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9.7-inch iPad Pro review: Hits the sweet spot between size and price

Susie Ochs | April 4, 2016
You don't need to spend more on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro—the smaller model is a better size and isn't hampered by having half the RAM.

A funny thing happened while I was reviewing the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. I forgot my computer at home and only brought the iPad to work. This wasn’t intentional. I’m not doing the “Can the iPad Pro replace my laptop?” challenge. I tried that briefly with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and didn’t have the best results, constantly running into annoying little roadblocks and workarounds that slowed down my workflow.

The reason I didn’t notice that my laptop wasn’t in my backpack that morning is simple: I’m carrying two iPads right now, both the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and its big old 12.9-inch sibling, and the larger iPad Pro is almost as big as my laptop.

Yes, at 1.5 pounds, the big iPad Pro is lighter than my 2.4-pound 13-inch MacBook Air, but I didn’t feel those missing ounces in the context of the rest of the junk in my bag, and the footprint of the big iPad versus my laptop is nearly the same. I find the big iPad Pro unwieldy—I’d rather just bring my computer, thanks—but the new 9.7-inch version (starting at $599 at the Apple Store) is sized just right, and with nearly all the power, it’s definitely the iPad for me. (And, no, I didn’t notice the difference in RAM, but more about that later.)

Size matters

Even though the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the most powerful iPad I’ve ever used, after I was done reviewing it, I didn't take it anywhere. Most of the time, it just sat on my desk. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro (can we call them Lil Pro and Big Pro, please?) is sized like an iPad Air 2, and it weighs just a hair under a pound. Like the iPad mini and iPad Air 2 before it, the Lil Pro seems to disappear into my bag, and I don’t mind taking it everywhere, much to the delight of my iPad-loving 4-year-old son.

ipad pro 97 review 2016 
Lil Pro is exactly the same size as the iPad Air 2—most cases should fit, but old cases might obstruct the new iPad’s extra speakers. Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

One of the advantages of the Big Pro’s screen size is that you have plenty of room to run two apps side by side in iOS 9’s splitscreen mode. Even with less real estate, side-by-side is great on the Lil Pro, too. With the Big Pro’s 2732x2048 display, each app’s half of the screen winds up being almost as big as the 2048x1536 Lil Pro held in portrait mode. But half of the Lil Pro’s screen still winds up being enough space to work in, even using text-heavy apps like Mail and Safari.


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