Hands on with Apple's new 10.5-inch iPad Pro
Of all the announcements made at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week, the unveiling of a new iPad Pro may be the most significant in the long run.
That’s because iPads may yet bounce back from a sales malaise to reclaim what many see as their rightful role -- replacing laptops.
Apple certainly believes that this could happen. So it has focused an unprecedented amount of its engineering and software focus into making its new 10.5-inch iPad Pro the laptop replacement you can look to with ease.
The new tablet has a screen that’s bigger by almost 20pc compared to its 9.7-inch predecessor. Despite this, the overall size of the unit has only increased by 7pc.
Apple has done this by thinning out the bezels around the screen, meaning that you simply get more screen in proportion to the overall device size.
There’s a truckload of software and power changes in the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, too.
Arguably the most interesting of these software developments is the ability to drag and drop files from one location to another. This goes hand in hand with another software development, Apple’s new Files app. This lets you change the way you set up your workflow. You can store and work with documents and images that are stored either locally on the machine or in commonly used cloud services such as Dropbox, Box or iCloud Drive.
Aside from the display size, one of the physical features that’s most noticeable is the new screen technology. The screen is brighter and more intelligent at displaying colours and white balance arrays than previous iPads.
A higher refresh rate of 120Hz means that scrolling on the iPad Pro’s screen seems considerably more fluid, with much smoother content motion. This technology (which Apple calls ‘ProMotion’) also gives Apple’s Pencil an extra edge, reducing its latency (the apparent time between the stylus tip touching the screen and registering a mark on the screen) to 20 milliseconds. This is faster than pretty much any other stylus system.
One of the things that has given iPad Pro devices some credibility as work machines in the last two years is their multitasking and productivity features.
There’s quite a bit more of this going on with the software used with new iPad Pro.
Aside from ‘drag and drop’ and ‘Files’, there’s a new customisable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen.
There’s also a redesigned app switcher that brings Spaces to iOS. This lets you move between apps or pairs of active apps, used in Split View.
Other nice bits include a new document scanner for the default ‘Notes’ application. Like other scanning apps, this lets users scan single or multi-page documents.
Alongside all of this is more integration with Apple’s Pencil. Probably the most impressive new Pencil feature is the ability to scribble notes in an app such as Notes, close the app and then search for whatever you’ve scribbled in Spotlight later on. This is exactly the type of functionality that might make stylus sceptics reconsider the Pencil.
As one might expect, Apple has added a bit more power to the engine under the hood. This comes in the form of an A10x processor, which Apple says delivers over 30pc faster performance than the previous iPad Pro machines.
While I’ve never really appreciated a camera on an iPad, there are many people who seem to use it. So much so that Apple has included the same camera system from the iPhone 7 into the new iPad Pro. That means a 12-megapixel rear lens and a 7-megapixel FaceTime selfie camera.
What I do appreciate (lots) is the excellent speaker system that iPad Pro models have come with. Like its predecessors, the new model comes with four speakers. This is more important than you’d think, especially if you like to use the device for a bit of Netflix, Sky Go or other streaming options.
Like other iPads, you can get this one with or without a 4G service option. It starts at 64GB (€749 wifi only) and goes up to 512GB of storage memory.
In a nutshell, this machine is getting a lot closer to the workflow stuff that regular laptops can do, as well as keeping its pacy, quickstart, ‘always on’ feeling.