One of the worst-kept secrets in the tech world was finally confirmed in September when Apple Inc. (AAPL) officially took the wraps off the iPad Pro.
The biggest, most powerful and most expensive iPad ever released — and the first tablet from Apple to specifically target the professional and enterprise market — the iPad Pro was released in November.
Apple is looking for the iPad Pro to reinvigorate iPad sales that have have been falling, shrinking another 20% in the last quarter.
Time will tell whether the effort will pay off, but in the meantime there’s a more pressing question: is the iPad Pro any good?
In our iPad Pro review, we examine Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface Pro and determine whether the company hit the mark for enterprise, professional and pro-sumer buyers.
iPad Pro Review: Bigger, Faster, More Expensive
Apple actually prefers to use the description “Thin. Light. Epic” to describe the new iPad Pro.
And when you compare it against rival Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, Apple’s approach makes sense. The iPad Pro has a larger display (12.9 inches compared to 12.3 inches), it’s thinner (0.27 inches compared to 0.33 inches) and it’s lighter (1.57 lbs versus 1.69 lbs for the lightest Surface Pro).
Compared to Apple’s previous largest iPad — the iPad Air 2 — the iPad Pro has 78% more screen real estate, and with 5.6 million pixels it has the largest screen resolution of any iPad. So yeah, it’s epic.
Powered by an A9X chip that Apple says make it 1.8 times faster than the iPad Air 2 and packing 4GB of RAM, there’s no disputing the fact that this is not only the biggest, but also the fastest iPad Apple has ever made.
With a starting price of $799 compared to the iPad Air 2’s $499, it is also the most expensive iPad — by far.
iPad Pro Review: A Laptop Replacement?
The iPad Pro has the hardware chops to run applications that rival desktop software, and iOS 9’s multitasking features like split screen certainly bring the iPad Pro closer to the needs of professional and pro-sumer users.
Apple even copied Microsoft by offering a detachable Smart Keyboard and a stylus (the Apple Pencil) as optional accessories.
So far, the response to the $169 Smart Keyboard has been mixed. It’s expensive, lacks iOS keyboard shortcuts (that’s not very smart) and the angle isn’t adjustable.
The $99 Apple Pencil has been more favorably received, although its usefulness will depend on whether your workflow involves scribbling notes or drawing.
Generally speaking, despite Apple CEO Tim Cook’s personal adoption of the iPad Pro and assurances that it can easily replace a laptop, it’s not there yet.
The Smart Keyboard isn’t good enough to be a full-time replacement, the iPad Pro doesn’t support a mouse or trackpad, there are no external storage options, and while iOS apps can be made to rival desktop apps in functionality, developers haven’t exactly been lining up to replace profitable PC software with less-expensive iOS versions.
iPad Pro Review: Specs
- 12.9-inch fully laminated Retina display (264 ppi) with antireflective coating
- 64-bit APX chip with 4GB RAM
- 8MP iSight camera, 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera
- 32GB or 128GB storage
- Touch ID
- Two microphones, four-speaker audio
- 38.5-watt Lithium-ion battery rated at 10 hours of use
- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-channel Wi-Fi with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, (LTE optional)
- 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches, weighs 1.57 lbs
- Runs iOS 9
- Available in silver, gold or space gray
- MSRP $799 (32GB), $949 (128GB), $1079 (128GB with LTE)
- Optional Smart Keyboard case $169, Apple Pencil stylus $99
iPad Pro Review: Conclusion
Much of this review focused on seemingly negative aspects of the iPad Pro.
That shouldn’t be construed as saying this is a bad tablet. In fact, it’s a very good tablet — potentially the best tablet currently available. Even the steep $799 price is in line with the Surface Pro 4, which starts at $899 (but includes the stylus Apple charges for).
For some professional users, such as graphic artists, the iPad Pro may indeed be the tablet they’ve been waiting for.
However, it’s definitely not a laptop killer and it doesn’t quite have the Surface Pro’s number, either.
What the iPad Pro does offer is an excellent tablet experience for those who don’t have to carry it far, with the potential to transform into a laptop hybrid for short periods of time (and an extra $169).
It’s also a great mobile gaming machine and may be the ultimate iPad for couch surfers. But that’s an expensive upgrade.
Whether that translates into boosted iPad sales remains to be seen — the iPad Pro may just eat into iPad Air 2 sales — but this first version of Apple’s “Thin. Light. Epic” tablet isn’t going to be the enterprise Windows laptop killer AAPL investors may have hoped for.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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