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iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

Posted: , by Luis D.

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iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

The iPad's next frontier is the iPad Pro, downsized in dimensions, specs (more about that below), and price for mass acceptance. According to Apple, it is also a look towars the possibilities for personal computing in the modern world, where desktop-class processing muscle has become the norm for premium tablets. And with its ever-evolving ability to let you pull off moderately complex productivity-related or creative tasks with intuitive touch-screen controls – touching, swiping, and even writing and drawing with a one of a kind digital stylus – the iPad is beginning to put all this power into good use. Let's take a dive into the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's imposing spec sheet, for we can already tell there are going to be interesting findings!

Design

Being stuffed full of technology didn't pose a challenge for the iPad's traditionally good looks.

Apple hasn't tampered much with the original iPad Pro's recipe. The tablet has that svelte, 0.24-inch (6.1mm)-thin aluminum unibody that slopes outwards where it meets the front glass panel with a chamfered, beveled edge. For what it is – the most powerful 9.7-inch ARM tablet out there – the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is also remarkably lightweight at only 0.96 pounds (437 grams). That's all the more impressive, considering there are no less than four speakers present along the tablet's edges – two above the display, and two below it.

Another design addition is a three-pin connector along the iPad's left side – that's the Smart Connector, used to connect the iPad Pro to the optional Smart Keyboard dock. Also, the tablet is now available in a Rose Gold color. Otherwise, this is the iPad as we know and love it – sleek, solid, aluminum-made and expensive-looking.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

Display

Cinematic colors, dynamic color adjustment, and photo aligned pixels for maximum viewing pleasure.

Apple calls the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's display its "most advanced — the brightest and least reflective in the world." It uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry, resulting in a wider color gamut and up to 25% greater color saturation than previous iPad models. Moreover, Apple employed True Tone technology that uses a four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically match the display's color and intensity to the room's ambient light. This makes the screen much easier on the eyes. Its peak luminance stands at 500 nits, which is great, but not exceptional. It will let you comfortably use the display under intense light, but there are still brighter mobile screens out there.

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch's display has the same 2048x1536 resolution as the iPad Air 2's. This makes for a pixel density of 264ppi, which makes individual pixels practically indistinguishable from a normal viewing distance. However, unlike the iPad Air 2, the new iPad Pro benefits from improved contrast as a result of subjecting the liquid crystal layer to photo alignment, creating more consistent orientation between the liquid crystals. Likewise, the touch digitizer maintains the iPad Air 2's 120Hz refresh rate, which gets dialed up to 240Hz when using the Apple Pencil.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

Processor and Memory

Apple chipped off some MHz and 2GB of RAM to fit the original iPad Pro's internals into a smaller shell.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form
There's hardly any doubt that the new iPad Pro is a very powerful tablet. Apple jumped from the iPad Air 2's A8X SoC straight to the A9X SoC that debuted with the 12.9" iPad Pro. It has double the memory bandwidth and is 1.8 times faster than the A8X. Although the chipset's maximum CPU frequency hasn't been revealed, it is typical for Apple to downlock chips as it places them inside smaller devices in order to maintain battery life and control the device's thermal profile. That appears to be the case, for the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is presented as just a little bit slower than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in CPU and graphics performance. In regards to the latter, Apple uses the same 12-cluster PowerVR Series7XT custom implementation, likely tuned to a lower peak clock frequency.

Unlike the bigger iPad Pro, which features 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes with 2GB of the stuff. While a 9.7" iPad doesn't have to run two full-sized applications in side-by-side mode, due to its screen's constraints, the decision is only excusable if the tablet is able to deliver the same level of smooth everyday performance. Whether that's the case, it remains to be seen.

Storage and connectivity-wise, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes in 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage (non-expandable) options, complete with LTE versions of each, unlike the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. All tablets have 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi antennas (you can read all you want about that here), along with the latest Bluetooth 4.2, a Lighting port, and Apple's Smart Connector for connecting keyboard accessories (including ones made by third-party vendors like Logitech). There's also Touch ID fingerprint security to let users unlock the iPad, secure their personal data, and authorize payments through the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBooks Store.

The iPad Pro (9.7-inch) is powered by a 27.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery which Apple estimates is good for up to 10 hours of web surfing, watching videos, or listening to music.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

Camera

The 12MP PDAF camera can spar with the iPhone 6s and other big boys in the mobile photography league.

Upgrading from the 12.9" iPad Pro, which uses the same camera setup as the iPad Air 2 – an 8MP sensor with 1.1-micron pixels and f/2.4 aperture – the 9.7" iPad Pro has a 12MP Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) camera with True Tone Flash, wider f/2.2 aperture, five-element lens, hybrid IR filter, backside illumination, and software image stabilization. It's probably the same camera used on the iPhone 6s and iPhone SE, but even if it isn't, it probably achieves photos in the same ballpark of quality. The 12MP sensor boasts improved local tone mapping and noise reduction, as well as enabling 4K video recording, slow-motion videos at up to 240fps, and panorama shots of up to 63MP in size. Meanwhile, the front camera is a 5MP unit with f/2.2 aperture, 720p video recording, Retina Flash (the screen is used to illuminate your face in the dark), and Auto HDR.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch specs review – big guns, small form

Expectations


Shipping March 31, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599 for the base 32GB Wi-Fi model. Considering the iPad Air 2's 16GB base model sells for $399, a $200 difference for a storage increase, accessory compatibility, display and sound improvements, and incredibly fast hardware seems justified. But that depends on whether you can really utilize the hardware to its full extent, and for that, you will need to shell out additional cash for the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, which pushes the price tag into the territory of a sub-$999 PC. Then again, no PC will let you do the exact same stuff an iPad with its touchscreen, stylus, and unique apps would.

On the other hand, Apple showcases strong engineering once again, for fitting the original iPad Pro's hardware in mostly authentic form inside a thinner and smaller chassis is commendable. With its combination of hardware and software functionality, thew 9.7-inch iPad Pro looks like the most advanced consumer tablet on the market. We must admit we're not quite sure about Apple's decision to ship the device with 2GB of RAM less than the bigger iPad Pro, but at this point it is too early to tell whether this is actually meaningful to end users, or not. It could present a problem from a future-proofing perspective, but given that the tablet is poised to run the latest iOS version in the next four to five years (at least), and it would take truly demanding games or heavy-duty software – the kind that's not really suited to tablets at present – to max out 4GB of RAM. So it seems like a safe decision, for the most part.

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posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:01 17

1. elitewolverine (Posts: 5188; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


No PC will let you do what it does for 999? Are you simply high? No a 1k pc gets you all that with actual Desktop class everything...

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:07 12

3. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


Just too high.

For a grand, the Surface Pro 4 Core i5 is way superior to bigger 12.9" iPad Pro. Not to mention this downgraded 9.7" iPad Pro.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:17 10

7. SIGPRO (Posts: 1519; Member since: 03 Oct 2012)


PA is high way high, writer smoked something or is spraying apple propaganda!
How can a tech product reviewer say " No PC will let you do what it does for $999 "?
Now i am 100% sure that PA is paid by apple, this is just BullCr@P!
How can you compare a PC with an ipad?

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:40

13. jove39 (Posts: 1888; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


I don't think Apple is paying Phone Arena...writer seems big fan of Apple in general. It'd be great to set aside personal feelings for device and write a neutral (specs) review.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:48 5

18. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


I now see why many people bash PA of being biased in Apple's favour.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 11:39

43. submar (Posts: 475; Member since: 19 Sep 2014)


As you can see now, a tablet with no much surprise costing 999.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:48

19. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


I now see why many people bash PA of being biased in Apple's favour.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:42 3

14. Acdc1a (Posts: 268; Member since: 21 Jan 2016)


Buy 2 Asus 2-in-1's from 2014, pocket the remaining $600 and get more use out of them.

It pains me to see them heap this kind of praise for something "professional" running iOS for $999!

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:50

21. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


Right! @Acdc1a

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:53 1

22. ibend (Posts: 5076; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


or just buy chuwi or whatever chinese win10 tablet with x5 processor, and save $800..
It can do more productivity stuff compared to any iPad, lol

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:03 1

2. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


Good specs. But f/2.2 apperture is quite retarded at this time.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:12 14

4. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 10645; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


Luis, you actually think ARM chips have desktop class muscle? Now that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

If that were true then why are the vast majority of the apps less than a buck?

Oh wait let's compare Apple own Final Cut Pro X for the iPad. It is a very nice app for a tablet, but to you really think it can compete equally against the Mac version on X86? How about it versus Adobe Audition?

Anyone who would claim an ARM CPU or GPU can compete with a desktop class machine is crazy.

Things like Web browsing, email, video, musoc are low latency tasks. You can do that stuff on a CPU 1/4th the power of today's. After all we were doing such tasks on phones with 300mhz cpus. None of those things have changed.

Take a game like Crysis and equally port bit to the iPad and you find out it isn't as powerful as you think. I don't care what benchmarks claim. The codeine totally different.

IOS itself probably has essential than 10zm lines of code. Windows alone has more than 80M lines of code. You think an ARM CPU can handle it? No. That's why when MS made the first Surface on ARM, Windows was stripped down to almost nothing. It even lost it full Windowing ability and went to splitscreen only.

ARM can't come close to desktop class capability. Not even remotely close.

Whatever you're drinking or smoking, please share it with the rest of us. We all.could use some so we can see how on God's green earth you could spew such a false statement. Lol

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 09:10 4

24. Ninetysix (Posts: 2460; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)


We'll either believe you or Anandtech. Guess which one we're going with? I'll give you a hint since your judgement is clouded.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/9766/the-apple-ipad-pro-review/4

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 09:28 3

28. Iodine (Posts: 1349; Member since: 19 Jun 2014)


You don't get the point.

It might not be as fast.
But Apple invested billions in their SoC, just like Intel, into the architecture that really is desktop class, into their GPU's, into being on the bleeding edge of manufacteuring processes, like fastest desktop chips, and possibly more because they only focus on doing like two chips a year.

The Apple chips excell at power efficiency. No Intel chip can get close. In a MacBook the 6,5W (or 8,5 ?) core M under a graphite heatspreader in a good 9 mm thick body can supposedly sustain just 1.3Ghz or so and the Mac book can get rather hot.
In a 6,9mm iPad, A9X can sustain 2,26 Ghz undeffinitelly and it also gots a GPU that blows away pretty much anything intel has to offer, in some 5-6W power envelope. The iPad can also get hot, but considering it's thinnes it's still great thermal performance as other manufactuers would run it much hotter without problem.
But yeah Intel is faster at some tasks, but you can't put it into an iPad.

And no it's not only about speed, it's about investment, about used technology and level of innovation that makes "desktop class" chips and Apple is in the forefront with chip designs.

So what's the problem ?

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 09:38

32. S-R-K (banned) (Posts: 304; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


Instead of spending millions on Soc, having a 2600mah would really help and no need to go on crappy maggot sized 12nm. The bigger the core die the better.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 10:12 2

35. j2001m (Posts: 2976; Member since: 28 Apr 2014)


But it does at all using iOS and iOS apps/games, it will always look good, because it's only running very basic code
I.e. It's running a very limited OS with limited apps, this is why they not using the CPU on macs
I.e. Get back to me when it runs Mac pcs

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 12:06

44. elitewolverine (Posts: 5188; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


If what you stated had any resemblance of 'true' behind it, they would take their twister design apply it to a x86 solution and be done with it...there is a reason they don't.

Intel chips still reign supreme.

As for your gpu remarks...no.

Again the fastest chip for mobile use that Apple has, it at nipping ends of the lowest M line

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 00:06

47. yoosufmuneer (Posts: 1507; Member since: 14 Feb 2015)


Final Cut Pro X isn't available for iOS at all. iMovie is their only option. Agreed with your statement.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:16 7

6. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 10645; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


Luis, you can buy a Surface Pro 3 with an i5 CPU forn $599. It will come with 128GB of stirage, have a full USB port, plus a miniDisplay port, SD card slot up.too 1TB and it runs all.full.desktop class apps. Sure it won't run a game like Crysis at full.tilt, but itbwill.come far closers than any iPad.

Just because ARM can reach similar speed as far as GHz, doesn't mean it can compete.

Right now the iPad would slow to a crawl.if I too Android off the Galaxy Note 12.2 and could find a way to.make it boot on this iPad. It would work, but would be very slow.

That one extra core may help it with bios apps, but it couldn't even handle just Android with Touchwiz. Lol.

You PA guys are a joke with your fun facts.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 09:47 4

34. luis.d (Posts: 329; Member since: 04 Dec 2013)


It doesn't run iPad apps, so no go for me.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 12:08 1

45. elitewolverine (Posts: 5188; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


And the iPad cannot run full desktop apps, even from MAC side, so no go for a 1k paper weight.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 01:22

48. 47AlphaTango (Posts: 298; Member since: 27 Sep 2015)


And the surface pro can't run a good desktop apps without a dedicated GPU not onboard. So I would rather have a gaming laptop over a crappy piece of tech.

posted on 24 Mar 2016, 06:31

49. elitewolverine (Posts: 5188; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


I am squinting to see anything of value...can't run good desktop apps without a dedicated GPU? I guess all that visual studio, RStudio, and many other actual work related programs we use daily, not to mention drawing and many other things...is just a dream fabricated. I had a gaming laptop, they are good, but highly different in what you buy it for. If im spending that much on a gaming laptop im upgrading my desktop instead.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 10:24 3

36. SamsungPhanboy (banned) (Posts: 765; Member since: 31 Mar 2015)


Techie, show me where I can get a Surface Pro 3 i5 for 599 and I'll buy it immediately.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 11:22

41. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


Go to Swappa, you'll find it. But it's the WI-FI-only version.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 11:24

42. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


You'll also find Surface Pro4 4GB Core i5 for 900 bucks at BestBuy.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:18

8. iusshpandeh (Posts: 250; Member since: 23 Jul 2014)


I'll better get Surface 3 4 GB RAM with Atom Processor instead of this! I know Surface 3 is slower in benchmarks and in loading PornHub, but I would rather wait 5 more seconds to load Photoshop on Surface rather than wait 0 sec to load Retrica on iPad!

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:28

10. Arch_Fiend (Posts: 2709; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


This tablet is a beast so I don't really get why everyone is hating on it so much and whining about such trivial things like the camera hump and RAM, hello ios doesn't need that much.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 08:38 6

12. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


What hate? They are slamming Luis' weird statement. An ARM tablet for a grand, does more that an x86 desktop PC at same price?

Wow.

posted on 23 Mar 2016, 10:26

37. Arch_Fiend (Posts: 2709; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


That statement was stupid.

My comment was directed toward those who have spewed hate on all the 9.7in Pro articles.

Sometimes I post comments that don't really have to do with what is said in the article but more about the product being talked about. I know you have seen all the whining comments about the stuff I mentioned in post #10.

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