tablet interface.

Image: Affinity Photo

I also spent considerable time drawing with the Apple Pencil ($99 and not included) in Procreate on the iPad Pro 10.5. This is one area where ProMotion could have the most impact. Tablet drawing only works if the digital ink appears to flow from the physical stylus (or finger if you choose to draw that way). Refreshing the screen at up to 120 Hz and reducing lag time to imperceptible milliseconds, could help the iPad Pro achieve that effect.

I had no complaints about the drawing speed in the previous iPad Pro (9.7 and 12.9) and I certainly don’t have any here. Pressure, angle, and tilt are all recognized and I can’t remember a moment where the virtual media didn’t appear to flow out of the tip as soon as I put Pencil tip to screen. 

Drawing with the Apple Pencil on the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a pleasure.

Drawing with the Apple Pencil on the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a pleasure.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Instead, the more I drew, the more I appreciated the larger screen. I’ve had a great time drawing on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but that 1.5 lb. device is a bit of a beast to carry around. The 9.7 was a god-send and now I feel like I get all the benefits of that reduced scale and weight, while only giving up a smaller fraction of the screen real estate. Awesome way to split the difference, Apple.

Camera ready

I used to make fun of people who took pictures with their iPads and I still think they look ridiculous, but I can see the utility for business. Imagine being a realtor and wanting to quickly capture and manipulate house photos. The 12 MP, 4K-ready, optical-image-stabilized iPad Pro 10.5 camera is an excellent mobile shooter and captures clear, color-accurate photos and smooth, distortion-free video. You can shoot up to 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Accompanying the 12 MP camera is a Quad LED flash and, for selfies, the Retina screen will flash bright white to give you face a more natural look.

Like the iPad Pros before it, this one offers loud, four-speaker audio, which is excellent for movies and games, though I prefer listening with my AirPods. There’s still a 3.5 mm jack if you own traditional headphones.

One thing I am a little surprised about is that Apple is still using an old-school, physical Touch ID button – one that still moves. In fact, 3D touch is nowhere to be found in the iPad line. Perhaps their large chassis don’t support the taptic engine. That engine is, on the iPhone, a tiny haptic motor hidden under the screen that moves and tricks the user into feeling movement where there is none.

The 12 MP camera takes excellent photos.

The 12 MP camera takes excellent photos.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

And you get the big, 10.5-inch screen as your viewfinder.

And you get the big, 10.5-inch screen as your viewfinder.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

The iPad Pro 10.5 does include a smart connector, three copper connectors along one long edge of the tablet that are used to connect to a Smart Keyboard.

Apple made a new, larger Smart Keyboard ($159, not included) for this tablet. It still has the same taffeta-covered keys, but they are slightly larger and more spread out, giving you what is, essentially, a full-sized keyboard. It does improve the typing experience quite a bit, though I will always prefer Microsoft’s Surface Type Cover keyboard, which separates the keys from the surrounding fabric for a more satisfying typing feel.

The iPad Pro 10.5 turns into an effective productivity device when paired with the Smart Keyboard.

The iPad Pro 10.5 turns into an effective productivity device when paired with the Smart Keyboard.

Image: Lili sams/mashable

The slightly larger keys and more open layout definitely improve the typing experience.

The slightly larger keys and more open layout definitely improve the typing experience.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Interestingly, the original Smart Keyboard works with the new iPad Pro 10.5 and the new Smart Keyboard works with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. 

I also noticed that the tablet leans back a bit more on this cover when it’s in typing mode. It’s not a lot, but just enough to make it a little less uncomfortable to stare down at the screen for extended periods of time. I would love a fully adjustable stand (like on a Surface Pro), but this is a start.

Battery life is still a solid 10 hours, though your mileage may vary depending on what tasks (and how many) you put the tablet through on any given day.

Now the tablet leans a little further back on the Smart Keyboard. It's an improvement.

Now the tablet leans a little further back on the Smart Keyboard. It’s an improvement.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Right now, the iPad can multi-task with two apps at a time, but come this fall, the iPad Pro will get a huge update courtesy of iOS 11. I’m truly sad that the update wasn’t included to test with this new tablet. It adds productivity-friendly features like multi-tasking with up to three apps, true drag and drop, and the new Files application that basically adds a Windows Explorer-like file-management features to iOS and the iPad Pro. 

If you do buy the iPad Pro this summer, just be prepared for a very significant update in the fall.

Since Apple reduced the price of the base iPad down to $329 (32 GB Wi-Fi), there’s now a considerable cost difference between it and the new iPad Pro 10.5, which starts at $649 for a 64 GB Wi-Fi only version. 

The less expensive iPad has its place. It’s an excellent deal for students and educators and probably the best choice for pure content consumers. 

However, if you create or are considering using a tablet for work, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the iPad Pro 10.5. It’s Apple’s best tablet. 

Apple iPad Pro 10.5

The Good

Bigger screen Incredible CPU Excellent design Great 12 MP camera

The Bad

Base price does not include Smart Keyboard or Apple Pencil.

The Bottom Line

This is Apple’s best iPad ever and is easily one of the best tablets on the market.

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June 12, 2017
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