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iPad Pro 10.5 Early Impressions

I was genuinely torn on size this time. It took me a while to warm up to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro when I got it in the Fall of 2015, but eventually I learned to appreciate it. I still very much like the 12.9-inch size, especially for stage use. But the better portability of the smaller version—the one-hand ability of it—proved too much of a temptation.

If Apple had kept the smaller Pro screen at 9.7-inch, I probably would have stayed with the larger variant. But that little extra boost to 10.5 was enough of a difference to at least make me want to try it. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll go back to the bigger screen. It really is a matter of preference, and I totally understand anyone who wants either size.

It’s nice that both models now have feature parity, so you don’t have to compromise anything else when choosing the screen size you want. I wish the same were true of the MacBook Pro.

Other impressions:

  • Although the 10.5 iPad Pro is visibly a little bigger than the 9.7 when you put them next to each other, it doesn’t feel any bigger. The weight is basically the same, which is what matters most in an iPad.
  • The higher refresh rate is cool, but not earth-shattering for me. I notice it most when launching apps in the smoothness of the animation. But for regular scrolling, it’s a minor difference to my eyes at best. I’m not heavily into games, so I guess I’m just not very attuned to higher frame rates. This is nowhere near as impactful as Retina, by any measure.
  • Speaking of Retina, I am a bit bummed Apple didn’t go with the higher pixel density and keep the pixel dimensions of the 12.9, as some had predicted. To me, the iPad’s 264 ppi has always been a disappointment. Not high enough to avoid seeing pixels, for my better-than-perfect near vision. (Look at the W on the on-screen keyboard, for an obvious example of the jaggies.) I’d much rather have the iPhone’s 326 ppi on iPad, just as it was on the Retina mini, even if that meant slightly smaller touch targets. It would offer more UI real estate for two-full split-screened apps. As it stands, the extra screen real estate is minimized by the lower pixel density. It’s not at all unlike the difference between the iPhone SE and iPhone 6 or 7. Yeah, you can see a few extra lines of text, but who cares? At least in this case, it didn’t make the device harder to manipulate or carry, so it’s still a net positive, unlike the iPhone.
  • I will miss the 12.9 when it comes to watching video. Man, that large screen was immersive. The 10.5 is still great, but it’s not quite the same experience.
  • The pencil lag. Oh, my. Now this is a true improvement. Forget scrolling. The pencil lag is now just about non-existent, and it makes a huge difference. If I were an artist who used my Apple Pencil very regularly, I’d run out and upgrade without hesitation, even if I had last-year’s Pro 9.7.
  • The new Pro is fast. Nothing in the UI skips a beat anywhere that I can find. But no iPad since the Air 2 has felt slow, so this isn’t that big a deal. Still, it’s nice to know Apple keeps pushing the boundaries of what the hardware can do. More RAM and faster CPU can only help bring more pro software to this thing that much faster. (I can’t wait to get up to 8GB of RAM on one of these.)
  • I never got fully used to typing with the larger 12.9 on-screen keyboard. I’m actually faster and more accurate on the 9.7. The 10.5 is only slightly larger than the 9.7, so I’m back to my full typing capabilities. (I never use an external keyboard with iPads. Sort of defeats the purpose of a tablet to me.)
  • This is my first iPad with True Tone. I approve. I will have to turn it off while testing color in designs, but for day-to-day use, it’s very nice.
  • I went with cellular again. People disagree with me on this, but the bottom line is that T-Mobile offers very reasonable pre-paid data rates, and Personal Hotspot is just not reliable enough. It usually works fine once I get it going, but getting it going is often an exercise in frustration. Not to mention, it burns down my iPhone battery needlessly.
  • I’m still running iOS 10—for now. I suspect I’ll cave and install the beta of iOS 11 when the second or third version gets released. I do want to start testing all my apps with the new multitasking features over the summer. I suspect I’ll be even more thrilled with this iPad when I do that update.

Overall, I’m excited. Along with iOS 11 improvements, the new iPad Pro should allow me to do more of my work without having to lug a MacBook around every single day. And since I’m planning on moving to a larger 13-inch MacBook Pro soon, the smaller size of the 10.5 will be welcome when I do still want to travel around the city with both.

I suspect a lot of people with older iPads are finally going to upgrade this year. Certainly, if you have an iPad Air or earlier, it’s time. iOS 11’s multitasking won’t be nearly as useful unless you’re at least on an Air 2.