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First look: Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Last fall Apple took the iPad Pro by introducing a new 12.9-inch model with a smart keyboard and connector, pressure sensitive pencil, and four big, booming speakers. This spring, Apple is condensing as much of that as possible down to the original 9.7-inch size.

So, how does the 9.7-inch size handle going Pro? Here are some hands-on first impressions!

The "baby" pro

What goes up in size must come down, at least if you want to make it to the mainstream. And while small compared to the 12.9-inch display, 9.7-inches was still big enough for the original iPad. That's because it was, and still remains, a great balance between productivity and portability.

In other words, while there's less screen to work and play on, there's also less weight to lug around. So, for some it might be a baby Pro, for others it'll be Pro made perfect.

Display magic

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a few features new and unique, even compared to its bigger sibling. First is the DCI-P3 color gamut. That's the wider space used by digital cinema projection and the new Retina 5K iMac. Think of it as higher dynamic range on the display.

There's also a new True Tone feature that uses two sensors to detect the ambient color temperature and adjust the display so that white looks white. Not yellow white. Not blue white. But white white. The artist in me loves it so much.

First class camera

The original iPad size also leap-frogs the bigger's camera. The iSight here is the same 12-megapixel marvel found in iPhone 6s, and that includes 4K video.

Some people still make fun of those who take video with iPad, but professionals know a bigger viewfinder can come in incredibly handy, especially for production work. This camera elevates iPad to a first class photographic and video citizen. About time.

Smart Keyboard

I'm pretty resilient when it comes to keyboards. I'm perfectly fine on a MacBook Pro, MacBook, or iPad Pro, and I've used iPad Air and even iPad mini keyboards for years without much trouble.

Apple's first sub-10-inch keyboard — the Smart Keyboard condensed — has the same laser ablated fabric spring and MacBook-style domes, and works almost as well as the full sized version for me. Perhaps surprisingly so.

It goes right to the edge now, and like any new keyboard, it takes some getting used to. But even at the smaller size, I was able to get going fast — and stay going.

Your milage may vary, of course, which is why the Smart Connector should allow for bevy of third-party alternatives.

Apple Pencil

If the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Apple Pencil was a spacious sketchbook, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is a more like a handy workbook. When I first tried it, I was worried about running out of canvas, but only for a moment. If you've never gotten used to the bigger iPad Pro, you'll likely never worry about 9.7-inch version.

Responsiveness, accuracy, palm rejection — all remain phenomenal. After a decade using Wacom as a designer, I'm still blown away by how hard Apple nailed the Pencil right out of the gate.

Pricing and availability

You can get the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in your choice of silver, space gray, gold, and rose gold. With greater power, though, comes greater price points.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes in 32, 128, and 256 GB versions, starting at $599. LTE Advanced is an option for all of them.

You can order it starting on the 24th and it'll be in-store starting March 31.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

37 Comments
  • Love Rene's facial expression as soon as he gets a look at himself when switching to front camera
  • Looks like the iPad Air2 Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • What a fascinating and insightful response. Pure genius.
  • **** off, that's an iPad air2 Sent from the iMore App
  • Hi all, can anyone tell me the game Rene is playing in this video?
  • Gravity Wars 3D, isn't it?
  • I wish there was one actual "review" of this thing out there that doesn't just drink the Kool-Aid. I'm not picking on Rene in particular, 9to5Mac has a list of about a dozen video "hands-on" reviews of this thing and not one of them finds any fault with it. Not one of them is anything but essentially a parroting of the design highlights Apple presented on stage. I'm not even saying you have to agree that there is anything wrong with the new iPad, just that intelligent, free-minded people can disagree on things like this, so the complete, absolute absence of ANY criticism at all is just insane. There are pros and cons to everything. Just showing the pros and ageing Apple's marketing materials helps no one. For example I'd like to see just one review that seriously discusses the HUGE price increase for what it is, or how the "world's best drawing tablet" doesn't actually lay flat on a table. These are serious issues.
  • I honestly believe, from what I saw, there really is no downside to this powerhouse. I know there will be those who will find fault with this or that, and everyone is certainly free to express their opinions. However, there is so much bias towards or against Apple, I feel the only way to really know what you'd be getting is to go to an Apple Store and spend as much time with it as you need to make up your own mind.
  • You're basing your "opinion" on what you saw. Defending the "hands-on" reviews that litter the Internet because of what you saw. Perhaps the commenter is looking for a real review that discusses the design and performance of the actual device. All you've done by commenting is reinforce the driving of the kool-aid.
  • It's an iPad Air 3 but with more speakers and supports a pen for $100 more than new ipads of the past. Why sites like this don't point it out is beyond me. The only good thing about this is that they lowered the price of the Air 2.
  • $100 US more? The least expensive model has 32 GB at $599. But that's not exactly $100 more because the previous $499model had only 16 GB. And if that's too much, the Air 2 is now $399.
  • Will rene criticise the camera hump on the new iPad? Yap that doesn't affect his design philosophy which Samsung screws up according to him. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would hope they'd all take quite a bit more time to formulate a review. These are typically called previews or quick looks. And I imagine people who are unimpressed with Apple stuff in general would want a reporter to mention "walled garden" and "locked down," and stuff. But you're not going to find that here for sure. Also, are you saying there's a huge price increase for the iPad Pro 9.7 versus the iPad Air 2? Because there's no increase, at least for the entry model. $599 for the 32GB model. That's the same as the retail for the Air 2 at 32 GB. [Edit: the Air 2 had 64GB, not 32 at that price.] I haven't compared the 128 GB versions yet.
  • I forgot that the $599 model of iPad Air 2 was 64 GB, not 32. And the new 128 GB model is $50 more, though I wouldn't call that a HUGE price increase.
  • The keynote was today with official release March 31st. How about waiting till next week, say Wednesday before reviews are out. And if you really want a solid review, I suggest reading Anandtech's hardware reviews: http://anandtech.com/show/9766/the-apple-ipad-pro-review
  • They are reporting about a device that was introduced 1 hour ago. They have limited time with the device and in far from ideal conditions, they call it hands on for a reason. Give a little time and when the reviewers receive their unit in the office you will have plenty of disadvantages and hidden facts (or not highlighted by Apple). Please be a little considerate with digital journalism, it requires way more hours that those reflected in the contract and it never seems to be enough.
  • He did mention greater power comes in at higher price point. He also mentioned that a smaller keyboard could easily be a challenge for many of us. He mentioned another shortcoming also, but I'm not going to tell you what it is, just so you can read it again. Of course Rene and others love their Kool-Aid, for many reasons...some better than others. But if you're going to take shots, aim first.
  • No force touch? Find myself pressing hard on my iPad Air 2 more and more. Which is why I'm tired of how the iPhone and iPad leapfrog each other.
  • I'm waiting for force choke, but yeah.
  • I want to get it but it feels, to me, as an "artist" iPad. I can't draw so i don't think the Pencil will come in handy. The only way I can think it will come in handy for me is if Apple made writing into text for the Notes app or even Pages. I do wrote more than i type and its a pain to transfer all my writing to my computer because I have to type it all. That would make me buy this iPad and pencil in a heartbeat.
  • I held back on getting 12.9 Pro and I was right, the smaller brother is a beast and just right for me. Except for screen resolution, every other feature is equal or better on 9.7 model and it's even cheaper than bigger one, really good move I think, it doesn't seem to have any weak points this time.
  • "it doesn't seem to have any weak points this time." Other than the fact that it doesn't do USB 3 transfer speeds like the 12.9" iPP, you're right.
  • Yes, and too bad it still has only 2 GB RAM. Insufficient RAM is holding iOS back as far as I'm concerned.
  • 64 gig is my sweet spot. 32 isn't enough but 128 is overkill.
  • Do you think they'll make an iPad mini pro with an Apple pencil? Sent from the iMore App
  • Personally, I doubt it. Smartphones are taking over the consumption side of the market, plus Phil Schiller mentioned that the 9.7" form factor was by far the most popular iPad size.
  • I probably wouldn't refer to DCI-P3 as "high dynamic range". It's wider colour gamut. Could be confusing.
  • The 62 GB iPad Air 2 is still enough if you're not an artist I think.
  • i hope that we can disable the color adjustment on this, i personally don't like the thoughts of the colors changing depending on ambient light. there will likely be many that disagree with me and that's fine, i personally just prefer my screen stay one color set.
  • Then just disable Night Switch. It's toggleable
  • Did you read the article? He's not talking about Night Switch. There's a new feature that adjusts color based on ambient light.
  • Compared to my nearly 4 year old iPad 3 this thing is a beast. Got to hand it to Apple as far as producing quality hardware. Other than a battery that needs charging far more often (sometimes twice a day), my iPad 3 is still going strong. But I think it is finally time to upgrade, and the new Pro is begging me to part ways with my tax refund.
  • Bottom line Rene - is it worth the upgrade from the most recent iPad Air?
  • Only if you need the pencil.
  • Pretty cool that they've given the iPad Pro a beast of a camera for a change. Doing OCR with the Pro should be a joy.
  • surface pro 2 looks much better
  • Why the name pro? Would like a name like, iPad Air Magic! Sent from the iMore App