Apple has shaken up its iPad Pro line-up, boosting the size of its smallest model’s screen to 10.5in from 9.7in, and we rather like it. But is it worth the hefty price tag? We investigate in our iPad Pro 10.5 review.
After months of rumours, Apple used its WWDC 2017 conference in June to show off new iPad Pro models, including the all-new 10.5 version we’re looking at here. It’s one of four iPad options available, sitting alongside the updated 12.9in iPad Pro and its less powerful and smaller siblings: the iPad mini 4 and the iPad.
When the iPad Pro 12.9 was first introduced in 2015 it represented Apple’s first step towards an iPad that could replace your laptop. But the fact still remains that the iPad Pro, including the newest 10.5 model, runs a mobile operating system. It’s therefore tricky to compare it with the likes of the Surface Pro, which runs a full version of Windows 10 and really is closer than ever to a laptop replacement.
And at 10.5in, the iPad Pro isn’t the most portable tablet you can buy, so whether it’s right for you is going to depend on your priorities. If you’re looking for a tablet for casual gaming, social media and browsing the web, you’re going to want to look elsewhere. Check out our round-up of the best tablets for some great options.
For many, the iPad Pro 10.5 will be appealing. It’s a delight on which to consume media, including your favourite Netflix shows and even the most powerful of iOS games. Better yet, designers will enjoy using apps like Procreate to start new projects wherever inspiration strikes, particularly when paired with the Apple Pencil.
And for the commuter or seasoned business traveller, the iPad Pro paired with the Smart Keyboard is a great productivity machine for working on documents and presentations while on the move.
Realistically, though, it can’t replace your computer. There’s still no full version of Photoshop for the iPad Pro, and even with the split screen features there are limits to how comfortable its productivity benefits are if you plan on using it all day every day. And with a starting price tag of at £619 for the WiFi-only 64GB model without the Pencil or Keyboard, it’s no small investment.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Price and availability
Let’s start by taking a closer look at the price of the iPad Pro 10.5. There are several options available with varying price tags:
Wi-Fi only, 64GB: £619. Buy here.
Wi-Fi only, 256GB: £709. Buy here.
Wi-Fi only, 512GB: £889. Buy here.
Wi-Fi + Cellular, 64GB: £749. Buy here.
Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB: £839. Buy here.
Wi-Fi + Cellular, 512GB: £1,019. Buy here.
Considering whether you need cellular connectivity is important at this stage. For many, Wi-Fi is enough if you only need to use their iPad Pro online when you’re within reach of Wi-Fi. But for seasoned travellers, being able to connect to the internet any time, anywhere is incredibly important.
Remember that if you choose the cellular model, you’ll need to get yourself a SIM-only plan.
If you go for the very top model and all of the main accessories, you’re looking at a total of just over £1,400.
Not everyone’s going to need the Pencil (unless you’re a designer, in which case you might enjoy Digital Arts’ review of the iPad Pro), but the Smart Keyboard is well-worth considering if your budget can stretch. It adds lots more practicality to the iPad Pro, and when you’re already spending a minimum of £619 on the tablet it’s worth spending the extra £159 to make the most out of it.
If you don’t need the power of the iPad Pro, you can pick up the 9.7in iPad for £339, but that model only has 32GB of storage. The 128GB model iPad will set you back £469. If you need more help deciding between the 10.5 iPad Pro and the iPad, read our comparison review.
iPad Pro 10.5: Design and build
Before June’s unveiling of the 10.5in iPad Pro, Apple offered the most powerful iPad in two sizes: 12.9in (which remains today) and 9.7in.
But the non-Pro iPad, which was previously called the iPad Air but has now been rebranded as simply ‘iPad’, also has a 9.7in screen. Apple therefore made the decision to distinguish the iPad Pro from the iPad by increasing its screen size buy 0.8in, which also allows for a little bit more room to take advantage of its productivity features.
Overall, the iPad Pro 10.5in is 250.6mm tall, 17.4mm wide and 6.1mm thick. That’s the very same thickness as its 9.7in predecessor, but just a centimetre taller and half a centimetre wider.
Apple has achieved this by reducing the size of the bezels surrounding the display itself on the 10.5in model, which means the screen takes up a lot more of the surface of the front of the tablet and the result is stunning.
The size bump adds to the weight of the iPad Pro, but it’s largely unnoticeable. The 9.7in model was 437g, while the new 10.5in model is 469g. If you opt for the cellular model, you’re looking at a weight of 477g for the new model compared with the 444g of its predecessor.
Aside from those changes, the 10.5in iPad Pro’s design remains largely the same as the Pro models before it. It’s made with the same gorgeous aluminium, and is available in Rose Gold (it’s actually the only iPad available in this pink colour), Space Grey, Gold and Silver.
It’s sleek and incredibly stylish, with the circular Touch ID sensor beneath the display, cylindrical volume buttons on the side and a lock button on the top.
You’ll also spot four speaker grilles – two on the top and two on the bottom, which become the sides when you’re using the tablet in landscape orientation for watching movies – and the smart connector that works with the Smart Keyboard. On the cellular models, there’s also a nano-SIM tray. All models have the headphone jack, too, unlike Apple’s iPhone 7.
The only slightly less-than-sleek element is the camera on the rear, which protrudes slightly from the rounded corner of the iPad Pro like it does on the iPads.
We also found that the iPad Pro 10.5 quickly became incredibly grubby with fingerprints. It’s apparently got a anti-fingerprint coating, but even trying to get those smudges off the screen is difficult without a screen cleaning spray.
Overall, with the slimmer bezels and slightly more screen estate, we love that Apple has decided to make this change to the Pro line-up. It makes working on the iPad that much easier, particularly when it comes to split-screen and other multitasking needs, and movies and games look and feel better on it too.
A more radical redesign – perhaps with an edge-to-edge screen or a new stand-out feature such as 3D Touch – would likely attract current iPad owners to upgrade, but for anyone already in the market for a tablet with some serious power and capabilities, this is a true contender.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Hardware and specs
Talking of power and capabilities, let’s take a closer look at what this tablet can actually achieve. The purpose of the Pro is to bring the tablet closer to the capabilities of a laptop, particularly when you pair it with the Smart Keyboard that Apple sells alongside it, but can it really perform as well as Apple says it can?
The answer, for the most part, is yes. The A10X Fusion chipset within the iPad Pro 10.5 boasts six CPU cores, three designed for high performance and the other three designed for efficiency and improved battery life. Those are paired with a twelve-core GPU for some serious graphics power.
To put that into perspective, take a look at the results of our Geekbench 4 CPU test as shown below. Geekbench 4 puts iPads through their paces to find out just how powerful they are, so it’s a great way to compare a tablet’s capabilities with the rest of the iPad line-up, including its predecessors.
As you can see, the 10.5in iPad Pro manages to achieve a higher score than the 12.9in iPad Pro, but also the previous generation of iPad Pro models as well as non-Apple competitors such as the Surface Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.
In the chart above, you can also see the results of the GFX bench tests, which are used to determine how well a device can hold up when faced with graphics-intensive tasks.
In the first test, the iPad Pro 10.5 did just as well as most of the devices we compared it with, but it stood out quite significantly when we tried the GFX Bench Manhattan test.
In practice, these results mean that the iPad Pro 10.5 is a joy to use for gaming, multitasking, and seamlessly running powerful apps such as Procreate. Realistically, so could the previous models of iPad Pro, but as developers create even more power-hungry apps and games, the iPad Pro 10.5 is going to stand the test of time.
Also future-proofed is the storage capacity. Apple has upped the maximum to a whopping 512GB, which is just incredible for a tablet. The base model has 64GB which will still be plenty for most users, and the middle option is 256GB.
If you intend to use the 10.5 iPad Pro as a design tool, or for video and photography editing, you might want to opt for the 256GB or even the 512GB model if your budget can stretch that far. For everyone else, 64GB is likely to be plenty, but remember you can’t upgrade it once you’ve purchased as there’s no Micro-SD card slot.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Display
It’s not just the new size of the iPad Pro’s display that’s important here, but also its quality. It measures 10.5in diagonally rather than 9.7in, but Apple hasn’t just stretched it. The company has added more pixels to maintain the same number of pixels per inch, so it’s 2224 x 1668 with 264ppi.
It’s certainly crisp and bright, but that resolution really isn’t going to blow you away if you’re used to a 4K TV or one of Samsung’s flagship smartphones that uses AMOLED to make the colours pop with higher contrast, for example.
That said, key rivals such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 have similar resolutions so for a tablet-first device of this kind it’s not sub-standard.
However, it does have a 120GHz display compared with the 60GHz of its predecessors, which means the iPad Pro 10.5 can show 120 frames per second. That’s particularly great for gamers, and to improve efficiency the tablet even adjusts the refresh rate to suit what you’re looking at.
The iPad Pro 10.5 also boasts the True Tone display, which adapts the colouring to suit the lighting you’re in. As a whole, we think this works brilliantly to ease strain on the eyes, but there have been some occasions when we’ve found that whites look a little too warm for our liking, particularly when using applications such as Pages. That’ll come down to personal opinion though, and there is always the option to turn it off within Settings if you don’t like it.
Situated just below the display is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and it’s a second-generation version at that. It is quicker than more accurate than ever, allowing you to access the content on the iPad incredibly speedily, and also keeping that content safe from prying eyes.
The four speakers on the iPad Pro make the experience of watching videos or playing games all-the-more enjoyable. They really surprised us by being loud, clear and well balanced for a tablet. We’re used to a reasonably tinny sound from devices like this one, so we’re pleased that Apple’s offering breaks the mould.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Cameras
Cameras are never something we particularly enjoy talking about when it comes to tablets, because it pains us that anyone would want to use such an unwieldy device to capture a photo.
But of course, there may be the odd occasion when something great is happening and it’s the only camera you have available to you, and as they’re part of the iPad’s specifications we can’t ignore them.
There will also be new features in iOS 11 for scanning documents, which makes the rear-facing camera very welcome. Designers and illustrators might want to capture inspiration to add into notes that they’re taking, too.
There’s a 7Mp camera on the front of the iPad Pro 10.5 that most people will predominantly use for FaceTime or other video calls, as well as a 12Mp camera on the rear. Both are pretty great for a tablet, with the rear camera even boasting a quad-LED True Tone flash (the front-facing camera relies on the screen-based Retina Flash instead).
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Battery life
With a tablet like this one, battery life is super important. You’re going to want to be able to rely on it during meetings or while travelling on a long flight, so you’ll need to be confident that it isn’t going to run out of battery at a crucial moment.
Apple claims that the iPad Pro 10.5 offers up to 10 hours of battery life, thanks to the huge efforts the company has put into the efficiency of the tablet. When you consider the power and screen size alongside the overall size and thickness of the iPad itself, that’s no mean feat.
And in fact, in our Geekbench battery tests, we found that the iPad Pro 10.5 can last almost 11 hours, which is very similar to last year’s model and better than the 9.7in iPad.
In practice, we found that to be pretty accurate, but we would say that the charging was slower than we’d have liked. It can take several hours to charge, and it’s almost impossible to charge it while in use because you’re using the power at approximately the same rate that it’s gaining it.
The iPad Pro uses Apple’s Lightning port to charge.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Software
The features and specs of the iPad Pro are all well-and-good, but in the end if you hate iOS you’re not going to want to buy it. We rather like it – it’s gorgeous, intuitive and the App Store is fantastic, but some Android and Windows fans won’t enjoy its closed nature and the lack of customisation available.
The iPad Pro currently runs iOS 10, which in all honesty isn’t good enough for this device. Multitasking is frustrating and it certainly doesn’t come close to replacing the ease-of-use of a laptop with a full operating system.
Later this year, though, the iPad Pro is set to get even better thanks to the release of iOS 11. It’s already available in public beta, but will be released in its final version in September.
There will be a new Files app that’s set to make using the iPad Pro a lot more efficient. It will allow you to browse, search and organise files, and it’ll work closely with iCloud and other cloud-based services too.
The new Dock will let you switch apps more quickly, and new multitasking features will improve split screen functionality. There’s also new Drag and Drop, which will let you move text, photos and files between apps by simply dragging and dropping in Split View.
You can find out more about iOS 11 in our preview.
While iOS 11 will without doubt improve productivity and ease-of-use of the iPad Pro, it’s still a mobile operating system. That means you might not be able to get full versions of all of the apps you use, so it’s worth checking those before you invest in the tablet.
iPad Pro 10.5 review: Accessories
Accessories available for the iPad Pro 10.5 include:
In our eyes, the Keyboard is an essential. It adds so much more to the iPad Pro in terms of productivity and functionality, and we love that it works with the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro to connect and work immediately. It doesn’t require charging, either.
The keys aren’t the nicest to type on for long periods of time, but it’s slim and works as a convenient stand so as long as you don’t plan on using it to write a novel, we think you’ll enjoy it.
If you do want to type first-and-foremost on the iPad Pro, you might want to consider an alternative keyboard. There are several rivals to Apple’s offering, but they do tend to add a significant amount of bulk to the otherwise rather portable device. You can see our pick of the best keyboards here.
The Apple Pencil is less of a neccessity but it is lovely. It’s fun to use, but unless you’re in a creative job you’re unlikely to find that you really need it. It could be something you buy along the line if you find that you keep wishing you had one while using your iPad Pro, but you’re likely to get along fine without it.
The Leather Sleeve is expensive, but it is a convenient way to carry your iPad around, particularly if you do opt for the Pencil. Annoyingly, it’s not compatible with the Keyboard.