The iPad has revolutionised the way we consume content on a portable device. It started the whole tablet mania and it became the world’s fastest selling consumer product in history. For those needing to do some serious work on the go, the iPad still works but it isn’t as cut out as a real workhorse like the MacBook Air.
With dwindling tablet sales, the next big wave seems to be focused on convergence devices that blurs the line between tablet and PC like the Microsoft Surface series. And that’s where Apple is heading with its new iPad Pro that was announced today at San Francisco.
Designed as the ultimate media consumption and productivity tool, the iPad Pro is their largest tablet yet with a huge 12.9″ Retina Display that does 2732 x 2048 pixels resolution. This gives 78% more display area than its current iPad Air 2 and it pushes the same pixel density of 264 pixels per inch.
It is 6.9mm thick, the same thickness as the iPhone 6 but thicker than the iPad Air at 6.1mm. Being a bigger device, it is heavier as well at 713 grams for WiFi and 723 grams for the Cellular version. As comparison, the original iPad weighs in at 680 grams for WiFi and it goes as much as 730 grams for the 3G + WiFi model. Like the rest of the iPad range, the exterior design is typical iPad and it gets a TouchID enabled home button along with Silver, Gold and Space Grey colour options.
What makes this a productivity beast is on the inside. With a newer iOS 9 out of the box, you get more multi-tasking features which include split screen along with more shortcuts to get things done quicker. The A9X 64-bit chip on-board is their most powerful mobile processor yet with almost twice the power of the A8X chip found on the iPad Air 2.
Setting the iPad Pro apart from the mainstream iPad is its new Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessory. Now this is starting to look like a Surface fighting device. The Smart Keyboard is sold separately as a US$169 option (about RM730) and doubles up as a smart cover with a keyboard built-in. It consists of 64 seamless keys that’s spill resistant.
The fabric microfiber of the cover is just 3.2mm thin while the keys pops up slightly at 4mm with its spring-like tension feedback. Attaching the Smart Keyboard onto the iPad is seamless which lets you snap on and use immediately without the need of wireless pairing. Unlike the Surface which has ridges on the sides, the iPad Pro connectors are flush with its 3 smart connector pins.
Steve Jobs used to poked fun at the stylus when the iPhone was introduced. For its new productivity product, they have finally introduced one as the Apple Pencil. This adds another freehand interaction which gives you the familiarity of a pencil.
Boasting a 240 times per second response time, drawing claims to be more real time with no noticeable lags and it recognises pressure from a gentle touch to thicker stroke lines. It even supports shading when drawn sideways, as if you’re drawing with a charcoal pencil. During the keynote, they have invited Microsoft and Adobe on stage to demonstrate the Pencil’s editing capability for both MS Office and Photoshop.
The Apple Pencil lasts 12 hours on a single charge which is juiced up with its lightning connector hidden underneath its silicon cap at the end. To charge it, you’ll need to plug it into the iPad Pro, which would probably look awkward if you’re carrying it while on the go. Thankfully it manages to rejuice an impressive 30 minutes of battery life from a mere 15 second charge. The Apple Pencil is sold separately at US$99 which is about RM427. One minor gripe is there’s no place for you to keep the Pencil on the iPad Pro and it doesn’t even come with a clip for you to hook it onto the case or a folder. Perhaps that might come as another optional accessory.
So for the full productivity suite, the Smart Keyboard and
stylus pencil will set you back close to RM1,200. Quite a substantial amount to pay compared to the Surface 3‘s Type Cover Keyboard and Pen costing RM479 and RM189 respectively.
For video and music playback, the iPad Pro boasts 4 speakers with a pair of stereo speakers mounted on the top and bottom which rotates according to the orientation you’re in. For imaging, it gets the same 8MP f/2.4 main camera and a front facing 1.2MP HD Facetime unit as the iPad Air 2. Even with its bigger display and power processor, the iPad Pro still pushes its same 10 hour battery life on a single charge.
At this point, you probably know that the iPad Pro will not come cheap. This is going to be a very niche device like the 12.2″ Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 and its higher end model is actually pricier than a full blown MacBook Air 11″ with 128GB at US$899 (RM3,391 Malaysian RRP). With the thinner MacBook around, the iPad Pro potentially could replace the MacBook Air completely. After all, you could run all your regular office and designing chores with iOS versions of MS Office and Photoshop.
The iPad Pro starts from US$799 (about RM3,462) for the 32GB WiFi model, while the larger 128GB unit is sold at US$949 (about RM4,112). For the all round connectivity with 4G LTE support, the 128GB WiFi + Cellular version is priced at US$1,079 (about RM4,700). The iPad Pro goes on sale in November just ahead of the Christmas shopping season. For more details, you can check out Apple’s iPad Pro product page.