Apple’s smaller iPad Pro marries power with improved portability

Apple’s smaller iPad Pro marries power with improved portability

Daniel Howley

Technology Reporter
March 22, 2016

Apple’s iPad Pro is a 12.9-inch beast of a tablet. And as it turns out, some people find it to be a bit too beastly. Which is why Apple today unveiled a smaller 9.7-inch version called, appropriately enough, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

The latest member of the iPad family packs the same high-powered engine as the full-size iPad Pro into the slim, lightweight body of the iPad Air 2.

I spent some time with the new Pro and am already prefer it to its larger sibling.

A familiar face

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro might be a new model, but its look and design have been lifted right from Apple’s existing iPad Air 2. The new Pro doesn’t just look like the Air 2 either. It’s actually the same size and weight as Apple’s older slate.

I found the full-size iPad Pro to be too unwieldy for a tablet when I used it. It felt like Apple fed the Air 2 a growth hormone and sent it out to market.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro, however, is far more manageable. If I’m being completely honest, the 12.9-inch Pro felt almost cartoonishly large.

I can see why certain professionals might want the 12.9-inch Pro’s enormous display, but for the rest of us, the 9.7-inch Pro feels like the sweet spot between size and performance.

Smaller screen, newer tricks

Like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the 9.7-inch Pro gets Apple’s pro Retina display with 264 pixels per inch. That basically means your images will look incredibly sharp and detailed.

What makes the 9.7-inch Pro’s screen different than the larger 12.9-inch version are two new features: True Tone display and Wide color display.

True Tone uses four ambient light sensors on the front of the iPad to automatically adjust the screen’s white balance based on the lighting around you.

So if you’re sitting in a room with traditional incandescent lights that give off a warmer glow, the iPad Pro’s display will take on a warmer color. If you’re in a room with cooler lighting, the screen will take on a bluer tone.

The purpose of this kind of screen is to make the iPad’s display feel more natural and less jarring compared to the light around it. If you’re in warmer lighting and the screen has the same kind of glow, it will naturally feel more comfortable to view.

Wide color, on the other hand, allows the iPad Pro to display the same color gamut as Apple’s 5K iMac, which allows the slate to create more colors than the iPad Air 2. That’s important if you’re going to be using the Pro to do things like edit photos or videos.

Naturally, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s display offers top-notch palm rejection. So if you’re using the Apple Pencil to draw on the screen, you won’t have to worry about making stray marks with your hand.

iOS for the Pros

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will hit the market with the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system. And while there aren’t any earth-shattering improvements, iOS 9.3 does offer at least one interesting new feature: Night Shift.

The big to-do about Night Shift is that it can automatically adjust the warmth and coolness of your iPad’s display depending on the time of day. That’s important because studies have shown that viewing a device with a cool, or blue, screen at night can impact the quality of your sleep.

By reducing the amount of blue light powering the iPad Pro’s screen, Apple is able to make the display warmer and better for using at night.

Turn the power up to 11

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is every bit as powerful as its monster-truck-sized brother. Inside, the slate gets Apple’s high-speed A9X processor, which the company says rivals the power of some laptops. The only problem is, many of the programs you can use on a laptop don’t run on an iPad, so that comparison is basically moot.

Still, the slate is ridiculously fast. Apps open and close in the blink of an eye and run just as smoothly. Naturally, you’ll also be able to take advantage of all of the multitasking features Apple added to iOS 9, including Split View, Slide Over and Picture-in-Picture mode.

Apple’s newest iPad also gets an updated 12-megapixel iSight camera. So now, as you look like a fool taking pictures with your iPad, you can rest easy knowing your shots should look great.

Apple also has you covered with a new, smaller Smart Keyboard cover for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. As with the 12.9-inch Pro, the smaller Smart Keyboard cover connects to the new Pro via its built-in smart connector and serves as both a keyboard, cover and stand.

The base 9.7-inch Pro comes with 32GB of storage. If that’s too little, you can upgrade to 128GB or 256GB of space.

The price of Pro

Naturally, all that power comes at a price. The base 32GB 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $600, while the 128GB and 256GB models cost $750 and $900, respectively.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard, meanwhile, will cost you $150. Add the $100 Apple pencil to the mix and a base 9.7-inch iPad Pro will cost you $850. That’s a lot of cash for a tablet.

Then again, if the iPad Pro is able to replace a laptop like Apple says it can, that price might be worth it. We’ll let you know for sure in our full review coming soon. Stay tuned.

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