The 10.5-inch iPad Pro represents Apple deciding to make a tablet with absolutely everything crammed inside of it. The best in audio performance, the cream of the company’s mobile screen tech, and all the power that can be crammed inside the metal walls of a digital slate. Make no mistake: the new iPad Pro is the device that Apple wants you to buy to replace your laptop if you’re not going to pay out for a new MacBook.
Ironically, the price is such that; when paired with the necessary accessories it’s not far off the cost of such a device, but the iPad Pro offers something a little different. It’s an entertainment hub that flips to become a mobile work station; the iPad Pro’s strength is that it can do many things well, and in a compact form. There’s only so much manufacturers can do to update a tablet these days beyond increasing the specs, as the use case for these devices hasn’t altered much over the years, beyond them now being able to serve as pseudo-tablet replacements with the addition of a keyboard.
Thanks to the awesome folks over at Verizon, today I get to personally tell you all about the new iPad Pro 2017 10.5-inch Verizon model. They sent me a 256GB Space Gray model over to me about 2 1/2 weeks ago and I’ve been using it since it showed up via FedEx. I unfortunately had to put it down and back into the box to be shipped back to Verizon and that wasn’t something I wanted to do at all. That said, Apple has shoved all the high-end specs it can into the new iPad Pro, and it really does make a difference; but are they the sorts of things that will really impress consumers, and is it enough to warrant the higher price?
If you’re familiar with any kind of iPad, then the new iPad Pro isn’t going to be a surprise. You’ve got the same rounded metallic back (and now there’s no plastic cut-out at the top of the device for the antennas, which improves the aesthetic) and it’s incredibly light in the hand at 469 grams. The protruding camera on the backside irks me slightly; you’d think that on a device this size there would be space to make it flush; but given that it’s using the same sensor as in the iPhone 7, I can see the choice Apple made here.
Keeping the components smaller this way means there’s more space for the speakers, which have large resonance chambers to amplify the sounds coming out from the new iPad Pro. I’m so glad Apple decided to do this, as the audio from this tablet is just sensational; more on that later. It’s perhaps a shame that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro isn’t waterproof, as Apple clearly has the ability to make it so, as it demonstrated with the iPhone 7. However, apart from enabling it to be safely used in the bath or by the pool, waterproofing on a tablet is less necessary than on a phone, which can be accidentally dunked into many more wet things due to its size.
It feels redundant to talk about the build quality of this tablet, because the higher premium placed on Apple products does guarantee something that’s made to last and feel good in the hand. The buttons feel well machined and have a pleasing travel, everything is easy to find under the finger and the TouchID sensor at the base of the device is swift to respond, and within reach whichever orientation you hold the tablet in. You’ll spend a lot on this device, but at least you’ll get something that seems to justify the cost in terms of build quality.
Both of the earlier iPad Pro models had good screens, but neither were all that exciting. Not so this time: The Pro 10.5’s display is fantastic. For one, it’s a little bigger than the panels Apple once used in its iPads. I really like the 12.9-inch Pro in theory, but it was always too hefty to lug around (especially since I often have a laptop with me, anyway). And the 9.7-inch Pro was fine for reading and video, but less than ideal when I needed to get work done. It honestly would’ve been nice to get an even bigger screen this time; say, 11 inches; but Apple’s size decision here was at least a step in the right direction. And because Apple bumped this screen’s resolution to 2,224 x 1,668, it’s just as crisp as every other Retina iPad display.
This is also Apple’s first ProMotion screen, which means it refreshes at a rate of 120Hz instead of the typical 60Hz. As a result, scrolling and animations are almost startlingly smooth. Your TV probably has a similar feature, which makes actors on-screen look like they’re walking around a sound stage instead of their fictional world. Here, it just makes the action look more fluid, as though the icons you’re pushing around a home screen are real objects. Frankly, I don’t want to go back to a non-ProMotion iPad after this.
While similarities to televisions are fresh in our minds, the Pro 10.5 also packs support for the DCI-P3 wide color gamut. This first debuted on last year’s iPad Pro, and it just means colors here are livelier and more saturated. Beyond that, this is also one of the brightest iPad screens I’ve ever seen. It tops out at around 600 nits, putting it ahead of many existing tablets, not to mention quite a few laptops. That brightness makes this model a champ for watching movies in well-lit environments, and an improved anti-reflective coating also means it’s great for outdoor use, too. Throw in True Tone, which changes the screen’s color temperature based on your surroundings, and you’ve got one of the most technically impressive displays Apple has ever made.
If you’re looking for a compact tablet that can double as a decent speaker, then you should just buy the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, no question. The sound quality and volume coming from this two-in-one device is sensational; nobody who’s heard it has been anything other than impressed. That’s due to the larger chambers which allow the audio from the speakers to reverberate for a deeper, richer sound.
As such, if you’re listening to music when making dinner or messing around in the kitchen, the sound quality is great; audio is sharp and expansive, but most importantly it’s considerably loud. It’s not going to rival a Sonos speaker or the upcoming Apple HomePod, but for a makeshift, or even replacement, Bluetooth speaker the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a great choice.
When it comes to movies, if you’re ever in the mood for watching a film without headphones, whether that be sitting in bed with your other half or by yourself, cradling a lasagna for one, you’ll get a perfect performance from the iPad Pro. Even outdoors, with the wind and cars roaring by, we were able to hear a movie completely, far more accurately than expected. It was so loud that we started to worry about disturbing people 20 meters away, which shows the range the new iPad Pro has.
This version of the iPad Pro packs a 30.4Whr battery and, as usual, Apple claims you’ll be able to use it for up to 10 hours while watching movies or while surfing the interwebs. In general, Apple’s estimates were always on the conservative side; I’ve had our share of iDevices easily surpass the 10-hour mark in our battery-rundown test. This time, though, Apple’s figure was more or less right-on. On three occasions, I set the Pro 10.5 to loop a movie with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness set to half, and on average the tablet lasted for about nine hours and 40 minutes before needing a trip to a power outlet.
That’s actually a little better than last year’s model, but not by much. The Pro 10.5 has a bigger battery than the Pro 9.7, but it also has to deal with a brighter screen that refreshes twice as fast. (The A10X Fusion chip obvious plays a role here too, but it was designed to more efficiently sip power when needed.) Anyway, most of you aren’t sitting around running video benchmarks all day. With fairly consistent use (by which I mean I barely put it down) and screen brightness set to auto, the iPad Pro lasted about three days before needing a charge. If you’re the type who picks up an iPad, checks a few things out and tosses it back down again, expect it to last even longer.
No matter how you slice it, $785 (256GB model and price is cheaper for smaller storage sizes) is a lot of money to drop on an iPad. In return, however, you get one of the most powerful tablets around. Most people like the idea of a second screen for occasional web browsing on the couch when they can’t be bothered to move to a computer or dig a phone out of their pocket. If that’s you, just forget it: The iPad Pro 10.5 is total overkill.
That said, it’s not hard to find scenarios where this pricey Pro actually makes sense. If you’re a photographer looking for a better way to edit RAW files in the field, this might be for you. Ditto for videographers and producers looking to piece together rough cuts without running for a workstation. And if you’re the kind of person contemplating a life without a traditional PC at home or in your bag, the power on display makes the iPad Pro 10.5 a good place to start … though you may want to wait until iOS 11 launches. Long story short, this is an excellent machine with tons of untapped potential. Just make sure that it actually fits your lifestyle before dropping the cash on one.
As mentioned above early on, huge thanks to the awesome folks over at Verizon Wireless for sending over this review unit as well as all the other stuff they have sent over in the past and that they will be sending in the future. It’s an absolute pleasure to be working with them to be able to bring you, the readers, reviews of various new mobile devices.