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IPad Pro Review, our report card

IPad Pro Review, our report card

We have tested the 10 key points of the new tablet for Apple professionals: power to sell, a great Pencil but the operating system holds it back

Presented in Brooklyn together with the new MacBook Air, the tablet far from the younger brother of the Mac. Over the years Apple has made constant progress with its homemade processors, and the current A12x Bionic, evolution with seven-nanometer processing of the processor used on iPhone Xs and Xr, literally a bomb. There is no benchmark or field test that does not see it excel.

I "loaded" the tablet with all our files and documents, migrating from the previous 10.5-inch iPad Pro last year, and for two weeks it became my only computer. Leisure app, obviously games but also social and messaging, but also app to work, to edit videos, for photo editing (unfortunately the spectacular Photoshop shown at the Brooklyn Opera House not yet available) in addition to what you need to write and manage documents of different types.

This is not a test of iOS 12, the current version of the operating system of Apple's phones and tablets. For one thing it must be immediately said, to avoid misunderstandings: with such a powerful iPad Pro, in many ways above PC or last generation console (Apple claims that iPad Pro is more powerful than 92% of PCs sold this year and I definitely feel like subscribing to this statement), now the operating system that remains behind. The iPad of tomorrow but with yesterday's operating system, in conclusion.

To iOS some key features are missing: from professional input devices (mouse), to the ability to access external disks and the way to manage files (have a complete File manager when you have USB-C connection and up to a terabyte of internal memory sand according to me an obligation, not an option). Many things can be done, much superior to Android for tablets and according to those who write even more practical than Windows with the touch, but to work not yet a convincing alternative to a traditional operating system. IS if Apple really wants to impose its iPad Pro as alternative tools to portable PCs and Macs, on that front that needs to be worked on, because the hardware is now flawless.

But let's see the report card‘IPad Pro 11 ″.

Design rating 9.5With the new iPad Pro, Apple has changed many things compared to previous generations. The first, which immediately catches the eye with the very small frames, the decision by resume a more squared design style. a very pleasant novelty, but also a quote from the iPhone 4 and 5 (one of the best solutions out of Jony Ive's pencil). more modern, more flattened, the front and rear glass are obviously flush.

The square edges with the small plastic inserts for the antennas are very pleasant to the touch and of the right height. The balanced, compact tablet offers an idea of ​​remarkable solidity. The new design makes the Home button disappear and in return it arrives the dual front camera already seen on iPhone X and Xs for facial recognition, which works without problems. The single rear camera protrudes a millimeter, like that of telephones, and not at all unpleasant: on the contrary, I served to orient my hands when I take the glass and aluminum tablet in my hand to understand which way to turn it for example to attach it to the keyboard or to the cover.

Excellent solution from Apple to use magnets both to hook and recharge the new generation Apple Pencil (simple but really effective, we talk about it below), and for the rear body where the various accessories are hooked. The contacts for connecting and powering the keyboard or other accessories (but there were very few things on the market), already present on the old iPad Pro, keep the same name as Smart Connector but move from the edge and goes to the back of the device. The arrangement of the few controls (volume, shutdown) does not change, while the mini-jack socket for audio disappears. And the Lightning socket becomes a USB-C: a problem or an opportunity? We see it later. Overall for the design, that is the way it is done but also how the iPad Pro 11 works, still improved, if possible.

The screen Rating: 9The display, which now conquers almost the entire surface of the tablet so as to allow you to have a screen with a quarter of a million more pixels with the same overall dimensions of the body, made with an LCD panel of excellent workmanship and rounded corners. It sounds like a small thing, but the rounded corners of the iPad screen echo the rounded corners of the LCD screen. a very pleasant and intuitive solution, although technically difficult to achieve. Apple uses a pixel masking technique that makes it seem normal to have rounded corners on the screen, but trust that a little engineering masterpiece.

The improvements of the panel, which Apple calls "Liquid Retina" (technical data: 23881668 pixels with 264 ppi), come from the iPhone Xr. The color rendering is truly remarkable e the new 120 Hz ProMotion refresh system "wherever you need it" (instead of 120 Hz "in some apps and not in others", used by the previous generation) in my use it has practically disappeared the effects of flickering and trails in the movement of objects on the screen, and made the visual feedback of the Apple Pencil substantially immediate.

The excellent color rendering, thanks also to TrueTone technology which changes the color temperature according to the type of ambient light. I saw films on Prime Video and Netflix, videos on YouTube, edited photos in the most different ambient light conditions, always great.

iPad Pro

The power rating 10The new 7-nanometer A10x Bionic processor is a power monster. Eight cores plus the 7 of the integrated GPU, a very large cache, 6 GB of Ram in the model under test (which has 1 Terabyte of archive memory, in the models with 64, 256 or 512 GB of memory the 4 GB Ram) make this iPad Pro a real lightning. Not so much in the interactions, because Apple has always made operating systems with a deliberately fast but not lightning-fast interface. Well in daily use, as well as with the benchmarks.

iPad seemed like a Tesla: all the power right away but with great autonomy. The power has a terrifying impact on gaming (which here runs at levels from Xbox One) and on pro apps, both for audio and video. But the effects, thanks also to the Neural Engine chip for artificial intelligence, allows you to have increasingly powerful apps. My test also included opening and editing very heavy documents for Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint and Word) and some 50 megapixel raw photos of the Hasselblad X1D-50 with Adobe's Lightroom. Not only did the iPad Pro not blink, but it worked better and faster than the professional workstations I'm used to.

The front camera rated 8Apple has obviously enhanced the front camera (7 MP TrueDepth with 1080p video) to be able to obtain facial recognition without hesitation. The application is very fast and the face is always recognized both by holding the iPad Pro horizontally and vertically. Since the black frame, the camera disappears and it happens to "close" it without realizing it with one of the hands holding the device. Apple has an intelligent interface solution that has helped me several times: a small arrow indicating which side the camera is on. At this point for, given that usually the iPad Pro is held horizontally (also because this is the normal position with the keyboard or the cover) in my opinion Apple could also have thought of moving the camera on the long side. In addition, since the camera is good at recognizing faces, it allows you to shoot even in portrait mode, which the rear camera cannot do.

The rear camera rated 8.5I liked paradoxically more the rear camera, despite being one and relatively less powerful than that of the last iPhone (with 12 MP and 4K video recording capacity at 60 fps comparable to that mounted on the iPhone 8). Despite this, the excellent yield and remarkable flexibility. Although it seems useless to use an iPad's camera to take photos, it actually makes sense to me for example to digitize documents or to shoot some types of videos. Not to mention that I greatly appreciated the power of the device for rendering apps and augmented reality solutions. Here not only does the processor and sensors count, but you also need good optics, and that of this iPad Pro is decidedly level.

Resistance Rating 8I have been careful not to do crash tests with the iPad Pro, given what it costs, but the idea that it needs a cover that protects it because, in the event of a fall, the glass surface could hardly survive. I have seen that the traditional official cover of Apple perhaps the ideal solution for those who are not interested in the keyboard. We recommend it because magnetically adheres firmly and without problems. In my opinion, better than a case from which to remove the "naked" iPad Pro. The keyboard – which however excellent and slightly improved compared to previous generations and which now also covers the back side – has according to those who write a defect: if you miss the side and try to open the case from the back (which is far from impossible, given the very similar design of the two sides) it releases and releases the iPad, which tends to slip away, with the risk of it falling on the ground. I do not say that it always happens, by eye because this beautiful but also damn slippery iPad.

The battery rated 9.5In my opinion, the battery is the second, the real strength of the iPad compared to a laptop, which is its direct opponent (the former is the power always on). The iPad Pro can easily do two or three days of light or normal work without needing to be recharged, and in case of need it allows you to use powerful apps that consume more for a whole day. On a long journey by train or iPad, the ideal companion, as well as for days on the move. Simply, laptops cannot compete with the autonomy of iPad Pro thanks not only to the design of powerful but highly optimized chips but also thanks to an operating system designed immediately for the mobility of smartphones and which avoids unnecessary waste of energy.

Connectivity and accessories Rated 9.5Apple insists on not making laptops with 3G-Lte connectivity. Instead, luckily it does with iPads. This Pro also presents an evolution of the solution already present on previous models and substantially similar to that offered on the iPhone Xs, which the dual sim (optional). In a slot the traditional sim is loaded (data only: voice services cannot be used) while it is possible to activate a data plan on the eSim is provided by some virtual operators designed for those who travel a lot and by traditional operators who are gearing up for it standard technology. Still in Italy there is no one who offers it (in pole position there could be Vodafone), but if you go abroad maybe for a holiday in the United States or Asia, this can be a very practical solution.

The two main accessories proposed by Apple are the new Apple Pencil, which is not backwards compatible (n the old ones work on the new iPads: the only piece that remains the interchangeable pen), and the new Smart Cover Folio keyboard with rear protection and double inclination. The keyboard works as if not better than the previous one (the basic material is the same) and there remains the doubt of not having the backlight, even if it is more flexible and pleasant. With the double protection it basically acts as a cover for the iPad. I found it an excellent idea.

Instead, the most radical change in the new one Pencil that reloads on contact when the magnet locks it on the long side of the iPad (but for transport I prefer to put it in my pocket) and has a double tap on the cut side to change accessories or other customizations. Much has been written on the original Apple Pencil, of this second generation I can only say that now it works even better, it elegantly solves the charging problem (you had to "stick" the iPad to connect the pen to the Lightning socket) and I really like it. It obviously does not replace a mouse as a pointing tool but transforms the experience of the iPad Pro and makes it a notepad or a drawing book.

The packaging Rated 5We put here two problems of accessories. The packaging as always very thin: a few help pages, a power supply and a USB-C cable, as well as a "pin" to open the SIM compartment in case you have taken the model with 4G + WiFi connectivity. Beautiful, minimalist, but skinny.

The first problem that, having removed the mini-Jack slot and having changed the Lightning socket to Usb-c, now it is not possible to use the Apple iPhone headphones (Lightning socket) or directly connect other headphones or an external audio system (mini- jack). In short, the package lacks a USB-c mini-jack adapter, which Apple sells separately for 10 euros. In addition, the 18 Watt charger (the Italian version has an ugly shape and an unexpectedly large size), too little to charge quickly which instead is possible with the 30, 60 and 85 Watt chargers of the MacBook Pro. And the end of the charger is no longer replaceable for when traveling abroad and there are different electrical outlets (in the old iPad it was). Too bad, for me this is another flaw.

In the package there are no other accessories, but the good news (if you do not have a drawer full of Lightning adapters, because in that case you are screwed) that you can now use all the latest generation MacBook dongles or for other USB-based products -c. The advantage of not using a proprietary plug that are found connectors to hook iPad Pro to Hdmi, Vga (still exists), cameras, SD memory cards, but also to traditional USB sockets and even Ethernet network connections. Moreover, most USB-c hubs on the market, even from third parties, work without problems. From this point of view, for iPad Pro cable connections a world of opportunities opens up. Too bad that you can not hook external disks or sticks because iOS doesn't see them.

The price Rating 6The refrain that you pay for quality. In this case, not a little. In fact, iPad Pro has a premium price in the world of tablets: starting from 889 euros for the 64 Gb version to get to 1729 of the one with 1 Tb of memory. And, also adding keyboard and pen, we approach the price of a flagship MacBook Pro (surpassing that of most laptops with a leap). I don't want to make it a question of price, because quality and functions are paid for. But instead I want to make it a question of functions. That is, the recipients and possible uses of this appliance.

The iPad Pro is now ready as never before and promises to do a lot. Third-party apps are also starting to come out very well. There are also functions that with a PC would be simply impossible (drawing, augmented reality, autonomy and use on the move). Apple, in my opinion, lags behind with the operating system, which keeps the power and flexibility of the iPad Pro in check. For some activities I found myself better than with my MacBook(acquiring and editing photographs, for example), for others (especially writing, mail, browsing) I have not seen great differences, but for still others (especially document management and organization) I was slowed down considerably.

My personal usability test, that is, trying to make the tax return with the iPad (a simulation, because this is not the season) did not go well. Making taxes for me something that involves the use of various documents open in different windows, a calculator always at hand (the standard app on iPad is not there) access to various sites, the quick switch from various local folders and in the cloud where my documentation resides. The whole thing was so laborious that it was more frustrating than paying taxes. I want to try again with the same iPad Pro, but using the next iOS.

Final judgementThe average of our report card about 8.5, the student iPad Pro promoted with flying colors. Qhis iPad Pro 11 the best iPad I've ever used, definitely the best tablet I have used so far, and in some ways even one of the best pc (or rather: post-pc) on which I happened to get my hands. I dare not imagine what it could become with a stronger operating system.

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