iPad Pro 10.5 review

OUR VERDICT

This is only a final review in that you can buy the 10.5-inch iPad Pro in the form described here – but we need iOS 11 to land before we can truly work out if this is a great tablet. It offers great audio and video playback… but we need to assess the potential laptop-beating capabilities the new software will offer.

PROS
Amazing audio
Smooth and crisp screen
Insanely powerful

CONS
High price
Keyboard is necessary but extra
Still not quite a laptop replacement

We go!
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro represents Apple deciding to make a tablet with absolutely everything crammed in. The best in audio performance, the cream of the company’s mobile screen tech, and all the power that can be crammed inside the metal walls of a digital slate.

Make no mistake: the new iPad Pro is the device that Apple wants you to buy to replace your laptop if you’re not going to pay out for a new MacBook.

Ironically, the price is such that – when paired with the necessary accessories– it’s not far off the cost of such a device, but the iPad Pro offers something a little different.

It’s an entertainment hub that flips to become a mobile work station – the iPad Pro’s strength is that it can do many things well, and in a compact form.

There’s only so much manufacturers can do to update a tablet these days beyond increasing the specs, as the use case for these devices hasn’t altered much over the years, beyond them now being able to serve as pseudo-tablet replacements with the addition of a keyboard.

That said, Apple has shoved all the high-end specs it can into the new iPad Pro, and it really does make a difference – but are they the sorts of things that will really impress consumers, and is it enough to warrant the higher price?

To find out, we’re going to try and do what we didn’t manage with the first iPad Pro, and write this entire review on the new iPad Pro 10.5 – including photo processing and editing, and with our hands-on pictures of the tablet shot on the iPhone 7 Plus, which has a comparable sensor to the new iPad Pro – and see how easy it is to achieve.

The issues we encountered in 2015 revolved around the ease of switching between apps and uploading pictures to our content management system, as well as the usefulness of the Apple Pencil in replacing a mouse – so will this year be any different?

iPad Pro 10.5 price and release date

Let’s not mess about here: the price of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro borders on eye-watering. It’s £619 / $649 / AU$979 for the base model without cellular data – and that’s if you only want 64GB storage.

That’ll be acceptable for some, but many users will probably want the 256GB model, which hikes the price up to £709 / $749 / AU$1129 – and it’s £889 / $949 / AU$1429 if you want the 512GB model, although that’s probably a bit overkill for anyone who doesn’t need the security of half a terabyte of space.

This is a surprising jump in price, given that last year’s iPad Pro 9.7 cost $599 / £499 / AU$899. 

There are some key upgrades to the chipset and screen size / technology, but considering that last year’s model was perfectly adequate in many ways it’s curious that Apple is pushing the cost up once again, and explains the decision to remove the 9.7-inch tablet from its stores.

In terms of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro release schedule, the tablet started shipping from June 12 in selected markets, including the US and the UK.

Design

If you’re familiar with any kind of iPad, then the new iPad Pro isn’t going to be a surprise. You’ve got the same rounded metallic back (and now there’s no plastic cut-out at the top of the device for the antennas, which improves the aesthetic) and it’s incredibly light in the hand at 469 grams.

Even with the Smart Keyboard attached it’s almost impossible to detect the presence of the new iPad Pro when it’s thrown in a bag, and on its own it’s a great tablet to hold for extended periods.

It feels redundant to talk about the build quality of this tablet, because the higher premium placed on Apple products does guarantee something that’s made to last and feel good in the hand.

The buttons feel well machined and have a pleasing travel, everything is easy to find under the finger and the TouchID sensor at the base of the device is swift to respond, and within reach whichever orientation you hold the tablet in.

You’ll spend a lot on this device, but at least you’ll get something that seems to justify the cost in terms of build quality.

Screen

The screen on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is one of the best we’ve seen on a tablet, thanks to the wider color gamut, brightness and overall sharpness.

This is the area where Apple has put in the most effort, and it shows. The instant you pick up the new iPad Pro you’ll be taken with how little bezel there is, and how swiftly it works under the finger.

Apple has jammed a lot of new technology into the screen to make it the standout feature… but there’s a feeling that perhaps it’s overkill, especially as it’s likely the reason the cost has risen so much.

Yes, the screen looks better – but does it really add enough to the experience?

It’s definitely an upgrade, although you feel like it’s still constrained somehow, as the 12.9-inch model is just so much more expansive. 

However, there is more screen real estate to play with, while Apple has maintained sharpness levels by putting 1668 x 2224 pixels onto the display to balance out by the larger size, which is a good move.

The display is capable of going even brighter than on previous tablets, heading up to 600 nits, which means it’s capable of showing HDR movies in all their glory. That’s a great thing in theory, as the visual quality of some programming on the iPad will look amazing.

We say in theory as this has been impossible to test, as trying to stream content from YouTube hasn’t given the full HDR effect, and HDR-capable video files won’t copy across to the iPad.

In short, and as you’ll see in a later section, it’s not easy to access HDR content yet, so one of the selling points of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro isn’t fully accessible.

The ProMotion display technology is something that’s worth looking at in greater depth, as it’s something Apple highlighted many times during the launch and during demonstrations.

The idea is that the screen’s frame rate will vary depending on what’s being shown– when scrolling through the home screen or flipping through a web page it’ll be 120 frames per second to offer the smoothest experience possible, but when showing a static image will drop right down to preserve battery.

When playing video things shouldn’t be that much different to normal, so don’t worry that your movies will look weird – the dynamic refresh rate is there to save battery as much as anything.

It’s hard to say how necessary this technology is, especially from a visual standpoint – we found it noticeably slicker when scrolling through the home page, and the animations between apps seemed clearer than ever, but that might not impress many general users.

However, we kept feeling that just flicking around the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro was just a generally more slick experience – there’s definitely an upgrade both visually and in terms of speed under the finger.

There wasn’t a huge amount wrong with the refresh rate on previous iPads, and the ProMotion technology basically offers battery saving… and there’s not really a lot needed for a tablet. It probably has some effect if you’re using the iPad Pro day in, day out, but we didn’t spot a huge change.

The TrueTone display is a hard one to assess – it mimics the lighting conditions around you by measuring the color of what’s doing the illuminating, so the screen will look different when using it by lamplight and outdoors.

It’s easy to say that TrueTone technology doesn’t do anything… until you turn it off in the settings. Then you’ll see there’s a genuine and pleasant difference, especially when using the new iPad Pro by lamplight.

Overall, the screen quality is stunning in so many ways – but there’s still the question of whether it’s actually overkill.

If you’re an Apple fan and just crave the best of what’s on offer, then this tablet will impress without a doubt. 

Better colours, brighter scenes and an anti-reflective layer make it easy to use in any environment – it’s just whether the improved frame rate is really worth the extra money, when we bet some people might not even notice the difference.

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