First Impressions of the 10.5" iPad Pro

Apple's announcement at WWDC last month of an updated iPad lineup was one of many hardware highlights of the keynote. In particular, Apple unveiled an all-new 10.5" iPad Pro model, the successor to the 9.7" model that debuted in March 2016.

I've been using the 10.5" iPad Pro (a review unit provided to me by Apple) for almost two weeks now—I'm using it to write this piece, in fact—and can say without hesitation or hyperbole that it's the best computer I've ever used. In every way, this iPad bests the (still great) first generation 12.9" iPad Pro I've used (and praised) since it came out in November 2015. It is truly a marvel of industrial engineering.

With that sentiment in mind, here are some assorted thoughts on the new 10.5" iPad Pro.

Size & Weight. I have written numerous times about how, despite how much I love its big screen, holding and carrying my 12.9" iPad Pro is a chore. No matter how thin and light it is, there's no getting around the fact the "Biggie Pro" is a beast physically. Reading and watching video is great due to the large screen, but it's not the kind of computer one can schlep around very easily. Yet given my affinity for the iPhone Plus, the trade-off in ergonomics and portability for a large, high-resolution screen was one I was willing to make.

The 10.5" iPad is so thin and so light, holding and carrying it is a breeze. It makes the 12.9" feel like a load of bricks.

Choosing the 12.9" model over the 9.7" was an easy choice because of the jump in screen size. But the 10.5" closes the gap considerably. Apple says the 10.5" screen is 20% larger than that of the 9.7", and it shows. In my use, I definitely notice the difference. The 10.5" screen feels bigger without the actual device feeling big. Put another way, I haven't found myself wanting for more real estate; in fact, a thought that has persisted in my mind is this new iPad seems like the "Goldilocks" iPad. It has the "just right" combination of screen size and portability, and I've fallen in love with it.

Display. The marquee feature of the new iPads is the 120Hz ProMotion display. Maybe it's due to my low vision, but I haven't noticed a huge jump in scrolling and whatnot switching between the 10.5" and 12.9" iPads. I've seen others comment that scrolling on non-ProMotion displays is janky compared to the new tech, but again, I can't tell. But it is there!

Two things I do notice, however, are overall quality and True Tone. At a glance, I can immediately see a difference in quality between the 10.5" iPad's screen and that of the 12.9". Everything on the former seems much more bright and vivid, which is aesthetically pleasing but also reduces eye strain and fatigue for me. I vastly prefer the display on the 10.5".

Regarding True Tone, the 10.5" iPad is the first iPad with the technology that I've used for an extended period. I like it very much; unlike ProMotion, I can actually see the display responding to the ambient light in real time. True Tone feels similar to Night Shift insofar that the adjustments in appearance really helps to conserve visual energy. I find it handy during nighttime hours when there's naturally low light. Here's hoping the iPhone's screen gets True Tone someday.

Accessories. My review kit from Apple included the Smart Keyboard and the new Leather Sleeve. The Smart Keyboard is functionally identical to the one on my 12.9" iPad, just smaller. Unlike a lot of people, I actually quite enjoy the Smart Keyboard. I'm not a touch typist, so key travel isn't so much an issue for me. The real reason I prefer it most the time over, say, the Canopy by Studio Neat is because its "all-in-one" nature makes it convenient and more accessible. Instead of carrying two items (iPad + keyboard), I can attach the Smart Keyboard (which doubles as a cover) and carry both as a single entity. Sure, the Magic Keyboard may be an objectively better typing experience, but the Smart Keyboard is surely capable of meeting my needs. So, I stick with it.

I haven't tried the sleeve yet, let alone open it. I will at some point, but for now, I've been comfortable carrying the iPad with the Smart Keyboard in my backpack. That said, one nicety about the sleeve is the built-in Pencil compartment. (Speaking of, it baffles me Apple has yet to do something magnetic with Apple Pencil, but instead sells this thing.)

Productivity. Full disclosure: My 10.5" iPad is still running iOS 10. (I put the iOS 11 public beta on the 12.9".) Even with the primitive (relative to iOS 11) multitasking experience iOS 10 gives you, I've been pleased by using Split View and Slide Over. To reiterate a point I made earlier, I haven't been wanting for more screen space. Information density seems pretty good on the 10.5" despite the fact you can't see two full-sized iPad apps at once. Of course, iOS 11 offers a considerable improvement to multitasking, so I'll reserve final judgment until I put the new software on here. Nonetheless, I see no reason why the 10.5" iPad Pro can't be a legitimate productivity machine. As someone who had an 11" MacBook Air for college once upon a time, using the 10.5" iPad—preferring it, even—is not dissimilar to choosing the 11" Air over the 13" Air. Smaller, yes, but still plenty usable.