It’s official: the Apple iPad now comes in three sizes. In addition to the 9.7 inch iPad Air and the 7.9 inch iPad mini, there’s now a 12.9 inch model called the iPad Pro.
Not only is the newest member of the iPad family the largest to date, but it’s also designed to be the most powerful, not just because it has the fastest processor, but also because it supports features that aren’t available on smaller iPads.
The iPad Pro will be available in November for $799 and up. Yep, it’s priced like a Microsoft Surface Pro.
For instance, the iPad Pro support split-screen apps, just like the iPad Air. But when you view multiple apps at the same time on an iPad Air, they don’t run in full-sized windows. Placing two apps side-by-side on an iPad Pro will let you see two apps as if they were running in full-sized windows on two smaller iPads.
The new iPad Pro features an Apple A9X processor with twice the memory bandwidth and up to 1.8 times the speed of an Apple A8X chip, and Apple says graphics performance has also been improved two-fold.
The iPad Pro comes with 32GB to 128GB of storage, and Apple says that storage is also twice as fast.
All told, the company says the iPad Pro is faster than most of the world’s PCs (although I suspect Apple isn’t talking about high-end workstation or gaming systems).
Other features include four speakers, an 8MP iSight camera, 802.11ac WiFi, optional 4G LTE, and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The iPad Pro has a 2732 x 2048 pixel display.
Apple also offers optional Smart Keyboard cover that lets you use the tablet as if it were a notebook. It’s worth noting that Apple still doesn’t offer tablet that runs the full OS X operating system though — so it’ll be interesting to see if people want to use iPads running iOS for work purposes… especially since the price of this tablet comes close to MacBook territory.
The keyboard features “fabric keys,” so don’t expect the same typing experience you’d get on a mechanical keyboard… but Apple is hardly the first company to try something different in the keyboard cover space.
Apple says the iPad Pro should get up to 10 hours of battery life, and despite the large screen, the tablet is pretty light-weight, at about 1.57 pounds (or close to the same weight as the original 9.7 inch iPad. The iPad Pro measures 6.9mm thick, making it less than a millimeter thicker than an iPad Air.
Another thing that sets the iPad Pro apart from other Apple tablets? It supports an optional Force Touch stylus called the “Apple Pen” for pressure-sensitive input.
Yeah, yeah, Steve Jobs once said that “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” in reference to tablets from competitors. But it’s worth noting that Apple isn’t bundling a stylus with the iPad. Instead it’s an optional accessory for folks that want a pen for certain tasks.
Jobs made his comment at a time when there were certain tasks that were hard to do on Windows tablets or phones without a pen, a mouse, or some other accessory. A lot’s changed since then… and most Windows tablets also ship without pens, because you don’t need them for basic operation of the tablets.
But some models do support optional pens because you might want one for writing, drawing, or performing other activities that require more precision than you can get from a fingertip.
Wondering what kind of apps you’d use a pen for? Apple surprised the audience at its keynote event by bringing out Microsoft representatives to show the pen working with Office for iPad.
Another demo showed an iPad version of Photoshop designed for use with the Apple Pen.
Apple says the iPad Pro launches in November, with an entry-level model selling for $799 with 32GB of storage. A 128GB model costs $949, and a 128GB model with 4G LTE will sell for $1079.
The optional Apple Pencil is priced at $99, and the Smart Keyboard will be available for $169.