Display Analysis

The 9.7" iPad Pro has what is by far the most interesting display I've seen on a tablet since the iPad 3, which was the first of the Retina displays. Samsung is arguably the only other vendor making advances with tablet displays, since they're the only company that ships a calibrated AMOLED. However, Samsung has been limited with the brightness they can push on the larger AMOLED displays, and at the end of the day when you set to sRGB the only advantage is the black level when there's not much ambient light to wash the display out.

With the iPad Pro Apple has improved upon the anti-reflective coating that they introduced with the iPad Air 2, and they've moved to a wider color gamut while also implementing a dynamic color feature called True Tone. I'll be talking about True Tone on the next page, but for now I'll be running 9.7" iPad Pro through our standard display workflow, along with an additional test to examine the accuracy within the DCI-P3 color gamut.

Display - Max Brightness

Display - Black Levels

Display - Contrast Ratio

There are two things that I find surprising in the charts above. The first is that Apple actually exceeded their advertised 500 nit brightness. This puts it at the top of our brightness list for tablets, and that's no small feat. Apple's new backlighting array has enabled both a significantly wider gamut and a much higher brightness. Combined with their new anti-reflective coating, the 9.7" iPad Pro handily beats the larger model and the iPad Air 2 as the most usable tablet in bright ambient lighting.

While the 9.7" iPad Pro is quite bright, it doesn't do so well with black levels. Compared to the Pixel C, which has only a slightly lower brightness, the 9.7" iPad Pro's black level is much higher, and the contrast ratio is significantly lower as a result. It's also lower than Apple's 12.9" iPad Pro, and I verified Josh's brightness and black results for the 12.9" iPad against my own to confirm that he didn't just get an exceptional sample. I'm honestly a bit surprised that the gap between the two is so large, as the 9.7" iPad Pro's display is more advanced than the display of the larger model in several respects.

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

The 9.7" iPad Pro has great greyscale accuracy. Like most of Apple's products, there is a degree of blue shifting, but it's not quite as heavy as on their other products. The gamma is quite straight, and no shade of grey has a DeltaE that hits three, which is generally the goal. The accuracy isn't as high as the iPad Mini 4 which exhibited a surprisingly high degree of accuracy, but beyond the slight blue shift there's not really anything to complain about here.

DCI-P3 Gamut Saturation Sweep

The iPad Pro is Apple's second device that has moved to a wide color gamut. The first was the 2015 iMac with Retina 5K display, and from it we learned a number of things about Apple's implementation. The first thing to make note of is that the display conforms to the DCI-P3 gamut, but it doesn't use the corresponding 2.6 gamma that goes along with the standard. Using that gamma would be a mistake because no content coming on UltraHD Blu-ray is going to use that gamma function, so it's not really an issue in practice. While it remains to be seen how Apple's wide gamut devices will handle content that uses the SMPTE 2084 EOTF, Apple has brought color management to iOS and can transform content that uses a different gamma curve than the 2.2 gamma that the display targets.

Because Apple has implemented color management, they're able to accurately render anything designed for color spaces that sit within the DCI-P3 color space, with the most relevant one being sRGB. For devices with wide color gamuts and color management we'll be testing them against their target gamut and the sRGB gamut for our saturation tests. First up is the DCI-P3 saturation sweep, which uses 20% steps like our sRGB test but obviously targets the wider DCI-P3 gamut and uses Apple's target gamma of 2.2.

Display - P3 Gamut Saturation Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

Because only a small group of devices claim to support this color gamut, I don't have as many points of comparison as we usually do. To be honest, the few that we have make it clear that Apple is currently without competition here. The other vendor actively advertising DCI-P3 gamut support is LG, and we've seen that the LG G4 and G5 do not even come close to actually meeting this goal regardless of which gamma target you use. In fact, they're bad enough that Samsung's accurate Adobe RGB mode on the Galaxy S7 accidentally beats them for P3 accuracy here, as it ends up being accurate in areas where the gamuts are very similar and only really has errors along red and with some deep saturations of colors that rely on red or blue.

As for Apple, they're the only vendor that actually covers the red-dependent segment of the gamut and their DeltaE values are incredibly low. The only issue I can see is that green is a bit inaccurate, which seems to be due to the display's blue shift. This is really me looking for criticism though, and with a DeltaE average of 1.48 the only device that beats it is a $2000 iMac.

sRGB Gamut Saturation Sweep

Because each 9.7" iPad Pro is individually calibrated, the color profile included is essentially a perfect description of the physical display's characteristics and color output. Because of this, the profile can be used to map colors from the sRGB color space to the display's native gamut with a high degree of precision, which is only limited by the display's color depth. In fact, this potentially allows for greater accuracy than if the display had been calibrated against the sRGB gamut in the first place, as the small error levels in Apple's calibration are accounted for by the profile and when doing color transformations.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

When displaying content designed for the sRGB gamut, the 9.7" iPad Pro is incredibly accurate. It's actually more accurate than the already near-perfect P3 results, with the red, blue, and green primaries being even closer to their target values. The only color that ever has an error above two is 20% saturated yellow, and the largest error is actually white which as we saw earlier is a bit too blue. Aside from those, every color has a DeltaE below two, and many are around or even below one. There's honestly not much more Apple could do here; this really is a professional-grade display.

Display - GMB Accuracy

SpectraCal CalMAN

As one would expect, the 9.7" iPad Pro has no trouble rendering the color mixtures from the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker test. The largest errors are actually the greyscale shades, and none of the DeltaE values for colors actually go above two. It's worth noting that the colors in this test are defined such that they should always be the same regardless of the color space, and so the fact that I've targeted sRGB has no change on the test outcome. For reference, changing the target to the P3 gamut produced an average DeltaE of 1.56, and I did that test at a later time so the error is well within the bounds of errors relating to the position of the meter on the display and the small inherent measurement error of the i1Pro 2 itself. This is a good example of Apple's color management at work, as my untagged image files were correctly inferred as having been created with the sRGB color space in mind, and transformed into the display's native gamut.

As far as tablet displays go, the 9.7" iPad Pro has the best one that I've seen. The combination of greatly improved peak brightness, extremely good color accuracy, an improved anti-reflective coating, and support for a wider color gamut all contribute to this, and the usefulness of aspects like the wide gamut will become even more apparent as time goes on and more content supporting it is released.

Battery Life and Charge Time Display Analysis: Uniformity


View All Comments

  • Hal422 - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    I tried the 12" iPad Pro with the Logitech Keyboard. Other than adding some weight to it they complement each other like family.

    I really like the paring, the functionality was remarkably like a laptop.

    Having had the new Macbook for a while, I almost could not tell the difference except for the OS differences.

    That aside, I am enjoying the 9.7' very much. It makes the iPad Air seem kind of kulnky in it's performance.

    The screen size is identical to the iPad Air, as the Matt screen protector fit fine when switching them.

    I really wish Logitech would reproduce the Logi Create for the little guy.

    The sound on the 9.7" is at least 3 times as loud as the iPad Air, and very welcome.
    The sound was deeper and better defined on the 12" Pro for the obvious size reasons.

    I use the little iPad Pro daily and am trying to figure out who would best like to have my old iPad Air.

    I am trying to like the Apple Pencil but there are some "Loss of Connection" issues and the Battery life lasts only around 2 days. There is no way to tell how low the battery on the Apple Pencil is getting until it quits on you. Come on Apple, you can show it with your Magic TrackPad. It would be nice to have an on and off switch on the Pencil as well.

    I find myself using an old fashioned capacitive rubber stylus as it is always ready to use.

    I have enough Win 10 devices to compare it to but Windows 10 is too buggy and nosey to use.

    For my money I'm sticking with Apple for work and play.
  • alexb1 - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    I got the 12.9" iPad Pro at work, and I absolutely HATE IT! It has ZERO use case for anyone who doesn't wanna draw on the iPad, and the size alone makes it completely poitnless. IF I wanted to carry a larger device with keyboard, WHY would I pick this iPad pro vs. a MacBook? or a Surface? There's zero added business value. iPad's selling point was its portability, ease of use, getting to your data quickly and not needing a keyboard... ALL of that is negated in the 12.9" ridiculous size.

    Now, I might get this iPad Pro, IF it was cheaper, as the price is absolutely outragous! Specially when someone add the Pencil and keyboard cost to it. It should have replaced Air 2, and should have been $100 cheaper and then it'd be the iPad of choice. It still doesn't offer any compelling reason for me to get rid of my iPad Air.
  • ragingfighter - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I agree there are definitely a lack of reasons for even me to consider an upgrade. If you have a generation one or two of the iPad Air you really don't need this device and less if you're opting for the better camera the under the hood performance increases and/or the true town display technology If you can live without this features this is definitely not for you. The assessories are or something that I do not consider too much. I consider it it's still a tablet and anything else is additional bogging down the base price Reply
  • ragingfighter - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I have sampled this tablet and I think it is really good I put it through its paces and it does keep up in general quite well. That being said though I still think you are an owner of the iPad Air generation one or beyond this is not necessarily an absolute need to upgrade. Unless if your iPad is your primary portable device which in some cases there are people that have them in this manner and have no laptop then you'll want the absolute best power and either you or go for this model or the higher 12.9 inch model. In this generation it's a conflict thing thing as this is why their first generations that introduce and actually larger iPad than the 9.7 in this generation it's a conflict thing thing as this is why their first generations that introduce and actually larger iPad than the 9.7 tier. If you are an iPad owner that has an iPad generation four or below and this may something to consider or even a second-generation iPad Air 2 myself I still think if you can get the iPad Air generation one for a good price it's more than I wore the tablet and you can save money beyond all the other models if you can pick it up for good price. You take a look at the upgrade path and it's Swithin mid tier of what apple has in their upgrade line iOS 10. Still have some time in it and it's still a very where the tablet. I don't think you could go wrong either way with that one or beyond Reply

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