Apple iPad Pro 10.5 Review
Interface and Functionality
Apple's tablet support has come a long way, but iOS still has few issues left unresolved
Right now, there's not a lot unique and special going on with the interface you're going to find on the iPad Pro – if you're familiar with iOS 10 already, expect more of the same. Mind you, iOS 11 is just around the corner, and we can look forward to a number of upgrades and new features focused specifically on Apple's tablet lineup – but that's still a few months away.
For the moment, we can reflect on how Apple's mobile OS responds to larger-screen devices than the typical 9.7-inch iPad fare. On a very basic level, iOS still doesn't feel particularly optimized for tablets, and that's made clear the moment you power the tablet on and see the operating system's home screen with the same paltry 4 x 5 array of app icons you get on a much, much smaller iPhone display.
Sure, they're not much worse here than on a 9.7-inch iPad, and the situation is far more pronounced on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it's still just a bit infuriating that – with the default wallpaper – we literally have tiny icons floating on a vast sea of empty space between them. Some users may find serenity in the low-density layout, but for those who thought that a big-screen Pro-branded tablet would be all about optimizing the tablet's interface with a focus on productivity, it's something in the neighborhood of maddening.
What works better is split-screen and picture-in-picture support, letting you view two apps side-by-side or superimpose a video thumbnail over another full-screen app. The limited screen real estate compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro does make split-screen a little less functional here, but it's still handy in a decent number of scenarios, like viewing a map to a restaurant while checking out its menu to the side.
With both of these features, though, we wish there were more flexibility. You're highly limited in terms of how you can resize apps, as well as video windows. And there's still the issue that PIP isn't supported at all in popular third-party apps like YouTube.
Processor and Memory
With some of the best performance we've ever seen, the new iPad Pro is in a league of its own
A new generation of iPads is more often than not an opportunity to get to know Apple's latest silicon, and that's very much the case this time around. For both the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the now-discontinued 9.7-inch edition, Apple used its A9X chip, which was already a quite powerful processor. With this new wave of tablets, the company's introducing the beefed-up A10X, which produces what Apple claims to be a 30 boost in processing power, and 40 percent increase to graphics computational speed.
Not content to just take Apple's word for it, we ran the 10.5-inch iPad Pro through our full assault of benchmark tests, and it's done nothing less than utterly blow away the competition. While each test we run measures a slightly different array of variables, we're looking at performance that's roughly 20 to 25% better than you'll get from an iPhone 7. Put simply, we've yet to see another tablet with speeds anything like this.
That's not just a benchmark determination, either, and subjectively the iPad Pro is phenomenally fast. The speed has a way of sneaking up on you, not always leaving you aware of the improvements – and that's a very good thing. Rather than thinking to yourself, “my stars, this app is fast,” it's more like you don't think about the speed at all – things are just running so smoothly that you never see those slowdown moments that get you pondering performance bottlenecks in the first place.
While Apple continues to play coy about the topic of RAM in its mobile devices, teardowns have confirmed that the new iPad Pro is equipped with 4GB of LPDDR4 memory. We might look for more on a full-blown laptop, but for an iOS device, that capacity feels more than sufficient to keep app-multitasking running smoothly.
As far as storage is concerned, Apple offers 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB editions of the tablet, starting at about $650, $750, and $950 as WiFi-only editions, respectively. For the purposes of this review, we're looking at the 64GB model, but if we had to pick a sweet spot on that storage/pricing curve, 256GB is feeling like a pretty nice balance.
As per usual, Apple offers its latest iPads in both WiFi-only and cellular equipped models, and no matter which storage configuration you go with, opting for cellular connectivity will add $130 to your final cost.
But perhaps the more relevant connectivity concerns accessories, and as an iPad Pro model, this tablet supports both the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. While the former is obviously a wireless devices, the keyboard connects to the iPad Pro through a proprietary edge interface. We didn't evaluate the Smart Keyboard as part of this review, but if you want to pick one up, Apple's got a new edition custom-sized for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, priced at just about $160.