Apple iPad Pro 9.7 in-depth review - The tablet perfected

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 is a smaller and almost as mighty version of its 12.7-inch version. With excellent competitors like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 around, does it have what it takes to reign in the hybrid tablet market?

 Apple iPad Pro 9.7 Review - The tablet perfected
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/21/2016 11:37:15 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Beautiful build | Great battery life | True Tone display | Fantastic camera

Cons:

Expensive

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

It's all about the looks, baby!

My rose gold review sample is absolutely stunning. I bet you didn't expect me to start the review with that statement, but it is. I am not usually a big fan of pink gadgets, but there is something so striking about this 9.7-inch screen slate that I have found it quite distracting (in a good way!) while it charges next to me.

(The iPad Pro 9.7 review unit was supplied to us by Carphone Warehouse)

Super thin (6.1mm) and with no breaks in the seamlessly curved metal jacket it is cloaked in, the metal  stretches across the back to hug the display in front. This iPad is a masterclass in build quality and beautiful design.

Apple have fallen for the absolute must-have on smartphone design-chamfered edges and put one tiny sliver here, and boy, does it gleam! Not only is the 9.7 version a much better size to hold and work one-handed than the 12.9, but I also love the True Tone Display that this iPad comes bundled with.

With a weight range of 437-444 grams depending on which version you get: wifi or wifi + LTE, it doesn't feel bulky or too heavy in the hand. And owing to the size, you are able to get away with using it one-handed too.

Four speaker grilles are punched into the curved metal at the top and bottom of the phone and the only punctuation in its white front display is the camera lens in the middle of the screen and the Home button at the bottom.

The only iPad to be available in four colour options, apart from the rose pink, there is also silver, space grey and gold, it's thin and light form factor is bound to win it a lot of accolades.

Is this iPad Pro the best streaming device ever?

The display on the iPad Pro 9.7 is truly something else. Even though it has a relatively low pixel per inch density (264ppi) when compared to some of the Samsung phones (567ppi) and its own elder sibling the iPad Pro (12.9), the True Tone and Wide colour display which covers a wider range of colours, as the name suggests make sure you will notice no difference in the quality of media playback on either device.

With brightness cranked up to 100%, a 15-minute stint of streaming HD videos over wifi made the tablet lose just 1% of power. So, rest assured this will stand you in good stint when on a long train journey and you need to work without access to power.

Furthermore, if you are streaming at home and decide to listen to the audio via the in-built speakers, the quality is very good, not the tinny quality you would usually get with playback at high volume. It also helps that all four are hi-fi speakers and irrespective of which way you hold the tablet, the higher frequencies will always be from the ones at the top.

True Tone Display

Apple have further tweaked the display on their slate, this time around, they have put in ambient light sensors so the display automatically adjusts to your environment: so watching stuff next to the pool will be a piece of cake and you will not be blinded by the dazzling display in bed when shopping online either. 

They also promise their least refective display on this iPad and combined with the oleophobic coating (fingerprints dont show as much), you have one of the best streaming devices available to buy right now.

The 2048×1536 screen resolution may not be as high as the iPad Pro 12.9 but it does a damned fine job with rich colour reproduction and beautiful immersive experience.

Grunt power

Obviously, a tablet is only as good as the processor it packs and the iPad Pro 9.7 packs a wallop. The A9 processor is Apple's latest and according to them 1.8 times faster than its predecessor the A8. I have played games on it and used Photoshop and not come across any problems at all. Gaming and editing photos/videos was as easy as it is on my daily driver, a MacBook Pro.

The best camera on a tablet

Apple's phone cameras may not be the best in terms of the kind of customisation options and depth you get from its competitors out there but it wins all the prizes and awards for being the one with the one with the easiest to use interface and superb Optical Image Stabilisation. And up until now, the camera tech on tablets has always been inferior than the one on phones, and not just on Apple's devices- Samsung and Sony are guilty ofthis too. Not such issue here. The iPad Pro 9.7 has the same camera as the iPhone 6S and includes live photos and all the bells and whistles you will otherwise find on its flagship smartphone. 

This is also the only iPad to pack a Retina flash which helps make the front facing pictures look less burnt in low light conditions, instead enveloping them in a warm glow.

 In-depth review of Apple iPhone 6S Plus

Optical image stabilisation is present and correct on the primary camera and it is an improvement over the Pro 12.7 because it has not just has a lower aperture for better low light pictures but also a higher camera sensor at 12-MP.

Video-wise, you can record 4K videos here and slo-mo video support is included for 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240 fps.

What's the difference between the iPad Pro 9.7 and iPad Pro 12.9?

There is very little difference between these two super slim slates apart from the obvious: size of screen. Primarily, the 9.7 wifi + cellular model is available in an additional storage size, so also 256GB. The 9.7-inch version has the party trick application Live Photos that made its first appearance on the iPhone 6S and it also has a 'Retina flash' mode for front-facing photos.

True Tone and Wide angle display are further advantages of this particular model and this is the only iPad that comes with an embedded Apple SIM (currently only offered by EE).

What's the difference between the iPad Pro 9.7 and the iPad Air 2?

The iPad Pro is aimed at those who want to take a proper stab at using this tablet for work and so it comes with more storage options; the Pro packs the A9 processor which is one up from the A8 on the Air 2 and this has a better camera with a 12-MP sensor while the Air has a 8-MP one. Compared side-by-side, the iPad Pro 9.7 should have been called the iPad Air 3. All the specs, including the size are almost exactly the same.

Should I buy the Apple iPad Pro 9.7?

This is an incredible product. Looks, power, battery and camera all play along nicely to make this the best tablet I have seen so far this year. You will not be able to use it as a laptop replacement because a laptop brings with it the ease of use and comfort that cannot be replicated by a tablet unless the keyboard is a metal one with well spaced out keys, like the Microsoft SurfaceBook or even a MacBook Pro. 

Furthermore, the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 is a very expensive tablet. By the time you get the spec and flavour you like, you will be looking at one of the costliest devices around. Although not a work laptop replacement, this has the grunt power, the display and the battery life to make sure that you dont have to ever take out your clunky work issue laptop out of your bag, except at work.

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a beast of a device packed into a very premium metal body and the superior camera capabilities of the iPhone 6S. Apple are back in form with this workhorse.

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-inch) specifications

Price: £499-£739 (Wi-fi) and £599-£839 (Wi-fi and cellular)

Operating System: iOS 9

Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm

Weight: 437g and 444g

Resolution: 2048x1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi); True Tone display

Display: 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display

Processor: A9X chip with 64-bit architecture; M9 coprocessor

Camera: 12-MP iSight camera; ƒ/2.2 aperture; 4K video recording (3840x2160) at 30 fps; 5-MP selfie 

Memory: Wi‑Fi models: 32GB/128GB/256GB; Wi‑Fi + Cellular models: 32GB/128GB/256GB

Battery: Built‐in 27.5‐watt‐hour rechargeable lithium‐polymer battery

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: Four-speaker audio