I wrote this after spending time with the iPad Pro back in September. We're working on our full review now, but wanted to share this again for anyone considering buying immediately. Using it now, it's everything I remember it being and more.
It's something that's been obvious since the very beginning, and crystal clear since the iPad 2 keynote in 2011. For a large segment of people, using a traditional computer can be an awkward, frustrating, and intimidating experience. The iPad is for them. For others, the iPad hasn't been productive or creative enough simply by virtue of its size and input technologies. The iPad Pro is also for them. It is, simply, profoundly, a bigger, better window into apps and the internet than Apple has ever made before. And it comes a new keyboard and pencil that provide new ways to interact with both.
The screen itself is impressive. Equal parts immersive and imposing. It's 12.9 inches and 2732x2048 resolution. That's not 4K but it is 5.6 million pixels requiring an iMac-style custom timing controller, iPhone style photo-aligned pixels, and Oxide TFT for incredibly precise and clean colors.
Driving all that is an Apple A9X processor. It's the new iPhone processor on Hulk serum. It provides 2x the memory bandwidth, 2x the storage performance, 1.8x the processing speed, and 2x the graphics speed. Watching demonstrations of some of those pre-release games, it certainly looks impressive.
On the outside we get the same space black, silver, and gold options as the iPad Air 2. No rose gold. At least not yet.
Keyboard and Pencil
The Smart Keyboard, rather than being multitouch or even Force Touch, uses similar physical butterfly keyboard switches to the new MacBook. It interfaces via three new, circular connectors on the iPad and folds out from a cover to a stand. I only got to try it briefly: It wasn't long enough to see how typing speed and (frankly) typing joy would really work out, but I look forward to putting it through its paces once it's launched.
The Apple Pencil, however, I got to try for a while. I drew for hours a day, every day when I was growing up and I used Wacom tablets extensively when I worked as a designer. I've tried many of the third-party stylus pens that have come out for the iPad, and while a lot of them were great, none of them were incredible.
The Apple Pencil felt like a pencil: The weight and size is just right, and it doesn't glide too fast over glass like current plastic-tipped third party styluses. It had a little drag, just like you experience with paper. No texture, obviously, but something smooth without being unnatural.
Apple has drastically increased the sensitivity of the iPad display to make this interactivity work, but they didn't add Force Touch to the display itself: Instead, the company added pressure awareness to the tip of the Apple Pencil. Apple also added a ton of smarts so the stylus, together with the iPad Pro, can measure position, force, and tilt.
I'm going to spending a lot of time sketching, drawing, and painting with the iPad Pro. A lot.
Software and pricing
There was a lot of impressive software as well. iOS apps can present interfaces uniquely for the iPad Pro to really make use of that big screen. (And thanks to app thinning, your other devices never have to download those assets!)
Microsoft and Adobe, poetically, were up on stage showing off new versions of Office and creative apps. Oh, if the old, struggling Apple of yore could have seen Apple now. GarageBand and iMovie were shown off as well, as were drafting and design apps with 60 fps 3D rendering that really took advantage of the A9X.
Price is decidely "Pro" as well. It starts at $799 for 32 GB and Wi-Fi, $949 for 128 GB and Wi-Fi, and $1079 for 128 GB with Wi-Fi and LTE. Add in $99 for the Apple Pencil and $149 the Smart Keyboard, and you're reaching MacBook levels for your iPad. The question then becomes, do you want the closest MacBook to an iPad, or the closest iPad to a Mac?
That Apple was making a big iPad has been a poorly kept secret for years. How Apple was going to position it, a much more interesting question for almost as long. Now we have the beginnings of an answer. Productivity, creativity, and accessibility—so more people can do more with an iPad than ever before, and maybe with a computing device than ever before.
As long as the value to them is greater than the price.
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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.