Rapid Review: 2018 iPad Pro 11-inch

Image: Apple

Apple's latest iPad Pro range has added something extra to every meaningful spec. They're faster, offer more storage, are slightly smaller and cost more. But are they a valuable replacement for a traditional computer and are they are worthwhile upgrade if you've already got an iPad Pro?

What Is It?

The iPad Pro represents the latest evolution of what Apple wants a tablet to be. The update on the previous model starts on the outside. The squared off edges, reminiscent of the iPhone 4, 5 and SE are back although the volume and power buttons are in the same place as the previous model.

Apple has started the move away from their proprietary Lightning connector with this model as well. Both the new 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pros now sport a USB-C port for charging and synching. That means you should be able to connect the new iPad Pro to an external display more easily as the new standard becomes more common. But you will need an adaptor for HDMI - which has been the case for some time.

Image: Apple

The updated Smart Keyboard has a similar typing feel to its predecessor but there are a couple of important changes. The Smart Connector is no longer on the iPad Pro's edge. It's been moved to the back of the iPad Pro - you'll see three dots on the rear near the bottom. That's allowed Apple to make a major change to the way the Apple Pencil works. Charging is no longer via the clumsy method from version one of the pencil. Now, it sits magnetically on the edge of the iPad Pro and is charged wirelessly. The Pencil has a new touch control around the lower section that lets you toggle between a pen and eraser easily.

Finally, there's FaceID. TouchID is being phased out from Apple's mobile devices - other than legacy devices retained in the company's product range, such as the iPhone 8, and the iPad. FaceID has allowed Apple to ditch the Home button and increase the display size, in the case of the 11-inch model, and decrease the overall footprint of the 12.9-inch.

Specifications

Display 11-inch Liquid Retina running at 2388 by 1668
Size and weight 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm, 468g
Comms Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, Optional cellular with eSIM and Nano-SIM support
Processor A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB options
Cameras Rear: 12MP supports 4K video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps and Slow-motion video support for 1080p at 120 fps, and 720p at 240 fps. Front: 7MP with support for animojis, portrait mode, 1080p video recording

What's Good?

I've been using the previous model iPad Pro, the 10.5-inch and it's a great tablet. If you're considering an upgrade, then the updated 11-inch is an incremental change. From a functional point of view, there's nothing the new model does that the old one cannot. But it's a much more refined device.

For example, the new Smart Keyboard Folio protects the back of the device as well the front. And it now supports having the display propped up on two different angles - one that's good for work and another that seems well suited to watching movies. It's a nice change but enough to drive an upgrade. Similarly, the new charging and connection mechanism for the Apple Pencil is a great improvement. But again, it's a refinement and not life changing. And the introduction of FaceID, in order to deliver a larger display without compromising portability, is a worthwhile, but not revolutionary, update.

They're all good improvements that make the new iPad Pro a better device than the previous model.

It's hard to talk about the iPad Pro without mentioning the accessories. I've already mentioned the Smart Keyboard Folio but the updated Apple Pencil is also of note. The new wireless charging system does make life a lot easier. The Apple Pencil has a flattened area that sits on the edge of the iPad Pro and is held magnetically while it charges. This is likely why the new iPad Pro needed a squarer profile so there was enough area on the edge to accomodate the charging hardware and magnet.

Image: Apple

One of the interesting challenges Apple faced was the the iPad Pro is used in both portrait and landscape modes. That meant FaceID needed some tweaking. Anyone with an iPhone X or later knows that FaceID only works when the phone is held the right way up. Apple has modified the software for facial recognition, which is still super fast, so that it works no matter which way the iPad is held.

In terms of actual use, the iPad Pro is damn fast. Apple says it's faster than over 90% of the current crop of portable computers on the market. And while that's a hard number to independently verify, I can tell you it's quick. Image editing, video production and basic tasks all happen super fast. And the new display, a Liquid Retina display, is just that bit sharper than the previous generation. It's only obvious when you have the older and newer devices adjacent to each other and is definitely noticeable.

What's Bad?

In reducing the thickness of the iPad Pro by a couple of millimetres, Apple has made the lip around the rear camera slightly higher. It's not a big deal but it does affect the overall aesthetic of the device.

I've also found some apps that fitted the entire display on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro now have black strips down the left and right sides as they were hard-coded for the slightly different resolution. So that means there will be a few app updates coming.

If you double-tap the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro display when it's locked, the Notes app automatically launches. That's handy but I prefer to use Notability and I cannot see how to change that preference.

Should You Buy It

The 2018 iPad Pro is an expensive piece of kit - there's no other way to describe its price. But Apple has never been about catering for the entry level and focusses on the higher end of the market.

When the first tablets came to the market, they were pitched as accessories or complementary devices to accompany your regular computer. But the functionality and pricing of the new iPad has shifted the division. It is now possible, for many users, for an iPad Pro to replace their normal computer. That's not something everyone can do, but as software makers have brought more apps to mobile platforms - Adobe will be releasing a full version of Photoshop for iOS in the new year - the app gap between Windows and macOS, and iOS and Android is narrowing.

Here's my recommendation.

If you already have an iPad Pro then, while the new models are an upgrade, they aren't life-changing upgrades. He current, 10.5-inch model is only a year or so old and still has plenty of life. The same goes with the 12.9-inch model in my view. If you're using last year's models - wait. If you have the original 9.7-inch iPad Pro then the jump to the 1—inch model makes more sense.

If you're in the market for a new computer, the pricing of the new models, particularly the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, puts it in the same price bracket as many mid to high range notebooks. That's a decision that will come down to where the better portability of the iPad Pro and its performance and app compatibility and availability works for you.

The other consideration is that the iPad Pro, if you're planning to use it as a laptop replacement will need the Smart Keyboard Folio. That's an extra $269 for the 11-inch version and $299 for the 12.9-inch. And the new Apple Pencil, which doesn't work with previous generation iPad Pro or the current iPad, adds another $199 to your shopping bag. That puts the maxed versions of both the larger and smaller iPad Pro at more than the cost of a 13-inch MacBook Pro and many other comparable notebooks.

12.9-inch iPad Pro WiFi Only Pricing

  • 64GB: A$1529
  • 256GB: A$1749
  • 512GB: A$2049
  • 1TB: A$2649

12.9-inch iPad Pro WiFi and Cellular Only Pricing

  • 64GB: A$1749
  • 256GB: A$1969
  • 512GB: A$2269
  • 1TB: A$2869

11-inch iPad Pro WiFi Only Pricing

  • 64GB: A$1229
  • 256GB: A$1449
  • 512GB; A$1749
  • 1TB: A$2349

11-inch iPad Pro WiFi and Cellular Only Pricing

  • 64GB: A$1449
  • 256GB: A$1669
  • 512GB: A$1969
  • 1TB: A$2569

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