iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) preview
At WWDC 2017, Apple announced a plethora of new products - including, for the first time at its summer conference, new iPads. (This was something of a surprise, coming so soon after the launch of the iPad 9.7in (2017) in March.)
Apple has refreshed its iPad Pro line-up, with an entirely new iPad Pro 10.5in (2017), and an updated version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In this article we preview the iPad Pro 12.9in (2017), running the rule over its design, tech specs, and UK pricing. Read next: iPad buying guide 2017
Design & build quality
Unlike the 10.5in iPad Pro, which represents a fairly major revamp of its 9.7in predecessor, the 12.9in is largely the same, physically, as the 2015 model. It has the same dimensions, too, although it's a bit lighter.
Still no sign of the Rose Gold colour finish for the larger Pro model, too - that remains a 10.5in exclusive, on the iPad side at least.
- iPad Pro 12.9in (2017): 305.7mm x 220.6mm x 6.9mm; 677g/692g (Wi-Fi/cellular)
- iPad Pro 12.9in (2015): 305.7mm x 220.6mm x 6.9mm; 713g/723g (Wi-Fi/cellular)
Let's look next at the internal changes that set the new 12.9-inch Pro apart from its 2015 predecessor.
The iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) is equipped with a modified version of the A10 Fusion chip featured in the iPhone 7, called the A10X Fusion. (The new 10.5in Pro also has the A10X Fusion.)
This chipset features six CPU cores: three high-performance cores and three efficiency cores for improved power efficiency and battery life. It also features a meaty twelve-core GPU.
Apple predicts 30 percent faster CPU performance than the A9X chip which you'll find in the iPad Pro 12.9 (2015), and 40 percent faster graphics performance.
The screen on the new 12.9-inch Pro has the same size, resolution and pixel density as the 2015 model (12.9 inches, 2,732 x 2,048, 264 pixels per inch) but gets a bump to its refresh rate and the ability to adjust this refresh rate dynamically, in an update Apple calls ProMotion.
It's a 120Hz display, compared to 60Hz last time around: in other words, it can process twice as many frames per second, for smoother gameplay and improved interaction with the Apple Pencil.
The 12.9-inch also gets the True Tone display tech - which adjusts colour output, contrast and brightness to compensate for changes in ambient lighting - that it missed out on in 2015 (the 9.7-inch iPad Pro was the first to get this, in 2016). It offers 600 nits brightness, and can display HDR video.
The new iPad Pro has the same camera setup as the iPhone 7 - which is to say, it's excellent.
You get a 12Mp rear-facing camera, with a f1.8 aperture, six-element lens and quad-LED True Tone flash (the latter will be particularly pleasing for those who are muscular enough to use this device for photography, since the last model didn't get a flash at all). The front-facing camera has a rating of 7Mp and comes with the Retina Flash feature, where the entire screen acts as a makeshift flash. (In past testing we've found this okay, but not brilliant. It's better than nothing.)
This is all a big improvement on the old 12.9-inch Pro (8Mp and 1.2Mp cameras, and as we say no flash). Read next: iPad camera tips
Apple has bumped the storage options again.
The new iPad Pro starts at 64GB as a baseline, with options to get 256GB or a mighty 512GB. That's the most storage offered with any iOS device to date.
We're rather pleased to hear that the new iPad Pro comes with a second-gen Touch ID fingerprint scanner, rather than the first-gen version seen in previous iPads.
Second-gen Touch ID, which is featured in the iPhone 6s and later, is quicker and more reliable than the original tech, and a nice upgrade. Read next: How to fix Touch ID
There seems to have been a balance achieved between the more powerful chipsets and more advanced displays, and the new power-saving features: Apple says the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro will offer the same 10-hour battery life as the last generation.
Obviously we'll be testing that in our labs just as soon as we can get hold of review samples.
The iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) is available now, having launched on the night of the announcement.
You can buy the new iPad Pro models here.
The new 12.9-inch Pro starts at higher price than the 2015 model, but Apple has doubled the storage allocation at each tier.
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, WiFi, 64GB): £769
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, WiFi, 256GB): £859
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, WiFi, 512GB): £1,039
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, cellular, 64GB): £899
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, cellular, 256GB): £989
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2017, cellular, 512GB): £1,169
You can order the new iPad Pro models here.
For comparison, here's what the earlier model was going for as recently as April 2017:
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2015, WiFi, 32GB): £729
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2015, WiFi, 128GB): £819
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2015, WiFi, 256GB): £909
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2015, 3G, 128GB): £939
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2015, 3G, 256GB): £1,029
Podcast: All the announcements at WWDC 2017
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast team dissect the latest announcements in episode 64.
The iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) is monstrously expensive by the standards of entertainment-focused consumer tablets; it's lucky, then, that Apple is marketing it at business and creative users as a laptop replacement. And while it remains to be seen whether those users will be convinced, the company is definitely getting closer to this goal.
It's nice - and frankly about time - that the larger Pro is now on a par with the mid-size model in having a True Tone display and camera flash, while the new iPad-specific features in iOS 11 will help to make this a far more versatile work device than any previous Apple tablet. (If you buy between now and September it will come with iOS 10 preinstalled, but you'll be able - and probably repeatedly nagged - to update for free when iOS 11 comes out.) And its powerful chipset offers excellent future-proofing that may please corporate buyers.
We're still waiting for any kind of meaningful aesthetic revamp, but this design is a modern classic for a reason and the user experience is state of the art. One for those with extreme needs and wallets to match, but the rest of us will look on in envy.
Check back for our full review once we've got hold of review samples.