Apple iPad Pro (2018) Review
Update: You can now read our Apple iPad mini (2019) review!
Nowadays, things are way more complicated for the iPad line. There is an affordable 9.7” iPad starting at $329, a 10.5” iPad Pro from $649 (from last year), and then there are the brand new iPad Pro 11” and 12.9” which just hit the market, and start from $799 for a base, 64GB iPad Pro 11”, and go all the way up to the exorbitant $1899 for a fully stacked iPad Pro 12.9” with 1 TB of storage and cellular connectivity.
In this peculiar landscape, it seems the iPad no longer wants to be just a jolly multimedia device. It's trying to be a lot of different things to different people, and to seriously threaten those consumer notebooks out there. But does this advanced iOS machine have what it takes to replace your PC?
Minimalistic and functional, the iPad Pro 2018's new design is not exactly elegant
Appearance-wise, it's quite interesting. This new model is less elegant than its predecessors, and with those unapologetic antenna lines, it's actually quite spartan-looking. It's hard to call this new iPad Pro (2018) beautiful, but it sure is impressive in terms of physical properties.
There is also no 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPad Pro 11" and 12.9", and there are no EarPods in the box. Considering the available port is now USB Type C, you'll be better off reaching for a pair of Bluetooth earphones, such as Apple's AirPods. The good news is that at least the speakers are pretty great, so it won't be like you absolutely need to connect headphones in order to enjoy good audio with the iPad Pro. Compared to the latest stereo speakers on an iPhone XS, XS Max or XR, the iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" speakers are definitely much better.
The ProMotion display is incredible and Apple should put it on phones right now
Moving on, there's also the True Tone feature, which adjusts screen color temperature in real-time so that it matches your ambient light. That way the tablet can display realistic-looking colors that blend with your surroundings in a more natural way. This feature works great on the new iPad Pro 2018.
Interface and Functionality
iOS 12 is a great platform for consumers, but it's not open or functional enough to accommodate all professionals.
iOS 12 on the iPad diverges a little from iOS 12 on the iPhone, but just a little. There most significant 'upgrades' in the iPad experience are that you can utilize drag-and-drop in a variety of places in the system, and you can also use split screen multitasking.
The latter works by dragging an app from the dock to the right or left of an already opened app – you can either engage true side-by-side multitasking, or having the second app appear over the already running app, for those occasions where you want to do or check something quickly and then discard the app.
Aside from that, there don't seem to be any groundbreaking changes in the iOS 12 experience. The much bigger story with these new iPad Pros is the performance of the new A12X Bionic chipset.
This is a more powerful version of the A12 that's in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR, and Apple really wants to convince you that this is not some kind of a watered down, mobile-first chip. It wants you to know that it's a screamer that can handle notebook-level tasks, like running full-blown Photoshop, for example. And while it still can't do that, it will starting next year, when Adobe will release real Photoshop for the iPad. With powerful programs like this, the usefulness of the iPad is bound to skyrocket. The number of desktop class, full-featured games is also increasing, thanks to titles like Civilization VI, which is already available.
However, can the confines of iOS allow for a truly productive platform with all the freedom that creators need? We wouldn't be so sure yet. iOS is still a relatively closed environment, where everyone, both consumers and developers, are at the mercy of Apple. At least at this time, there's not enough freedom in interaction between apps and between devices, for the iPad Pro to become a truly professional-grade tool. For now, it's stick in this strange middle ground between a consumer media device and something that can do work for you, but while it's already a great media device, it's potential as professional equipment is yet to be fully realized.
Processor and Memory
Together with the amazing 120 Hz ProMotion display, it's amazing how nicely and smoothly everything moves. Our only hope is that developers will be faster at optimizing their apps and games to take advantage of the new chipset and ProMotion display.
In addition to a cutting-edge processor, Apple can also load the iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" with up to 1TB (1000 GB) of storage. That's some pretty extreme stuff, but the prices are similarly extreme. For the more level-headed among us, Apple is also selling 64 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB versions.
As usual, you can choose between Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The difference is you can insert a SIM card into the latter and use cellular data.
The iPad also comes with a new, three-dot connector on its back, which is used to connect to certain accessories like the new Smart Folio Keyboard. The keyboard's design is considerably more intuitive than that of the previous model. It's also more protective, as it covers the back of the tablet as well, but it's just not a very good keyboard, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying it. The trouble with it is that most keys work very well, but the space bar is a bit stiffer, requiring more force to press down compared to the rest of the keys. This turns out to be quite the inconvenience as far as the typing experience goes.
It’ll never stop to be an occasion when someone pulls out their large iPad to take a photo, but that doesn’t prevent us from doing it nonetheless. And because of that, Apple has made sure to upgrade the cameras in the new iPad Pro 11” and 12.9”. The rear camera is a 12 MP one that has a bunch of cool features like Smart HDR – also present in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. However, it strangely lacks Portrait Mode.
Quality-wise, images from both the rear and front cameras are pretty decent. They don’t exactly wow with superb composure or punchy colors, but are high-quality enough to get the job done. Plus, Apple says the rear camera has been optimized for Augmented Reality experiences, and it worked very well in our testing, with 3D objects appearing quite stable.
The iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" 2018 are perfectly suited for media entertainment. The screens are very big, which is great for both movies and games. Of course, not only are they big, but their properties like the resolution and the color reproduction are top-notch.
For the gamers out there, the special treat in the iPad Pro 2018 is in the form of the new, 7-core GPU. Seriously, we're yet to find a game that can even put a dent in the performance – it's unwavering! However, we also noticed that quite a few games, including high-profile ones like Hearthstone or Civilization VI don't use the hardware to its maximum, with Civilization in particular running in a very low resolution, definitely not Retina-quality.
You can compare the battery life of the iPad Pro 11” to many other competitors in our Benchmarks tool.
What's a tablet?
Late last year, Apple ran an ad where a kid using an iPad Pro replied with "What's a computer?" to a question from her neighbor asking "What are you doing on your computer?". The ad seemed to stir the anger bucket somewhat at the time, as Apple dared to suggest that we're already living in that post-PC era it's been talking about since introducing the first iPad, but of course, we all know that isn't true.
So, not merely an entertainment device and not really a workstation. It's this undecided space that the iPad Pro 2018 has to inhabit, until Apple finally decides if it's to send it one way or the other. Should it, though? The iPad Pro may be just fine as it is right now, as long as customers know what they are getting into. Unless all you do on your computer is to watch movies and browse Facebook, then sure, the iPad Pro can totally replace your PC. But any serious type of work you want to do on a computing device, you'll almost certainly be better off opening your notebook than picking up your iPad Pro.