iPad Pro review: by far the best tablet Apple's ever made

Mega-powerful, superb speakers, loads of screen to play with - but is it TOO big?

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For

  • Great screen
  • Loads of power
  • Brilliant speakers

Against

  • Weighty
  • iOS 9 not a Windows 10 rival

We haven't just got a refreshed iPad from Apple - we've got a whole new category. The iPad Pro is the newest, biggest and most powerful tablet Apple has ever made, and it comes with some awesome accessories too.

The iPad Pro is a whole new device for Apple. It's not just a larger iPad, nor is it a rival to the Surface Pro 4. It's a new range for Apple, but just bears a lot of similarities to what's come before.

The price is a little higher, but for that money you're getting a lot more for your cash: a larger 12.9-inch screen, loads more pixels and an accessory range to really change the way you can actually use the tablet.

We've had third party keyboards and stylii for a while now, so it makes sense that Apple would leap in and do the same itself, and it's done it really well too.

Design

OK, after we've just said this is an all new product line there's definitely a feeling that the iPad Pro is part of a family. It's a tablet that's got the same metal curved back as the iPad Air 2 and mini range, and as such feels really nice in an almost ceramic way.

The Pro is a weighty device though - it's nothing that's going to break your back, but it's not going to be something that you'll be able to carry in one hand for a very long time. That said, it feels well-balanced in two hands, and given that we spent most of the time with this locked into the Smart Keyboard the level of precision that's gone into the design means it doesn't fall over easily.

Compare that to something like the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet and you'll see that Apple's created something finely tuned here. It's all about the power in terms of what it can do, but the usability is great as well.

Features

The main features of the iPad Pro are, bizarrely, not actually in the device itself. You can talk about the insanely powerful A9X chip inside, but in reality the talking points are the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.

The former is really rather good - whether it's taking notes, sketching rude pictures or using it to accurately Photoshop images, you can do an awful lot here. It's well balanced as well, and although you need to plug it into the Lightning port to charge, it's a great accessory. Sadly it's only optional (£79) and there's no clip, so you'll be constantly making sure you've not lost it.

The Smart Keyboard has a wipe-clean fabric cover, and the keys have a very low range of travel - but it's very easy to be accurate on it though. You can get up to a decent typing speed, although it's about 7-8wpm slower than on a normal-sized keyboard on a laptop. Then again, for on-the-go prose it's excellent, and while it adds heft to your iPad Pro, it does double well as a stand and cover.

Performance

The general use of the iPad Pro is excellent, with that A9X chip pushing things along nicely under the hood. Apple's brought a 2732x2048 resolution screen here, which means the pixel count in landscape mode is the same as an iPad Air in portrait mode.

This leads to the ability to run two full-sized apps side by side (as long as they're re-coded to work in such a way, a new iOS 9 trick) and therefore fit nicely and don't lose any resolution.

You can even run video at the same time, although why you'd really want to when you've already got two things going at once is beyond us... until we can get the football down there (in the same way as we do on a laptop when we pretend to be working) it doesn't feel worth it.

Usability

The iPad Pro is superbly quick - every action is slick and apps open and shut with ease. The benchmarks prove it - this thing is faster than any phone or tablet out there - and the 4GB of RAM is a massive jump for Apple.

The thing to note here is that this isn't a laptop replacement. As iOS is app-based, it doesn't allow multi-tasking beyond what's offered with Split Screen mode, which isn't going to please the hardcore Mac Warriors out there.

This is more of an accessory as you'll need to have a laptop along for the ride on occasion, but that shouldn't take anything away from what the iPad Pro is. It's an iPad with superb media abilties thanks to the four powerful corner speakers and a chameleonic personality that lets you swiftly move from sketching or taking notes to typing out a report... before you sneakily take in a quick bit of gaming which, again, looks immense on the large screen with the excellent engine.

The battery life is an odd one - we've not used an iPad in day to day use this much in years. Where the Air 2 will last for a week in the bag, sipped for video watching once in a while, the iPad Pro is more of an all-day device, with the keyboard and pen taking a lot more power with regular use.

We managed to get to 1PM (from a 9AM start) using it almost constantly, and the battery life had dropped by two-thirds. Slip it into media watching though and you'll get something closer to the promised 10 hours Apple claimed.

T3 verdict

The iPad Pro is a device in its own right. It's a larger iPad, but imbued with new abilities and power that makes it light years ahead of the iPad Air 2. It's not as capable as dedicated laptop, but that misses the point... this is just an awesome iPad.

The only issue depends on your perspective. If you're after a laptop replacement, it's not for you. You'll also have to really, really want the larger screen and upgraded power to pay the cash for this, as well as the extra weight it's going to bring to your life.

If you're on board with that though, there's very little better.

Liked this? Why not read: 10 really awesome iOS 9 features you really shouldn't miss

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