Apple iPad Pro 12.9 Review

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Interface and Functionality

Split-screen works better than on the smaller iPad Pro, but iOS still needs to be more tablet-friendly

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.

This was already a bit annoying on 9.7-inch iPads, and worse on the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, but on this 12.9-inch model it just looks silly. And 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. Compared to smaller iPad Pro models, the 12.9-incher does a much better job at handling split-screen displays, and when sharing screen space equally between two apps in landscape, you can still enjoy a full-sized interface on both – it's only when you shrink one down to smaller sizes that iOS is forced to start dropping UI elements as it renders apps for smaller screens.

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

Apple delivers on its promise of big performance boosts over the first-gen iPad Pro

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 12.9-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 (the 10.5-inch iPad Pro notwithstanding) 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.

In a select few benchmarks we saw the 12.9-inch iPad Pro performing worse than the 10.5-inch model, and with the tests in question being particularly graphics-focused, we're guessing the mitigating factor is this tablet's higher resolution. But this is really a minor issue, and for nearly every other test, the bigger iPad Pro performed at just the same level as the (slightly) more petite tablet.

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 $800, $900, and $1100 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. All these models represent a $150 premium over the smaller 10.5-inch iPad Pro.


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 its 12.9-inch model available for around $170 – only $10 more than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard.


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PhoneArena rating:
8.8Very good
Display12.9 inches, 2048 x 2732 pixels (265 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera12 megapixels
Apple A10X Fusion, Hexa-core, 2380 MHz, Hurricane and Zephyr processor
Size12.04 x 8.69 x 0.27 inches
(305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm)
24.41 oz  (692 g)

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