I think it’s safe to say that in 2018, the tablet market has not shaped up like anyone had expected, not even Apple. Tablets weren’t the next smartphone – and indeed the sales of dedicated tablets are downright soft – and yet at the same time tablets have successfully carved out a meaningful niche for themselves. But more importantly still, the tablet concept is everywhere even if “pure” tablets themselves aren’t. One needs only look at all the various PC 2-in-1s and convertibles to see the influence tablets have made on the traditional laptop market, forcing these many clamshells into becoming something more.

As a consequence of the introduction of modern tablets and their subsequent efforts to secure their own place in the market, we’ve essentially seen the tablet and tablet-alike market bifurcate into two real clusters of tablet designs. On the one hand are the cheap content consumption devices – the iPads, Fire TVs, and myriad of cheap Android tablets. On the other hand is the far more exclusive market for high-end, productivity-oriented tablets; devices that don’t just consume content, but create it as well. This market has been slower to develop, but it’s also important for its own reasons, as it’s the real crossover point between tablets as envisioned by the iPad, and the traditional PC laptop market.

Apple for their part has opted to go after both of these markets, and has done so successfully. The traditional 9.7-inch iPad needs no introduction, and while the iPad Pro is a little less known, the difference isn’t by much. Built upon the shoulders of the original iPad, the iPad Pro family takes things one step further, building towards not just a bigger and better iPad, but by giving the tablet the features that are needed for productivity and content creation, at both a hardware and a software level. The iPad Pro doesn’t try to be a traditional laptop, but it certainly tries to capture a lot of their usefulness, and this is especially the case for the 2018 iPad Pro.

With the introduction of the latest iPad Pro models, Apple’s iPad lineup for 2018 offers arguably the largest design change since the original iPad launched. The new design offers a much higher screen-to-body ratio than ever offered before, mimicking what they’ve done with the iPhone lineup. As a result, Apple has more or less reinvented the iPad Pro design, and offers plenty of new features inside and out.

Apple’s ambitions with the iPad Pro start with their chip design team, which has created the Apple A12X System on a Chip to power the latest iPad Pro. As outlined in our iPhone XS review, the A12 series of SoCs are already well ahead of the ARM competition, and Apple clearly has its sights on the performance levels of x86 CPUs from Intel. A12X features four Apple Vortex CPU cores, double that of the regular A12 in the iPhone, and seven A12 GPU cores which Apple says provides the power of an Xbox One S in a device with a far smaller power budget.

For better or worse, the iPad Pro is attached at the hip with Apple’s mobile operating system iOS, and unsurprisingly the iPad Pro ships with the latest version, iOS 12.1.

Apple’s iPad Pro lineup has also been their test bed for their newest display technology, and the iPad Pro keeps the 120 Hz ProMotion display, which offers variable refresh rate down to 24 Hz, along with P3 display gamut coverage tied in with their color managed software. Apple also keeps their True Tone option to dynamically adjust the white balance of the display to match the lighting conditions of the room it’s in.

Apple iPad Pro Comparison

  iPad Pro 11-Inch
(2018)
iPad Pro 12.9-Inch
(2018)
SoC Apple A12X
4x Apple Vortex
4x Apple Tempest

7 core A12 GPU
Display 11-inch
2388x1668
IPS LCD
P3 D65, 120Hz
12.9-inch
2732x2048
IPS LCD
 P3 D65, 120Hz
Dimensions 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm
468 / 468 grams (WiFi / LTE)
280 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm
631 / 633 grams (WiFi / LTE)
RAM 4 GB (up to 512 GB Storage)
6 GB (1 TB model)
NAND 64GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Battery 29.37 Wh 36.71 Wh
Front Camera 7MP, f/2.2, Smart HDR, Wide Color Gamut, Retina Flash
Rear Camera 12MP,  f/1.8, PDAF,
Smart HDR, Wide Color Gamut, True Tone Quad-LED flash
Cellular 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 16)
Intel XMM 7560 Modem
SIM Size NanoSIM
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO, BT 5.0, GPS/GLONASS
Connectivity USB-C
Apple Smart Connector
Launch OS iOS 12.1
Launch Price Wi-Fi:
$799 (64GB)
$949 (256GB)
$1149 (512GB)
$1549 (1TB)

Wi-Fi + LTE:
$949 (64GB)
$1099 (256GB)
$1299 (512GB)
$1699 (1TB)
Wi-Fi:
$999 (64GB)
$1149 (256GB)
$1349 (512GB)
$1749 (1TB)

Wi-Fi + LTE:
$1149 (64GB)
$1299 (256GB)
$1499 (512GB)
$1899 (1TB)

Apple has also taken the opportunity to switch the iPad Pro lineup over from their proprietary Lighting connector to the more ubiquitous USB-C port, making this the first iOS device to offer USB connectivity. Where they give, they also take away though, and the 3.5 mm headset jack has gone the way of the Dodo, and for more or less the same reasons.

For those that want to work on the go, Apple continues its excellent tradition of offering cellular connectivity with the iPad Pro, and those that need a lot of storage will be happy to see models up to 1 TB, which is more important because the iPad offers no way to access external storage to increase this.

What first set the iPad Pro apart from the rest of the iPad lineup was the ability to use the Apple Pencil as well as a first-party keyboard solution. For the 2018 iPad Pro, both of these accessories have gotten refreshes as well.

The iPad Pro for 2018 is a major change from the outgoing models. Let’s dig in and see how it fares.

Design
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  • skavi - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    Wow, this tablet is nearly flawless. I can't think of a single aspect of the hardware that doesn't make the absolute best of what modern technology has to offer.

    Hopefully either the apps will catch up, or iOS will open up (or both).
    Reply
  • Speedfriend - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    No multi position kick stand and no backlit keyboard means it isn't a pro device... Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    I feel dirty about defending an Apple device given I've opted for PC hardware and Androids, but you can easily buy a backlit bluetooth keyboard and changing the angle of a tablet is a trivial task. Those two factors are weak disqualifications at absolute best. Reply
  • Socius - Wednesday, December 05, 2018 - link

    It is actually a big issue if you're someone who's used a Surface Pro. The Surface Pro keyboard/trackpad, along with its kickstand, is an absolute wonder to use. I think I was able to hit about 110 words per minute on the Surface Pro keyboard. So if you're comparing the iPad to the Surface Pro in that area, you're looking at no trackpad, far worse/slower/bad feeling keyboard, no backlight, and yet a higher price. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, December 06, 2018 - link

    There are bluetooth keyboards that include trackpads. I used a model from Jelly Comb (or some random company of similar name) with my phone to work on my novels when I travel. It cost $30 from Amazon and the point is that anything with bluetooth can pair up with a different interface device so that is simply a non-issue. Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    Big deal. I hope you were kidding. Reply
  • KPOM - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    I mostly use an iPad in my hand, with the software keyboard, though I do have the folio. The iPad forces you to think outside the notebook metaphor, in a good way. You can revert to that in a pinch, but it isn’t meant to be the primary way of interacting with the device. Reply
  • skavi - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    I understand Apple wants to obfuscate the computer out of productivity (hence the lack of a truly accessible file system), but in doing so they ignore workloads that need access to the "computery stuff" like software development. I mean, even Chromebooks have a real terminal. Reply
  • Star_Hunter - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    I wish you would have included the previous iPad Pro in the benchmarks for comparison (A10X vs A12X). Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, December 04, 2018 - link

    Unfortunately we don't have that one. These go back to Apple when we're done. Reply

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