Dumping the home button for Face ID allows an impressive all-screen design but makes for an extremely expensive tablel

After eight years of fairly boring design revisions, the new 2018 iPad Pro finally breaks the mould, restoring the wow factor the original commanded way back in 2010.

That’s because the new iPad Pro is practically all screen. The home button is gone, replaced with uniform bezels around the edges and a thin, squared-off aluminium body reminiscent of the iPhone 4’s gorgeous design.   Fire up the screen and you are greeted with a beautiful display that is arguably the best LCD on any device, let alone a tablet. The question is whether you share Apple’s vision of what the next version of a computer should be and whether a large screen running a mobile operating system cuts the mustard.

There are two starting with a slightly bigger 11in iPad Pro but it is the 12.9in version that is the most impressive and the one reviewed here. Where the previous 12.9in was fairly heavy and unwieldy, the shrinking of the body around the large screen has made it feel a lot smaller and easier to handle.

The new tablet is a noticeable 49g lighter, 1mm thinner, 19.4mm shorter and 5.1mm narrower than its predecessor. At 631g and only 5.9mm in thickness the 12.9in iPad Pro is thinner and lighter than most of its productivity tablet competition, too. The 12.3in Microsoft Surface Pro weighs 770g and is 8.5mm thick, while Google’s 12.3in Pixel Slate is 726g and 7mm thick.

The four speakers in the sides are loud and clear, putting most other tablets to shame. The industry-standard USB-C port replaces the old Lightning socket for power and connectivity. The new Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to and wirelessly charges from one side of the tablet, while the smart connector has been moved to the smooth aluminium back of the tablet.

 

Specifications

Screen: 12.9in 2732×2048 retina display (264 pixels per inch)
Processor: Apple A12X Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 64, 256, 512 GB or 1TB
Operating system: iOS 12

Camera: 12MP rear camera, 7MP TrueDepth camera
Connectivity: wifi (4G optional), Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, Face ID
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9mm
Weight: 631g (4G version: 633g)

Long-lasting productive power

Apple says the 2018 iPad Pro is more powerful than the majority of mobile PCs sold in the last year, and I can well believe that, but I found it difficult to find any apps that actually use all that power.

Affinity Photo was super-smooth even in complex image manipulation tasks and games were fluid but neither felt blisteringly faster than the previous iPad Pro.

Battery life was excellent. Using it as a work computer in the Smart Keyboard Folio, browsing the internet, reading PDFs, using a couple of web apps, writing this review among others, editing photos, listening to Spotify for at least five hours via Bluetooth headphones, being buried in email and using three different chat apps all day, the 12.9in iPad Pro made it from 9am to 5pm with just under 50% battery left.

After an hour of video on the train home, a bit of shopping and browsing in the evenings, the iPad would arrive the next day at work with around 35% battery and then make it until lunchtime.

If you can get all your work done on an iPad Pro it will far outlast any Intel-powered laptop, let alone a tablet, but it takes 3.5 hours to fully charge using the included folding 18W USB-C charger when not in use. It will charge faster from a more powerful USB-C laptop charger.

Face ID

Apple’s Face ID recognition system replaces the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, squeezed into the bezel on the left edge. It works very well, despite the wider variety of angles you hold a tablet at compared to a smartphone.

Only occasionally did I have to intentionally lean over the tablet to get it to see my face, or move my hand from blocking the camera when held in landscape. It feels far more natural than reaching

for a fingerprint scanner on a tablet.

If docked in the Smart Keyboard you can simply double tap the spacebar or any key to unlock and dismiss the lock screen taking a leaf out of Microsoft’s excellent Windows Hello system.

iOS 12

Verdict

The new 12.9in iPad Pro is a remarkable piece of technology that rekindles that wow factor for me that most technology has lost. But it is exceedingly expensive if it is considered just a tablet.

Apple claims the iPad is the evolution of the computer, and you can certainly get work done on it for double the length of time between charges than its competitors.

But because of the intentional limitations of iOS, to get work done you need to make adjustments and use little hacks and workarounds you simply don’t have to on a desktop operating system. And really for something that costs upward of £969 it should adapt to you rather than the other way around.

Yes, the iPad Pro is a computer but it’s not the best computer. It is the best, most desirable mobile tablet, and you’ll want one if you see one. But when the 9.7in iPad costs just £319 and works great for watching video, whether you should spend £769 for the 11in or £969 for the 12.9in version really comes down to how much you’re willing to spend on a luxury item. Because that’s what the iPad Pro is: a beautiful, luxury piece of kit.

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