iPad Pro 12.9 review: We review the biggest iPad to date, the mighty 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but is it also the best?
Apple’s iPad Pro was teased a full year before it finally launched, so we already knew what to expect from this whopping great tablet. This is the iPad for professionals, thanks to the spacious screen, boosted performance and smart accessories (including a first-party stylus and keyboard for the very first time). Of course, the iPad Pro also packs a premium price, starting at a tear-jerking £679 for the 32GB WiFi model – and if you fancy the Pencil and Smart Keyboard too, you’ll be paying close to a grand.
So, is the iPad Pro really worth that inflated cost and does it suit your needs? Here’s our full review, and don’t forget to check out our iPad Pro vs iPad Air vs iPad Mini comparison feature.
The iPad Pro is a mighty beast indeed, its dimensions stretching close to two iPad Airs joined side-by-side. In photos it just looks like another iPad, but when you actually clutch the Pro in your hands, you’ll be mesmerised by the sheer scale of the thing. The first time I played with it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d mysteriously shrunk in size, but that feeling soon gives way to intrigue and amazement when you realise how incredibly thin the device is. In fact, the Pro is only a shade thicker than the Air, which is an undeniable accomplishment.
Of course, the Pro is also a damn sight heavier than the Air, at 713g compared to 437g. It’s still possible to clutch the tablet with one hand although it’s not exactly comfortable over prolonged periods. This is a tablet that’s best left on a desk.
The design itself, beyond that enlarged size, hasn’t changed from previous iPads. You’ll find the usual Lightning charger port, a TouchID fingerprint sensor built into the home button and power/volume buttons tucked in the top right corner. The glossy front gives way to a matt aluminum rear plate which is scratch and scuff resistant, although I’d still recommend slipping the Pro into a case to keep it safe in case it goes flying.
Features and accessories
The Pro is the best choice of iPad for anyone with a creative streak or who wants to keep productive on the go, partly thanks to the well-designed accessories of Apple’s own creation.
First up is the Apple Pencil, an uber-smart stylus that can be used for precision control. This isn’t just your bog-standard stylus; the Pencil features its own power supply and communicates directly with the iPad Pro’s screen, which makes for extremely accurate feedback. You can use the thing just like an actual pencil, pushing harder to produce a bolder line and tilting the tip to get a thicker result.
You will of course have to charge up the Pencil, but Apple has made that super easy. The back end flips off to reveal a Lightning charger, which plugs directly into the Pro and gives it half an hour of battery life from just a few seconds of charging. Alternatively you can use the bundled adapter to plug the Pencil into your Mac or other computer.
The stylus is a good weight and comfortable to draw with, working with all of the big creative apps such as Procreate and even bog-standard stuff like Apple’s Notes app.
If you’re not too creative but you do need a tablet to smash out emails and documents on the move, the keyboard accessory will be more up your alley. Apple’s Smart Keyboard is disguised as your typical iPad cover, but folds out into an excellent full-sized board that’s perfect for touch-typing. Check out our full in-depth Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro review for more info.
Too broke for the Keyboard accessory after stumping up for the Pro? No worries, as the virtual keyboard is still perfectly fine – although it’s naturally a slower experience and touch-typing is impossible.
Screen and media
The reason for the iPad Pro’s boosted dimensions is that 12.9-inch screen, an excellent panel for sketching out masterpieces, playing around in complex editing suites and working on two apps side-by-side using Apple’s Split Screen feature.
The 2732×2048 pixel resolution means the Pro’s screen is just as sharp as the iPad Air’s, despite all of that extra space. That’s more than crisp enough for editing photos and enjoying high-def movies on the fly. Colours are realistically reproduced, rather than leaping off the screen as they do on the Galaxy Tab S2 and Xperia Z4 Tablet’s punchy panels.
Although that enormous screen is great for staying productive, it’s also a solid way to consume content. Reading digital magazines and browsing websites are both a joy, but the Pro is really at home when propped up on a kitchen work surface. You can catch up with your favourite telly shows or display a recipe (or both at once), with clear visibility even from several feet away.
You don’t even have to worry about plugging in a dedicated speaker, as the iPad Pro’s four built-in speakers (positioned in pairs on the left and right edges in landscape mode) are impressively powerful. In fact, they’re the best speakers we’ve ever heard on a tablet, whether you’re clutching the Pro and watching a movie or simply blasting your favourite track. And if you’re cooking in the kitchen, you’ll have no trouble when watching a bit of Netflix over the sound of your chicken chasseur bubbling away.
Of course, as with the other models of iPad, you don’t get a memory card slot to expand the 32GB or 128GB of on-board storage. It’s less of an issue here as even the 32GB model is enough to install plenty of creative apps and office suites and still leave space for some HD movies, but if you’re editing 4K footage on a regular basis, we’d definitely recommend stumping up for the 128GB model.
Performance and battery life
Sporting Apple’s latest A9X processor, which promises significantly better performance than the iPad Air 2’s A8X chip, the iPad Pro is a supremely powerful tablet.
As you’d expect, the Pro has no trouble running the latest games such as The Room Three as well as memory-hogging classics like GTA San Andreas. Running two apps side-by-side is a smooth experience and you can even splice together different 4K clips using the likes of iMovie without any kind of hassle or slowdown. For everyday office performance, the iPad Pro is just as strong as the likes of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.
Battery life is also impressive. The iPad Pro gives you the same all-day longevity as its smaller brethren, so you can work for a solid nine to ten hours before you’ll need to seek out a mains point. Even if you decide to bunk off work and watch non-stop Don’t Tell The Bride, you’ll still get close to the advertised ten hours before the Pro dies.
As usual, you get an 8-megapixel ‘iSight’ camera on the back of the Pro, which seems like a total waste of time. Taking photos and shooting video with an iPad Air was clunky enough, not to mention insanely irritating to everyone stood behind you if you’re at a gig/some sort of attraction. Try taking shots with the iPad Pro out on the street. Best case scenario, you’ll be silently branded a prick by everyone around you. Worst case scenario, you’ll get mugged.
Still, the 1.2-megapixel ‘FaceTime’ camera is perfect for chatting online, doing a great job of capturing your mug even in low light environments. And if you love to take selfies while you get your spreadsheet editing on, look no further.
The iPad Pro is the natural choice if you want a tablet that can handle intensive office tasks and creative suites on the go, thanks to its spacious screen, impressive performance, precision control and all-day battery life. However, it’s also very expensive, so if you simply want an entertainment device for carrying around, or something to edit your spreadsheets on the go, the Pro is almost certainly overkill.