iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) vs iPad Pro 9.7in (2016)

At WWDC on 5 June 2017, Apple announced - shock, horror! - some new iPads alongside the expected OS and Mac refreshes. One of these is an entirely new form factor for an Apple tablet, an iPad Pro with a 10.5in screen - but is it any good, and is it worth upgrading from the 9.7in Pro that it replaces?

In our iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) vs iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) comparison review, we weigh up the design and tech spec upgrades Apple has announced, and help you decide which model is better suited to your needs. Read next: iPad buying guide 2017 and Best iPad deals

Design & build quality

The overall design of the new iPad Pro could scarcely be described as radical, offering essentially the classic iPad look in a slightly different size. The 10.5in model comes in the same four colours as the 9.7in predecessor: silver, gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold. (The new 12.9in model, incidentally misses out again on Rose Gold.)

iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) vs iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): Design

The 10.5in Pro is a little wider and longer than the 9.7in model, as you would expect; it's also just over 30g heavier - nothing you'd really notice.

Indeed, these are smaller increases than you'd expect, given the extra screen space you're getting. Apple has managed this by slimming down the bezels down the left and right edges of the screen.

Dimensions

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): 240 mm x 169.5 mm x 6.1 mm; 437g/444g (Wi-Fi/cellular models)
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 6.1mm; 469g/477g (Wi-Fi/cellular models)

Tech specs

The key differences between the iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) and its predecessor can be discovered inside its chassis. Let's do a direct head-to-head comparison of the two devices' specs.

Processor

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): A9X with 64bit architecture and M9 motion co-processor
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): A10X Fusion with 64bit architecture and M10 motion co-processor

The new iPads come with new processors, as you'd expect. The A10X Fusion is a modified version of the A10 Fusion in the iPhone 7, and features six CPU cores: three high-performance cores and three efficiency cores for improved battery life. It also features a meaty twelve-core GPU.

Apple predicts 30 percent faster CPU performance than the A9X chip, and 40 percent faster graphics performance, but we can't vouch for that until we've got one of the 10.5in Pros in our labs for detailed testing. In any case, the Pro 9.7in was already plenty fast enough for even the most demanding apps on the App Store at present (even graphically advanced games like Deus Ex: The Fall, below), so this is a question of future-proofing.

Best iPad games: Deus Ex

RAM

This isn't official just yet, but it is understood that Apple has doubled the RAM allocation. The iPad Pro 9.7in had 2GB of RAM; the 10.5in appears to have 4GB. Combined with the more powerful processor, this should result in substantially stronger performance on demanding apps at present, and more widely in the future as software is written with the new hardware in mind.

Storage

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): 32GB, 128GB or 256GB
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): 64GB, 256GB or 512GB

Apple has doubled the storage tiers, now topping out at a stunning 512GB - half a terabyte of storage in a tablet!

Screen

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): 9.7 inches (diagonal), 2048 × 1536, 264ppi, 4:3, 60MHz refresh rate, 511 nits brightness (tested)
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): 10.5 inches (diagonal), 2224 x 1668, 264ppi, 4:3, 120MHz refresh rate, 600 nits brightness (claimed)

The new iPad Pro has a bigger screen; it also has a higher resolution such that the pixel density (and effective sharpness) remains the same as its predecessor.

You'll note that the refresh rate has doubled, which should result in smoother gameplay and better interaction with the Apple Pencil. There's also a new feature that Apple calls ProMotion, which allows the screen to adjust the refresh rate dynamically depending on the requirements in a given app; this may help improve battery life.

Finally, Apple points to increased brightness on the new iPad Pro, rated at a claimed 600 nits. In DisplayMate's tests the iPad Pro 9.7in was rated at a Peak Brightness of 511 nits.

iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) vs iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): Screen

Cameras

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): 12Mp with f/2.2 aperture and dual-LED flash, 4K video recording (rear-facing); 5Mp with Retina Flash feature, 720p video recording (front-facing)
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): 12Mp with f/1.8 aperture and quad-LED True Tone flash, 4K video recording (rear-facing); 7Mp with Retina Flash feature, 1080p video recording (front-facing)

Apple offers relatively minor photographic improvements, largely confined to the front-facing camera: this gets a higher megapixel rating and 1080p video. The 9.7in Pro already had a flash (on the rear); this has now been upgraded to a quad-LED model. Read next: iPad camera tips

Touch ID

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): First-gen Touch ID
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): Second-gen Touch ID

This is the first time second-gen Touch ID, which is quicker and more reliable than the original tech, has appeared in an iPad. It's previous been used in two generations of iPhones - from the iPhone 6s onwards.

Battery life

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): claimed battery life up to 10 hours (Wi?Fi), up to 9 hours (mobile data)
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): claimed battery life up to 10 hours (Wi?Fi), up to 9 hours (mobile data)

Apple generally offers battery life estimates that are both broad (the new 12.9in and 10.5in models get the same estimate despite having very different battery capacities) and modest. The average user can probably expect longer life than these numbers, although we find that gaming murders our batteries.

We haven't run our battery tests on the 10.5in yet; the Pro 9.7 lasted an impressive average of 11hrs, 2m in GeekBench 3's highly demanding benchmark and should last even longer than that in general use.

The Pro 9.7in has a 27.91 watt-hour battery, by the way; the 10.5in comes with a 30.4 watt-hour unit. But remember that larger batteries don't necessarily result in higher battery lives, for the obvious reason that the bigger iPad has more pixels to power.

iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) vs iPad Pro 10.5in (2017)

Release date

The iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) is available now, having launched at WWDC on 5 June 2017. The iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) isn't available any more - the 10.5in replaces it.

You can buy the iPad Pro 10.5in here.

UK price

The new 10.5in iPad Pro starts at a hefty £619 and tops out at a eye-watering £1,019. Bear in mind, however, that Apple has doubled the storage at each tier, so the entry-level model now comes with 64GB and the top model offers 512GB - an amazing amount of storage for a device of this type.

We can't imagine 'normal' users - ones who don't have extensive game libraries, or who need to store large audio and video files - needing more than the base 64GB, although it might be said that 'normal' users would be better served by a more basic iPad altogether - such as the iPad 9.7in (2017).

  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, WiFi, 64GB): £619
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, WiFi, 256GB): £709
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, WiFi, 512GB): £889
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, cellular, 64GB): £749
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, cellular, 256GB): £839
  • iPad Pro 10.5in (2017, cellular, 512GB): £1,019

You can buy the iPad Pro 10.5in here.

Purely for comparison purposes (since this model is no longer available from Apple), here's what the company charged for the 9.7in Pro as recently as April 2017. It started at a more manageable £549, albeit with just 32GB. (Between you and me, 32GB is enough for quite a lot of people, even if 64GB provides a nice bit of wiggle room.)

  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, WiFi, 32GB): £549
  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, WiFi, 128GB): £639
  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, WiFi, 256GB): £729
  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, 3G, 328GB): £669
  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, 3G, 128GB): £759
  • iPad Pro 9.7in (2016, 3G, 256GB): £849

iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) vs iPad Pro 10.5in (2017)

OUR VERDICT

The new iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) is a moderate rather than earth-shattering step forward from the iPad Pro 9.7in (2016).

The headline enhancement is that you get a bigger screen, with less of an increase in size and weight than you'd expect as a pay-off; for those who find the 12.9in Pro an absurdity this may be the best form factor for work on the go. This screen also offers higher brightness and a doubled refresh rate that may come in handy for gaming and stylus work.

The processor is significantly quicker, backed up (we're fairly sure) by a doubled allocation of RAM - but don't expect noticeable speed gains for a while. This is a future-proofing exercise. (Talking of the future, you can also expect free iOS updates for about a year longer than your 9.7in Pro has ahead of it at this point.)

The front-facing camera is a bit better (good news for FaceTime addicts) and we're pleased to see the wonderful second-gen Touch ID on an iPad for the first time.

But you really do pay for all this. Yes, it's good of Apple to double the storage tiers - even though it's an open industry secret that storage is incredibly cheap these days - but a starting price of £619 excludes all but the most committed buyers. We'd recommend this (and an Apple Pencil) to digital artists, since the new Pro models really are as good as tablets get, but your average consumer may be better advised to get the plain iPad... assuming you can live with its unlaminated screen.

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