Hands-on Review of the Smaller iPad Pro: Should You Buy It?

The new, 9.7-inch iPad Pro hit shelves today. I had an unexpected opportunity to test it out with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard this afternoon. This model starts at $599 and scales up depending on storage space and whether or not it’s LTE enabled. I wanted to find out if it’s worth that price tag and how it compares to older iPads as well as the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The first thing I noticed was the weight difference. I own an iPad Air, which weighs 1.05 pounds. The smaller iPad Pro weighs .96 pounds — the same as an iPad Air 2. Since I was the first person to power up this iPad Pro, I went through the normal setup with one very prominent difference: True Tone Display. It gave me the option to see the display with and without True Tone. This gave me the chance to see how big of a difference it makes. True Tone is so natural that you don't realixe it makes a difference until it's turned off. I hope to see this feature in all future devices, because it makes looking at a screen easy on the eyes. Considering how much time as we spend on computers, this would be an asset for Macbooks and iPhones too.

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I could cover all the awesome specs this thing has from its A9X processor to the 12 megapixel camera, but at the end of the day those numbers don’t mean much to us. Is it fast? Yeah. It’s noticeably faster than my iPad Air. The camera is as top-notch as they come right now, but I’ve always found taking pictures with iPad to be cumbersome. I’m sure there’s some reader out there who will jump up and rave over taking pictures with an iPad, but what I really want to know is does this iPad Pro provide more value than the iPad Air 2 (which is $200 less to start).

I’m going to take a critical stance here, but unless you’re one of the people who will wildly benefit from the Apple Pencil, I don’t think it’s worth upgrading.

There’s no doubt that this is the best iPad on the market. But what do you use your iPad for? If you’re the type of person who uses it as an entertainment device for movies, games, and apps then the $200 price difference might be enough to sway you towards an older model. Likewise, despite Apple’s insistence on the iPad becoming a laptop killer, the capabilities to seamlessly do that simply aren’t there yet.

Who should buy it?

It’s really cool, and if the iPad is a great productivity tool in your hands, by all means go for it. This iPad delivers on everything specs can cover: the display is beautiful, it has four-speaker audio, 10 hours of battery life, 4K video, Live Photos, and more. It’s a tricked-out pony. I was also pleasently surprised by the Smart Keyboard, which was smoother to type on than anticipated. And I'm a huge fan of the Apple Pencil but lack the artistic talent to utilize its potential.  

Ultimately, if you love to be on the leading edge of consumer tech you’ll thoroughly enjoy the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Yet I stand by my belief that iOS limits the iPad’s potential for those who do want it to replace their laptop but still see all the ways in which it can’t. 

Let's Break it Down


  • True Tone Display
  • Upgraded everything
  • Best iPad on the market
  • Lots of power in a portable package


  • High Price plus expensive accessories
  • Slightly slower than 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • Not the laptop replacement Apple keeps telling us it is

Final Verdict:

It all comes down to how you use the iPad. For some people, this will be a welcome upgrade with awesome capabilities. I think others will notice that there isn’t a huge difference between the smaller iPad Pro and the iPad Air 2. But if you simply love the iPad and do everything on it, you’ll highly appreciate True Tone Display and the more subtle differences.

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Author Details

Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.