Apple continues to evolve the iPad, with the iPad Pro 10.5 giving customers more reasons to upgrade their ageing Apple tablet.
As the 10.5 numerical suggests, this Pro is a new size for iPad: smaller than the 12.9-inch model, and only marginally larger than the outgoing 9.7-inch model, the 10.5 features a better and brighter display than before.
With lots of power under the hood, the new Pro is a device that continues to blur the lines between tablet and laptop thanks to the expansion of pro features that will appeal to those looking to be productive on the move.
Having lived with the iPad Pro 10.5 for a week, is this ultra-portable the tablet to finally replace your laptop?
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Design
- 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1mm; 469g
- Thinner bezel
- Replaces 9.7 model
At first glance the new 10.5-inch Pro looks a lot like the 9.7-inch model, as they're similar in size. The newer device features a much thinner bezel, however, hence being only marginally larger - it's only a few millimetres taller and 10mm wider, meaning you're getting more screen real estate in a fairly similar footprint.
When we first saw the 10.5's trim bezel we had concerns that accidental fingers might touch the edges of the display and affect performance, but fortunately that's not the case in use. Apple has edge-detection down to a tee so it seemingly doesn't matter how you hold it.
The slight upscale means the new Pro is slightly heavier than the outgoing 9.7-inch model, as you would expect, but in the hand that weight difference is barely noticeable. It's still a thin and light device that feels well balanced - despite the camera lens still protruding from the body, just as it did in the earlier model.
Although the 10.5 is physically larger, it happily slips into a bag in the same way our 9.7-inch model would, while making everything feel a little more contemporary thanks to that bigger screen size.
Overall the Pro 10.5 is very much the same design as the Pro models before it, offering that familiar metal back and the range of colours you'd expect (Space Grey, Silver, and Rose Gold; the last of which isn't available in the 12.9-inch model).
Apple iPad 10.5 review: ProMotion display
- 10.5-inch display, 2224 x 1668 pixels (264ppi)
- ProMotion 120Hz adaptable refresh rate
The display isn't just larger, but technically much more capable too. This is still a Retina display, offering a high resolution - here it's 2224 x 1668 pixels, so the pixel density remains the same 264ppi of the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch models - and it's certainly bright, crisp, and clear.
It's a fully laminated display, offering Apple's True Tone technology, but introduces something that Apple is calling ProMotion. This allows the display to run at a 120Hz refresh rate, meaning if you are viewing fast-moving motion thaat you get the improved screen refresh rate to make things look buttery smooth. This is the sort of thing you'll need to deliver great augmented reality and gaming experiences, but the technology isn't just for that - it can be used all the time to make web scrolling smoother or boost app graphics.
With 120Hz active you'll really notice the difference. Scrolling webpages or reading emails is just fresher to the eyes, and although it's one of those technologies that you can't necessarily see the point of on paper, once you go back to a device that hasn't got it, well, it is as if something is missing.
That enhanced refresh rate is also used to the Pro 10.5's advantage when it comes to using the Apple Pencil. The latency is noticeably down, which helps those who are already starting to use the iPad for drawing or even just taking notes.
A critical thing about ProMotion is that it's adaptive. Having a 120Hz refresh rate puts much more pressure on the battery, so the iPad Pro will adapt the display to suit the content you're viewing. If you're reading a book, for example, you don't need that 120Hz boost, so it drops down to suit the conditions, saving battery drain.
Despite the new screen and its higher refresh rate, we've not seen any real-term affects to the battery life compared to our outgoing iPad Pro. Obviously if you use the iPad as a true laptop replacement it is going to last as long as it would if you're just occasionally surfing the odd web page, but it's not something you'll need to be concerned about.
But the biggest difference we've noticed and enjoyed, is that extra screen real-estate, as we'd much rather carry around the 10.5-inch model than the 12.9-inch one. While the additional display is completely wasted on apps like Twitter and Facebook, it's really useful in photo editing and drawing apps, as well as apps like Microsoft Excel. That will make a huge difference to users upgrading from the 9.7-inch model, without taking the huge leap in size and weight of the 12.9-inch Pro.
Apple iPad Pro 10.5 review: Boosted performance
- Same cameras as iPhone 7
- A10X Fusion processor
- 64GB storage starting point
- 10 hours battery life per charge
A new model means more powerful hardware. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro gets the same front and rear cameras that sit in the iPhone 7, a new A10X Fusion processor, and larger standard storage options.
We're never going to complain about more power, speed, and performance capabilities, and users won't be disappointed on this front. In our time with the iPad Pro we've been using it for a number of different tasks, from drawing in ProCreate, photo editing in Affinity Photo, to editing movies with Apple's own iMovie app, watching TV shows on Netflix, Sky and Amazon Prime, as well as a host of other things.
In all cases the iPad hasn't feel sluggish for a moment. Applying blends and effects through apps like Affinity Photo even ocurred just as fast as on our Mac. Graphic demos for images, videos, and AR have run smooth, and overall everything has run just as impressively, if not more so, than what we've seen previously on the two other iPad Pro models.
It's not just about a processor update though. In a nod to trying to become more "laptop" the iPad Pro 10.5 can come with storage up to 512GB. The starting size is 64GB (£619), jumping to 256GB (£709) and maxing out at 512GB (£889).
Whether you'll want to drop such a wedge of cashon maximum storage is for debate. There's no microSD card slot available. And it's worth noting that you could buy a 2TB iCloud storage account - which will cost, per annum, £6.99 in the UK and $9.99 in the US - to make sure content is backed up, or sourcable from the cloud if you would rater work that way.
One of the reasons you might need such large storage capacity, aside from apps like Affinity Photo coming in at 1.2GB, is for photos and 4k video. The iPad Pro now comes with the same camera found on the iPhone 7, giving you potential to quickly fill up the available storage.
Now we know what you are saying: "I wouldn't be seen dead using the iPad to take pictures", but people really do use the iPad camera for other things such as video analysis, video conferencing, and, in the future, augmented reality (AR).
We used the camera to take a picture of Her Royal Majesty the Queen, no less. As with the iPhone 7, the picture quality is very good. Remember it's not the dual-camera of the iPhone 7 Plus, however, so you don't get the depth effect features here.
Apple iPad 10.5 review: An iOS 11 future
- iOS 10 at launch, iOS 11 due September
The iPad Pro 10.5 comes with iOS 10 as standard. You'll be able to upgrade to iOS 11 when it's available in autumn, and with that, the iPad Pro will become a much more capable device.
The latest operating system update from Apple offers a range of new features, but in particular a number aimed at really super-charging the iPad for pro users, including a new dock, app switching options, and a new app called Files. The changes look to make a huge difference in practical productive use and further push the question of whether you even need a laptop.
App switching, although it might look complicated for the novice user, should make a huge difference for power users, meaning more options for multi-tasking, viewing multiple apps in different ways, as well as managing files more easily than before.
Drag and drop will make it easier to move files and folders from one app to another, while the Files app will give you a window into a wide range of online document services, meaning it will be really easy to get to your content, whether it's on Box, Dropbox, iCloud, G Drive or elsewhere.
We are especially looking forward to a new notes mode that will allow you to tap the screen with the Apple Pencil to go straight to a new note in the Notes app.
That's all in the future, though. As much as we want all that now, it's a case of playing the waiting game. At the time of writing, the iPad Pro 10.5 offers an iOS experience that's very close to the existing iPad Pro models. We look forward to testing the new software when it's updated first with the public beta at the end of June and then when it's out around September time.
Apple iPad 10.5 review: Accessories
- Larger size means new cases and keyboards
The new iPad gets Apple's usual array of cases and smart keyboards. The device's new size means the keyboard is now full size, which means typing isn't so squished and more akin to a laptop experience. It also means you are more able to balance the iPad Pro on your lap when you're on the go, or on the sofa when you're not - and that in itself is likely to make a big difference for a number of people.
For those who want to protect the new Pro, there's a leather case that you can slip your iPad into (even with the keyboard on). This Apple case also has a slot for the Apple Pencil so you don't lose it in the void of your bag.
The iPad Pro 10.5 is a lovely tablet to not only look at, but also to use. It wins on performance, display, camera (if you ever use it), and size, with the promise of becoming even better when iOS 11 becomes available later in the year.
Even without the latest software, as a tablet there are few better than the iPad Pro. And in 10.5-inch size it feels like the perfect ultra-portable companion. Maybe this should have been the original Pro size all along.
If you own an older iPad then the Pro's leap in power is certainly worth the upgrade - especially once it's supercharged with keyboard and Pencil accessories. If you own an iPad Pro 9.7, however, then you'll be able to live on as you are, as the marginally bigger screen of the 10.5 is a nice-to-have rather than an essential upgrade.
But back to the big question at hand: is this the tablet to finally replace the laptop? We've found the Pro 10.5 makes a number of tasks easier than on our MacBook Pro, so it's become a natural laptop replacement for when we're on the go. The full-size keyboard also makes it feel like a more natural laptop alternative.
Saying that, the Pro won't completely replace the laptop in the office environment for everyone given its current software setup - but iOS 11 could change that entirely. Then the iPad Pro will let you happily live in a post-PC era.
Alternatives to consider
Surface Pro 5
Not an Apple fan? Got a bit of extra cash? Then the Microsoft Surface Pro is a superb full Windows machine with more flexibility. There's a full-size USB port, for starters, and with the Type Cover keyboard attached this tablet ultimately becomes a laptop.
Read the full article: Surface Pro 2017 review