We’re big fans of the first iPad Pro 12.9, and to see it rebooted is a great thing. Yes, it was a bit expensive (and that hasn’t changed much with the unveiling of the iPad Pro 2 12.9, as it’s colloquially being termed) but it did something no other iPad did.
That was offering a truly big-screen experience with excellent entertainment powers… and the same thing lives on the new device, but with an improvement.
The design of the device is pretty much similar to the previous model – dimensions of 305.7mm x 220.6mm x 6.9mm make it clean and clear, plus it’s incredibly light in the hand… more so than the last model, curiously.
We’re not sure what’s been dropped to improve that weight, but the chassis is the same size and yet it’s not so heavy in the bag.
The back is the same metal, although the plastic antenna at the top is now metal, which is a nice change through being more complete as part of the color scheme.
The four speakers are present and correct in the corners, with the same resonance chambers to improve the audio quality, and the Smart Connector sits on the bottom to let you connect keyboards or docks and providing data and power through it.
The only significant change to the design comes through the screen, and while it’s still 12.9-inches, there are so many upgrades we were hoping to see that have appeared.
Firstly, there’s a TrueTone display, changing the white balance of the screen depending on the lighting conditions. Considering we saw that on the iPad Pro 9.7 this isn’t that surprising, but it’s good to see here.
The more important change is the ProMotion Display with variable refresh rate, where the iPad Pro 2 12.9 is able to dynamically change the speed with which the frame rate is shown.
This means that when you scrolling around the screen, it looks insanely fluid, thanks to pumping up to 120Hz. However, if you’re looking at a picture, the refresh rate is dropped right down to save power, with the intelligence of the iPad Pro sorting out the difference between.
It’s hard to overstate how good the fluid motion is – scrolling through the home pages is excellent and flying down a web page lets you actually read the words as they pass by. This isn’t crucial stuff, but it’s the same way you spend more money on a 4K TV… it just works.
The iPad Pro was originally conceived as a replacement for a laptop, which is why there’s such a big screen. However, this model takes that idea and moves quickly forward with it, by adding in more power and also the way iOS 11 really ramps up what it can do.
The first is Apple Files, which lets you navigate around the iPad to find documents easily and then share them to other applications.
It works much better than anything before, and while it seems that the files you can manipulate are still locked to certain categories the bulk are there – plus you can access cloud files as well through Google Drive, Box and Dropbox.
The Apple Pencil works so much better with the iPad Pro 2 12.9, with the latency when sketching improved again. You can just tap the lock screen with the Pencil to start a note, and the feel under the stylus feels better.
It’s still not perfect – it’s just plastic / rubber on glass, don’t forget – but the accuracy seemed a little better than expected.
The raw power is shown through the apps on offer as well – while these are obviously picked by Apple to show off the capabilities of the tablet to its fullest, the speed with which you can paint or manipulate images made us wish we had any modicum of artistic talent.
Audio and video
One of the very best things about the iPad Pro 12.9 from 2015 was watching movies on it – it’s still something we do almost daily on the commute.
The screen quality was good, the output excellent (although not good for a train…) – and the boost in the screen has made movie watching even more enticing.
The contrast ratios are improved, the color gamut better and the brightness better. The iPad Pro 2 12.9 is HDR-enabled, but there wasn’t any content to check out.
However, even a basic film looked crisp and clear – the media experience is even better.
Battery and camera
Apple has has kept the same 10-hour battery life on the iPad Pro 2 12.9 as on previous Pro models, but upgraded the camera to the same sensor that’s found on the iPhone 7.
This means a better image, thanks to optical image stabilisation, but in our quick snaps it didn’t impress the same was as on the iPhone.
Then again, we don’t really care about good image quality here as nobody should use this device to take daily snaps – it’s the sharpness that matters, as the iPad Pro 2 12.9 can take pictures of documents and annotate them through the Notes app instantly now, which means you need the megapixels for the sharpness.
There’s a 7MP FaceTime camera on the front, so at least video calling will be improved again, even if this massive tablet isn’t the right thing for taking a selfie when out clubbing.
In terms of the things you can connect to the larger iPad Pro, you’re relatively limited to the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil.
They both still offer the same power, but there’s also a couple of new covers on offer: a leather case for the iPad with a Pencil holder is new for 2017.
It’s fairly nice and looks roomy enough to hold an iPad Pro with a keyboard cover on top – and there’s even a place to slot your Pencil.
And if you don’t want the leather cover but still want to – inexplicably – protect your shiny white stylus, Apple is even making a small sheath to slip it into.
We liked the first iPad Pro 12.9, and the sequel is even better. We’d have loved to seen the device get smaller or have a larger screen, in the same way its iPad Pro 2 10.5 brother has managed, but this is a very similar shape to before.
The screen quality really sells this device – it’s still going to be too expensive for most, as the smaller model will serve them just as well for less, or even 2016’s iPad Pro 9.7, but if you’re will to spend a bit more there’s a lot love with the new iPad Pro 12.9.
As something to sling in a bag and do some work day to day, the improvements to iOS 11 will have a made a few people with ageing laptops glance in its direction – and you’ll get a stunning media device to boot.
It’s not going to perform all the laptop tasks, but it’s got the best tablet on the market at its heart, supersized with an amazing screen – and that’s a very powerful proposition.