What You Need to Know about the iPad Pro

Now that the excitement from the September 9 announcement has settled down, let's take a quick look at the most important new features of the iPad Pro. 

12.9-inch display — This model, befitting the name, clearly seems targeted toward professionals. The huge display will make the iPad Pro much more functional for productivity applications such as office and design suites. Apple CEO Tim Cook said they developed the new multitasking capability of iOS 9 with the iPad Pro in mind. The Split View feature is especially impressive on the larger display. With the iPad Pro positioned horizontally, you can be running two apps in vertical orientation side by side, with each app being the same full size as the app would appear running vertically on an iPad Air 2. The display is now large enough that the onscreen keyboard is full size.

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Suites from Adobe and Microsoft — This software isn't a feature of the iPad Pro, but the fact that Apple had these two top companies create new suites for the iPad Pro shows Apple's serious commitment to serving the needs of professionals. The demos of these suites were quite impressive, especially the one from Adobe. It showed how a professional looking document can be created on the iPad Pro in minutes. The page layout was done with quick gestures using Adobe Comp, a smile added to the photo of a model using Photoshop Fix, and a drawing added using Photoshop Sketch. The suite will only be available on the iPad.

Apple Pencil — This $99 optional stylus offers a precision drawing instrument that's a marvel of engineering. The tip is so precise it can touch a single pixel. The sensors are able to detect position, force, and tilt, and there's no lag time between moving the Pencil and the marking appearing on the screen. One review pointed out that an iPad Pro with the Pencil is priced competitively with high-end drawing tablets, yet is thinner, lighter, and more capable. You recharge the Pencil vial its Lightning connector. In appearance, it's pretty much the same size and shape as an actual pencil.

Camera — The iPad Pro comes with a new 8-megapixel iSight camera capable of shooting 1080p video. The 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera is capable of shooting 720 HD video. As on the iPad mini 4, the camera is capable of burst mode and slow motion.

Powerful processor — ​Last year's iPad Air 2 had a powerful A8X processor that was the fastest processor available for iOS devices. The iPad Pro comes with the new A9X processor that is nearly twice as fast as the A8X. Apple refers to the iPad Pro as having "desktop-class performance. During the Sept. 9 event Apple said that the iPad Pro is faster than 80 percent of the PCs that were on the market this past year, and that graphics performance is faster than 90 percent of them.

Four speakers — The iPad Pro has four speakers, one near each corner, and has three times the audio power of the iPad Air 2. A neat feature is that the stereo effect balances left and right depending on whether you're holding the iPad horizontally or vertically.

Battery life — Despite having a large display and a powerful processor, the iPad Pro still has a 10-hour batter life. One new battery-saving feature is the iPad Pro's variable refresh rate. If you're doing something such as reading an e-book that doesn't have a lot of activity on the screen, the display refreshes less often. But once you start doing something like playing a game, it then returns to its fastest refresh rate.

Size and weight — The device is 6.9 mm thick, compared to 6.1 for the iPad Air 2. And it weighs 1.57 pounds. It's actually about half as thick as the original iPad and weighs about the same, yet has a much larger display.

Smart Keyboard cover — The optional $169 Smart Keyboard is like the original Smart Cover but with an added keyboard. You can use it as a stand with the keyboard in front like a laptop or as a simple cover. It connects to your iPad Pro via three small round magnetic contacts, called the Smart Connector. It provides  power, and it also transfers data — without the need for Bluetooth. The keyboard is extremely thin and is covered with a fabric that itself provides the tension for the keys. Plus, it protects against spills.

Price — The iPad Pro starts at $799 for 32 GB of memory. The model with 128 GB is $949, and the 128 GB model with LTE cellular data is $1,079.

It will be interesting to see how these iPads do in terms of sales and whether they can reverse the yearlong slide in iPad sales.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.