Adding to the level of brilliance is the camera, because while Apple used to just throw on slightly outdated camera technology into its tablets — because who uses a tablet to take pictures (outside of the lot of people that do) — now the company is just basically saying “yep, we’ll put in the good stuff”.
That’s basically what has happened here, with the 12 megapixel camera from the iPhone 6S brought into the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, alongside a flash.
Yes, a flash is finally here, something Apple has gone without in its tablets for pretty much ever, so if you’re keen on it, you can take pictures with a bit of light at the back.
The front-facing camera has also been changed, with 5 megapixel selfies just like the iPhone 6S as well as the “Retina Flash” which turns the entirety of the 9.7 inch screen into a bright light to provide your face with a bit more colour in low lighting.
Essentially, this is the iPhone 6S set of cameras inside of a tablet body, and that puts it a little higher than the larger 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
As for use, we’re not big on iPad photography simply because it’s awkward and cumbersome, but given there’s a decent camera on each side as well as the option for capturing 4K video — something that can also be edited using the iPad Pro — that makes it a little more capable than its big brother.
More than “just another iPad”
Like the last major iPad release in the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, this isn’t just simply another iPad with a couple of new features inside.
No, the 9.7 inch iPad Pro now replaces the iPad Air 2, which still technically sticks around, but is now the second best Apple iPad to get if you need a 10 inch tablet made by Apple but don’t need anything extra.
By “extra”, what do we mean? Well, that’s the part that makes the iPad Pro a little different than say a standard iPad or iPad Air model.
This includes four speakers, with the two on the bottom now being joined by two at the top, because more sound means more volume and a better sound across the board which is important for some.
Also joining the speakers is support for Apple’s Pencil, the powered stylus that is totally optional but ideal if you’re keen on drawing on the screen, taking notes, or generally emulating the feeling of pen or pencil on paper, except in a digital environment.
Since the release of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro last year, we’ve seen a few apps take on that digital divide, which is an area Microsoft’s Surface knows only too well, though the apps on the Microsoft’s devices tend to orient more around the professional capacity of software solutions, including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
Apps made for the iPad Pro aren’t quite as fully featured as these, but still aren’t anything to sneeze at, with illustration possible through the Aussie app “Procreate” while “Forge” delivers an almost storyboarding solution for people keen to take their ideas from the early stages of drawing all the way up to finished project.
Adobe even offers a few apps in the App Store for use, as does Autodesk, so professional keen on keeping a digital notepad and canvas with them at all times certainly can, too.
The other thing that makes the iPad Pro a “pro” device is something that feels like it takes a page out of those aforementioned Microsoft Surface devices, and that’s the magnetic dock at the bottom of the device.
These three circles allow you to plug the iPad Pro right into a keyboard case that will share the power of the tablet and also mean there’s no Bluetooth connection, and that’s good because sometimes you just need a physical connection. Not all flights allow Bluetooth connectivity, making it handy here, and you’re less likely to lose keystrokes, something that can still occur with wireless due to the occasional timeout.
In theory, Apple could also use the docking connector for more accessories, but for the moment, it’s basically just a keyboard.
We haven’t seen the 9.7 inch variant of the iPad Pro physical keyboard case — not by the time we published this review, anyway — but if it’s anything like its 12.9 inch sibling (and we have every reason to suspect it will pretty much just be a smaller version of that), it will offer a hard connection for a soft keyboard with a surprising albeit strange level of contact.
As usual, Apple’s battery in the iPad Pro continues to make it a force to be reckoned with, and through our week with the iPad Pro, we found we only needed to charge it a few times throughout the rest period.
Gamers will likely need to charge nightly simply because high-end graphics and excess processor utilisation can take its toll on the battery, but we found general use and content consumption barely made a dent, with a good two to three days per charge for us, though this is dependent on what you do.
Indeed, iOS on the iPad still has the best standby life of any tablet we’ve tested, and just because you’re not using the iPad doesn’t mean you’re wasting a lot of battery life, something we still see on Android devices.
Instead the iPad Pro doesn’t worry about the times you’re not using it, minimising activity and keeping battery usage down, much like we’ve seen previously on the iPad Air and iPad Air 2.
That’s great news if you go a day without and switch back to a computer, or just, you know, skip the whole digital thing because you want to listen to nature. People do that, right?