Not to sound too enthusiastic, but the superlatives don’t end with the screen. Thanks to Apple’s A10X Fusion chip (a more powerful spin on the processors used in the iPhone 7), an updated GPU and 4GB of RAM, this is the most powerful iPad to date. Apple says CPU speeds here are 30 percent faster than last year’s Pro, and that graphics speed has improved 40 percent. Our usual set of benchmarks (below) certainly point to some big performance gains, but here’s the most important thing: Hardly anything I threw at the Pro over a week of testing managed to trip it up.
Working for Engadget involves a lot of multitasking, so I often had two apps — like Slack and Safari — running side by side in iOS’s Split View mode. Things sometimes felt a little cramped, but everything ran smoothly. Visually intense games like Monument Valley 2, Skullgirls and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy were no problem for the Pro either and actually seemed to get a visual boost thanks to the ProMotion screen. Even editing multiple 4K video files in iMovie was a surprisingly painless process, partially because the updated 12-megapixel camera can shoot native 4K footage. (You’ll still look a little ridiculous taking photos and video with a tablet, but at least the results will be worth it.)
||iPad Pro 10.5
||iPad Pro 12.9 (Gen.1)
||iPad Pro 9.7
|Geekbench 4 Multi-core
|Geekbench 4 Single-core
|3DMark IS Unlimited
|GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Off/onscreen (fps)
|Mozilla Kraken (ms)
|Kraken: Lower scores are better.
But what about professional apps? You know, the high-end stuff artists, designers and doctors use? I threw a couple extra layers on top of a RAW image in Affinity Photo and tweaked the whole thing in real-time. I noticed the occasional hiccups when I tried to quickly leap into another app, but it wasn’t anything concerning. (Because I tested the Pro before its official launch, it’s also possible the version of the app I tried out wasn’t optimized for it yet.) Meanwhile, I suck at 3D modeling, but apps like UMake and Formit 360 gave me the tools to at least try cobbling 3D structures together; any failures of performance here belong to me, not the hardware.
Long story short, the Pro 10.5 acts the way you’d want an expensive tablet to. Nearly everything feels effortlessly fast — now we just need the software to catch up to the hardware. This Pro ships with iOS 10.3, which isn’t technically bad, it’s just that iOS 10 didn’t add many truly valuable iPad-specific features. That’s about to change. Apple calls iOS 11 a “monumental leap” for the iPad, with additions like a customizable dock for quick access to apps and the ability to drag and drop content between two apps running side-by-side. These may sound like minor changes, but they seem essential for anyone actually trying to get work done on an iPad Pro.
Remember Tim Cook’s words: The iPads are meant to be the company’s “clearest expression” of the future of personal computing. It was a nice sentiment and the hardware that accompanied it was very good, but iOS leaves much to be desired on bigger screens. With the eventual launch of iOS 11, though, iPads will finally get some much-needed flexibility — in other words, the iPad’s best days are yet to come.
||Battery life (in hours)
|iPad Pro 10.5
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
|Lenovo Yoga Book (Android)
|iPad Pro 12.9
|iPad Pro 9.7
|Google Pixel C
|Surface Pro 4
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 putzing around online. In general, Apple’s estimates were always on the conservative side; we’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.
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