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In Depth: A month with the iPad Pro

Michael deAgonia | Dec. 21, 2015
Apple’s big tablet is the ultimate (literal) laptop, and with the right accessories, a pretty good desktop replacement.

Imagine holding two iPad Air 2 tablets in your hands, side by side. If you could combine them into one tablet, you’d likely be more productive, right?

That’s what using Apple’s new iPad Pro is like. When held in landscape mode, its 12.9-in. display offers the same screen real estate you’d get from two iPad Air 2s. Which means whether you’re editing a movie in iMovie, working on a year-end report or term-paper or simply watching a high-def movie, it lets you do more, faster and in ways an Apple tablet has never before offered.

After spending a month with the top-end iPad Pro – 128GB of storage and Wi-Fi/LTE connectivity – I can confirm my initial impressions from last month: The first version of Apple's tablets to go bigger rather than smaller is fast, responsive, lasts all day on battery, and with optional accessories like the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, I expect it to further encroach on the territory of traditional laptops in the office.

Specs and speed

The iPad Pro readily zips through tasks and apps thanks to its third-generation, 64-bit architecture – particularly an improved storage controller, which allows for faster read/write speeds. In the past, that’s been the biggest bottleneck of modern PCs. With 4GB of memory, a custom-designed Apple A9X chipset and 12 GPU cores on a 128-bit bus, the iPad Pro out-performs the 12-in. MacBook in CPU benchmark scores. And it’s faster than the current MacBook Pro with Intel's Iris 5200 integrated graphics in GPU benchmarks.

That’s noteworthy, given the debate about whether tablets can fully replace laptops. For that to happen, you need a flexible OS – more about how well iOS 9 works with the iPad Pro below – and laptop-level hardware under the hood. The iPad Pro delivers on both counts, whether you pick the base 32GB model ($799) or the most-expensive version I bought for myself ($1,079).

Weight shouldn’t be an issue, though it will affect how you use this tablet. (Both the Wi-Fi and LTE models weigh just over a 1.5 pounds, but the tablet’s design makes it feel lighter than it is.) It’s just 0.27-in. thick -- thinner than an iPhone 6S. Although extended use without support will induce wrist fatigue, on a table or in your lap the iPad really shines.

iPad Pro lock screen 
The iPad Pro. Credit: Michael deAgonia

All about the display

The first thing that strikes most people, not surprisingly, is the iPad Pro's size, but you do grow accustomed to it after the initial shock wears off. The Retina display is vivid and bright, and, at 264 pixels per inch, it's difficult to see individual pixels. It's also highly advanced, offering faster pixel charging and uniformity enabled by the oxide thin film transistor; a new timing controller for better manipulation of the 5.6 million pixels; and, for the first time, a variable refresh rate that provides better energy efficiency by reducing refresh rate to 30 frames per second (fps) instead of the usual 60fps, depending on screen content.

 

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