Apple has come out with a new lineup of accessories for the iPad Pro, which isn’t surprising with the design changes they’ve made on the new model. All of the major first-part accessories have gotten an update for the iPad update.

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil has gotten a nice update for the latest incarnation. Gone is the silly Lightning port and cap on the end of the old Pencil for charging and syncing. The new Pencil simply magnetically attaches to the right side of the iPad (when in portrait layout) where it wirelessly charges and syncs with the iPad. There’s no other way to say this other than the new method to add a Pencil to the iPad is about as perfect as it can get. There is no buttons to hold, settings to go into, or waiting. You just attach it, and the display will show a Pencil is attached, and then you can start using it.

The Pencil now has a single flat side to allow it to connect to the iPad securely, which is a great way to store it. But as with any magnetic connection, be careful that the Pencil doesn’t get knocked off in a bag and lost, because it isn’t inexpensive to replace, especially with its $30 price increase over the old model.

This single flat side also includes a capacitive button which can be mapped to various functions depending on the app in use, which would let you do things like quickly erase, or change the pointer size, just by tapping on the side of the accessory.

In use the new Apple Pencil works just like the old one, and that isn’t a bad thing. The latency is low, and the thin display stack keeps the refraction to a minimum. Apple’s Pencil continues to offer a great writing and drawing experience. Comparing it to the Surface Pro, the Pencil feels slightly better in the hand, and the capacitive button is easier to use than the physical button on the Surface Pro. However Microsoft does offer interchangeable tips on their stylus, including a softer tip which gives a better feeling that you are actually drawing on the device, rather than sliding over the display like the Pencil does.

The Smart Folio Cover

The other accessory for the iPad is the normal cover, the Smart Folio, which offers the same origami folding experience that customers have likely become accustomed to on the iPad. There isn’t much to say here, other than the cover only lets you stand the iPad up in landscape mode, although you can also use it to prop up the top end to use it like an easel for drawing, which is nice. Compared to the integrated kickstand in the Surface Pro though, the stand is wobbly and takes more time to get set up.

Smart Folio Keyboard

Apple has changed the design of their keyboard cover to remove some of the complexity, and the new Smart Folio Keyboard is a fairly straightforward design. You simply open the cover, slide the iPad forward a bit, and lock it into one of the two notches of the cover to provide the desired iPad angle. It is a big improvement over the outgoing one in terms of ease of use, although it is still not the easiest accessory to deploy. Offering two different angles is also a 100% improvement, although it is still somewhat limiting, and having the keyboard in the more vertical arrangement leads to a very wobbly tablet. The keys themselves haven’t changed much from the old version, offering very little travel, but they still offer a good typing experience. If you are someone who wants to type a lot on the iPad Pro though, the smaller model is somewhat cramped.

Much like the Apple Pencil, the keyboard has also increased in price, up to $179. At this price, it still doesn’t offer any backlighting either, which is unfortunate since the competition does. If you opt for the larger iPad Pro, the 12.9-inch keyboard is $199. It seems like a high price to pay for a keyboard which is, at best, average.

iOS keyboard integration still leaves something to be desired as well. There are still very few keyboard shortcuts, and with no pointer support, you will find yourself reaching up to the screen quite often. Even things that have been sorted out years ago on the PC side are a new frustration on the iPad, such as opening a new tab in Safari. If you do open a new tab, the address field is not pre-selected, so you then have to tap into it to begin typing. This isn’t the case if you open a new tab with the keyboard shortcut, at least, but other apps like the App Store function similarly, where if you hit Search at the bottom, the search field then has to be tapped to actually type. The keyboard does give you the option to type with proper feedback, unlike the on-screen version, but it really does feel like an add-on to iOS still.

This entire section was written on the iPad using the Smart Folio Keyboard, and with the auto-correct functionality in iOS and Word, it worked quite well. It isn’t as easy to use for pounding out documents as a PC would be though, although you can always connect a real keyboard if needed over Bluetooth, or even USB.

Design Powering iPad Pro: A12X
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  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Unfortunately we don't have that one. These go back to Apple when we're done.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    I have the 2017 12.9” 64GB model, though I’m not on staff and don’t have your benchmarking suite.
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - link

    Not sure how this will for,at on this comment system, but here is what I got on my 2017 iPad Pro 64GB;

    TabletMark 2017
    Overall: 1404
    Web-Email: 1438
    Photos-Video: 1372

    Speedometer 2.0: 89.0

    WebXPRT 3.0: 131

    Kraken 1.1: 856ms

    Slingshot 3.1 Extreme:
    Graphics: 6,514
    Physics: 2,602

    Ice Storm Unlimited
    Base: 55,609
    Graphics: 118,335
    Physics: 19,482

    GFXbench Aztec Offscreen
    High: 21.5
    Normal: 59.3
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    They supply a 1 meter USB C cable because the usb 3.1 gen 2 spec for data transfer is 10Gbs for 1 meter, but 5Gbs for anything longer to about 3 meters, where it then peters off to about 3G s to about 4 meters.

    I imagine they’re concerned that people will complain that they’re not getting the 10Gbs speeds, and blame Apple and the iPad for that if they give a longer cable. Apple has difficulty communicating these problems for some reason. They should just state the data transfer speeds with different cable lengths so that people understand what they’re doing. I have a few USB 3 to USB C charging cables, and none are usb 3 anything. They’re all usb 2 cables with a 480Mbs transfer rate. Most people don’t understand the totally screwed up spec that usb is.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    They only use USB 3.0 anyways, so not that.
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    What? It’s 3.1 gen 2. Just go to their site and read the speed spec for yourself..
  • tipoo - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    I don't see 3.1 gen 2 anywhere on their specs sheet

    Last news I heard was the iPad Pros were the first to move to 3.0 while the phones were still on 2.0, I don't see anything corroborating 3.1 gen 2 on a quick google for the new ones.
  • gailthesnail - Thursday, December 20, 2018 - link

    The iPad pro's USB 3.0 functionality is heavily restricted and is only enabled for the lightning to SD card dongle. Anything else like connecting to iTunes to transfer media is limited to USB 2.0 speeds. This is what I've experienced so far on my 2017 iPad pro 10.5. I'm not 100% sure but I think it's the same for the new iPad pros as well
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    I hope iOS13 does remove most of the hurdles with working off iOS. The power is clearly there, if you chart out Apple device performance per dollar the 11 inch Pro is way ahead of the Macbooks, but you just can't do as much on it.

    Something as simple as working off of media off an external hard drive which you take for granted on any traditional OS you just can't do here. External hard drives aren't natively supported at all. Then there's lack of a trackpad and a cursor for fine text selection, Xcode, etc etc.

    All this power seems like it was meant for an OS that was pushed back in favor of polish, and hopefully 13 really unleashes it.
  • HStewart - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    IOS and Mac OS ( or Windows ) are different OS - iOS is app centric OS while Mac OS and Windows is desktop centric OS. Apple is unfortunately in delusion that iOS and iPad Pro can replace the desktop / laptop devices.

    Even with Photoshop Creative Cloud on it - it nothing like the Photoshop CS5 ( which I owner ) and in my opinion it just and over larger iPhone.

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