Apple iPad Pro 9.7 review: A valid reason not to buy a laptop

Apple's new tablet is genuinely innovative with its smart cover keyboard and amazing display. But for Dh2,299 for a 32GB model, it needs to be.

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet and Apple Pencil. Its display is the standout feature with a more natural colour palette. David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
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Apple's new 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet is far more than a just fun-sized version of last year's 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It is a genuinely innovative device in its own right, and for my money the best tablet on the market.

The new iPad Pro’s standout feature is its display, which has the same pixel density of its 12.9-inch older brother. But the real innovation is Apple’s new True Tone display technology, which uses ambient light sensors to adjust automatically not only the brightness but the colour balance of the display depending on your surroundings.

The result is a more natural colour palette that is far more easy on the eye than that of the iPad Air 2 and the older iPad Pro, in direct sunlight and in lowlight conditions. It is the best tablet display I have ever seen.

Reducing the size of the iPad Pro has happily had no effect on audio quality. Do not throw out your Bluetooth speakers just yet, but the mind-blowing audio of the last year’s original iPad Pro is pleasingly replicated by its little brother.

What’s more, Apple has beefed up the iPad Pro’s camera capabilities compared with last year’s model. It now sports a 12-megapixel rear camera and 5MP selfie camera (not to mention the ability to shoot 4K video), the same specs as the iPhone 6S, and streets ahead of its tablet peers.

Aside from its multimedia capabilities, the jury’s still out on whether the iPad Pro will truly replace your laptop.

Nevertheless, its keyboard functionality is more than good enough for word processing and communication on the go.

Inevitably, such quality doesn’t come cheap. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch starts at Dh2,299 for a 32GB model, with Apple’s Smart Cover keyboard costing another Dh649. That is cheaper than Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but more expensive than several high-end laptops from the likes of Dell and HP.

But if cost is not your ­primary concern, the new iPad Pro’s game-changing display, superior audio and stunning camera really sets it apart from any other tablet on the market.

q&a word processing in rose

John Everington explains why the 9.7 inch iPad Pro is not a complete replacement for a laptop:

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, uses an iPad Pro instead of a laptop. Should I do the same?

If you’re just using your laptop to watch a few movies, look at photos and write emails, then the iPad Pro is a real option (albeit a pricey one) as a laptop replacement. It’s also great for limited word processing, especially with the split view that Apple began offering last year.

I'm sensing there's a 'but'

For me, the iPad Pro still feels a little undercooked when working with several windows and programmes open at the same time – compared with my MacBook Air. And while the Apple Pencil is a fun accessory, for me it still doesn’t offer the functionality of a trackpad or mouse. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, which offers a full Windows experience, remains the best laptop replacement tablet so far, but it will be interesting to see how Apple refines its productivity offering going forward.

What does typing feel like on the Apple Smart Cover keyboard?

While I wanted to type my review on the Smart Cover keyboard, I couldn’t get used to it so reverted to my Macbook Air. Fortunately, third-party developers have already come out with a range of other keyboard cases, many of which are cheaper than Apple’s offering.

One final question ….

Apple has indeed answered your prayers. It is Apple’s first tablet available in rose gold.

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