December 18, 2018
iPad Pro 12.9" (2018) Review
I've been an iPad user for a while now, my first iPad was the original iPad Air, followed by the 10.5" Pro and now the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9". The 10.5" iPad Pro (with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil 1st Gen) was a turning point for my usage and iPad Workflow. I use my iPad for taking notes at uni and work, drawing, photo editing, some occasional programming and many other tasks.
The new 12.9" iPad Pro, which Apple announced at their September 31st event along side the new 11" iPad Pro, is the latest evolution of the iPad Pro. The new iPad Pro's are a big change and mark a big leap in hardware and design for the iPad. I opted for an iPad Pro 12.9" 512GB Wi-Fi only model with Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) and Smart Folio.
Liquid Retina Display
One of the biggest changes that the new iPad Pro received is the design, gone is the curved edge back, the new iPad Pro's feature a new squared off design (reminiscent of the iPhone 5 and the first generation iPad) first major design refresh since the iPad Air. The new design feels great in the hand and looks great.
The display, Apple's Liquid Retina Display, on the new iPad Pro flow's from corner to corner, rounded like the iPhone XR and X/XS. The 12.9" display has a resolution of 2732 by 2048, at a PPI of 264, which looks amazing. The small amount of bezel that still exists holds the TrueDepth Camera used for Memoji/Animoji and FaceID (More on this later). The new iPad Pro still features ProMotion Technology (120Hz of silky smooth scrolling), Wide Color P3 Color Gamet, True Tone and everything else that made the iPad Displays great in the past. A new addition on the 2018 iPad Pro is Tap to Wake, which simply lets you wake the iPad by tapping on the display, a feature I enjoy on the iPhone X.
Coming from a 10.5" iPad Pro (2017), the 12.9" screen feels like a completely different experience. Browsing the web feels more desktop like, the on screen keyboard is closer to full size (which most of this review was typed on), offers a larger drawing and writing canvas and split screen multi-tasking is a nicer experience with two iPad size class apps when in 50/50.
The new Hardware design and the display, the iPad Pro 12.9" feels and looks very futuristic. Holding the new iPad Pro's is a different experience, feels so much nicer in the hand. For my uses the new 12.9" display and form factor is the perfect combo.
FaceID And TrueDepth
FaceID for the first has made its way to the iPad, like FaceID on the iPhone X and newer iPhone models, offer a more secure and faster way to unlock and secure the iPad Pro using facial recognition. On the iPad Pro it has been designed to work in all orientations, even diagonal. FaceID on the new iPad Pro also seems to have a wider field of view than FaceID on my iPhone X. Paired with the Smart Keyboard or any keyboard double clicking the Space Bar instantly unlocks the iPad, it truely feels like magic.
Apart from FaceID, the TrueDepth camera is also used for Augmented Reality, Animoji/Memoji and Awareness Detection that uses the TrueDepth camera to detect attention and before the screen dims and to lower the volume of alerts like the iPhone X, XS and XR.
The new iPad Pro's rocks the A12X Bionic System-On-Chip (SoC), which is the iPad variant of the already powerful A12, and takes it to a whole new level of power and performance. The A12X Bionic uses a 7nm process and features Apple's custom Neural Engine, 7 Core GPU and 8 Core CPU (4 High Performance and 4 Efficiency Cores, with the ability to run all 8 Cores thanks to Apple's custom Performance Controller).
For comparison this is what an iPad Pro 12.9" Benchmarks at compared to an 2017 MacBook Pro 15", iPad Pro 10.5" and the iPhone X.
All this equates to one extremely powerful chip, that rivals and surpasses some 2018 and older Intel chipsets, and is in a smaller and passively (no fan) cooled device. It's amazing the amount of progress Apple's Silicon Team has made with the A Series of SoC over the years.
A change that I was very happy for (and excited to see what it opens up down the line), was the move from Apple's Lightning Connector to USB C. In the box of the new iPad Pro's there is now a new USB C to USB C cable and 18W USB C Charge Brick. You can now also connect and charge an iPhone via an iPad Pro, as it outputs 7.5w of power.
In my own testing it makes connecting to things easier (especially if you have already embraced the USB C world), I have tried connecting to monitors, TV's, Ethernet, and Keyboards using an mBeat Elite USB C Hub.
My hope and wish is in a future iOS 12.x or iOS 13 update will add the ability to connect external drives and use them with Files.app, as of writing plugging in external media either opens up the Photos to import photos and video or nothing happens.
The iPad Pro 12.9" features a 36.7 watt hour lithium polymer battery. Apple has rated the 12.9" iPad Pro WiFi model for 10 hours of use on a single charge when browsing the web on WiFi, watching video or listening to music.
From my usage with the 12.9" iPad Pro battery life as been great. I can manage to get 10 or more hours on a single charge, this varies on the ask and day to day usage.
Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)
The Apple Pencil received a big update, and ticked off everything I was wishing for the next iteration of the Pencil.
Gone is the the old method of charging which involved plugging the Apple Pencil to the lightning port, the new pencil now attaches magnetically on the side of the iPad Pro for pairing and charging
The design of the Pencil has also changed, which now has a matte finish that feels nicer in the hand and features a flat edge used for magnetically attaching to the iPad and the support for double tap gestures. These double tap gestures are used to switch between tools or do nothing, third party app developers have the ability to add their own custom options or use the system setting in there app.
Tapping the Apple Pencil on the lock screen takes you straight to a note in the native Notes app.
The new iPad Pro's received an update to it's speakers, each four speakers now include a woofer and tweeter, which offers a richer and wider sound than any previous iPad Pro or iPad.
Along side the new iPad Pro's and the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil, Apple also announced the Smart Keyboard Folio and Smart Folio. The Smart Keyboard Folio and Smart Folio are attached to the iPad Pro using magnets, there 120 magnets on the iPad Pro, used to attach the Smart Keyboard Folio/Folio Case and to dock and charge the Apple Pencil.
Things of Note:
- As of writing this review I did not have the Smart Keyboard Folio and was out of stock
- The Apple Folio no longer has an embossed Apple Logo, which is something I do miss from other Apple cases and covers.
- During this review I was trying a few screen protectors I found on eBay
- According to CPU DasherX says the iPad Pro A12X Bionic is clocked at 2.5GHz And 4GB RAM (on the 512GB model)
- At time of writing the 18W USB C charger is not available as a separate purchase. The 18W USB C charger is now available as a separate purchase Apple Store Link
- According to the Accidental Tech Podcast Ep#299 the new iPad Pro can take up to 45W via USB C.
- Announced at the keynote Adobe will be bringing Photoshop to iPad in 2019.
- To create the iPad Pro images I used Federico Viticci's Apple Frames Shortcut to frame my screenshots.