Not yet a laptop, but still the best tablet

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018



Apple’s attempts at giving each new iPad added prowess hasn’t led to a wave of new adopters. Will the new iPad Pro 9.7-inch change that trend?

With each succeeding quarter, the Apple iPad's sales chart is looking more and more like a bell curve. The numbers are falling and are a far cry from the peaks of 2013 and 2014.

It is a telling statistic which reaffirms the extremely quick product obsolescence in the personal technology space that in just six years the iPad has gone from a breakthrough tablet redefining a fringe category to now becoming a device which has no clear, identifiable ownership objective.

When the iPad was first launched in April 2010 by Steve Jobs, there were a few tablets in the market already. But the iPad's appealing design, it's iPhone-like form and build, the lure of the iOS ecosystem and the whole novelty surrounding it led to a surge in interest. Over the years, the iPad's use hasn't really grown past that of being a media consumption and hand-held gaming device. And many prospective buyers have been content with multi-tasking on their smartphones. Adoption has been slow amongst users in the commercial space too, since the ecosystem hasn’t expanded adequately to include applications designed specifically for them.

Last year's 12.9-inch iPad Pro attempted to create a niche - a laptop-screen-sized tablet with accessories like the Apple Pencil and full-size keyboard for use by professionals. Earlier this year, the line-up was joined by a smaller version - the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. You can now choose from five different iPads - the two Pros, the two Minis and the Air 2.

Pro spec

Inside, the iPad Pro 9.7 gets its processing hardware from the larger 12.9-inch sibling, which is then wrapped within the same shell as the iPad Air 2. Compared to the larger Pro, the 9.7-inch is also disproportionately lighter at about 440 grams. They share the Retina display and the pixel density is the same 264ppi, but the resolution is, of course, lower in the smaller Pro. But, the 9.7-inch gets some upgrades which actually make it the more attractive option from multiple perspectives. Its display features the anti-reflective coating that cuts glare, and it also gets Apple's True Tone tech which makes the display more readable and less harsh on the eyes based on the ambient light and the colour tone of the surroundings.

The 9.7-inch Pro also gets the amazing 12 MP iSight Camera compared to the 8 MP in the 12.9-inch. And there is the True Tone flash and the 4K HD video recording capability which the larger Pro doesn't have. So, you get much better pictures and panoramas and you don't look as silly shooting them with a 9.7-incher. Speaking of cameras, the FaceTime HD camera in the smaller Pro is also a more capable 5MP unit with Retina Flash.

The new iPad Pro 9.7-inch carries over the same third-gen A9X chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture from the bigger Pro. This chip features the embedded M9 graphics coprocessor and is a seriously fast processor. The smaller Pro’s processor performance is just a shade below that of the 12.9-inch’s speeds.

Laptop or PC replacement?

The processing power of the A9X chip has been claimed to be so good, that Apple has been going to town about how it is faster and more powerful than most PCs out there. With the integration of accessories like the Pencil and the keyboard, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro does manage to do a lot of new tasks that its predecessors couldn’t. But, is it a laptop or notebook replacement? It isn’t.

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch benefits from the same advantages that the other iOS devices enjoy. Always on or instant booting, long battery life (easily more than eight to 10 hours of heavy usage) and an immersive gaming experience are positives in the iPad Pro that will easily put the average laptop in the shade. But, it is still lacking in the kind of flexibility and versatility that a laptop can offer for business users.

Allow us to clarify though, that while the Apple ecosystem is a drag on the higher flexibility that a device like the iPad Pro could offer, the iOS app universe and accessories like the Pencil manage to deliver some redemption. In fact, this entire review was typed out on the iPad Pro 9.7-inch’s keyboard. Productivity apps like Pages and Keynote work like a charm and feel very much like they would on the Macbook. There is also the whole suite of apps for Microsoft’s productivity tools. We could create some really cool sketches and even high school biology diagrams using the Pencil and the remarkably intuitive Paper app by Fifty Three.

Other educational apps like Human, Curious and Visible Anatomy are perfect fits for the iPad, as are photo editing apps like PS Express.

And many of these apps extend the functionality of the Pencil. Ones created especially to explore the power of the Pencil like GoodNotes are excellent too.

Best iPad ever?

While it may not yet be a laptop or PC replacement, it would be safe to say that it can be a tablet replacement, if you already own an older tab. The iPad Pro 9.7-inch is the perfect sized tablet and is by far the best iPad ever made.

The processing power, imaging power and gaming power that it packs into its slim, elegant aluminium and glass form is unparalleled. But, yes, it comes at a price.

If you are not a heavy tablet user, who would more often be watching media, checking email and typing out the odd document on the tab, the iPad Air 2 (now cheaper) should do and then of course, there are a few accessories in the market that can help improve its user experience.

Price: From ₹49,900 (32GB WiFi) to ₹85,900 (256GB, WiFi, Cellular)

Love: Classic iPad size, Processor, Pencil

Hate: Pricey, lower RAM

Published on May 18, 2016

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