The iPad Pro released last autumn was a powerful, impressive machine that did a bunch of things no Apple tablet previously had done.
But, let’s be honest, it was pretty big (with a 12.9-inch display) and heavy. Although lighter than the original iPad, it was hefty enough to reduce portability considerably. Oh, and it really wasn’t cheap.
So wouldn’t it be better to have an iPad that did everything the Pro did but was as light and small as an iPad Air?
That’s what Apple aims to now deliver with the new iPad Pro. No, don’t be confused, it does have the same name as the previous model but this one is tagged 9.7 because that’s the size in inches of the screen, the same as the iPad Air.
The new Pro is the exact same weight as the iPad Air 2 and is just as thin, 6.1mm from front to back, but it does a lot more.
It packs in the same A9X processor first seen on last year’s 12.9-inch screened model. It also costs significantly less than the original iPad Pro.
Prices start at £499/$748 for a 32GB wifi only model. There’s also a 128GB storage and a new 256GB capacity model. All are available in wi-fi and wi-fi and cellular configurations.
Like the bigger model, this one has four speakers in an effort to improve the audio output if you’re not using headphones, configured so that stereo tracks stays where it should whether you have the tablet in portrait or landscape orientation.
The four-speaker speaker promises “more than twice the audio output” than the previous model.
iOS 9.3 also adds support for playing video encoded with Dolby Digital Plus with support for multichannel output using the Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter, as on the latest Apple TV.
Although it doesn’t sound hi-fi, despite what anyone says, the improvement in quality compared to an iPad Air, say, is considerable.
The much-rumoured removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack will wait for the iPhone 7, so we still have the standard headphone connection here alongside the Lightning output.
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The Retina display is 25 per cent brighter and 40 per cent less reflective than the iPad Air 2, which should make the screen more watchable in bright conditions. It uses the same wider colour gamut as the iMac with Retina 5K display, delivering “25 per cent greater colour saturation” to help deliver punchy colours.
And the display quality looks great, as we’ve come to expect – the wider colour gamut looks especially impressive when looking at images with dominant red or green colours. Resolution is identical to the iPad Air 2, that is, 264 ppi.
The new iPad Pro has an enhancement over any other Apple tablet, though. Something called True Tone display uses sensors that measure ambient light colours. It then adjusts the colour output so that everything should look exactly as it’s meant to, whether you’re in a bright, clinically lit room or a chic, darkish club.
Like last year’s iPad Pro, this one is compatible with the Apple Pencil stylus, so it has the same fast-refreshing display to allow for precise contact between Pencil and display.
And this one works with the keyboard, too, attaching magnetically and using Apple’s Smart Connector. This is a physical connection that uses three tiny dots on the side of the iPad. This will likely prove more reliable than a Bluetooth connection albeit without the freedom of a wireless connection.
The new keyboard is obviously smaller than on the large iPad Pro but in brief tests it felt surprisingly comfortable and highly usable. The cloth covering on the keys which sounds odd feels the right balance of tactile and springy.
Apple says that the majority of iPad Pro users had come to that tablet from Windows PCs, suggesting that many were choosing it as a laptop replacement. Which may have something to do with the price.
With the smaller, lighter screen, greater portability and lower price, Apple will be hoping the new iPad Pro 9.7 will be the best way to upgrade from a PC as well as being a great media consumption device. We look forward to finding out in our full review.
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