10.5-inch iPad Pro: Beautiful display and blazing speed make it a winner

It’s rare when Apple World Today has two major hardware reviews published on the same day, but the stars aligned and the timing was right for both a review of the fast new 27-inch iMac and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The two devices are different in their use case: the big iMac is a powerful desktop, while the iPad Pro seems to be the future of portable computing from Apple. Both devices have two things in common — astonishingly good displays and powerful processors — that set them apart from the rest of Apple’s products.

The 10.5-inch 2017 iPad Pro (right) and 12.9-inch 2015 iPad Pro (left)

The 10.5-inch 2017 iPad Pro (right) and 12.9-inch 2015 iPad Pro (left)

A 12.9-inch iPad Pro has been my sole “laptop” for the last two years. On occasion, I have rued my decision and wished I had kept my little MacBook. More often than not, though, I find myself perfectly able to do the work I have to perform out of the office on that iPad Pro.

It took a lot of soul-searching to decide to go with a smaller display than the 12.9-inch model. The thing that finally pushed me to go with the smaller model was the fact that the big iPad Pro was pretty bulky — with the Logitech CREATE keyboard attached, it was heavier and thicker than the MacBook it replaced!

Let’s take a closer look at the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

The color and detail of the display is top-notch

The color and detail of the display is top-notch

The Display

The display on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro isn’t just a brighter Retina display. It brings a lot of display technology to the forefront and I personally think it’s the best display Apple makes.

Compared to the original iPad Pro, the screen is not only brighter at 600 nits, but uses a P3 color gamut to display more vibrant colors than the original. That’s especially obvious when looking at the same photograph side-by-side on the two devices.

Screen resolution on the new device is 2,224 x 1,668 pixels. That’s down from the 2,732 x 2,048 pixels on the 12.9-inch display, but about 20% larger than the 9.7-inch model’s display.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro sits nicely within the screen of the 12.9-inch model

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro sits nicely within the screen of the 12.9-inch model

The new screen is also lacking something that the old iPad Pro screen had — reflectivity. There’s an anti-reflective coating on the display that reflects only 1.8% of the light hitting it, so your view of the screen has less glare.

The big deal is the refresh rate of the display — 120Hz, meaning that the screen refreshes 120 times per second. That’s double the rate of the display on most devices Apple sells, and it makes a huge difference in how the human eye perceives the screen. Apple calls this ProMotion.

Where it’s most obvious is when you’re watching either a UI animation or scrolling on the display. If you’re sitting in front of a Mac right now, quickly scroll this page up and down and you’ll notice that it’s almost impossible to read the text due to a noticeable flickering. Do the same thing on the new iPad Pro, and that flickering goes away.

Normally this fast refresh rate would quickly drain your device battery, but ProMotion cuts the refresh rate to 24Hz when the screen is at rest and bumps it slightly to 48Hz when display video. Interact with the display, and the 120Hz refresh rate comes into play.

In addition to ProMotion, the iPad Pro also features Apple’s True Tone technology, which changes the display color based on ambient lighting conditions so colors look more consistent in different environments.

Enough of the technical details — how does the display look? The answer to that is…awesome! When text or images on the screen are in motion, they move much more fluidly. It’s hard to describe, but it’s remarkable just how much of a difference it makes when using the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

The Speed

After taking the iPad Pro out of the box and going through the usual setup process, I expected to wait quite a while for all of my files and apps to sync over to the new device. My first indication that the new iPad Pro is a speedster was that loading all of that information took less than a half hour — less than half the time it took the last time I reloaded the original iPad Pro.

Being a benchmark fan, I immediately ran Geekbench 4 on both the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the new 10.5-inch. Without getting into the details, here are the high-level benchmark results:

Model: iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

  • OS: iOS 10.3.2
  • Single-Core Score: 3031
  • Multi-Core Score: 5217
  • Metal Score: 15346

Model: iPad7,3 (10.5-inch)

  • OS: iOS 10.3.2
  • Single-Core Score: 3926
  • Multi-Core Score: 9306
  • Metal Score: 27821

Let’s look at percentages (in each case, the new iPad is faster):

  • Single-Core Score: 29.5 percent improvement
  • Multi-Core Score: 78.3 percent improvement
  • Metal Score: 81.3 percent improvement

What does this mean in terms of using the 10.5-inch iPad Pro? It feels fast. There’s no waiting for anything to happen. Web pages load faster, photos appear on the screen much faster… Everything just happens a lot faster than I was used to on the 12.9-inch original iPad Pro.

Using the 10.5-inch iPad Pro

The true test for me was using the new iPad Pro in the setup that I use for researching and writing posts. On the left side of my screen, I usually have a Safari window open for looking at specs and gathering information. On the right side of the screen is a window for Ulysses, my writing app of choice.

Looking at the 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch screens side by side, the small display shows fewer lines of text per page — that’s expected. The clarity of the new display makes up for the lack of screen real estate, and I don’t feel that I’m missing much in terms of usability at all. I may have to scroll my screens a bit more, and with the smoothness and speed of scrolling I just don’t see that as an issue.

Where I think the 10.5-inch iPad Pro will really shine is with iOS 11 installed. I’ve already grown fond of the Dock, the quick app switching, and other features of iOS 11. With drag-and-drop between open windows, I think iOS 11 will make the iPad Pro even more “laptop-like” than it already is.

Conclusion

For many dedicated iPad Pro users who are happy with the 12.9-inch model, staying with that form factor with the new processor and display is a no-brainer. For those who wanted a smaller device with a lot more power and a better display, going to the 10.5-inch size requires very little compromise.

In terms of usability, speed, and display quality, this is simply the best iPad I’ve ever owned. I had no doubt that a few years from now I’ll still be using an iPad with an external keyboard (I’m using the new Logitech Slim Combo, which I will review soon) rather than a MacBook.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★