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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  • peevee - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    Ok, a tablet for $1800, a keyboard for $180... Apple is just trolling now. Reply
  • Socius - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Don’t forget $130 for the pencil. Lol. And the keyboard is just absolute trash. All I want is the surface pro keyboard on the iPad. Cheaper too. Reply
  • peevee - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    "But iOS is certainly less RAM hungry compared to the PC, thanks to the more limited applications available"

    The statement makes no sense. If you need RAM for something, say, precessing of a photo from a raw format, IOS or Windows - it does not matter.
    For code ARM64 actually requires more RAM than x64, but that pales in comparison to photo/video requirements.
    Reply
  • blackcrayon - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    Well in your example it doesn't matter, but in many other examples it does. The desktop versions of Word for Windows or Mac for that matter are a lot more powerful than Word for iOS, thus iOS needs less memory to run its "more limited" version of Word... Reply
  • Socius - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Word on iOS is a joke. And there’s no reason for it. Word is not a heavy application. If they’re forcing you to buy a monthly subscription to use it, they could at least make it more like the desktop version. Reply
  • Socius - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Between memory compression and 1GB/s nvme ssd it becomes far more manageable than many expect. Guaranteed once photoshop comes out, the 6GB iPad Pro 1tb will outperform the 8gb surface pro 6 at handling large multi layer files. Reply
  • peevee - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    Macbook Air is a software feature (recompilation from x64 to ARM8, likely better done in App Store once with full optimization) away from switching to Apple's own SOCs.
    Is there a x64 to LLVM compiler?
    Reply
  • McD - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    Good write up as ever but still some niggling general commentary;
    1) we don’t need Adobe Photoshop to provide real-world productivity validation when we already have Affinity Photo. We already know the integrated CPU/GPU architecture provide a huge boost over discrete components.
    2) no GUI PC provides full file-system access either. On my iPad provides the same local system that has PC users running round in circles with Admins in hot pursuit. Cloud Drive (take your pick) and file localisation has been a way better prospect for the last few years.
    Reply
  • techgadgetgeek - Monday, December 17, 2018 - link

    There is one thing I did not see done in this test which would have been great to see. Previously when syncing an iPad or iPhone with a MacBook Pro via iTunes a sync would take ages to sync depending on how much you had to backup to MacBook first before syncing. The new iPad Pro uses a USB type C cable and is supposed to have faster transfer speeds. I would like to know how fast data transfer for syncing is on the new iPad Pro compared to the last generation iPad. There are different cables out there these days. Would be nice to see the stock iPad Pro cable used for a sync compared to previous cable on last generation iPad. Also would be nice to see it tested with a USB C 3.1 and 3.2 Type C cable along with a Thunderbolt 3 Cable to see if transfer speeds for syncing make a big difference or not. Surprised this was not tested Reply
  • tecsi@pacbell.net - Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - link

    The charts need to include the iPad Pro 10.5” which is the more relevant comparison. Can you update and repost?
    I expect most people would be intersted in this comparison.
    Reply

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