15 Dec 2015
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The only iPad Pro review you’ll ever need*

By Catherine Knowles

In the spirit of full-disclosure I’m going to let you in on a secret: I love Apple. And this isn’t a flippant, buy one product, court it for a bit and toss it aside for a different brand at a better deal. No, this is a youthful infatuation turned genuine appreciation.

Hell, if Apple were a person I’d take them up in a hot air balloon to propose on top of the world while the pilot awkwardly watched.

Apple would say yes. We’d drink whiskey because champagne is gross and awkwardly slow dance in the tiny wicker basket. And once we were back on ground I’d back out because I’m a growing cynic with commitment issues.

My love for Apple began in earnest when I brought my first product, a secondhand 1st generation iPod Touch, after spending one summer between school terms working in a dusty warehouse packing thoroughbred racing catalogues.

That thing stuck with me for eight years. It survived being accidentally thrown in a swimming pool in the middle of the night, drop kicked during a run, and partially submerged in a scalding hot bowl of soup.

It sung sweet sweet tunes until the bitter end, when it flickered and died, playing the opening of Don’t Forget Me by The Red Hot Chili Peppers with its final breath. And now my love continues unabated with the introduction of the iPad Pro.

Let’s get down to business

The first thing I noticed about the iPad Pro (other than the matte gold finish, swoon) was its size. It’s notably bigger than a regular iPad, and this is one of the main reasons it feels like a completely new addition to the Apple family.

Sure, Apple’s other flagship products are close cousins, and you could say the iPad Pro is still an addition to a phone and not quite a laptop, but I think this new device is doing its own thing. It’s said goodbye to its tablet family, moved out of home, and is learning how to do its washing all on its own.

The new iPad not only has a bigger and better display, but it comes with improved sound and computing power, and some very smart accessories.

Because of this, the iPad Pro could very well be used in place of laptops and suit the everyday person with $1,399 to spare, small business owners, designers, students or freelancers.

Apple didn’t have any spare accessories to loan out, so this review will focus solely on the device itself. While the accessories take the device to the next level, it undoubtedly stands on its own.

Redefining good: Display

Like a good crème brulee, the display on the iPad Pro is crisp and smooth all at once. Apple has cracked it. This is the way of the future.

Technically speaking, the iPad Pro has a 12.9 inch Retina display at 2732 by 2048 resolution and 5.6 million pixels. Every single one of those pixels helps to create total clarity, and gives you the ability to read tiny print and zoom in on photos without losing detail.

Top tip: Let loose on Google Earth, or ask yourself what Neil deGrasse Tyson would do and treat yourself to a space/astronomy app.

Music to my ears: Speakers

To me specs often seem like letters and numbers thrown together to make something sound good. I start reading with the best intentions, and before I know it my mind has drifted to wondering who invented the ballpoint pen (John J. Loud in 1888 technically speaking, in case you were wondering).

However, when it comes to the specs about the speakers on the iPad Pro you can actually hear what they’re talking about.

The Pro completes an iPad first and features four speaker stereo audio - there’s a speaker located in each corner of the iPad and are built within the body. All produce bass but only the top two produce mid and high frequencies.

The operating system, which is almost too clever for its own good, automatically adjusts the orientation of the bass and higher frequencies depending on how you hold it.

According to Apple, these speakers can go three times louder than the iPad Air, so I employed the dulcet tones of Kendrick Lamar to test this out. I can confirm it goes loud enough to feel like a hundred tiny Kendrick’s are wooing you from all angles. 

I feel the power: Computing

Powering the iPad Pro is the band new A9X chip - Apple’s third generation chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture that delivers twice the CPU and twice the graphics performance of the A8X.

I don’t know what all this means either, but suffice it to say this thing is fast. You know a device has good computing power when you don’t even notice it, it just works.

No lagging, no glitches, no pausing to think, like Adele when she hits those high notes, the A9X chip does what it does well and makes it look easy.

iOS 9, more like iOS Be Mine Forever

iOS 9 is made out of fairy dust and dragonfly wings**. It’s magic. The hardware and software of the iPad Pro and iOS 9 have been fully integrated so this device includes a slew of features, such as a new and improved Siri and Spotlight search.

The one I want to talk about, though, is the multitasking feature.

Apple has gone and created a solution to one of the main things that put the average laptop above the iPad - opening two applications at once.

Want to make a playlist while you answer messages? Done. Want to read an article and jot down some notes? You’re good to go. Want to watch Parks and Rec while you scroll photos of dogs frolicking in fields? Me neither, but Apple has your back.

Another thing iOS 9 gives you is ‘Picture in Picture’. With this, when you’re FaceTiming or watching a video you can press the Home button to scale the video down the corner of the display. You can then open another app while you keep watching your Mum’s face or Charlize Theron’s badass skills as a rogue desert warrior.

Some of Apple’s core apps have been updated too. Like Notes. To me the Notes app is akin to Uber drivers who work the night shift. Both are always there when I need them, listen to thoughts that seem so very burning and important at the time, and are privy to my slightly-too-candid moments.

In the new Notes, you can add a photo, map, URL or drawing. Hello interactive grocery lists.

Hit the road, Jack, but don’t forget your iPad Pro

All of the new and improved features combine to make this device so useable.

It’s so responsive you barely have to caress the screen for it to react to your touch, it goes and goes with a legitimate 10 hour battery life, and although it's big it's light enough to carry anywhere.

You can listen to podcasts while you clean your room, take it to a café to feel more important than you are and actually be quite productive, have a surround sound dance party when you think your flatmates are out but aren’t, draw on the (beautiful) Paper app while Skyping your mate across the ditch (Catherine Knowles originals, consisting of lines and swirls, coming to you never), and so much more.

In my mind there are two main ways you can get the most out of your iPad Pro that aren’t covered in the manual.

One, take the time to learn all the tips, tricks and special features. Two, understand that it can be a little bit too exciting and addictive for its own good.

As someone who was (very) late to the smart device party because of being both old school and easily addicted, I realise devices like this will give you back what you put in.

My year seven woodworking teacher’s favourite quote was: “Tools are only useful if you use them in the right way. You wouldn’t get very far if you tried to use a hammer as an arrow.” He would then fantasise aloud about leaving teaching to become an archer. 

The iPad Pro isn't out to eradicate my attention span and ability to function away from screens, and it has the potential to be an incredibly helpful and useful tool - especially with a healthy dose of self-discipline (AKA a truckload, in my case).

Whether or not you have to remember to put some space between you and new technology, the iPad Pro will do exactly what it promises to do, which is a novelty in world of marketing speak.

This device seems like a step toward a future where smartphones and tablets exist as multi-functional tools and dominate over any other device.

And if Apple keep making stuff like this, pushing the boundaries of functionality and adaptability (with those lovely accessories - hello Pencil) and with such attention to detail it makes you drool, it may make more and more sense to invest in a tablet, pencil and smart keyboard instead of a Macbook. Perhaps this really is a time of change. What a wild thought.

*Along with millions of others.

**No dragonflies were harmed in the making of this review or iPad Pro.

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