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Here's Why You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy The New iPad

It's easier to hold — and just as fast as the big guy.

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There are now two iPad Pros: the truly massive 12.9-inch tablet announced last fall, and a brand-new model in a more familiar size, 9.7 inches.

It's not called the "mini Pro," "smallPad Pro," or "iPad Pro SE" like its iPhone counterpart. The new tablet's name is just "9.7-inch iPad Pro" — and it's much more than just a pint-sized version of its older, larger cousin (which, for the record, is REALLY HARD to lift with one hand).

Let's get real for a minute: Tablets are the sporks of personal computing. They provide neither the mobility of a phone nor the speed and agility of a laptop. But what they do offer is the simple, tactile experience of a touchscreen on a display that doesn't feel claustrophobic — making them awesome bed devices (aka gadgets that are great for using while you're flat or semi-flat).

And if you're into that kind of thing, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is probably the most perfect tablet you can buy.

Apple lent me their new iPad Pro, which is available online and in stores now, for review and I've been touching it all week. Here's what happened.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is heavy, clumsy, and terrible in bed. The newest iPad is everything but that.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

Don't expect a crazy new design. The 9-inch iPad Pro is essentially an iPad Air 2 that drank a lot of rosé and ate a 12-inch iPad Pro for lunch. That is to say: It looks like an iPad Air, but it's as fast as a Pro.

In terms of design, it's nearly identical to the iPad Air 2. It's the same size and weight — and even the display hasn't changed (which is 2048x1536, 264 ppi for ya spec n3rds).

There are three slight differences: The cellular version no longer has a white or black bar on top, just a slim outline; there's a "smart connector" on the side for easy keyboard connection (more on that later); and it comes in rose gold.

In terms of hardware, it's about as powerful as the bigger Pro — and infinitely more portable.

What's bizarre about this smaller iPad Pro is that it’s cheaper, and, yet, more advanced that the giantPad in many ways.

Here's what the 9.7-incher has that the giant iPad Pro doesn't:

*1) a significantly better camera

*2) a wider “color gamut” (fancy word for even more color, the same as the truly insane 5K iMac),

*3) a “true tone” display feature that makes the screen easier on the eyes,

*4) Live Photos,

*5) front-facing flash,

*6) faster auto-focus,

*7) 4k video,

*8) more LTE bands for the cellular version, and

*9) (you still with me?) slightly longer battery life.

And, on top of all that, it's not a clumsy, top-heavy behemoth like that *other* iPad Pro. This iPad is more ergonomic in every situation.

I chilled pretty hard with the iPad everywhere I went – couches, cafes, kitchen countertops, and, of course, bed – and it became clear that there are obvious advantages to a smaller screen, including not having to lift your finger as far to tap a menu button (which, I recognize is the most first world problem ever).

I also took the iPad to the Microsoft Build conference because I wanted it to get up close to its enemies. 😈

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

If there was ever a time for the Surface Pro 4 to give side eye, THIS WOULD BE IT.

The screen is undeniably beautiful.

Playing immersive indie games like Limbo or Framed, reading magazines, and general Pinterest-ing really shows off the iPad's chops.

True Tone is a 9.7-inch iPad Air–only feature that makes other iPads look dumb.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

True Tone is *extremely* subtle. Sensors detect the color temperature of a room, so if it has warm, yellow lighting, the iPad display will look warm too (the same way a piece of paper reflects the light around it). The effect is a display that's much more comfortable to look at.

When I turned True Tone off, I had this jarring sensation of "AH MY EYES" which made me think: Are we all destroying our pupils by staring at super blue, super bright screens all day?? F.lux and Night Shift mode forever.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

True Tone is *extremely* subtle. Sensors detect the color temperature of a room, so if it has warm, yellow lighting, the iPad display will look warm too (the same way a piece of paper reflects the light around it). The effect is a display that's much more comfortable to look at.

When I turned True Tone off, I had this jarring sensation of "AH MY EYES" which made me think: Are we all destroying our pupils by staring at super blue, super bright screens all day?? F.lux and Night Shift mode forever.

← Slide →
Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

True Tone is *extremely* subtle. Sensors detect the color temperature of a room, so if it has warm, yellow lighting, the iPad display will look warm too (the same way a piece of paper reflects the light around it). The effect is a display that's much more comfortable to look at.

When I turned True Tone off, I had this jarring sensation of "AH MY EYES" which made me think: Are we all destroying our pupils by staring at super blue, super bright screens all day?? F.lux and Night Shift mode forever.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The Apple Pencil is freaking amazing.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

If all you want is an iOS tablet to respond to emails and surf the internet, get an iPad Air 2. It's $200 cheaper and it'll get the job done.

The iPad Pro's biggest draw (heh) isn't a built-in feature, it's an accessory: the $99 Apple Pencil.

I know what you're thinking: Like holy shit, that's so much money when a pen and paper are cheap as hell!

:begins rant:

The Apple Pencil is spectacular, and the iPad Pros are the only tablets it's compatible with. For me, the Pro line's biggest selling point isn't the performance or the keyboard, it's this freaking Apple Pencil.

The Apple Pencil is (not surprisingly) marketed to artists and other "creatives" but, after a few months of using it, I'm not a huge fan of the device for sketching, and I talked to a BuzzFeed illustrator who feels the same. The Apple Pencil lacks the resistance you'd find in a Wacom nib or a pen.

The Pencil, however, is AMAZING for writing. The screen is extremely responsive to the Pencil (much more than finger input), and many apps feature palm rejection, so you can use the device while resting your hand on the iPad. It outperforms all of the styluses I've tried.

I love journaling, and taking notes the old fashioned way — and I can absolutely imagine this iPad replacing my beloved notebooks.

You can read my full thoughts on the Apple Pencil here.

:ends rant:

The Smart Keyboard is...less spectacular.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

The Smart Keyboard is 150 bucks, which is not cheap.

The pros: It's super lightweight, fun to type on, and snaps on easily via the magnet "smart connector" so you don't have to deal with the pain-in-the-ass that is Bluetooth.

The cons: It's almost *too* lightweight. It felt wobbly on my lap while typing. There also aren't any shortcuts for volume controls or the home button, which would be super useful and seem probably not that hard to implement?

I'd go for something more stable like Zagg's $130 Slim Book Keyboard (there's a more affordable $60 option, too).

Because of its identical dimensions, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro can also fit all iPad Air 2 keyboard covers. Yay! (But they won't take advantage of the aforementioned smart connector.)

And here's where, if you don't care about specs, skip right to Final Thoughts. :)

Processing speed is a tough thing to test. The iPad Pro's new chip makes it a little bit faster than the iPad Air 2 everywhere you'd expect — and those saved seconds add up.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

I'm pretty sure 90% of humans have no idea WTF most processing lingo means, so I will do my best to elaborate. Like the bigger Pro, the 9-inch iPad Pro has an "A9X" chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture.

In practice, the iPad Air 2, which has an "A8X" chip, is just a tad slower at everyday iPad tasks: powering on, opening apps, loading games, focusing with its camera, and unlocking the device with the fingerprint-sensing Touch ID home button.

The iPad Air 2 is a perfectly capable machine, but the iPad Pro's faster processor can make all the difference when you're trying to get work done.

And if you're like, Well, that GIF doesn't prove anything! Here are a bunch of numbers.

These are screenshots of an app called Geekbench, which is actually great not just for testing, but also to check if your machine is unusually slow (vs. other machines with the same processor).

The iPad Air 2's chip has three cores, while the iPad Pro's chip has two cores, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that this app tests the performance of all available cores (hence multi-core) and shows you how they fared. The iPad Pro performed better (with a score of 5,287 vs. the iPad Air 2's 4,590).

And, interestingly, even though the two iPad Pros have the "same" processor (the A9X chip), the giantPad is slightly faster.

The 12-inch iPad Pro outperforms the 9-inch version ever so slightly.

Does this prove that the naming scheme of Apple's custom-made chips don't mean anything?

Reminder: ~Nothing is real~.

Apparently there are still a lot of people who take pictures with their iPad. You should probably never do this, but if you must, do it with the new iPad, because it's got a 12-megapixel camera (up from 8 megapixels) that's as good as the iPhone 6s.

The smaller iPad's camera is so much better.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

In these photos (featuring Michelle Rial, expert chart maker/designer), you can see more detail in the face and hair in the image taken with the 9-inch iPad, compared to the 12-inch. The color in the photo taken with the 12-inch iPad also looks a little off (green-ish perhaps?).

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

In these photos (featuring Michelle Rial, expert chart maker/designer), you can see more detail in the face and hair in the image taken with the 9-inch iPad, compared to the 12-inch. The color in the photo taken with the 12-inch iPad also looks a little off (green-ish perhaps?).

← Slide →
Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

In these photos (featuring Michelle Rial, expert chart maker/designer), you can see more detail in the face and hair in the image taken with the 9-inch iPad, compared to the 12-inch. The color in the photo taken with the 12-inch iPad also looks a little off (green-ish perhaps?).

With a few hours each of Slack-ing, Safari-ing, emailing, Kindle-ing, and note-taking, the iPad's battery lasted about a day and a half.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

Under "chill professional" conditions, the iPad's battery stayed alive ~30 hours. It had a full battery after a night of charging, around 8:40 am. It didn't show me the Low Battery popup until 2:10 p.m. the next day.

Apple claims 10 hours of continuous internet use, which doesn't sound super realistic (if you're using the internet for 10 hours STRAIGHT, maybe you should take a break??).

I'd like to reiterate one very important thing: The iPad Pro won't replace your laptop.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

This is perhaps the greatest misconception of the iPad Pro. Despite the "Pro" in its name, it's not great for getting a ton of work done.

I responded to emails in Outlook while keeping up with BuzzFeed's nonstop Slack threads with the iPad's multitasking feature – and that's about as productive as I got on the iPad Pro.

Students would be smart to use the iPad Pro as a note-taking device with the Apple Pencil in hand, but don't count on the Pro to help you draft a long-winded research paper, especially if you rely on writing your paper with your notes side by side.

My biggest gripe is that you still can't view two Safari tabs in split-screen view. Furthermore, if you want to create or edit Word or Excel files, you need an Office 365 subscription ($100/year). If you don't want to pay that much, you can use Google Docs (free) and export the file as a Word doc, but (again with the split-screen) Google Docs doesn't support app multitasking at all.

You could technically use Apple's free Pages or Notes apps. But that hardly seems like a a solution if your school or company relies on Google Docs for saving and submitting documents.

That being said: If you want an immersive and lap-optimized environment for consuming media, than the new 9-inch iPad Pro is the ultimate device.

In a way, the lack of Google Docs multitasking support makes the iPad a great distraction-free environment for journaling or drafting essays.

There are three big things going for this iPad: It's way more portable than the 12-inch iPad Pro, but just as performant. Plus, it's got a smart connector for third party keyboards (down with Bluetooth!) and support for the magical Apple Pencil.

The 9-inch iPad Pro starts at $599 (the operative word being *starts*).

If you're just going to read some Kindle books and check Facebook, you'll probably be OK with the 32 GB version ($599, $729 for the cellular version). If you're intending on downloading a ton of HD movies and/or music, you'll probably need 128 GB ($749).

You'll probably want an Apple Pencil because it's awesome, so add $99.

Plan on doing actual work? You'll need a keyboard and Apple's is $149. Luckily, since the new Pro is the same dimensions as the iPad Air 2, it'll fit iPad Air 2 keyboards, which range from $30 to $100.

This is all to say that, when all is said and done, you could be paying close to what you'd pay for a laptop (the 11-inch MacBook Air is $899).

The bottom line? This tablet is best at helping you be unproductive.

I'm talking about reading long articles, playing games, writing journal entries, watching movies, shopping online, editing photos, video chatting with faraway friends, and the like. True Tone makes staring at the screen for hours on end more comfortable, while the high-resolution display makes HD content look amazing.


Tablets aren't for everyone – but if you're in the market, the 9-inch iPad Pro is probably the best of its class.

You can get a 9-inch iPad Pro online or in Apple retail stores.

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

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