Apple completely redesigned the iPad this year. the new iPad Pro has no home button. Instead, its screen stretches from edge to edge. All four sides are rimmed with thin and equally-sized black bezels, making it easier to forget where the top of the device really is.
The back of the 5.9mm aluminum shell feels incredibly sturdy and sheds the tapered edges that have defined the iPad for most of its existence. The back is now flat like the bottom of a box, right up to the side. The design looks like a refined version of the iPhone 5. The shape also feels like what the original 2011 iPad was trying to accomplish—this time with no bump in the back, except for the camera.
The Liquid Retina LCD displays are huge, stretching 11 or nearly 13 inches, depending on which model you choose. They’re gorgeous and packed with pixels. Like the iPhone XR, the corners of the display are rounded thanks to precision-milled glass and a host of other tech treats. Color is vibrant and precise enough for Photoshopping and minutes color tweaking if needed. The Pro also adapts the warmth of its display to the lighting in your room.
The new iPad Pro also comes with Face ID, which uses a collection of cameras, sensors, and algorithms to identify your face in a way that it claims is more secure than fingerprint authentication or passwords. It works well and doesn’t require that cut-out notch on the screen like the iPhone.
The 7-megapixel front camera is also pretty proficient at selfies, Animoji, and video chatting—-provided your hand isn’t blocking it. The 12-megapixel shooter is also up to iPhone standards. Apple did show some impressive demonstrations of its augmented reality capabilities, made possible by that camera.
The inside of the iPad is just as impressive as the outside. The Pro has an A12X Bionic chip, which is kind of a turbocharged version of the processor that’s packed into every iPhone XS and XR. It has eight cores: four for super demanding work, like playing Fortnite, and four more for easier tasks, like perusing your email. This year, it can mix and match those cores more efficiently, giving it almost 2x better multi-core performance than before.
The graphics chip also pumps out around 2x more power, all without compromising the 10-hour battery life every iPad has gotten. Apple claims the new iPad Pro is faster than 92 percent of all laptops sold in the past year, including some with an Intel Core i7 CPU, and compared its game graphics prowess to an Xbox One S.
Photographers and video editors might like storage options. The Pro comes with 64GB of memory by default, but you can bump that number as high as 1TB. And since this tablet has a USB-C charging port, you can more easily connect it to a camera, external monitor, and other accessories. Yes, that is singular. There is only one port. Start shopping for dongles if you need more. Apple now sells a ton of them. And pick up some good wireless headphones while you’re at it. Though Apple’s redesigned quad speakers sound amazing for a tablet (or laptop), the headphone jack is gone.
These are the best, most powerful, most capable iPads that put other tablets to shame. But Apple has begged the question: Can an 11-inch ($799) or 13-inch ($999) iPad Pro replace your need for a MacBook or Windows PC at work? It’s possible, but you’ll need the right kind of occupation and a lot of patience and determination.
No laptop can emulate the drawing capabilities of the Apple Pencil, or feel as natural to hold and use with touch. It’s not even close. The iPad Pro has a clear lead over PCs there.
As a more traditional work PC, it sometimes struggles. In a pinch, the iPad Pro and its Smart Keyboard are usable. It doesn’t feel like the world is ready to treat the iPad as an equal to a PC yet—even if that iPad is a lot more powerful and user-friendly. Now that Apple has declared the iPad is a PC, it should take more of the guardrails off of iOS and strongly encourage developers to treat it like they do the Mac. It’s time for iOS to grow up and get a job.
The iPad Pro is one of the most powerful computers you can own. It could be the best PC, too. Or better than a Mac. For now, it still has to settle for being the best tablet money can buy.