As exciting as new iPhone launches are for Apple fans, the only device that received a substantial design refresh this year was the iPad Pro. Beyond just shrinking the bezels around the display, Apple also removed the home button and replaced the Lightning port with a USB-C port. And now, with just two days to go before preorders begin shipping to customers and the new tablets appear on store shelves, the review embargo has lifted.
Unsurprisingly, with Apple once again claiming that the iPad Pro could be a capable laptop replacement, many tech sites reviewed the device with that claim in mind. But the new iPad Pro uses the same mobile operating system as the last iPad Pro and the one before it. So what exactly does the third-gen tablet have to offer?
Below, we’ve rounded up several of the initial iPad Pro reviews that popped up online on Monday morning:
CNET gets right to the point in its substantial 2-page review by mentioning everything the iPad Pro does right before diving into some of the most significant issues for creators who might want a new iPad:
The new iPad Pro definitely bags some huge wins over its predecessor: It’s shockingly fast, has USB-C, a far better Pencil design, easy login with Face ID and there’s more screen real estate crammed into a more compact design. From a pure hardware perspective, it’s a knockout — and drop-dead gorgeous, to boot.
But the iPad Pro just isn’t flexible enough, yet. The browser is not the same as a desktop-level experience, which can make it hard to work with web tools. No trackpad on the optional keyboard and no support for mice makes text editing cumbersome. Furthermore, iOS hasn’t changed enough. It’s way too much like an evolution of the iPhone, instead of a fully evolved computer desktop. And the current crop of available apps don’t yet exploit this awesome new hardware. A true version of Photoshop is on deck from Adobe, for instance, but it won’t be available until 2019. (I got an early peek and it looks great, but it’s not here yet.)
Laptop Mag was somewhat more positive about the tablet on the whole, but mentioned that anyone looking for a true laptop replacement might be better served by the Surface Pro than the iPad Pro:
The iPad Pro is the quintessential tablet for power users and creative pros. It’s so fast that I imagine the likes of Qualcomm and Intel are getting nervous. This tablet wiped the floor with premium Windows laptops and 2-in-1s, in both benchmarks and real-world tests. The iPad Pro’s display, sound and battery life are also top-notch, and the improved Apple Pencil is more comfortable and easier to store.
However, it’s going to take some time for developers to tap the potential of the A12X Bionic chip. For instance, a fully optimized version of Photoshop for the iPad is shipping in 2019, complete with Apple Pencil and touch support — not a watered-down Photoshop, but the real deal.
If you’re looking for a true laptop replacement, the Surface Pro 6 is a better option. It’s not as speedy, but Microsoft’s 2-in-1 offers a more comfortable keyboard with a touchpad and a true desktop environment.
Then again, Apple didn’t set out to create a 2-in-1. The company wanted to deliver the ultimate mobile device for those who like the idea of using touch and Pencil input most of the time. And if you’re in that target audience, nothing comes close to the iPad Pro.
TechCrunch spent more time talking about the Apple Pencil than it did any other specific feature or element of the iPad Pro, and the publication came away impressed:
One minute you’re popping a radial menu that lets you manipulate whole layers, another you’re drawing and swapping to an eraser, and it still feels pretty easy to follow because it’s grounded in the kind of tool that you’re using at the moment.
Especially in vertical mode, it’s easy to see why touch with fingers is not great for laptops or hybrids. The Pencil provides a much needed precision and delicacy of touch that feels a heck of a lot different than pawing at the screen with your snausages trying to tap a small button. Reach, too, can be a problem here and the Pencil solves a lot of the problems in hitting targets that are 10” away from the keyboard or more.
The Pencil is really moving upwards in the hierarchy from a drawing accessory to a really mandatory pointing and manipulation tool for iPad users. It’s not quiiiite there yet, but there’s big potential, as the super flexible options in Procreate display.
TechRadar wasn’t exactly blown away by the new display, despite it being the most obvious design change:
The first thing that will grab the attention of anyone picking up the iPad Pro 11 is the new screen, as it’s stretched closer to the edges of the device, with the formerly thick bezels reduced in width.
The 11-inch screen itself has been upgraded by Apple to a Liquid Retina display, something we first saw on the iPhone XR when it launched recently. It doesn’t have the same stunning effect you get from an OLED display, such as you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, and given the high price the new iPad Pro commands, not having the best screen technology irks.
That’s not to say it’s a bad screen in any way – Apple’s TrueTone technology and the 120Hz refresh rate both really do add something to the quality of the experience, while HDR content is rich in detail.
The Verge might have focused on the laptop-replacement aspect of the iPad Pro more than any other site, which was a determining factor in the lower score than last year’s iPad Pro received.
If you’re the sort of person who might spend over $2,000 on a maxed-out iPad Pro, you probably know exactly why you need one, what you’ll use it for, and whether it’s worth it to you. You’ll undoubtedly find the switch to USB-C convenient, the new Pencil to be much nicer, and the A12X to be a significant performance boost over previous iPads. You will get what you’re paying for.
But if you’re thinking about spending $799 on the cheapest 64GB 11-inch iPad Pro to replace your laptop, you should really ask yourself what you need a computer to do. There isn’t a single other tablet on the market that can compete with the raw hardware of the iPad Pro, and there aren’t many laptops that can either. But Apple’s approach to iOS is holding that hardware back in serious and meaningful ways, and while USB-C makes life with this new iPad Pro slightly easier, it still has the same basic capabilities and limitations of last year’s iPad Pro.
Wired had many of the same issues as other sites, but once again highlighted the tablet’s impressive power:
The inside of the iPad is just as impressive as the outside. The Pro has an A12X Bionic chip, which is kind of a turbocharged version of the processor that’s packed into every iPhone XS and XR. It has eight cores: four for super demanding work, like playing Fortnite, and four more for easier tasks, like perusing your email. This year, it can mix and match those cores more efficiently, giving it almost 2x better multi-core performance than before. The graphics chip also pumps out around 2x more power, all without compromising the 10-hour battery life every iPad has gotten.
Apple claims the new iPad Pro is faster than 92 percent of all laptops sold in the past year, including some with an Intel Core i7 CPU, and compared its game graphics prowess to an Xbox One S. No apps or games I’ve used have been able to make the Pro break a sweat at all and benchmark numbers have been impressive.
So while the iPad Pro might be as powerful as a similarly-priced Windows PC, iOS still isn’t quite robust enough in its current state to support multitasking to the degree that someone who spends all day on their laptop might need. But if you want the best tablet on the market, look no further than the iPad Pro.