Apple iPad Pro 9.7 unboxing and first impressions: a sweet slate with dollops of power

“The latest slate from Apple brings some powerful new features”

Back in 2010, Apple made tablet PCs cool again with the iPad, giving the world a new buzzword, and a new portable computing device that, as many thought, might kill the laptop. That didn’t happen of course, but there was a long-drawn debate over barely heard of terms like content consumption and content creation in an attempt to create separate niches for the two types of devices. Since the first-gen iPad, each new model has mainly been an iterative upgrade, before the Cupertino major outed the Pro last year. The Pro is a 12.9-inch powerhouse that came with an optional keyboard cover… taking aim directly at the laptop itself, or more specifically, the 2-in-1 category where the likes of Microsoft’s Surface play. The iPad Pro 12.9 also boasts support for the Apple Pencil, which is basically a stylus on steroids – useful for all sorts of drawing, doodling, sketching, annotation and note-taking work. The Pro therefore, marked a new branch for the iPad range, focussing on the creativity and productivity segment, and now it has a smaller sibling in the form of the iPad Pro 9.7.


Yup, the new model sticks to exactly the same screen size as the original iPad, (along with all the other iPads that followed), but don’t let that fool you – as it packs in some serious firepower.

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The retail packaging doesn’t hold any surprises – the box looks the same, and holds the accessories you’d expect. (A Lightning cable and a wall charger, along with the usual documentation, if you’re asking.)

Our 256GB review model comes in rose gold, both of which are new attributes for the iPad range. The fancy colour is of course, a personal preference, but 256 gigs is quite a bit of storage space for what’s seemingly just a tablet, leaving you with about 227GB of space to use at first boot. The other colour options include the usual silver, gold and space grey, in 32, 128, or 256GB models, all with Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Cellular variants.


The slate looks good, and when you lift it up, feels even better. It’s really slim (6.1mm) and lightweight (444 grams), which means it’s quite easy to lug around, especially as compared to its larger sibling. Design-wise, it’s a typical iPad. When you hold it in portrait mode, you’ll see the circular home button placed below the display and the front camera on top. The power key is on top right as usual, with the volume keys and nano-SIM slot on the right. The Lightning port is at the bottom.

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Since this is a Pro model, it inherits its four-speaker setup from the larger iPad Pro, and holes for these can be seen at the top and bottom as well. On the left is the Smart Connector, three small dots which connect to the optional Smart Keyboard accessory.

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On the rear, you’ll see the large Apple logo, the word ‘iPad’ emblazoned below, along with the usual regulatory info. You’ll also notice the primary camera which juts out a little placed on the top left, along with, hold your breath… a true-tone LED flash. Apparently, quite a few people use their iPads to shoot pics (just go to any significant tourist attraction near you and you’ll see what we mean), and this has prompted Apple to make the camera a big part of the story this time. In fact, the iPad Pro 9.7 boasts the same pair of shooters found on the iPhone 6s – a 12MP primary camera (complete with support for Live Photos and shooting 4K video) and a 5MP sensor that faces the front. This gives the new iPad some serious photography chops.


Up front, the 9.7-inch display rocks a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, and has been boosted to deliver a wider colour gamut as per Apple. The highlight here is the new True Tone feature, which tweaks the white balance spontaneously to suit the ambient lighting conditions. And since the slate runs iOS 9.3, the Night Shift feature that kills blue hues to make the screen more comfortable for night-time reading is there too.


The two features work well, and with their help, the iPad Pro 9.7 display turns out to be one of the best screens we’ve seen on a tablet yet – sharp, vibrant, and extremely comfortable for the eyes. The home key below the screen integrates a fast and zippy Touch ID sensor.


The innards are pretty powerful too – thanks to the 64-bit A9X chip. The other features we know and love on iOS are there as well, including split-screen multitasking, and the usual bunch of Apple apps that come preloaded.


The Apple Pencil is a cinch to pair – requiring you to just switch Bluetooth on in the iPad and insert the Pencil’s Lightning male connector into the slate’s female port. Connecting the Smart Keyboard is even simpler, as it attaches magnetically and requires no pairing. And with these two accessories, the iPad Pro transforms into a high productivity, creative tool that could give a lot of power into your hands, if you use it to its fullest capabilities. It doesn’t come cheap, but then, it’s an Apple… so expect to spend quite a bit of your hard-earned cash if you covet one. The pricing starts at Rs 49,900 for the base model, and if you want to add more capabilities to it, you can buy an Apple Pencil for Rs 8,600, and the Smart Keyboard for Rs 13,900. We did say it doesn’t come cheap right?


Related read: Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch vs iPad Air 2: what’s new?


Photos by Raj Rout

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