27 July 2017 12:48:46 IST

The most powerful tablet in the world

Apple’s new iPad Pro line just can’t be beaten in performance

It was Apple that started the whole tablets trend way back in 2010. Technically, Microsoft came up with a tablet before that, but it’s difficult to dispute that it was the iPad that was the category-starter and game changer.

Seven years later, you couldn’t really say the iPad has changed a lot. But it certainly has been refined to a point where it’s difficult to see what more could enhance it — and nowhere is that more evident as in the new iPad Pro line, now featuring the A10X chip and other specs to make up the most powerful tablet in the world.

There are two iPad Pros. One is a large 12.9-inch device that more or less leaves the tablet world behind and enters notebook territory.

That one is far more appropriate for professionals who either need to replace their laptops or need the space and power for processor-intensive work including art and design. It’s obviously not as ultra portable as the smaller iPad Pro 10.5-inch, which is just as powerful but has the added advantage of being easy to flip into your hand and carry anywhere.

We’re looking at this tablet today along with some of its accessories.

Enter the ecosystem

Anyone thinking of buying an Apple device should realise they’re buying into a whole ecosystem. And yes, it’s expensive. There’s the device itself, always a big ask. The iPad Pro 10.5 starts at Rs. ₹50,800 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi only version and goes right up to ₹84,500 for the 526 GB model with cellular connectivity. The 12.9-inch model starts at ₹63,500 and maxes out at ₹97,000.

If you’re balking at the price and thinking you might as well buy a high end laptop, it might be worth considering that the iPad Pros have about reached the level of laptops.

But there’s more. Obviously you need a keyboard. That costs ₹14,900. Next, you’re limiting it if you don’t pick up the Apple Pencil, which comes in handy even if you’re not an artist. That’s ₹8,600. You can’t do without a case to protect the iPad. And if you want to style the Pencil, there’s even a leather sheath for it. So, all in all, you’ll certainly be spending a tidy packet — and that’s before you even get to buying the apps you need.

Reviewing the iPad, specially from the Pro line-up, has always been a challenge because of precisely this — it isn’t just the device you buy and it’s closely tied in with your individual needs and style of working. Personally, I abandoned my laptop when the iPad Pro 12.9 came along, but then my work is all writing rather than using some Windows-based applications that are difficult to find. If the iPad Pro is the only work device you will be using, a careful scrutiny of your particular needs is in order. If you have the money and it’s an alternative device, here’s what makes the iPad Pro compelling, concentrating here on the 10.5, though they are equivalent except for size and appropriate scale up of specs such as resolution.

All-in-one device

The iPad Pro 10.5 has received a lot of attention because of its ‘sweet spot’ size. It’s very light and thin, so easy to carry around, barely weighted even with a keyboard case or sleeve. While I found it easy to switch to its larger cousin, I preferred the 10.5 for times when I travel or want to do a lighter bit of work. A consultant I spoke to carries the smaller iPad Pro as he goes about visiting clients, logging hours, looking at relevant documents and spreadsheets, taking notes, writing, making quick presentations, conference calls, and project management. On the side, he uses it to read, watch videos, surf and doodle with the Pencil for some stress busting. He also uses it to look up stuff on coffee making, an enduring hobby, and play word games. In other words, it’s an all-in-one device that serves both work and play needs. What makes it a more compelling package over the regular iPads is that Apple has given it all it could give a tablet by way of power and specs. Soon, iOS11, the upgrade to Apple’s mobile operating system, is to bring a whole new layer of usability to it.

Stellar surface

On the 10.5, the display takes up most of the surface, making the edges thinner than on other iPads, giving it more real estate in a small package. Apple has made the 2224x1668 resolution screen brighter and more vibrant. It also adapts to the ambient lighting. But more interestingly, the refresh rate on the device has been bumped to 120 Hz and that essentially means no lag. The advantage of this shows up most of all when using the Pencil when you find that there’s no delay between moving it on the surface and seeing the result. Or rather, the delay is a mere 20 millisecond one, which can barely be detected. Scrolling, video and switching between applications never feels sluggish. The impressive thing is that the refresh rate dynamically changes depending on what you’re doing, dropping to conserve power and battery when needed and ramping up when called for.

When you need to work, the iPad Pro just clips on to the Smart Keyboard. The typing experience is necessarily better on the larger of the two devices but making the keys a bit bigger on the 10.5-inch keyboard, Apple has improved it for this device as well. It’s a little cramped but perfectly usable for short spells of typing. Switch to the Pencil if you’re an artist or designer or if you like handwriting and need to mark up documents.

But when you’re done being productive for the day, put the accessories away and go full on tablet. This time the iPad Pro has a 12 MP camera, the same as the iPhone 7’s and definitely the most capable on a tablet. In some conditions, you can use the camera for straightforward photography because the screen acts as an enormous viewfinder allowing you to compose an image much better. At others, the camera works for scanning documents, video conference calls and so on.

The upgrade to the operating system to come later this year will add more functionality to the iPad Pro but even as it is, there isn’t a more capable tablet. If only the tablet market was growing instead of stagnating.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)