What is the iPad Pro 10.5?
The updated version of Apple’s tablet aimed at ‘professionals’ is a stunning piece of kit. It’s cheaper than the iPad Pro 2018 and might be a better results
If you just want something for Netflix binges, web browsing and emails, the 9.7-inch iPad 2018 is all you need.
But if you’re after something that can stand in for your laptop when you’re on the move, the iPad Pro 10.5 is worth your attention, offering the best camera, screen and performance we’ve ever seen on a tablet. It comes at a price, though – and a steep one at that. For some, it’ll be worth every penny. For others? It might feel like overkill.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Design
The design of the iPad has evolved very little since its inception seven years ago. The iPad Air slimmed things down and the 12.9-inch Pro from 2015 stretched things out, but the basic look hasn’t changed much. There are a few key alterations to this year’s model that make it feel a lot more like a modern tablet, however.
First off, the new 10.5-inch screen size means the tablet is slightly bigger than the outgoing 9.7-inch Pro but, due to a slimmer bezel around either side of the display, in your hand it feels about the same. Width-wise it’s almost the same as the outgoing model, but it’s slightly taller and that means your old iPad cases probably won’t fit.
The bezel on a tablet doesn’t bother me as much as it does on a phone, since you need more edge space to get a proper grip. But it did feel like there was a lot of wasted space on the iPad Pro 9.7-inch and it’s nice to see Apple addressing that here.
The rest of the tablet feels very familiar and, as before, the aluminium back offers no flex and the chamfered edges still reflect light in a very eye-catching way.
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The four speakers sit next to each corner and there’s a headphone jack on the top and a Lightning connector on the bottom, along with the three-pin Smart Connector on the side. It’s all very run-of-the-mill stuff, but I can’t deny it’s a well-built tablet that looks good.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro comes in Apple’s usual array of hues; including space grey, gold, silver and rose gold, but sadly no matte or jet black like the iPhone 7.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Screen
Apple says that the new 10.5-inch screen here offers 20% more usable space than the outgoing 9.7-inch model, and you will notice that extra screen real estate. But, if you found the 9.7-inch too small, I don’t think the extra four-fifths of an inch will really make much difference. Apple claims the larger display lets it include a full-size virtual keyboard, but for me it still feels much smaller than that.
What’s really special about the display here is Apple’s so-called “ProMotion” tech that powers the 2224 x 1668 resolution IPS LCD Retina display.
Previous iPads ran at 60Hz, which meant the screen refreshed 60 times a second. On the new iPad Pro, the screen is 120Hz, which means it refreshes twice as often. The effect is obvious even on the setup screens; everything is so smooth, so fluid that it almost doesn’t feel like you’re touching the screen.
The real power of ProMotion, though, is how it cleverly adapts the refresh rate of the screen depending on what you’re doing. Movies generally display at a lower refresh rate, but if you’re drawing you’ll want closer to 120Hz to remove any perceivable input lag. As an added perk the feature also saves battery life in the process.
It can even run at two different speeds if you’re in split view, keeping it at 120Hz in the Notes app and lower it in the Video player. It also doesn’t suffer from the “soap opera” effect, where high-refresh-rate video looks unrealistically fast and smooth.
The display still covers the entire wide DCI-P3 cinema grade colour gamut and is also brighter at 600 nits, 100 nits more than the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. While it does seem slightly brighter you’ll only notice this if you put it directly beside another iPad. This extra brightness bump will help when viewing the iPad outside, but it was already exceptionally bright, so it’s more of a nice-to-have than a crucial addition.
The boosted brightness will also let the iPad Pro 10.5-inch to display HDR content, when apps that support it finally arrive.
There’s also a new coating on the screen that’s meant to reduce glare and aid outdoor usability, but to my eyes it doesn’t look any better than the older model.
Simply put, this is the best screen on any tablet. No competition.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Performance
The iPad Pro 10.5 is Apple’s fastest tablet yet, by quite some distance. Although, during my time with the tablet I often felt all that power was almost overkill, at least right now.
Running the show is Apple’s A10X Fusion CPU, which has an extra core when compared to the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7, totalling six, along with with 4GB RAM. That’s double the memory of the 9.7-inch version, but the same as the previous 12.9-incher.
There is so much power here that comparing it to other tablets is downright unfair. In Geekbench 4, the iPad Pro 10.5 scores 9300 in the multi-core tests which is double that of both the Pixel C and Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. It also blitzes even the top phone flagships, with the OnePlus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S8 scoring below 6800.
In-fact, that multi-core score is only slightly lower than a MacBook Pro. Keep in mind that benchmark comparisons across different platforms (iOS, MacOS and Android) are very sketchy, so I wouldn’t read much into these results beyond the fact that the iPad Pro 10.5 is ridiculously fast.
All this power is great, but there’s not a whole lot that takes advantage of it. iPad apps on the whole are great, but devs need time to really translate the new grunt into apps that make the most of it. If you buy a powerful laptop you know the apps will run better, but here there isn’t a huge boost to day-to-day apps because they were so fast anyway. I think with iOS 11 (see below) this power will finally get its time to shine.
There are a few scenarios I have tried that demonstrate the power, and they really do make me very excited about future iOS app development. I could edit a 100MB RAW photo through Affinity without a stumble, and editing 4K video recorded on the device in iMovie exported in a matter of seconds.
64GB is now the base storage, which is great to see, and you can also jump to 256GB and 512GB if you really need the space. There’s a cellular LTE version, too.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Software and Apple Pencil
The reason why I would always recommend an iOS tablet over an Android is the apps, and with the launch of the new iPad Pro devs already seem to jumping on board and trying to utilise that extra power.
Affinity Photo, an image editing app shown off at WWDC, is one such example and it’s the closest an iOS app has got to feeling like its desktop counterpart. Adobe’s Lightroom is excellent too, and Microsoft’s Office suite again feels very fully featured.
There are still gaps though, and this ultimately holds the iPad Pro from truly feeling like a MacBook or laptop replacement. If you rely on specific features in other browsers like Firefox, need full fat Photoshop, or simply require software not available directly through the App Store then this won’t replace your laptop. The iPad Pro has the power of a computer, but the apps are still very much mobile-focussed.
The Apple Pencil was unveiled alongside the iPad Pro 12.9-inch in 2015, and thanks to the benefits of the ProMotion display its usability has improved here without Apple releasing a replacement. At £99, this is an expensive stylus, but for me it’s the one essential iPad Pro accessory.
The faster-refreshing ProMotion display has reduced latency on the Pencil to a Surface Pro-beating 20ms, meaning there’s basically no delay between your action and it appearing on the tablet. Drawing feels smooth and responsive and while my drawing skills aren’t up to much, more talented artists I’ve given the Pencil to keep saying it’s the most natural drawing experience on any consumer-priced device.
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I’d still pick the larger 12.9-inch if I was serious about art, but the 10.5-inch version is just about perfect for notes. Speaking of which, the Notes app is another area that gets huge improvements in iOS 11. You’ll finally be able to search through your handwritten notes via text searches, and double-tapping the Pencil on the lock-screen takes you straight to a new Note.
The other big accessory, the Smart Keyboard, has been updated to make use of the extra space but at £159/$159 I still don’t like it. The textured, fabric keys are a pain to type on and the lack of a shortcut row really hampers productivity. There’s also still nowhere to stow the Pencil, which is frustrating.
The problem is there aren’t really that many alternative keyboards for the iPad Pro which take advantage of the Smart Connector. So you’re stuck with this overpriced option from Apple or Logitech’s attempt that I have yet to review.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Camera and audio
Does a tablet need a really great camera? Personally I would say no, but Apple clearly disagrees. The optics on this iPad are basically the same as the iPhone 7, which still stands up as one of the best camera phones around. It’s a 12-megapixel sensor with a wide f/1.7 lens and a flash.
It captures incredibly good pictures for a tablet, with lots of detail and that wide aperture makes it usable even when the light isn’t great. The app is just like its iPhone counterpart, with a good auto-HDR mode and Live Photos. It shoots 4K video, too, which can then be transferred to iMovie and edited right on the iPad.
I have no time for tablet photography, but having such a big viewfinder does help when setting up a shot. Still, the size of the iPad makes it ungainly and awkward to use.
I think Apple added in such a capable camera setup for two reasons. The first is that iOS 11 brings some clever document scanning features to the Notes apps, and having a better camera will make this much more accurate. But augmented reality is arguably an even bigger push in iOS 11, and again having a better camera will improve this experience.
Whether you’ll make use of either of those situations will vary, but honestly if reducing the quality of the camera meant the price wasn’t quite so eye-watering I would take it.
The front-facing camera is arguably more important on a tablet, and Apple has upped this again to match the iPhone 7. It’s a 7-megapixel sensor capable of shooting 1080p video and the whole screen turns into the world’s biggest true-tone flash. This is great for FaceTime calls, but I can’t imagine many will use this for their selfies.
Just like both previous iPad Pro models, the 10.5-inch version has four fantastic speakers; two on the top, and two on the bottom. Not only are they loud, but they have a great range of sound with enough bass to play music without the need for a Bluetooth speaker. There’s some software trickery going on that beams the sound in different directions depending on which orientation you’re holding the iPad Pro and this works surprisingly well.
iPad Pro 10.5 – Battery life
Battery life is one of the areas that hasn’t received much of a boost this year, but it still manages to go the distance. Apple’s claim of 10 hours video playback was a little conservative in my tests, and I found the tablet can easily last up to 11 hours.
Using the iPad Pro 10.5 as my primary ‘laptop’ for a few days, it comfortably managed between 7-8 hours of heavy use including lots of multi-windowed apps, constant music streaming over Bluetooth and editing photos. Editing some 4K footage and exporting it caused the biggest battery drop, hardly surprising, but I am impressed with how it handles large photo imports and edits without burning through power.
The charging situation is less impressive, and one of the biggest disappointments with this device. Even though Apple has updated the Lightning port to support USB 3.0 and, finally, fast charging, it still ships it with the old 10W power adaptor that takes an absolute age to charge the tablet. Apple will happily sell you a 29w USB-C adaptor and cable that’ll half the charging time for an additional £49, but not including that with a £619 tablet is, in my opinion, total madness.
Should I buy the iPad Pro 10.5?
The iPad Pro 10.5-inch is the best tablet I have ever used, but the mass of high-end features leave it with a price-tag that might be hard to stomach. It’s £120 more expensive than the 9.7-inch model was last year – granted, you do get double the base-storage – and it’s double the price of the basic iPad 9.7-inch, which will offer enough power and features for the vast majority of people.
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When you take that stunning display, good battery life, the accurate Pencil and the huge number of apps available on the App Store, the iPad Pro 10.5-inch is an exciting proposition. But it’s one that won’t feel completely ready until iOS 11 hits.
Look past the price and this is a stunning tablet that needs slightly better software to compete.