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The problem with reviewing Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro shortly after launch is that the tablet is already at a disadvantage. Apple has already shown us iOS 11, with specific features designed to change how we use the iPad, the release of which is still a few months away.
It's unlike Apple to release a new hardware product without a software update alongside it, especially when the software update is as transformative as iOS 11 is for the iPad Pro -- and Apple has made those changes public knowledge.
Even the iPad Pro demo models we used after the WWDC 2017 keynote when both iOS 11 and the iPad Pro were announced were running iOS 11. Better multitasking, drag-and-drop of text or photos between apps, and a revamped app dock all add a Mac-like feel to the iPad when it is released.
Instead, those who pick up an iPad Pro now will have to deal with iOS 10 and its annoyances on the iPad Pro until this fall. It's not a deal-breaker, just disappointing.
Even with that caveat, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet I've had the pleasure of using. It's also too bad the iPad Pro's full potential has yet to be realized.
Camera: 12-megapixel rear with 4K video capture. 7-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, GLONASS, with option Cellular LTE model
Fingerprint sensor: Second-generation Touch ID
Slimmer, better-looking display
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro may not look all that different from the 9.7-inch version. However, Apple trimmed down the bezels surrounding the iPad's display, which allowed the company to increase the display size without drastically increasing the overall size of the iPad.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro measures 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches, whereas the 9.7-inch iPad Pro measured 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches.
Not only did Apple boost the size of the display, it added ProMotion, a feature that enables up to 120Hz refresh rate to the iPad Pro line.
What makes this feature unique is instead of displaying every graphic -- be it a block of text or a fast-paced game -- at the iPad Pro's maximum screen refresh rate of 120hz, iOS automatically slows down and speeds up the refresh rate of the display to save battery life without compromising the experience.
During my brief hands-on time with the iPad Pro after it was first announced, I noted how bright the display looked in the demo area. What was hard for me to observe at the time was how much ProMotion improved the feel of the iPad Pro. After a week of using the new iPad Pro, the difference is now clear to me.
It's hard to translate the experience seen on the display into words, and at the risk of using Apple's marketing terms, it's best to describe ProMotion as a means to smoother scrolling, lack of stuttering graphics, and improved Apple Pencil support.
Stuttering when quickly scrolling through my Twitter feed, as I would occasionally see on the older iPad Pro, is gone. As is the lag on my Facebook feed. Those situations carry over to the scrolling through long Word documents or bouncing between Excel spreadsheets. Whether it's work or play, there's a noticeable difference.
Going back to my first-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a quick reminder of just how much the display has improved.
I'm not going to pretend I fully understand the technical reasons a 120Hz display makes such a difference, but I found this post on The Mac Observer did a good job of explaining it.
My best advice is to visit an Apple Store or Best Buy and watch a video, play a game, and scroll through a website or two on the new iPad Pro display to see the difference for yourself.
Battery and performance
Apple may not discuss the amount of RAM in any of its iOS devices, but thanks to iFixit, we know both iPad Pros have 4GB of memory.
That memory combined with the A10X Fusion processor equate to a fast and reliable tablet. I was able to run multiple apps and have multiple tabs open, moving back and forth between them at random, and rarely was I forced to wait while a webpage or app reloaded.
Apple loaned me review unit with 512GB of storage, which is far too much for my needs. Thankfully, the base model now ships with 64GB of storage, followed by 256GB as the middle storage option.
Battery life was right in line with what I have come to expect from my older 12.9 iPad Pro; roughly 10 hours of constant use when connected to Apple's Smart Keyboard, or a couple days of use when using it as a stand-alone tablet and typing away on the keyboard.
iOS 10... going on 11
In a sense, my performance accolades should be expected when using this year's iPad Pro with last year's operating system. It's not until this fall with iOS 11 that we will be able to truly push and test the iPad Pro's performance.
The new multitasking interface alone (pictured above) looks to be a resource intensive process, and the real test will be how well the new iPad Pro lineup handles it.
As someone who used to work solely on the iPad, then the iPad Pro, I eventually grew frustrated with the lack of attention Apple gave the iPad lineup with iOS 10.
Slowly the annoyances of finding and opening an app in the multitasking interface, lack of easier data sharing between apps, and a few dozen smaller gripes, turned me toward the MacBook Pro.
With iOS 11, Apple has returned its attention to a device that has the potential to replace home computers, perhaps some work machines, for a lot of people.
To say I'm excited about the potential of iOS 11 -- both in terms of changes Apple made and the tools developers can now take advantage of -- is an understatement.
For those who don't mind dealing with a few bugs and issues, Apple will release iOS 11 as part of its public beta program by the end of June. Anyone who signs up can install and help Apple test the next version of iOS.
Buy now or buy later?
The ultimate question is: Should you buy a new iPad Pro now, or wait until this fall? I don't think you can go wrong either way. Buying one right now gives you time to begin working and getting used to using the iPad Pro as a work machine, and when iOS 11 launches that transition will accelerate.
If you wait, it's possible you could find a deal on one through a third-party retailer as that often happens a couple months after Apple launches new devices.
Finding a deal on an iPad Pro can't hurt, especially given the total price after adding in an Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard cover. For the base 10.5-inch iPad Pro with Wi-Fi, a Smart Keyboard, and Apple Pencil, you're looking at $907 before taxes. The price quickly goes over $1.000 if you want more storage or the rather handy leather sleeve that holds the iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard, and Apple Pencil. (Initially, I thought I would use the sleeve once and set it to the side. Instead, I've found myself using it constantly.)
It's a shame this review has to be done in two parts. This very review is more or less the equivalent of a hardware-only review. The other part, which can't truly occur until this fall, will be the full-picture take on Apple's new approach to the iPad Pro line, combining hardware and software.
Between the display, battery life, portability, and quality apps in the App Store, and overall reliability of iOS, there's no question that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet on the market.
Indeed, Apple updated the 12.9-inch model with the same display and specs as the 10.5-inch model, but for those who like me found it almost too large at times, the new, smaller iPad Pro is a logical compromise. The display isn't that much smaller, and yet it's easy to throw into a purse or backpack and take your work with you.
Is the iPad Pro enough to replace a computer, as Apple and so many pundits (yours truly included) love to claim? Yes, it is for a lot of people, even with iOS 10. However, that's a narrative that should be put on hold for a little bit longer while Apple's vision for its tablet comes full circle. Or, as ZDNet's Ross Rubin puts it, as Apple's iPad line grows up.