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Hands on: The iPad Pro -- It's a laptop! It's a tablet!

Ken Mingis | Nov. 13, 2015
Deciding whether Apple's new super-sized tablet suits you really depends on how it'll be used.

It’s the combination of portability plus that big screen, in addition to the business-friendly keyboard and stylus, that sets the iPad Pro apart. And it's around the enterprise that Apple has been building its case since unveiling the tablet on Sept. 9.

During its big September presentation, Apple had Microsoft's Kirk Koenigsbauer, who leads the company's Office team, up on stage to demonstrate Office on an iPad Pro. And in announcing the tablet's Nov. 11 arrival earlier this week, Apple highlighted comments from Scott Belsky, vice president of Products at Adobe.

Said Belsky: “With the larger iPad Pro screen and lightning-fast performance, creatives will be able to take full advantage of Adobe’s family of Creative Cloud mobile apps."

For "creatives" on the go -- especially those involved in areas like graphic design, a long-time Apple stronghold, or video -- the iPad Pro seems ideal. Just add a Pencil, a few of Adobe's Creative Cloud mobile apps, and start drawing. Or creating.

A9X inside

Belsky touted the iPad Pro's "lightning-fast performance," the result of a brand new Apple-designed 64-bit A9X SoC (system-on-a-chip) processor. Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller, claimed the A9X is faster than 80% of the mobile PCs that shipped in the past year. It also has 4GB of RAM, as iFixit found during its usual teardown of new Apple hardware.

The fast A9X, the M9 motion co-processor and all that RAM make for one speedy tablet. I haven't had time to run extensive tests on how fast the iPad Pro is in absolute terms, though in general use I've not seen any kind of slowdown or stutter when opening apps, watching video, typing on the on-screen keyboard, using two apps at once in split-screen view or doing anything else.

Geekbench tests indicate the A9X is a dual-core processor running at about 2.25GHz and chugging along at about the level of a 2013 era Core i5 chip, according to Ars Technica. That makes it faster, at least in terms of benchmark tests, than Apple's current Retina MacBook, which uses an Intel Core M chip. (The A9X falls short of the processors in the new Surface Pro 4, if that matters.)

In short, it's about as cutting edge as tablet technology can get right now, and should stand up well over time. That's important given its cost and the length of time many buyers or businesses are likely to keep it in use.

Battery life and charging times

Apple says the iPad Pro will last about 10 hours on battery. The battery level of mine was at 83% when I pulled it out of the box, and that charge rapidly dropped as I restored apps and settings from an iCloud backup -- admittedly a pretty intense set of tasks. After a couple of hours, the battery was down to about 53%. So I plugged the iPad Pro into my iMac at work to charge. I glanced at it a few minutes later, and it was still at 53%. I waited a little longer. Same thing.


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