Apple's 9.7-Inch iPad Pro Delivers Versatility in a Smaller Tablet

REVIEW: Take the best of the iPad Pro and the best of the iPad Air 2, add some features and you have the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

iPad Pro 9.7 Review

When the new Apple 9.7-inch iPad Pro arrived I quickly found myself in a quandary. I placed it next to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro I bought back in November and I liked them both. Once I'd loaded my apps and other content on to the new iPad, my quandary intensified. Which iPad would prove to be better?

On one hand, the big iPad had all of that screen real estate and the ability to display photos with remarkable resolution. The screen was large enough to display documents side by side, and the keyboard was good enough to use as a laptop replacement.

On the other hand, the newer, smaller, iPad was far more portable with some features the larger model doesn't have, including better cameras and the ability to use the screen as a flash for taking selfies.

Apple also included the Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil and some attachments that addressed concerns that I'd had when I wrote about the larger iPad last year. Those attachments are an SD card reader, and a powered USB 3.0 port.

With the latest iPad Pro version, a number of apps—including Adobe Photoshop Mix and Fix as well as Photoshop Sketch—now are available to make good use of both the iPad Pro's processing power and the Apple Pencil, which previously had not been particularly useful because of the lack of software. There also are several other imaging and sketching apps that support the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.

The Smart Keyboard is simply a smaller version of the one available for the larger iPad. Typing on it is easy, once you get used to the smaller scale. Like the larger version reviewed last year, the keyboard attaches to the long side of the tablet, where there are three contacts to provide power and a data path.

In some respects, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is similar to the iPad Air 2. It's the same size and weight, the same thickness and features the same display resolution. However, like its larger sibling, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro can handle RAW images—something earlier iPads can't do. That, coupled with the 264 pixel per inch density, can result in images that are breathtaking in their clarity. In addition, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has much better color saturation than the screen on the iPad Air 2 and, according to Apple, it uses the same wide P3 Color Gamut used by the new 27-inch iMac.

The cameras are significantly better than those included in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and all earlier iPads. The new iPad has a 12-megapixel camera on the back with a flash and an advanced autofocus system using Focus Pixels, similar to the system on the iPhone 6 and 6S. The new iPad Pro will also shoot 4K HD video with continuous autofocus for video. On the front there's a 5-megapixel camera.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...