We review Apple's new 10.5-inch iPad Pro for 2017, including speed, graphics and battery tests
iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) review
As of its 5 June WWDC announcements, Apple sells four iPads in four different sizes: the iPad mini 4 (with a 7.9-inch screen), the iPad 2017 (with a 9.7-inch screen), and new iPad Pro models in 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes.
In this article we run the rule over the new 10.5-inch model, testing its performance in speed, graphics and battery tests and reviewing its design, ease of use and tech specs. You can read more about the comparative advantages of Apple's various tablets in our iPad buying guide 2017; the iPad Pro 10.5in, like the three other models mentioned above, is available from Apple's website.
Design & build quality
This new model of the iPad Pro comes with 10.5-inch screen - something we've not seen before on an iOS device. In effect, this iPad replaces the old 9.7-inch Pro model, and squeezes the larger screen into a chassis that's not a lot bigger by making the bezels thinner.
- iPad Pro 9.7in (2016): 240 mm x 169.5 mm x 6.1 mm; 437g/444g (Wi-Fi/cellular models)
- iPad Pro 10.5in (2017): 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 6.1mm; 469g/477g (Wi-Fi/cellular models)
It's not a vast change - by our estimates you're getting about 18.3 percent more screen area - but, speaking subjectively, it feels significant in use. There's more room for everything; games are more immersive, video more cinematic. (Your reviewer does most of his gaming on a 12.9in iPad, however, so it's possible that his perception of the 9.7in screen has been swayed by this.)
We also enjoy the slimmer-bezel look, although this remains a gradual improvement rather than the radical edge-to-edge design we're hoping for - the fulfilment of the sheet-of-glass concept that we view as the iPad's logical end point. Read next: iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) vs iPad Pro 12.9in (2017)
And other than the screen size and the bezel slimming that this necessitates, this remains a conservative design. Put this next to the iPad Air 1, for instance - a tablet that was launched in autumn of 2013 - and the differences are ones of scale only.
Is it unreasonable to ask for an overhaul when the existing design is a classic? (And it is - this is an elegant and beautifully engineered device.) Perhaps. But the fact that Apple has changed so little over the years, aesthetically, may explain why consumers tend to be reluctant to upgrade their iPads.
For a comparison of the new 10.5in Pro and its 9.7in predecessor, see iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) vs iPad Pro 9.7in (2016).
The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro gets the Rose Gold (pink) colour option that was previously limited, in iPad land, to the 9.7-inch Pro model. So that's four choices: Space Grey, Rose Gold, gold and silver.
Let's look next at the internal specs in the new iPad Pro and how they affect its performance.
As expected, the new iPad Pro 10.5 features a modified version of the A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7, called the A10X Fusion.
The A10X Fusion chipset has six CPU cores: three high-performance cores and three efficiency cores for improved battery life. It also features a meaty twelve-core GPU.
At launch Apple predicted 30 percent faster CPU performance than the A9X chip in the first-generation iPad Pro models, and 40 percent faster graphics performance; and our tests show that this is a seriously fast machine.
In GeekBench 4's processing speed benchmarks, the iPad Pro 10.5in scored an impressive 3,891 in single-core, higher than any previous iPad we've tested by at least 800 points, and a phenomenal 9,300 in multicore. For comparison the iPad Pro 9.7in (2016) scored 5,073 in multicore, while the iPad Pro 12.9in (2015) and its 4GB of RAM averaged 5,123.
Finally, we put that twelve-core GPU through its paces on the GFXBench Metal graphical benchmark. The iPad Pro 10.5in averaged 60.00fps (in the T-Rex onscreen component of the test), 56.54fps (Manhattan onscreen) and 42.22fps (Manhattan 3.1).
These too are class-leading numbers, particularly in the more difficult tests. The iPad Pro 9.7in scored 59.9fps (T-Rex), 37.6fps (Manhattan) and 25.4fps (Manhattan 3.1).
Remember that these scintillating test results are not necessarily representative of what you'll experience in the real world. It's true that we haven't found a game that can tax the new iPad's graphical capabilities, for example, but that's true for last year's Pro as well; this is a future-proofing exercise, and a green light to Apple's app developer partners to build software that relies on more advanced hardware.
As previously mentioned - and as signalled by its name - the new iPad has an entirely new display size: 10.5in, measured diagonally from corner to corner. And it has a correspondingly larger resolution, too, of 2,224 x 1,668, at Apple's iPad-standard 264 pixels per inch; it looks as sharp as you'd expect an iPad to look and no more. Which is fine.
Apple's next-generation iPad Pro also features an upgraded 120Hz display. (For reference, existing models of iPhone and iPad max out at 60Hz.)
The higher the refresh rate, the more frames the display can process every second: a 60Hz display can process up to 60 frames per second, while a 120Hz display can offer double the amount at 120 frames per second. It's why some PC gamers opt for a 144Hz display.
The new iPad gets the newer True Tone display that was featured on the 9.7in Pro but was denied to the 12.9 when it launched.
True Tone is a nice feature to have, albeit not one that you'll be conscious of until you turn it off (in a nice touch during setup, Apple asks if you want to activate the feature and shows you the screen with it on and off, so you get an idea of what it offers); to drop the pretence of scientific objectivity for a moment, it just makes the screen a bit nicer to look at. Under mixed sun and electric light during daytime conditions, for example, we've found that it warms up the colour palette.
A few more details: the display offers 600 nits brightness, can display HDR video, and dynamically adjusts the refresh rate depending on what you're looking at. This could be key to preserving battery life - which we'll be have a look at in a moment.
The new iPad Pro comes with a 12Mp rear-facing camera with f1.8 aperture, six-element lens and a quad-LED True Tone flash. The front-facing camera has a rating of 7Mp and the Retina Flash feature, which makes the entire screen light up to serve as a makeshift flash.
This is the same camera setup as the iPhone 7; it's a bit better than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro (12Mp and 5Mp respectively) and a lot better than the old 12.9-inch Pro (8Mp and 1.2Mp, and no flash).
Apple has bumped the storage options again.
The new iPad Pro models start at 64GB as a baseline, with options to get 256GB or a mighty 512GB. That's the most storage offered with any iOS device to date and far more than we can imagine anyone needing. Then again, the new Pro models are more clearly than ever marketed at creatives and design professionals, the sort of people who might just need access to a large library of RAW photos, half-edited video projects and digital illustrations on the go.
More importantly for the rest of us, this is the first time where we feel like the average, everyday user will be completely satisfied with the entry-level model of an iPad, since 64GB is a solid chunk of storage.
The new iPad Pro, pleasingly, gets the second-gen version of Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner, rather than the first-gen version seen in previous iPads.
This has been a bit of a bugbear for us, since second-gen Touch ID has been around for a while (it first appeared in the iPhone 6s) but was ignored by the iPads that followed it - until now. Second-gen Touch ID is a shade quicker and in our experience considerably more reliable than the original version.
Read next: How to fix Touch ID
A balance seems to have been achieved between the more powerful chipsets and more advanced displays, and the new power-saving features: Apple says the new iPad Pro models will offer the same 10-hour battery life as the last generation.
The iPad Pro 10.5in performed admirably in Geekbench 3's battery test, albeit fractionally behind the 2015 and 2016 Pro models: it lasted very slightly under 11 hours. Battery tests are never to be relied upon entirely - conditions and factors vary in a million ways from situation to situation - but for everyday use it would be reasonable to expect longer life than this performance in a demanding test.
The iPad Pro very much isn't the bargain offering we got earlier this year in the form of the iPad 2017, which starts at a highly tempting £339.
We reckoned this one would start at around £570 to £600, but the entry level is actually £619. Ouch. Just remember that this entry-level model comes with a very decent 64GB of storage. Read next: Best cheap iPad deals
- iPad Pro 10.5 (64GB, Wi-Fi): £619
- iPad Pro 10.5 (256GB, Wi-Fi): £709
- iPad Pro 10.5 (512GB, Wi-Fi): £889
- iPad Pro 10.5 (64GB, cellular): £749
- iPad Pro 10.5 (256GB, cellular): £839
- iPad Pro 10.5 (512GB, cellular): £1,019
You can buy the new iPad Pro here.
For comparison (and bear in mind that this was a year-old product), here's how the 9.7-inch Pro was priced before WWDC:
- iPad Pro 9.7 (32GB, Wi-Fi): £549
- iPad Pro 9.7 (128GB, Wi-Fi): £639
- iPad Pro 9.7 (256GB, Wi-Fi): £729
- iPad Pro 9.7 (32GB, cellular): £669
- iPad Pro 9.7 (128GB, cellular): £759
- iPad Pro 9.7 (256GB, cellular): £849
...and the 12.9inch model from 2015, again before WWDC:
- iPad Pro 12.9 (32GB, Wi-Fi): £729
- iPad Pro 12.9 (128GB, Wi-Fi): £819
- iPad Pro 12.9 (256GB, Wi-Fi): £909
- iPad Pro 12.9 (128GB, cellular): £939
- iPad Pro 12.9 (256GB, cellular): £1,029
Podcast: All the announcements at WWDC 2017
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast team dissect the latest announcements in episode 64, including our thoughts on the new iPads.
The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro looks great, squeezing a larger screen into a chassis that's the same size as its 9.7-inch predecessor (albeit largely retaining the classic but well-worn design that Apple has been selling since 2013); the specs look fantastic on paper, too, and its performance in our speed and graphics tests is phenomenal. And it's as good for photography as the iPhone 7. If you can afford that punishingly high price tag - which realistically is the only thing stopping us from giving it five stars out of five - then this is about as good as tablets get.