Design

Arguably the largest change to the new iPad is in its design choices, and Apple has made some bold choices here which deviate significantly from the previous models. Apple calls the latest iPad Pro a “Window onto your work” and the company has taken design inspiration from its iPhone lineup with the reduction in the screen bezels to achieve this window onto your work.

The smaller bezels preclude the use of the Home button, which had already been deprecated in the iPhone, so it isn’t a surprise to see it removed here as well. The removal of the Home button also introduces the use of the same gesture based navigation already seen in the iPhone, except in a larger form factor. It also introduces Face ID to the iPad for the first time.

Due to the fact that the bezels required for a tablet are proportionally larger than a phone, there’s no need for a notch, and the Face ID camera sits almost hidden in the upper bezel. Unlike on the iPhone though, there’s no guaranteed way that you’ll be holding the iPad, and if you are holding it in landscape it can be very easy to have your hand over the camera. If that’s the case, iOS will let you know the camera is covered and show an on-screen arrow pointing to where it is. And, of course, the same caveats that go with any facial recognition system come into play with the iPad Pro. You have to be sure the camera can see you, so if the tablet is sitting on a table as you are using it, you may have to contort yourself slightly or pick it up if Face ID is required. It’s not quite as simple as Touch ID was, but it’s very quick and reliable.

If there is one major annoyance with Face ID on the iPad Pro it is the login process, which is overly cumbersome. Turning on the iPad will initiate a Face ID login, but Apple requires a swipe-up gesture to finish the unlock process. This is compounded on the iPad by the fact that the swipe must originate from below the bottom of the screen as if you were going to Home. Since your hand is likely not to be there, it is a less than ideal gesture for something that must be done so many times. If Apple just allowed the swipe up anywhere on the screen, it would be a big improvement.

Still, the removal of the Home button does make for a much more modern looking device, with the smaller bezels we have gotten used to over the last couple of years, and Apple continues its attention to detail by having the display corners match the radius of the device corners.

The other big design change with the iPad Pro is that Apple has moved to an almost-squared off edge, compared to the more rounded, tapered edges on the older models. This design change was almost certainly to facilitate the new Apple Pencil storage location, which has it magnetically attach to one side of the device. There’s a small RF transparent window there to allow the Apple Pencil to wirelessly charge when attached to the iPad, and a new pencil will sync with the iPad just by attaching it, which makes it a very seamless experience to get it up and running.

The squared off edges don’t provide the great in-hand feel of tapered edges though, but the iPad is thin enough that it is not a huge issue. It’ll also likely spend most of its life in a case, which is unfortunate since it is a great looking piece of technology. Apple has also done a great job of incorporating the various antennae into the design with symmetrical lines on the top and bottom which separate the metal at the top and bottom with the rest of the device.

Finally, Apple has continued its use of a quad-speaker arrangement on the iPad Pro, although with most things on the new iPad, they’ve been refreshed as well. There is now two speakers at each corner, with both a tweeter and a woofer which Apple says offers better sound with less space allocated for the speakers.

Overall the design of the latest iPad is quite striking, and the reduction in bezels provides a much more modern looking tablet. It keeps all of the attention to detail that Apple designed devices are known for. The iPad continues to lead the segment in design, and 468 grams for the 11-inch model we have for review, it is very easy to hold in one hand and use. The lack of rounded sides is somewhat masked by the 5.9 mm thickness, and despite internet rumors, the iPad Pro won’t bend in half just by holding it. The squared edges make it feel quite sturdy, although if you tried to bend it you likely could. But since it will likely live its life in a case of some sort, the proper care to prevent this shouldn’t be extreme.

Introduction Accessories - Pencil & Folio
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  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    For what it’s worth, Affinity Photo on my 2017 iPad Pro performs much better than Affinity Photo on my 2017 5K iMac. Perfectly usable on iOS, not good at all on an i5-7500 with Radeon Pro 570. Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    That sounds specific to that program.

    As this article shows, a port going either way doesn't always go great for the secondary platform, and Affinity is mobile first.
    Reply
  • thunng8 - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    incorrect, Affinity Photo for ipad is a port of the mac version. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - link

    Just checked this out after responding another comment of yours - the results are interesting! The GPU in your iMac has something like 3x the resources of a Vega 10, which itself seems to be in the same performance ballpark as this Apple chip. Your iMac requires that the GPU do 4x the pixel-processing work your iPad needs to. It sounds like the performance difference is greater than just that, though - but we've already established that the iPad GPU is running at a lower precision. The GPU in A12X can also discard a lot of data before rendering that the Polaris GPU can't, so with those factors taken into account the performance difference isn't so shocking. Still impressive what Apple can do with solid optimisation, good design and a process shrink, though! Reply
  • vFunct - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Apple should have really led the way in converting pro-apps to iPad pro.

    It really needs a pro video editor, like Final Cut Pro X, and not the cut-down iMovies editor, for location YouTube videographers.

    It could also use some pro-level audio software like full Logic, and not GarageBand.
    Reply
  • pvdw - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    I'd really like to see some comparisons to Chromebooks. There's a number of recent ones that are aiming for the same premium portable productivity category, e.g Pixel Slate, HP x2, etc. Reply
  • FrankGu - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    GRID™ Autosport is another choice of cross-platform game on iOS, which may be used for comparison. This game seems to require more performance than Civilization VI on graphics and it needs iOS 11 which looks like based on Metal 2. Although the game's graphic settings are not open to users now, but they should be similar to MEDIUM level on PC. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    If you have that game on iOS does it have the benchmarking mode that is part of the PC install? The nice thing about Civ is that it does have the debug mode ported over. Reply
  • FrankGu - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    It doesn't have a benchmark mode on iOS version :( Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    ". And the color accuracy is pretty much second to none. Really the only thing missing is HDR – and the battery life hit that would entail in such a portable device would probably not be worth it."

    Curiously the last gen iPad Pros did advertise HDR, but this year they stopped doing that, probably because the LCD doesn't have the 1000 nits to cover it (nor is it an OLED which could do it with 600). But, it does play HDR content as best it can, for a decent enhancement over not having it at all
    Reply

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