iPad iPad Pro 9.7in full review

Apple has launched its new tablet to the market with the iPad Pro 9.7in, which surprised most as both the industry and here at Macworld we were expecting the launch of the iPad Air 3. Instead, Apple decided to drop the price of the iPad Air 2 by £50 down to £349 and add a 9.7in tablet to its iPad Pro line.

Despite having the same name as the previous iPad Pro, which comes with a larger 12.9in screen, the new 9.7in tablet has some fundamentally different specifications, making it an impressive addition to the line-up.

As we've not yet received the iPad Pro 9.7in for review, we've not been able to fully test it, however our team over in the US have been able to get a hands-on with the tablet.

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iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Price and launch date

iPad Pro 9.7in - Comparison

The tablet is available for pre-order through Apple's website for £499. If the price is a bit too steep for your bank account, you can spread the cost for up to 24 months with PayPal.

It's available in three different storage and connectivity options, which reflects its various price points:

Wi-Fi only:

  • 32GB for £499
  • 128GB for £619
  • 256GB for £739

Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities:

  • 32GB for £599
  • 128GB for £719
  • 256GB for £839

If you would like to accessorise your new iPad you can do so by adding either a £39 for the Smart Cover or a £55 for the Silicone Case.

New iPad Pro: podcast discussion

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Best place to buy iPad Pro 9.7in in the UK

Apple isn't the only place you'll be able to buy the new iPad. You can pre-order the Wi-Fi and cellular version of the new iPad from EE here on a 24 month contract, and the same from O2 here

Other networks likely to carry the new iPad Pro include Vodafone and Three.

If you're after the Wi-Fi only version, you can pre-order the iPad Pro 9.7in from Currys now.

We're expecting the likes of John Lewis, Tesco, Ebuyer, Simply Electronics, and Apple Authorised Resellers including Jigsaw24, KRCS, and Stormfront to stock the new iPad Pro too.

The iPad Pro 9.7in comes in four different colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold. Rose Gold is the new addition of colours to the Pro line-up.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: iPad Pro 9.7in vs 12.9in 

One of the most prominent questions we had around the office is: What's the difference between the 12.9in iPad Pro and this new tablet?

The differences are actually quite large, and no we're not talking about the size of the bigger iPad.

The most fundamental difference is the improved camera found within the 9.7in tablet. With its better 12Mp iSight camera, you'll be able to record videos in 4K at 30fps and full-HD at 60fps. The 9.7in's camera is also capable of taking beautiful 63Mp panorama images and even slo-mo videos at full-HD at 120fps and HD at 240fps. All of which aren't possible on the bigger 12.9 iPad Pro.

The camera changes don't stop there, with the new iPad also having a 5Mp FaceTime HD Camera, which also come alongside a Retina Flash. Essentially boosting your iPad's screen brightness to enable you to take low-light selfies.

Another set of interesting new features are the True Tone and wide colour gamut functionalities. Both of which will present you with more accurate and life-like colours.

iPad Pro 9.7in - Colours

As stated above, Rose Gold is also a new colour which is available for the 9.7in iPad Pro and isn't an option for the 12.9in variant.

The 9.7in tablet also comes in a 32GB Wi-Fi and Cellular mode, whereas the 12.9in variant on has the 32GB option for its Wi-Fi only model.

There is quite obviously a difference in weight, dimensions, screen size and resolution.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Design and build quality

We are happy to see the inclusion of Rose Gold as a new colour option for the Pro-line. The additional colour is seen to be a good inclusion within the iPhone line and having it available with the new iPad is a logical step by Apple.

The 9.7in tablet has four built-in stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the device. At the top of the tablet you'll find an On/Off/Sleep/Wake button and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a Smart Connector on the left-side, a Lighting connector at the bottom and a Nano-SIM tray, volume rocker and dual microphones on the right. The home button has a Touch ID sensor, enabling you to store your fingerprint with the device.

iPad Pro 9.7in - Lightning port

The Smart Connector is used to connect the new Mart Keyboard, especially designed for the 9.7in tablet. The keyboard will be made available for £129 on Thursday. Read next: iPad Pro Smart Keyboard review.

Over the iPad Air 2, the 9.7in Pro has exactly the same 169.5x240x6.1mm dimensions and weight: 437g for the Wi-Fi model and 444g for the cellular version.

Interestingly, there's a design element we're not too impressed about and that's the new tablet having a camera bump, as found on its iPhone counterparts. This new camera bump might annoy those who wish to place the iPad on a table and use it without having to worry about it rocking around. As small as it might sound, it could be a deal breaker for some, unless they're willing to install a case - as we know a lot of people like to use their iPads on a table. Thankfully, there's not too much wobble with the tablet on a flat surface.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Screen and display

iPad Pro 9.7in - Display

The new iPad Pro comes with a 9.7in display, which has a 2048x1536 resolution at 264ppi. The display has a anti-reflective glass that is 40 percent less reflective than its iPad Air 2 counterpart. The screen is also 25 percent brighter and also delivers better colour saturation.

We are pleased to see an impressive Retina display on the smaller iPad Pro, but we're even more impressed by its ability to judge the lighting conditions within a room to adjust its white point balance. This is done through True Tone display, a new feature Apple announced during its March event. The idea behind it is to adapt your iPad's screen to your surroundings, as it would if you were holding up a piece of white paper in a yellow environment. This is done by four sensors on the iPad measuring the environment you're in, so that it can fully assess the lighting conditions.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Speed, processing power and graphics

It is powered by an A9X processor chip that runs on a 64-bit architecture and has an M9 coprocessor. Just like the 12.9in Pro, the smaller tablet also has a huge 12-core PowerVR Series 7XT graphics chip, allowing it to run better than a Xbox 360 games console.

To couple its graphical and processing power the iPad Pro 9.7in has 2GB LPDDR4 RAM, which comes as a surprise given the iPad Pro 12.9in has the same processor and runs on 4GB LPDDR4.

We do find both the processor and graphics chips a little overkill within a tablet, but this does allow game developers to really push the boundaries of what games can do on iPads. We also see this 9.7in iPad complementing those who are Mac Pro users, who heavily use their computers and iOS devices to rejoice in the ability to reside to their iPad - not as a replacement but as an alternative device.

Below are processor developers of the 12.9in iPad Pro, which should render around the same benchmark results as the newer 9.7in version. We will update these benchmark results once we have the new iPad in our hands.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Features

Among many of its new specifications comes the ability to use the 9.7in iPad with the Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil, both of which aren't due to previous iPad Pro users, but are new additions to those looking to upgrade from their iPad Air 2.

The new features are a good addition and we especially like the Apple Pencil which can be used to accurately-draw on your iPad's screen.

There's also the new camera features to be excited about, which add new capabilities to those wanting to take pictures and videos on their iPads. 

iPad Pro 9.7in - Apple Pencil

Artist Hattie Stewart drawing on the new iPad.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Cameras and photos

Having the ability to take high-res photos and recordings is now possible with the new 9.7in iPad, where the 12Mp iSight camera that's utilised is the same one that's found on the iPhone 6s. The main camera comes with Focus Pixel and True Tone flash and has the ability to record full-HD at 60fps and 4K at 30fps.

We aren't currently able to test the camera, but based on our experiences with the iPhone 6s we expect to see the same camera performance, where the iPhone 6s had problems in low-light conditions, but looked excellent in all other areas. 

The FaceTime HD Camera has also received a healthy update, with a 5Mp sensor that also has Retina flash. Retina flash essentially allows you to take brighter selfies due to the iPad Pro 9.7in's screen ramping up its overall brightness before an image is taken.

iPad Pro 9.7in - Camera

Unfortunately, the improved camera comes with the very same iPhone 6s camera bump. This does cause a little bit of flex versus the bigger 12.9in iPad, but thanksfully there's no wobble whilst using the tablet on a flat surface.

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Battery life

We expect to see the same battery life in the iPad Pro 9.7in over the iPad Air 2 with its 27.5-watt-hour (versus the Air 2's 27.3-watt-hour) lithium-polymer battery.

Apple claims that the iPad is able to run for ten hours without having to be charged or nine hours of surfing the web using a mobile data network.

We're unable to test these claims, but we expect it to perform as the iPad Air 2 did. Unfortunately the results were far from impressive with the GFXBench T-Rex benchmark sequence that ran 30 times, resulting in an estimated total runtime of 3 hour and 53 minutes.

iPad Pro 9.7in - Hands

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Software

The iPad Pro will be shipped out with iOS 9.3, which features Night Shift Mode and the ability to password-protect your notes over previous iOS versions.

Night Shift mode works by reducing the blue-light in your iPad's screen, where it enables you to view your screen for longer periods of time during night-viewing sessions.

For a full breakdown of iOS 9.3, see our dedicated article

iPad Pro 9.7in first-look preview UK: Tech specs

A full breakdown of the specs can be found on Apple's website, but here's a summary of the important information you'll want to know:

  • Software: iOS 9.3
  • Display: 9.7in, 2048x1536 resolution at 264ppi
  • Processor: A9X with 64-bit architecture. M9 coprocessor
  • Graphics: 12-core PowerVR Series 7XT
  • Storage: 32/128/256GB
  • Camera (rear, main): 12Mp iSight with Focus Pixel and True Tone flash, support for full-HD recording at 60fps and 4K at 30fps
  • FaceTime HD Camera (front, selfie): 5Mp with Retina flash, support for HD video recording
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac; dual channel support (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and HT80 with MIMO
  • Bluetooth: 4.2 technology
  • Cellular models: LTE, HSDPA+ and CDMA UK bands
  • SIM: Nano-SIM (supports Apple SIM)
  • Battery: 27.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer
  • Dimensions: 169.5x240x6.1mm
  • Weight: 437g (Wi-Fi model) / 444g (cellular model)
  • Colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey, Rose Gold 
  • Other: GPS and GLONASS, Touch ID, Apple Pencil support

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