The tablet market isn't in great shape, but Apple is still convinced that the iPad represents the future of mobile computing. That's where the Pro models come in: They're designed to bring serious horsepower to everyday tasks in hopes that people could use them to replace traditional computers. Now we've got a new one, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which replaces the 9.7-inch model we reviewed last year. After a bit of hands-on time, one thing is clear: If you're looking for a premium tablet, this is one slate you can't ignore.
The Pro 10.5 (which I'm now calling it, for brevity's sake) is basically the same size and weight as the older 9.7-inch Pro, which is no longer for sale. That Apple was able to squeeze a bigger screen into the same trim body is fantastic; the bezels flanking the left and right sides of the screen are dramatically smaller, which means there's less stuff to get in between you and the glories of the internet. I was concerned that those smaller bezels around this bigger screen would make the iPad awkward to hold. After all, where are my thumbs supposed to go? Well, it's not really a problem. The combination of a sleek body and minimal, one-pound weight means the new Pro is as easy to grasp as older models.
Apple refined the display too. Beyond the bigger size, it packs familiar True Tone tech that tweaks the screen's color temperature depending on your surroundings and refreshes at 120Hz. It was tough to see the difference in action (especially in Apple's dimly lit demo room), but scrolling and writing on the Pro with an Apple Pencil was remarkably smooth. Don't worry, we'll compare it more thoroughly to the other Pros when we get one in for review.
Now, there's more to that sense of smoothness than an improved screen. The Pro 10.5 uses a new A10X Fusion chipset; it's a more powerful version of the chip we got in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, though it's not clear how much RAM there is inside. Older iPad Pros had already reached the point where everything felt seamlessly smooth, so you might not notice a difference just swiping around and launching apps. Where all that extra horsepower should shine is when it's applied to graphically intense games, not to mention the forthcoming iOS 11 update.
These Pros were running an early version of iOS 11, as you could probably tell by the dock at the bottom of the home screen. To be clear, you are definitely not getting features like that when the 10.5-inch Pro launches next week. It's still iOS 10 all the way. The wait may be a tough one though: Apple showed off a load of new features that should make iPads more capable across the board. You'll be able to access the dock while using apps to launch other ones and even drag them into the two-paned multi-window mode. You can now drag content back and forth between apps too, a handy touch for multitaskers. And some other features, like swiping up with four fingers to see all your running apps, feel a lot like ones already baked into macOS.
In other words, the line between iPads and Macs is blurring.
With a blend of improved hardware and a smarter OS, the new iPad Pro seems poised to shine when it starts shipping next week. Stick around for a full review shortly.
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