Apple iPad Pro + Apple Pencil: Aussie Hands On

Nothing will ever feel as big as the new iPad Pro. Nothing. Why is it so huge and why do I love it so much? Tell me why.

Do you remember when you picked up the iPad for the first time to look at it? Like the very first time. I'm not talking about the iPad Air 2 or whatever the latest new one you held was. I'm talking about the very first one.

The first time I saw it I was in my old job, and the guy across from me bought one and was so smug about it. I got hands on and it blew me away. Of course, the original iPad looks practically prehistoric compared to the lightning performance and design of the new models.

Despite the new tech built into subsequent iPads, however, none of them have managed to re-capture that feeling of wonder you had when holding this massive new piece of tech.

In fact, since then, phones have got bigger and bigger and really made us wonder why we'd ever need an iPad again. iPad revenues have been declining for Apple, and it needed to do something big to recapture people's imagination.

Apple's designers took that a bit literally, and came up with an iPad that features a massive 12.9-inch screen. Holy JESUS it's big, and it represents the best thing that has probably happened to iPad since the first one came out: it delights, bewilders and baffles you at how good it feels to use.

It makes you feel like you're using an iPad for the very first time all over again. You've never felt something so big be so elegant.

The iPad Air 2 impressed us because it was finally a device meant for reading, note taking and gaming that was thinner and lighter than a book or magazine could ever be. That experience has translated to the iPad Pro: it's massive, but it's so light and streamlined that you feel it could replace everything you currently use. It's more convenient than your tablet, smarter than your A4 notebook and more beautiful than your current iPad could ever be.

It really comes to life when you use split-screen multitasking and picture-in-picture movie mode in iOS 9, to be honest. It blows your mind when you see it working for the first time. It's what the iPad should have always been.

The iPad Pro also sounds better than ever thanks to four speakers spread around the edges of the device. Pump up the volume and you're blown away by the sound that's blasted into your face from a tablet. It would be nice to see those speakers set to front-facing mode rather than oriented on the side of the device, but we can only ask for so much at one time it seems.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a swathe of funky new accessories, including a $US99 stylus called Apple Pencil and a $US169 keyboard cover that makes Microsoft's Surface keyboard look like a hot mess.

The keyboard is actually very similar to the new keyboard on the 2015 MacBook. The mechanisms are incredibly similar, and it feels about the same to type on, to be honest. Limited travel on the keys, but with a softer click that feels better on your fingers. The whole keyboard is wrapped in a clever fabric which actually suspends the keys rather than have them build into a rigid deck. It all connects to your iPad via a new inductive magnetic connector on the side of the device.

The stylus — sorry, Apple Pencil — is also a pretty unique experience for iPad. It works beautifully with the new apps on iOS 9 (like Notes for example) to give you a great drawing and writing experience. With intelligent palm rejection (finally) and a screen area that feels like a solid replacement for an A4 notepad, the iPad is now the best note-taking device you've ever seen.

It's also beautiful for drawing, too. The Pencil pairs over Bluetooth, and has a series of smart sensors built in that talk to the iPad Pro for to represent pressure and force to represent the type of stroke you want.

It's weighty, and feels like a really high-quality sketching pencil you'd get from an art supplies store.

An accelerometer in the pencil figures out which way you've oriented the Pencil, too. Point it straight up and down and you've got a fantastic drawing device. Hold it to the side and start drawing with the edge of the tip, however, and the Pencil recognises you want to shade instead of draw straight lines. It really is incredible.

The end of the Pencil is perhaps slightly wasted. Underneath the end cap is a Lightning connector so you can charge it, but wouldn't it be cool if that was your eraser? Instead, you just have to select a tool with which to erase your work. Lame.

Either way, the iPad Pro is the new standard for smart working on the go thanks to multi-tasking, a smarter keyboard and iOS 9. It's also probably the last word in portable entertainment with its enormous screen and four-speaker array. What an insane piece of tech.

Luke Hopewell travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple.

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    Fine. I'll be the first to say it....

    Wasn't this done a while ago by Microsoft? Surface (Pro) 3 anyone?

      Well, no, it was done by Fujitsu, back in the mid 90s. I still have my Fujitsu Stylistic 2300.

        I was referring quite obviously to the more contemporary configuration of the device

      Huh? Apple aren't saying they're the first. And lots of companies make phones, tablets etc.

        thats not the point here

        the point is that the reactions are making it seem like theyve never seen a tablet with a stylus function before and that its so fricken amazing.

        THe reaction in the article in particular completely negates the same or better features that other existing devices already provide

          Kind of sucks for journalists though. If they don't say it's the best thing ever invented they don't get the next product to review...

      True, but apple also had a stylus based product back in the early 90s with the MessagePad and Newton.

        Yes, and I seem to remember Stevy Jobs saying that if we ever need to use a stylus on our tablets then we've lost. Although I must admit, it was a silly thing to think that your finger was ever going to be as accurate.

      Not to mention also ipaq, psion, Casio, sharp, and palm... I still use my cranky palm pilot.
      My first pen based laptop was a compaq concerto ... Brilliant PC..

      But surely Apple has now trademarked the word Pencil. Also possibly Pen because it sounds 'similar'

      The fact some people have actually said that this is comparable to the Surface is completely laughably. This is still nothing more than a gimmicky consumption device. I've never had any issues using my Surface Pro 3 for note taking, I use One Note religiously.

        You can get One Note for the iPad.

          Absolutely! However that 1 piece of the puzzle does not make up the the lack of everything else.

          but i cant do my taxes, use one note, and play dota on my ipad

            You actually can do your taxes and use OneNote on your iPad.

              No. You can do your taxes on your iPad.

    Makes the surface keyboard look like a hot mess? Are you serious? Where's the back lighting or trackpad? Or adjustable stand? How about being able to be angled? Not to mention it's more expensive while simultaneously being more limited.

    Last edited 10/09/15 11:17 am

      The typing.

        Personally had no issues with that myself, or my father for that matter who has the chipolata-fingers that make the whole world cry.

        I thought I'd see you here jumping to their defence :)

      Or adjustable stand? How about being able to be angled?

      Those are features of the Surface, not the Surface keyboard.

        The magnet in the Surface Keyboard allows it to be magnetised and therefore angled against the Surfaces bottom bezel. It clearly has nothing to do with the magnet in the keyboard.

          Not just that, but the iPad keyboard looks like it has very limited range of angle as a stand, while the Surface keyboard leaves that up to the Surface's kickstand - the stand on the Surface 3 is awesome :)


          I am interested in how well the new 'pencil' works.
          The surface pen is good, but it's missing the rotation and tilt, which I liked with my old Wacom.

          I've always wanted a bigger tablet, that has an awesome pen; but I'm talking like 17-20" mainly for more productivity oriented things (stuff like graphics, documentation, etc.), even just sitting down browsing the web or playing a game a big screen would be awesome - but it'd need to be fairly lite - I wouldn't want one that big for reading either, I think Kindle's are far better for that job than any tablet with a bright screen.

          Last edited 12/09/15 5:45 pm

      You won't need to adjust the angle, Apple has determined the correct angle for you.

      I was about to say the exact same thing, 'hot mess'. How is a slim backlit keyboard a hot mess in comparison to the ipad keyboard. To be honest the way the ipad rests on the keyboard fold is pretty messy and not elegant looking at all.
      This whole article is pretty disapointing, things like " iPad Pro is the new standard for smart working on the go thanks to multi-tasking" and " the best note-taking device you’ve ever seen." make this look like a fan who has just thrown $1000 on it has written it. I dont really see any issues raised or doubts or potential problems. This whole article is a bit of a joke

    Once we get closer to the release and AU pricing is official I will be looking at getting one. Unsure about the pen, but the keyboard looks good.

    Should've read through the other articles before my comment :D I see that it is pretty widely accepted this is a catchup (almost?) to the Surface Pro 3.

    Even after going over this hands on again, I am still not sure why this would be chosen over the Surface unless someone is heavily engrained in the Apple ecosystem. Being the Apple Gen 1 product maybe this is the Apple equivalent of the RT and a proper Pro version will do it right Gen 2.

      Yeh you're right, this is the apple version of the surface RT. The surface pro can be compared to a macbook air, ie a real computer.

        100% agree ... It's pretty clear that Luke Hopewell's bias is shining through with this review. His statement "the iPad Pro is the new standard for smart working on the go thanks to multi-tasking" made me giggle. Surface Pro 3 puts this thing to shame and it's been on the market for nearly a year!

          Only a writer, or someone who's never done real work on a computer would claim the iPad was a workhorse.

    I obviously haven't used it but the keyboard doesn't look as good as many of the aftermarket keyboards currently available & doesn't hold a candle to the Surface 3 or Pro 3.

      And the other elephant in the room is that the pen is free with the Pro or $60 AUD with the 3 with a proper digitizer... $100 USD is a bit rich.

      I obviously haven't used it but the keyboard doesn't look as good

      The thing with keyboards is that you can't really judge them on looks alone.

        The problem there is with no trackpad and no backlighting (something the Surface RT was slammed for) it's really not keeping up.

          I'll give you backlighting, but a trackpad would be a silly addition because there is no cursor on an iPad.

            There actually is a cursor in iOS9, hence the lack of a track pad seems so completely bewildering.

              Wasn't that only for text editing to position the cursor though or for scrolling a document? The cursor as far as I'm aware isn't persistent across the entire OS like it is in Windows and if you aren't using the iPad for text editing, a trackpad could be completely redundant.

                You're not serious? A trackpad is only useful for text editing. And when would you be using a keyboard most?

                  I'm saying that by my understanding the iOS 'cursor' feature is a text selection feature, it's not a mouse cursor thats on the screen like a traditional OS as you get under say Windows. From what I've seen of the feature it's not there to press buttons or move things about, it just moves the text selection bars you currently bring up if you hold a word in iOS and to perform scrolling.

                  I may be wrong on that, and if so I take it back. If it's primary purpose is to select text for copy and paste or insert operations though, then no, I don't think it'll get used a huge deal nor warrant a permanent place on the keyboard. It's not like iOS has any third party bluetooth mice though either, which kind of highlights the OS's lack of focus around cursor based interaction.

                  Last edited 11/09/15 9:16 pm

          I have a surface RT v1 and the keyboard has backlighting and a trackpad. I still use it every day at work.

          Steve jobs must be rolling in his grave over this one though.

    Only just seems to keep up with the Surface, of which Microsoft are planning to launch the next gen. I fail to see the giant benefits.
    And there are plenty of things that feel as big as this, or bigger. Try holding a HP Envy x2 13" or 15" tablet in your hand.

      Don't be disgusting! Luke would never sully his hands with anything as gauche and crude as a Windows tablet. Shame on you for thinking he would. Don't you know those things are for people who have things they need to get done!?! They are for the unwashed masses, people of breeding wouldn't go near them.

        Luke would never sully his hands with anything as gauche and crude as a Windows tablet.

        I wonder if that is true.... Oh look here is a quote from Luke's review of the Surface Pro 3...

        The Surface Pro 3 was great, so what could be wrong with shrinking it down for a cute tablet version? Pretty much nothing, if my initial experience is anything to go by.

        What a biased asshole!

        I think Microsoft is onto a winner with the Surface 3

        I mean how does this guy still have a job? He loves Apple way too much to be impartial!

        Luke owns a Surface 3. I own a Surface Pro 3. We both love them. You're being silly, and I'm removing your other comment below because it is a pointless personal attack.

          One may say it was a 'hot mess' ;)

            A hot mess can be anything, sometimes attributed to something very very positive... Especially after seeing the Surface Pro 3 keyboard...

            I was talking about hot fudge for all you sick minded people...

          It was a personal question that I was answering, how could I do that without being personal? Rhetorical questions can be dangerous, one should avoid them wherever possible. Beyond that, it was more an attack on what passes for journalism around here than anything else.

          Can I ask if you paid money out of your own pockets for your Surfaces or are they supplied by your employer? Unless that's too personal?

          In any event, it's sad to see irony-impairment is as big an issue here as it is in the US. Although, to be fair, it was more sarcasm than irony, I suppose, but I will blame John Lydon for it as I was listening to the new PiL album as I was typing and it is hard not to be cynical and sarcastic when listening to his master's voice.

            No answer as to who paid for your Surfaces, so I must assume, then, that they were foisted upon you by your employer, not your personal choices.

              I bought my Pro 3, just like I bought the original Pro. Our employer doesn't foist anything on us apart from a 15-inch Dell Inspiron which has been in my desk drawer since the day I was hired :)

          Doesn't make this article feel less like a bias advertorial. Surely anyone in the tech world would be pointing out the issues of it running ios instead of osx.

        Except I own a Surface 3 and have loved every Surface since the Pro 2. Whoops.

          Luke I am being extremely honest here not sarcastic, I am a fanboy but it did seem like Apple had to approve your piece, is it really that good if so I am very excited to upgrade the Air 2 with logitech keyboard to this.

          Did you get to test out the graphics much as far as gaming goes?

          "Except I own a Surface 3 and have loved every Surface since the Pro 2." Yet you gleefully describe it's TypeCover as a "hot mess", which tends to indicate that you don't really "love" it at all, given that you earn your living typing.

          More telling, perhaps, is that I have just found out that Apple's keyboard isn't even of the standard of a TypeCover, it is in the same category as the long ago discontinued TouchCover, having fabric covered keys rather than actual, individual keys like a TypeCover. And Apple wants $20 more for it!?! Tell 'em they're dreamin'!

          i own an iphone, doesnt make it any less shit

    Running iOS there really is nothing pro about it. The "Pros" would prefer a device that can run full photoshop, illustrator, autodesk programs etc. So no thanks, I'll stick with a real Pro called Surface.

      As much as I'd love one of these when I have a few grand of 'disposable' income (which will never happen ... so I guess I'll be sticking with my cheap-as-chips Aldi 10 inch Android tablet, or it's even cheaper-than-chips I bought it from a dodgy Chinese drop-shipper cousin), I have to agree with you Dad. If Apple ever want to have something worthy of the 'Pro' monniker, it will need to run OSX and not iOS.

      Last edited 10/09/15 1:13 pm

      Or designers seem to be very excited about this due to its accuracy... none of them have a surface.

      But its good to see being such a pro that you have time to come on an apple article and share your dismay

        The artist community is pretty split between the surface pro and the waacom equivalent actually.

    Just in time for when my galaxy note 10.1 2014 is out of contract. Will have to road test to see whether it is a major step up or not.

    iOS is the biggest thing making this a wasted device.

    It's bad enough on current iPads, in terms of not taking advantage of screen size, but now this? I want it, but it's going to make me complain even more about iOS's large format failings.

      I'm not a fan of iOS at all, but in the article it does mention PiP videos and split screen with multiple apps, coming in iOS9.
      Sounds like they are finally taking advantage of that screen size (and in typical Apple fashion, years after the competition did it, but hey it's 'NEW!').

        There is some window dressing coming in iOS9 to address using the larger screen, but even looking at the home screen up there with 16 max icons, 5 on the bottom, the native social sharing tools, the "new" 9/screen folders from iOS7 much of the core functionality is tailored the the 5/5s skinny/tall screen.

        iOS on the iPad is a complete afterthought from a company that has usually done a lot better.

        Last edited 11/09/15 10:00 am

    "Nothing will ever feel as big as the new iPad Pro."


      Somewhere in that sentence there has to a that's what she said type comment.

    Ugh, queue the anti apple comments.
    "I am still not sure why this would be chosen over the Surface" It seems so hard for people to comprehend not everyone uses these things for the same purpose. I bought a Surface Pro 3 and eventually sold it. I find that for what I do the iPad Air 2 does it all better. Do I need to use full adobe illustrator or Excel etc? nope. I do want to surf the net, check emails, check my calendar, play games, watch movies, manage my home network/media. For me the iPad does all of this far easier than the surface. I also don't have to screw around with Driver faults, ending programs that are not responding etc etc etc. Using the surface was like using a PC... kinda painful. I get some people love it and that's fine, but I'm really excited about a gigantic beautiful res screen and will totally be buying an iPad Pro.

    Last edited 10/09/15 1:05 pm

      You are describing things I have not had to worry about on a PC in 12 years or more (since Windows XP) but still have to deal with every, single day at work on a MacPro. So you'll pardon me if I think your assessment is somewhat arse-about.

      Yesterday, for example, I sat down in front of the machine at 1738 hours and restarted it (someone else had been using it all day and was still logged in) and it wasn't until 1811 hours that I was able to start work, such were all the problems I had to solve before I could do anything. The box was being particularly cantankerous yesterday but 15 - 20 minutes of stuffing about at the start of a shift is normal. OTOH, I go to my other job, start my HP workstation and After Effects is loading a project about a minute later.

        lol, glad you haven't had to experience it. I experienced it with the Surface Pro 3 just recently. So many updates released trying to fix problems with it. I'm pretty impressed you have gone 12yrs without having troubles with your windows pc hahah. You should absolutely be calling the Guinness book of records.

        Reading your post it sounds like you are talking about machines in workplaces which is never a good standard to go by. Organisations typically tweak operating systems up the wazoo trying to lock them down from users, disable certain things for security etc etc etc. Depending on your workplace they may not have good patching policy's or good administrators.
        I work in IT and support both mac and windows. As I mentioned workplace computers are not a good yard stick.
        I was simply referring to my home and personal usage. I have both mac and windows at home adding to the mix I bought a surface pro 3 recently. It does some things well but it was also painful. Not saying everyone will have that experience, but that's what I had and seemingly a LOT of others on the forums.
        I'm keen to get my hands on a huge tablet. Nearly bought the Samsung Note 12" recently, really glad I held off.

          I fail to see the point of a huge tablet, why wouldn't you just get a smallish laptop? e.g. I'd take a new MacBook over an iPad Pro. To me, tablets only make sense if they are small enough to be more portable than a laptop, which means small enough to put in your pocket, rather than having to carry it around in a bag.

          As for corporate environments, the one I am in now is completely consistent with others I have worked in - there are always more Mac issues than PC issues. It is also the reality in which we all operate, which makes the experience completely relevant.

      You've never had to close iOS apps that stop responding? You must be pre iOS8 or not really use your iPad much, if at all, for that to be true.

    Perhaps a bit too glowing. I know it's just a quick hands on, but there's not the same sceptic notes used for products by other makers of the same tech. Luke is a great reviewer normally, I expect a lot more from him.

    Like this and the ones before, not interested until there's a jailbreak. I cant stand not having more icons on the screen.

      Good luck when your accounts get drained post hack.

    I haven't seen the device in the flesh, so I'll reserve judgement until then. However, I can't get over... (1) no mouse support or trackpad; (2) iOS; (3) no USB. Surely no pro/business user worth their salt is going to shell out serious cash for iteration 1 of this device?

    I'd really like some justification on the 'Surface Pro Keyboard was a hot mess'.
    Last time I checked, apart from it's price, it got rave reviews (at least the latest revision).
    What was wrong with it? And what does this keyboard have over it??

    Why bother with a iPad Pro and a keyboard? Why not buy a decent laptop for probably less money?

    13" screen - not massive. About low-mid when you consider the displays of all portable computers nowadays.

    The resolution makes more of a difference, though.

    For someone with little experience with any iPad, this article tells me very little about why I would buy an iPad Pro instead of a Surface Pro 3. This is no doubt the reason why comments here hound the auther about being an Apple fanboi.

    As for keyboards that are a 'hot mess', that all depends on what you do in front of your device...

    Clearly Apple are not all that serious about being advanced when they still measure their devices in inches. Why can't they lead the change to real measurements like millimetres. Come on Apple! Every country in the world, except one, that buy your devices, use the modern metric system. We are not stuck in the dark ages.

    Apple pencil, ha, it's a stylus but they couldn't call it a stylus because Apple has been knocking styluses ever since Steve Jobs condemned them.

      " I don’t mind being wrong, and I’ll admit that I’m wrong a lot. It doesn’t really matter to me too much." - Steve Jobs.

      Nobody should care what Steve Jobs said or did in the past because not only is he dead, he wasn't above being wrong when he was alive.

        What he says and what he does are two different things. Example. All his technicians said the glass back on the phone will interfere with the antennae. He refused to believe them and he refused to believe the customers even had that problem and he went on to say "you're holding it wrong"

          Doesn't really matter anyway because he is dead.

    I wonder how 53 pencil will take apple naming their stylus pencil also..

    I initially was quite excited by this ipad pro & pen... Then I read about the pencil hardware.. 1 hour battery life... Seriously!! All my other pens last days of use.. And don't need a special lead , what a totally stupid idea to put a male lightning plug on the end, rather that the female socket, utterly ridiculous... Oh no wait.. This is an apple accessory!

      1 hour? I think you mean 12 hours.

      If you're drawing continuously for more than 12 hours without a spare 15 seconds to charge it (for an additional 30 minutes of usage), you're doing it wrong.

      Oh, and don't let your palm touch the screen while you're drawing because the screen will register it and leave a line. Samsung fixed the problem years ago so when you pull out the pen, only the pen will register on the screen and not your hand. Try drawing or writing while keeping your hand hovering over the screen. It gets very tiring and you won't be as accurate as your hand will start shaking.

        From an Ars Technica article (

        Palm and wrist rejection also seems to work well—at one point an Apple rep running a demo laid his entire forearm on the iPad's screen without affecting the pencil.

        Potatoes gonna potate, I guess.

          If that's the case then why has every video clip showing the user hovering their hand unnaturally. For the sake of the user, I hope Apple has implemented some sort of system to ignore any hand inputs while using the pen. So far not one story has mentioned it at all and its not like it would be overlooked. Time will tell and we will all find out as soon as it gets released and has a thorough review.

            So far not one story has mentioned it at all and its not like it would be overlooked.

            You did read the Ars Technica article he linked to, and quoted from, right?

            Too potato to potato I guess.

            Last edited 12/09/15 2:11 am

              Yep, my bad. Didn't scroll down far enough. And good, because it would be stupid having the screen register your palm while trying to draw. I wonder if it's an automatic thing or you would have to hit a setting every time ?

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