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Apple 12.9in iPad Pro review: bringing back the wow factor

Guardian Technology 12 Dec 2018 06:00
The new 12.9in iPad Pro is as close to being just a screen as you’ll get in 2018, with an exquisite design, plenty of power and long battery life; if you can justify the cost. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

After eight years of fairly boring design revisions, the new 2018 iPad Pro finally breaks the mould, restoring the wow factor the original commanded way back in 2010.

That’s because the new iPad Pro is practically all screen. The home button is gone, replaced with uniform bezels around the edges and a thin, squared-off aluminium body reminiscent of the iPhone 4’s gorgeous design.

Fire up the screen and you are greeted with a beautiful display that is arguably the best LCD on any device, let alone a tablet. The question is whether you share Apple’s vision of what the next version of a computer should be and whether a large screen running a mobile operating system cuts the mustard.

There are two starting with a slightly bigger 11in iPad Pro but it is the 12.9in version that is the most impressive and the one reviewed here. Where the previous 12.9in was fairly heavy and unwieldy, the shrinking of the body around the large screen has made it feel a lot smaller and easier to handle.

The new tablet is a noticeable 49g lighter, 1mm thinner, 19.4mm shorter and 5.1mm narrower than its predecessor. At 631g and only 5.9mm in thickness the 12.9in iPad Pro is thinner and lighter than most of its productivity tablet competition, too. The 12.3in Microsoft Surface Pro weighs 770g and is 8.5mm thick, while Google’s 12.3in Pixel Slate is 726g and 7mm thick.

Long-lasting productive power

Apple says the 2018 iPad Pro is more powerful than the majority of mobile PCs sold in the last year, and I can well believe that, but I found it difficult to find any apps that actually use all that power.

Apple’s Face ID recognition system replaces the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, squeezed into the bezel on the left edge. It works very well, despite the wider variety of angles you hold a tablet at compared to a smartphone.

The iPad Pro runs the same version of iOS as previous iPads and iPhones, with its large selection of third-party tablet apps, including great text editors and art programs, plus every media consumption app you could want. Digital comics look particularly good on the big, bright and brilliant screen.

Perhaps the web app should be better designed but when it is primarily used in desktop-class browsers with mousing and multi-click support, the reality is that the tablet has to be able to handle the app a rather than the other way around. Particularly if it wants to be your only computer.

Apple offers a new Pencil stylus costing £119, as the old Pencil is not compatible with the new iPad Pro. Gone is the daft-looking Lightning connector that you plugged directly into the iPad. It is replaced by magnets to attach it to the top of the tablet and wirelessly charge it - ready for action when you need it.

While the iPad Pro can be used with just about any Bluetooth keyboard, Apple sells a £199 Smart Keyboard Folio for the new iPad Pro, which acts like a case and clips the tablet and smart connector via magnets.

  • The flat edge on the Apple Pencil made it more comfortable to hold and use

  • There are various key shortcuts for navigating around the iPad with a keyboard attached

  • The camera is probably the best on any tablet but isn’t quite as good as most top-end smartphones

  • Some apps such as the Sky Q app need updating to fully support the iPad Pro as they have small black bars all the way round the sides

Other reviews

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Samuel GibbsGuardianAppleMicrosoftGoogle
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