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Apple’s latest Special Event was a big one. As well as a completely revamped Apple TV and an impressive incremental iPhone upgrade, we also got to see a brand new model in the iPad lineup. The ‘iPad Pro’ has a whopping 12.9-inch Retina screen, improved multi-touch, powerful tech specs and some new accessories to boot. Let’s take a closer look.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, took to the stage to introduce the ‘iPad Pro,’ which he describes as “the biggest news in iPad since the iPad.” According to Cook, Apple has been amazed at the “new and unexpected things our customers have done” as each iteration of the iPad gets more powerful. So the design team asked themselves, “how can we take iPad even further?” Apparently the answer is by making it considerably larger and more powerful than ever before, further blurring the lines between tablet and laptop.
Sound and vision
Phil Schiller, SVP of World Marketing at Apple, took over from Cook to explain in a little more detail. Remember the split-screen multitasking features on their way in iOS 9? Those were designed with the iPad Pro in mind. Schiller says the 12.9-inch screen size – bigger than the latest MacBook, by the way – was chosen as it’s the exact size of two iPad Air screens side-by-side. Crucially this means the iPad Pro will be able to run two regularly-sized iPad apps simultaneously, in full portrait resolution and with no cropping, right next to one another. Nice. In case you were wondering, the iPad Pro’s resolution is an impressive 2732 x 2058 – that’s 5.6 million pixels, more than the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.
With an increase in size, Apple has also improved the sound output of the iPad Pro. It boasts four high-fidelity speakers, one in each corner of the device. This allows for 3D stereo sound output that automatically adjusts as you tilt the device. Apple promise a “more immersive” experience than ever before – and the acoustic output is three times what the iPad Air 2 could manage.
iPad Pro is far and away the most powerful iOS device ever. It sports Apple’s new 64-bit A9X processing chip, which has twice the memory bandwidth, twice the storage performance and twice the graphical capabilities of last year’s A8X chip from the iPad Air 2 – previously Apple’s most powerful tablet. Schiller describes it as “desktop-class performance,” and in tests it’s faster than 80% of portable PCs sold in the last year. In graphics tests it’s faster than 90% of them. That’s a huge improvement in five years – iPad Pro has 360x the graphical performance of the original iPad, and weighs only 0.03lb heavier despite its size.
We saw tech demos from Autodesk and even – as Hell threatened to freeze over – long-time rivals Microsoft, to show off the potential of the new device. Adobe also took the opportunity to announce a new photo retouching app called Photoshop Fix. The iPad Pro can render massively complex 3D models at 60fps and Apple’s iMovie is capable of editing 4K video. It’s a shame the new Apple TV doesn’t support 4K playback! The presentation also noted that iPad Pro will include an improved Touch ID fingerprint sensor and will have 10 hours of battery life.
One new accessory for power users is the Smart Keyboard, which connects via the iPad’s new Smart Connector, three magnetic dots around the edge of the device that can transfer both power and data – meaning accessories can be truly plug-and-play with no need for syncing via WiFi or Bluetooth. The keyboard itself is integrated into a screen cover and doubles as a stand, much like Apple’s existing Smart Cover. When attached it looks a little like Microsoft’s tablet, the Surface. The Smart Keyboard is made from a “highly durable custom-woven fabric,” and is durable and water-resistant. It’s designed to give a realistic, familiar typing feel and uses a full-size keyboard.
Apple also unveiled a pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad Pro, called Apple Pencil. It works with the improved multi-touch display to provide a “responsiveness that feels like a true writing implement,” according to designer Jony Ive. Primarily designed for creative use with drawing and painting apps, the stylus can tell the orientation and angle of each stroke as well as the pressure being applied. It has an integrated lightning port for charging and can operate for 30 minutes after just 15 seconds plugged in. Ive says that the Apple Pencil is so precise that it gives users “the ability to touch a single pixel.”
Price and availability
iPad Pro will come in Apple’s three staple colors: silver, gold and space gray. The tiered pricing starts at $799 for the 32GB version, $949 for 128GB and $1079 for a 128GB version with cellular built-in as well as Wi-Fi, for mobile data plans. All versions will be available to buy from November – just in time to pop one on your Christmas list.
Unfortunately the new accessories don’t come bundled as standard, and they’re not exactly cheap extras. The Apple Pencil is an additional $99 and the Smart Keyboard will set you back $169. Depending on whether you’re creative or business-minded, one may appeal to you over the other, but power users will surely opt for the full package to take advantage of all the iPad Pro can do.
iPad mini 4
Just one more thing. In amongst all the big iPad Pro announcements, Apple nearly forgot to mention that its releasing another new iPad. The iPad mini 4 replaces the now-discontinued iPad mini 3 in Apple’s lineup, and boasts near enough the same specifications as last year’s iPad Air 2 but with a much smaller form factor. The 7.9-inch tablet is available immediately for $399, while the less-powerful iPad mini 2 now becomes the entry level device in the lineup at $269.