NEW YORK CITY – If you want an iPad, any iPad, you can buy a new one for $US329. But if you plan to run Photoshop, play advanced games, or use Apple’s stylus, called Pencil, you’ll want the iPad Pro.
Apple updated its iPad Pro lineup on Tuesday with two new models: one with a 11-inch screen, and one with a 12.9-inch screen.
It’s the biggest update to the iPad lineup in years. Gone is the old home button, which brought you back to the home screen. Instead, you now unlock the iPad Pro with your face – using Apple’s Face ID – and use gestures to change or quit apps.
These changes enabled Apple to make the bezels smaller, packing the same-sized screens as previous models into tablets with a smaller overall size – the 11-inch version is about the size of a piece notebook paper, for example.
There’s also been a ton of other changes, too, like a shift from Apple’s proprietary Lightning charger to the cross-platform USB-C standard.
With these changes comes an increase in price: now, the smaller iPad Pro costs at least $US799. The bigger model starts at $US999. And that price can skyrocket if you get all the bells and whistles, including a new keyboard case, more storage space, and an LTE modem.
We were able to try out Apple’s newest tablet for power users on Tuesday. Here’s what we thought:
The first thing you’ll notice is that the screen takes up a larger percentage of the front of the device.
It also comes in two sizes.
The corners of the screen are rounded, a lot like the iPhone X. You can also see how large the bezels are in this photo.
Another look at the pixel density. You basically can’t see pixels at all.
It is surprisingly light to hold. The 11-inch model weighs just over one pound.
One big change is that the edges aren’t tapered anymore. Instead, they’re squared off, like the iPhone 5, making it feel a little bit more “professional.”
On the back side, we have a big camera lens that looks a lot like what you’d find on the iPhone XR. The antenna lines are reminiscent of the iPhone 7.
There’s a “Smart Connector” at the bottom of the back when it’s in portrait mode. The connector is used to hook up Apple’s special keyboard for the iPad.
Here’s the biggest change: Instead of Apple’s proprietary Lightning charger, the iPad Pro now comes with a USB-C charger — the same as Apple’s laptops use.
Here’s a closer look. The USB-C port is bigger than Apple’s Lightning port.
One final look at the new USB-C port.
The bigger iPad Pro is probably too big to use comfortably as a tablet — it’s geared toward design professionals and those that really need a big screen. Here it is with AirPods for scale.
You can pack a ton of content on its 12.9″ screen, though. This is VSCO, a photo app.
Here’s a bummer: There’s no longer a headphone jack on the iPad Pro, so you’ll have to get a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor — different from recent iPhones — or use wireless headphones.
The iPad has never looked more like a big iPhone.
Face ID can unlock the iPad Pro even in landscape mode — which is good, because Apple’s updated Smart Keyboard Folio situates the tablet that way.
Apple’s keyboard case is greatly improved. It lies much flatter than the previous generation.
It snaps on with powerful magnets. At the event, one Apple employee gave me this pro-tip: just line up the camera to put on the smart case.
The typing experience is much improved, too. After about a minute of typing on the keyboard, I think it might actually be better than the MacBook. The keys travel and land with a satisfying thud. In this orientation, the iPad Pro stands nearly vertical, like a laptop.
But there’s also a second setting that allows the tablet to lean back a little, for use on your lap. The magnets that keep the tablet in place are really strong — you’ll have to muscle them to remove your iPad from the case.
A side view of the slouching position, for lap use.
And the more upright position.
The keyboard case from the back:
See how deep these keys are? They’re also covered with some kind of textured cloth. Only time will tell how well it holds up to daily use.
Another look at the keyboard.
There’s no escape key, but there are arrows, and shortcuts like command+tab work on the iPad.
Here’s how the keyboard case “talks” to the iPad.
Apple’s stylus, Pencil, also got a huge update. This version is less shiny, has squared off edges, and lacks a lightning connector and its protective cap.
I’m not very good at drawing, but you can clearly tell that the stylus has a lot of different levels of pressure sensitivity.
Although the Pencil is now squared off, it still rolls.
But there’s a fancy new way to charge the Pencil: wirelessly, magnetically clipping it to one side of the tablet in landscape.
It snaps into place with a satisfying click. Here’s the icon you’ll see on screen when it’s charging.
And here’s the marker on the iPad Pro which tells you where the Pencil goes.
Apple’s upgraded the internals on the iPad Pro so it can do processor-intensive tasks like AR apps.
Or DJ. The USB-C port can also be used to hook up the iPad Pro to a computer monitor.
Or a camera.
Here’s what it looks like when a monitor is plugged into the iPad Pro’s USB-C port.
Here’s the dimensions and weight of the two iPad Pros and where all the buttons are — note that there’s no headphone jack, a first for the iPad Pro lineup.
Is it worth buying? That’s difficult to say until people really test it out in daily use. One thing that’s clear, though, is that the iPad Pro is more expensive than before. It used to start at $US649 — now the least expensive current-year model is $US799. And the keyboard costs $US199. The Pencil will cost you $US129.
But for that money, you certainly get a high-end “computer” — even if Apple doesn’t want to call it that.