iPad Pro 12.9in (2015) full review

During CES 2016 in Las Vegas at the start of January, Samsung unveiled its new Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S, which is a new Windows 10-running tablet designed to rival the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

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It's a close match to the Surface Pro 4 in that it's designed to combine a laptop and tablet for on-the-go productivity. Apple hasn't marketed its iPad Pro as a laptop replacement just yet, but rather a very powerful tablet - the iPad Pro still runs Apple's mobile operating system iOS 9 rather than Windows 10 like the Surface Pro and now the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. But if you are looking for a portable way to get things done on the go then both Samsung and Apple's offerings are worth considering. Read on to find out more about their similarities and differences to help you decide which is best for you.

Note that this is a comparison preview based on specs and hands-on experience with the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S. It should give you a good idea of what Samsung is bringing to the market and how it compares with the iPad Pro, but it is by no means a definitive comparison as we've yet to be able to test battery life, carry out our benchmarking tests or simply use the Tab Pro S in day-to-day life to bring you our final verdict. We'll be updating this article as often as we can with the latest information and our complete comparison when we've spent some more time with the new device.

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iPad Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S: Price & availability

The iPad Pro was unveiled by Apple in September and then became available to buy in November. A mere two months later, rival Samsung unveiled the Tab Pro S tablet, a new version of its Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 that now fits in with its impressive and popular Tab S range.

We don't know an official release date for the Tab Pro S yet, but we're expecting a February arrival in the UK.

We also have yet to find out how much the Tab Pro S will cost, but that could dramatically change the final verdict when we update this comparison after spending some time with the tablet. We do know that the keyboard dock/cover will be included in the price, though, whereas the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard costs extra. Right now we're predicting a price tag of £500 as a starting point, and like other Samsung products that price will drop after a few months of its release for those who aren't worried about being the first to own the new tech.

The iPad Pro starts at £679 and goes right up to £899 for the 128GB with WiFi+ Cellular model. Add £139 if you want the keyboard, which we think you will if you intend to use the tablet as a sort of laptop replacement. And if you want the Apple Pencil, which is Apple's Bluetooth-connected stylus it'll cost an extra £79.

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iPad Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S: Design

The Tab Pro S weighs an impressive 693g and is just 6.3mm thick. It has a metallic outer edge, curved corners and bevels that are suitably thin. Overall, its dimensions are 290x199x6.3mm.

Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is a bit thicker and heavier but remember that its screen is bigger too, at 12.9in, so it's not surprising that this adds to the overall weight. It's 713g and 6.9mm thick, so still suitably light and thin. Its dimensions are 305x221x6.9mm.

The Tab Pro S comes in a black and silver design or a white and silver, while the iPad Pro is already available in Space Grey, Gold and Silver.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S's included keyboard case attaches to the tablet magnetically and uses a Pogo pin metal contact system to prevent you from having to faff about with Bluetooth to connect the keyboard. There are two viewing angles provided, one more ideal for typing and the other for video calls and watching films.

It's a shame that the viewing angles are limited to just two, but we were impressed with the typing experience on the TabPro S keyboard when we spent some time with it at CES.

As mentioned, the iPad Pro's keyboard isn't included but if you do choose to buy it, it too only has two viewing angles. Without it you'll be required to hold the iPad Pro or place it on a table or desk.

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iPad Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S: Specs & hardware

At 12in, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S's screen is significantly smaller than the iPad Pro's 12.9in but is still plenty big enough for getting on with work using spreadsheets and other documents, for example. It uses Samsung's favoured Super AMOLED technology, and has a resolution of 2160 x 1440 equating to 216ppi.

The 12.9in screen on the iPad Pro is 2732 x 2048 making it a slightly higher 264ppi which is crisper and clearer but not dramatically so.

Here, we think the screen size could be a big deciding factor between the two tablets, because that extra 0.9 of an inch makes a huge difference in the overall size and feel of the tablet when it comes to using it. It's well worth popping into an Apple Store to see what you think about the size of the iPad Pro. We're torn in the office – some think it's far too big and others think it's perfect. It should give you some idea whether the smaller Samsung option would be better or not.

Inside the Tab Pro S is an Intel Core M processor (6th generation Skylake). It's 2.2Ghz and dual core with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD and we expect it to be impressively speedy. We'll update this comparison once we've carried out all of our benchmark tests on both of the tablets but expect big things from these top spec tablets.

Other internal specs for the Tab Pro S include NFC, 11ac WIFI, Bluetooth 4.0, Bluetooth and LTE Cat 6, although you can choose WiFi-only if you'd prefer and we assume that this'll save you some cash.

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It features a USB 3.1 Type C port for charging and more. Like the iPad Pro, there's no full-size USB port which we think is a bit of a shame, but that would have significantly added to the thickness of both tablets so it’s a sacrifice that's in favour of portability. The good news is that you can bundle in an extra accessory with Samsung's offering that offers a multi-port adapter for HDMI, USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports.

Inside the iPad Pro, on the other hand, is Apple's own A9X processor. According to Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller, the chip "beats most portable PCs in both CPU and graphics tasks."

Like the Tab Pro S it has 4GB RAM, and there's a 128GB model available with optional cellular connectivity. You'll also find a 32GB model available but there's no option for cellular there.

Additional connectivity features include 11.ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS if you go for the cellular model. There's no NFC, though.

When it comes to cameras, you'll find a 5Mp on the front and back of the Tab Pro S. On the iPad Pro the rear facing camera is a slightly better 8Mp but we're not sure its necessary as it's unlikely you'll be taking many photos with the huge device. On the front is a 1.2Mp camera.

Samsung claims that the Tab Pro S will last for 10.5 hours on one charge, but we'll have to wait until we can spend more time with the tablet to verify whether or not this is accurate. Plus, it can apparently charge to full within two and a half hours thanks to fast charging.

The iPad Pro doesn't have quite such impressive battery life at 10 hours with no fast charging, but it is improved thanks to the power efficiency features built in to the tablet. Apple says the Pro's screen adjusts the refresh rate automatically so that it isn't using unnecessary power when the movement on screen doesn't warrant it.

iPad Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S: Software

One of the major differences between the iPad Pro and the Tab Pro S, of course, is software. On one hand you've got iOS 9 running on the iPad Pro, which will be familiar to anyone who's already used an iPad or iPhone. Apps come from the iOS App Store and are specifically designed for mobile, but you can rest assured that they'll run smoothly and very quickly on the speedy iPad Pro.

You won't find full versions of the likes of Adobe Photoshop on iOS 9, though. That's just one example of where the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S might suit you more if you really do intend to use it as a replacement of a laptop, as it runs Windows 10 and is capable of running most full versions of apps that you'd expect to be able to run on a laptop or PC rather than being limited to apps designed primarily for mobile devices.

You can find out more about Windows 10 here and more about iOS 9 here.


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