Apple iPad Pro review: Is the tablet a laptop killer?

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Apple has made heads turn previously with its products and did the same with its latest iPad Pro. The company that once dismissed the concepts of styluses and hybrid laptops now offers both of them with the Apple iPad Pro. The company does seem to be strengthening its stance in the enterprise sector with the new machine where laptops are omnipresent.

Before we start reviewing the iPad let’s just address the big question here: Is the iPad Pro a laptop replacement? The answer is Yes and no. But we’ll get to that. Let’s just see what Apple has to offer in its latest iPad.

Design and display
The Apple iPad Pro comes with the familiar golden unibody aluminium design with a 6.9mm thickness, which is the same as the iPhone 6. The front of the iPad Pro is dominated by its 12.9-inch Retina display featuring the 2,732×2,048 resolution and has 5.6 million pixels, with a pixel density of 264 ppi. Given that this is the highest-resolution of any iOS device, the iPad Pro has a stunning display and is remarkably one of the highest selling points of the device.

Above the display, users get a 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, while the usual circular Home button lies below the display.

One addition to the iPad Pro is the smart connector that is used to dock the tablet with the keyboard. Another design feature worth a mention is its metallic buttons. These are located on the top right of the tablet in the form of the power button and volume rocker. The headset jack is located at the left top edge, while the USB charging port is placed at the bottom. The Apple iPad Pro also comes with 4 speakers, two at top and two at bottom.

At the back, you’ll see an 8MP camera and the shiny reflective Apple logo. Overall, in terms of design, the iPad Pro exudes a premium feel. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most beautiful tablets available today. Despite of its big size, the iPad Pro does not feel heavy and one can lug it around with ease.

Software
The iPad Pro runs on iOS 9, the newest version of Apple’s mobile OS. The biggest feature of this OS is the multitasking. As part of this feature, the iPad offers two additional elements – slide over and split view.

The slide over menu can be accessed by swiping to the right, which lists the compatible iPad apps. This way both apps can be used simultaneously without the need of shutting one down.

You can go a step further and turn it into a split view feature by extending the app in such a way that it divides the screen into two equal halves, running both apps side by side.

Another interesting feature is the picture-in-picture, which allows you to open a second app while using FaceTime or watching a video. Pressing the home button scales down the video screen to a corner of the display, giving you an option to let it play in the corner as you access the other apps.

All the above mentioned features aim at only one thing – smooth and lag free user experience, which it delivers. In our experience, the apps loaded and played quickly without any hiccups.

Accessories
Coming to the accessories (sold separately), the iPad Pro comes with a detachable keyboard and the Apple Pencil. The ‘controversial’ Apple Pencil is a fine example of the finesse with which the company makes its products. Suited best for artists and designers, the Apple Pencil comes with pressure-sensitive sensors.

According to Apple, the sensors measure the amount of pressure you’re applying as you write or draw, and calculate the exact orientation and angle of your hand.

With the built and weight that it has, the Apple Pencil feels like a real pencil. In our experience there was almost no latency between the Pencil and the screen. It is remarkably accurate and comes in handy when you need to scribble a note or mark up an image or PDF document in your own handwriting.

It gets connected to the iPad via Bluetooth and is charged by connecting to lightening port. To sync an Apple Pencil to an iPad one just needs to remove its cap and insert it in the iPad’s charging port. Also, users can charge the pencil with the iPads charging port. A 15 second insertion time gives 30 minutes of pencil battery backup.

Coming to the Smart Keyboard, it is an essential accessory when it comes to decide whether the iPad Pro can replace the laptops. It is made from ‘custom woven fabric’ that’s embossed and laser ablated to form the shape of each key. With the rubber keys, the Smart Keyboard somehow lacks the Apple trademark product quality.

We were able to easily connect it to the iPad Pro using the Smart Connectors on the side of it and doesn’t require any separate charging. One problem we faced with this tablet and plugged in keyboard is that it is restricted — in terms of tilt angles. The screen is fixed at one angle and you cannot bring it further or drop it down. These two accessories do enhance the experience, but they do demand a shiny penny to be spent over the Apple iPad Pro.

Performance and camera
Coming to the hardware specs, the Apple iPad Pro is powered by Apple’s A9X chip, which is based on 64-bit desktop-class architecture. Apple claims it delivers better performance than its predecessor without sacrificing the battery life. The chip processes applications twice as fast and renders graphics 2 times faster, but still ensures average battery life of 10 hours. This we got on our tests too, even with continuous HD video playback.

Over that, the Apple iPad Pro also features the M9 co-processor that dedicatedly handles the task of measuring data from motion sensors like the accelerometer and gyroscope without involving the main processor, leading to better battery life.

Similar to the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4, the 8MP rear camera on the iPad Pro does a decent job when it comes to images in daylight. However, images shot indoors in artificial light and low-light look slightly grainy. The 1.2MP front camera is mediocre for selfies, but does fare well as far as FaceTime video chats are concerned.

Verdict
With the powerhouse package that the Apple iPad Pro provides, there is no doubt that this is the best iPad till date. But that’s not the purpose of the device. The iPad Pro was made to replace your laptop completely. So coming back to the big question: Can the iPad Pro replace your laptop? Well, yes and no.

With all the right ingredients, Apple is on its way to take the touchscreen revolution to another level. It is a big beautiful tablet with excellent display that delivers a fantastic performance. One can easily edit 4K videos or run beautiful graphics or edit them with absolute ease. With the package of the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, it finally has an edge over the large screen smartphones or tablets.

But, no matter how powerful this device is, it has its limitations. The somewhat closed iOS software and lack of USB ports make it very difficult for the iPad Pro to be your professional laptop. Most experts do end up carrying their data in a pen drive and would want to transfer files from and to the notebook.

Also, it might be a matter of habit, but working without a trackpad or a mouse is a little difficult. Getting used to the touchscreen would take extra bit of time. Then it boils down to the price, doesn’t it?

The iPad Pro starts from €939 (32GB Wi-Fi only variant) and €1,119 (128GB Wi-Fi only variant). The tablet’s 128GB model with 4G LTE connectivity costs a whooping €1,269. The iPad Pro accessories – Apple pencil, smart keyboard are priced at €109 and €179 respectively.

Considering that both Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard are essential for an optimum use of the iPad Pro, it costs you over €1,227 for the basic model. At that price there are a lot of good laptop options in the market, however none of them would give you the extreme performance in such a slim bezel.

Image courtesy of Flickr

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