In my humble opinion, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro doesn't get enough love. It's one of the most powerful tablets you can buy, and it has some huge technological advantages behind the scenes. In a world where Android and Windows are muscling in on Apple's turf from opposite sides, the iPad Pro distinguishes itself from the also-rans in four significant ways.
Design: Still The Best Tablet Out There
The iPad Pro -- the original 12.9-inch one is what I'm talking about -- was, and still is, a large tablet. Not its thickness, which at 6.9mm was more than skinny enough to slip into a purse or satchel without adding any significant bulk to your bag, but the 306x221mm length and width, and 723 gram weight, that made it a little awkward to hold with one hand and just as cumbersome to carry about as the laptops it tries to replace.
But the 9.7-inch iPad Pro inhabits the same chassis as the iPad Air 2, and that means it -- at around 240x170x6.1mm and under 450 grams -- can be tucked under an arm, carried around and used with one hand, and slipped into a bag alongside a laptop, if you're like most of us still using a Windows device for your day-to-day work or uni. That's a huge advantage that means you're more likely to actually take the iPad Pro around with you -- like I do.
The Smart Connector on the lower longer edge of the iPad Pro is a godsend if you've used a tablet before and missed having a physical keyboard, or if you've ever wanted to watch a bunch of Netflix without running out of power halfway through. I use the Smart Connector on my iPad Pro for the Smart Keyboard during the day, and then I recharge at night with Logitech's Base. And it's available in rose gold. Who doesn't want a 9.7-inch tablet with a body entirely covered in satin rose gold?
Pencil And Keyboard: Useful, When You Need Them
The biggest problem I have with tablets, and this is coming from a person that spends more than eight hours a day in front of a keyboard and trackpad, is that they don't usually have a keyboard, instead using their sizeable screens for on-screen typing that's generally OK for quick messages but not so good for longer emails or articles or note-taking. I've become -- by necessity -- pretty damn decent at typing on a tablet-sized touchscreen, but it's not my favourite.
The iPad Pro's Smart Connector -- praise be unto it -- makes the process of clipping on a keyboard and going to town absolutely seamless, even simpler than turning on Bluetooth and syncing a wireless keyboard with just a couple of taps. And it's easier to type on than most, too -- it's not perfect, but the raised keys are easy to find with your fingers whilst touch typing and the key feel is good enough to make it usable for longer typing sessions.
The Apple Pencil, too, is one of those things that I don't use all that often -- how often do you use a pencil these days anyway? -- but when I do, I'm consistently impressed with how well it works. It's the best tablet stylus by a country mile, and it makes handwriting or drawing genuinely fun and works in a way that accurately represents the line or brushstroke that I'm trying to create. Which is incredibly rare.
Under The Hood: More Than Enough Power
I've always -- previously -- been sceptical of using an iPad for anything more processing-intensive than watching some streaming video, browsing the Web or typing into a Word document. I've rarely found a reason to use a tablet for anything particularly hard on its CPU or graphics processor, beyond the usual high-fidelity games -- like Lara Croft GO -- that are touted as the best use of their touchscreen displays. But the iPad Pro's snappy response and power makes you want to use it for everything.
You just have to get used to using the iPad Pro in a different way to a Windows or Mac laptop, even if you're trying to complete the same task. Instead of Alt-Tab between different programs running simultaneously, switching apps and completing each task in series is a more effective and speedy way of getting things done. I crop and resize images a lot, upload them to a cloud library, then add them into a story on Giz, all while typing and checking email and refreshing Twitter.
On the iPad Pro, I'm still able to do all of this, but I do it in sets of two, using the iPad's large-enough screen to multi-task with two different apps at once. I'll sit in the Wordpress app and Twitter simultaneously, keeping up with the world while I type. Or I'll download photos from my email and edit them in Photoshop Express simultaneously. It takes a little bit of practice to work through smoothly, but it definitely doesn't feel inferior.
The True Tone Display: Perfect Colour
This is, in my opinion, the killer feature of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. I concede that most people aren't nearly as interested in what it does, but that doesn't take away from how awesome it is. True Tone changes the colour temperature of the iPad Pro's display to suit the ambient light around you -- it's (relatively) yellow if you're using it under incandescent lighting with a lower Kelvin, it's (relatively) blue if you're using it out in the outdoors with a higher Kelvin.
The reason this doesn't get enough attention is that when it works, you don't notice it at all, and that means that it might seem like nothing is going on at all. But if you go into your iPad Pro's settings, to Display, and then disable True Tone -- especially in a room with strong lighting biased to either a lower or higher colour temperature -- you'll see the display change in tone significantly, usually towards the cooler part of the colour spectrum.
With True Tone enabled, you're getting the right colours for whatever room you're in, and it genuinely does make a difference even if you're not viewing colour-critical content. Say you're just watching Netflix or Stan or looking through your photo library; True Tone just makes things look better, and it takes one of the potential headaches out of working with the iPad Pro as a professional tool as well. It's the small things that add up to make a big difference.