Hardware

All screen, and all amazing, this is the best iPad Apple’s ever made

I vividly remember dismissals of the original iPad – people bellyaching that it was “just a massive iPhone”. For me, that was the exciting bit – Apple taking the framework from an amazing touchscreen device, but giving you a bigger canvas on which to work and play.

With the latest iPad Pro (from $799/£769), Apple has, I think, for the first time really achieved what it set out to do back in 2010 – to give you a blank slab of technology that can become anything in your hands.

Screen time

Much of this feeling stems from the new design, which from the front is now a gigantic LCD display surrounded by an even bezel. There’s no Home button, and – being that this is Apple – no obnoxious corporate logo. If it wasn’t for the Face ID camera very subtly being visible within the bezel at the top, you’d have no idea which way up to hold the thing – and that’s the point.

With multiple microphones and speakers, short of you accidentally covering up the Face ID camera (an arrow helpfully hints when you’re doing so), it doesn’t matter how you grasp this iPad. And it feels good in the hand while you do so, too – all premium materials, and with an expensive appearance that looks like someone took all of the good bits from Apple’s classic iPhone 5 design, and infused it into a tablet.

Raw power

Apple offers a lot of stats about the new iPad’s innards, including the A12X Bionic chip, and it’s easy to glaze over. All you need to know is that it’s blazingly fast. Whether you’re scrolling a document, playing a high-end game, or grappling with creative software, this tablet is phenomenally responsive.

Naturally, even the standard iPad is no slouch. But the iPad Pro has greater ambitions, muscling in on territory currently occupied by a slew of desktop and notebook PCs and Macs. Sure, any individual might not be able to do all of their work on an iPad, but chances are they can do most of it – and also things they’d never even consider a laptop for.

Thus, the iPad Pro is ideally suited to things like digital art in the likes of Affinity Photo and Procreate, music composition in Korg Gadget, and – in tandem with the Pencil – working on productivity apps like LiquidText, PDFExpert, and MindNode. But also, it can be your companion in the kitchen, on the train, and when lounging in front of the TV.

Quick draw

Further productivity is unlocked by Apple’s redesigned Pencil ($129/£119). The sole negative is having to buy a new scribbling stick for these latest iPads if you already own a first-gen stylus. But everything else about the new Pencil is a major improvement: it magnetically sticks to the iPad to pair and charge; its flat edge is great for grip and to keep the thing from rolling away on a desk; and a swift double-tap on the lower third or so of the Pencil switches tools within apps.

Things are less rosy with the new Smart Keyboard Folio ($179/£179), which feels expensive and stodgy, even if set-up is a breeze. And when docked with a keyboard, one of the iPad’s few weaknesses becomes clear: iOS 12 still isn’t entirely geared to this form factor – even if you can now connect your iPad to a 4K monitor by way of the USB-C port that replaces Lightning.

Verdict: iPad Pro (2018 edition)

It’s hard to answer the question of whether you should buy an iPad Pro. If you’re already a fan and invested in the ecosystem, you’ll be happy to discover this is easily the finest tablet Apple has ever offered – although you do pay plenty for the privilege.

If you like a larger display but your needs are more “YouTube, a couple of games, and the odd trip to Safari”, the iPad Pro is of course overkill (albeit a really cool flavor of overkill); still, if you’re gripped by the tablet bug and want to go all-in, you’re not going to get anything better.