When Apple revealed its new range of iPad Pro devices a few weeks ago, the one slight minor rabbit that it took out of its tablet-y hat was a 10.5-inch display edition of the iPad Pro. In essence, it stepped into the shoes of the older 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which was gently ushered out of the tablet portfolio, taking on the mantle of a “more manageable than a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.”
And on the surface (pun unintended. Sorry, Redmond), the new iPad Pro definitely slots into the slot of being slightly larger without being overwhelming. While the 12.9-inch model definitely gets closer to notebook territory, its 10.5-inch cousin is still only slightly larger than the iPad Pro it sent into the digital night (it is no longer listed on the official site, folks). It is far from bulky – in fact, it is exactly as slim as its predecessor: a less-than pencil thin 6.1 mm, which makes it thinner than the iPhone itself, and at 477 grams for the 4G edition, it is a bare 30-odd grams heavier. Yes, at 250.6 mm in length and 174.1 mm in width, it is slightly larger than the 240 mm length and 169.5 mm width of the iPad Pro 9.7, but as the pictures will show, when plonked next to each other, the difference does not exactly jump out at you.
That is because Apple has refrained from any radical design rejigging. The iPad Pro 10.5 is cut from the same design cloth as its predecessors – display with a fingerprint scanner just below the display, volume rocker and SIM card try on right, connector on right side, 3.5 mm audio jack (yes!)and speaker grilles on top, speaker grilles flanking Lightning connector on the base, and finally camera at the top left corner of a smooth metal back that curves out gently to meet the display. The bezels have been shaved a bit from the right and left, a bit too much for comfort, in our opinion, as gripping the tablet from the sides puts our fingers on the display itself. That said, this is a remarkably compact and lightweight tablet – it is still lighter than the first iPad which had a smaller display remember.
And of course, bringing it into the land of productivity are its two companions – the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. The Apple Pencil is largely unchanged so we have not included it in this look-up, but the Smart Keyboard is now slightly larger to fit the (equally slightly) larger proportions of the iPad Pro 10.5, as it also doubles up as a cover when folded up. Before you ask, yes, the Smart Keyboard of the 9.7 inch iPad Pro can work with the iPad Pro 10.5 inch model too. It just does not function as a Smart Cover as it does not cover the entire front.
Unfortunately – in our opinion – that’s where the change sheet ends. The material is the same custom-woven fabric that we saw on the first Smart Keyboard. It is water-resistant, which is good, but we really were looking for more controls on the keyboard itself – music, brightness, and the like, which ironically are present on third-party keyboards for the device. And no, it is still not backlit, which is a bit of a sin at its price point, as is the fact that it seems to be slightly raised on one corner (the right one). We would also have liked larger keys, more viewing angles (we are still stuck to the one) and slightly more solid feel, but then we did get used to the keyboard on the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, so we are putting that down to habit more than anything else. On the plus side, there is no doubting that the keyboard blends easily into the iPad Pro and is light enough to make it one lean, mean computing machine.
And helping it in its “notebook replacement” cause is the REAL change in the iPad Pro – some serious hardware muscle. The most obvious and visible of these is the display, which is discernibly brighter than the one on the previous generation iPads and is also of a higher resolution 2224 x 1668 as against the 2048 x 1536 of its predecessor. A refresh rate of 120 MHz and brightness levels of 600 nits easily makes this the new benchmark for mobile displays in our opinion. Apple claims it is also more sensitive (promoting the ProMotion technology – pun intended!) and even better to use with the Apple Pencil, but sensitivity was not really an issue with the earlier iPads, although the absence of 3D Touch remains odd. Under the hood is also the A10X processor which Apple claims is more powerful than even high-end notebook processors, and an improved M10 motion processor. There is also rumoured to be 4 GB of RAM, which of course, cannot be officially confirmed, and also has the second generation Touch ID, which was excluded for some strange reason in its predecessor. It also comes with the cameras of the iPhone 7 – a 12.0-megapixel rear camera and a 7.0-megapixel selfie snapper (or FaceTime camera, to use Apple-se). Battery life remain a staggering ten hours plus, and sound is handled by the four speaker system which for us is among the best in tablet territory. Of course, all these will be supplemented by iOS 11, the most iPad-friendly iOS update ever, of which we have written enough in the past.
All this in storage variations of 64 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB – capacities which clearly announce Apple’s decision to invade notebookland – and in prices that start from Rs 52,900 ($649) for the base Wi-Fi 64 GB variant to Rs 87,900 ($1079) for the 512 GB 4G and Wi-Fi edition. Well, come to think of it, even the prices are in notebookland – you can get a slightly older MacBook Air with 128 GB for about the price of the base model!
All in all, the iPad Pro 10.5 might not seem a radical overhaul at first glance – blame the familiar design for them “been there, seen that” feels. But spend a few hours with it and it suddenly seems like an iPad road less travelled. No, we have not really stretched the device yet, but even the flexing of its muscles seems impressive enough at this stage. For more – and whether it actually can step in for a notebook – you will have to wait for our detailed review. As of now, we are still ogling that display, speculating about what games will stretch that processor…oh, and wondering why Apple did not overhaul that pricey keyboard and that pencil!