Apple is all set to start selling the iPad Pro (2018) to the public from later this week. Ahead of that though, the first set of reviews of the tablet have gone live.
Just like every other iPad Pro review in the previous years, the new iPad is also praised for its blazing fast performance and impressive display, though it is the software and other quirks which hold it back. From a hardware perspective, the 2018 iPad Pro is definitely the future but the frustrating software limitations hold the device back.
Check out what other esteemed publications have to say about the 2018 iPad Pro in our review roundup below.
iPad Pro Review Roundup
Depending on who you ask, the iPad Pro design is either stellar and futuristic or a “reference design.”
It’s also impossible to look at the iPad Pro and not be struck by its design. This is the first truly new Apple mobile hardware design in a long while, and it has a deeper connection to the MacBook Pro than the iPhone or previous iPads. Instead of rounded corners and soft shapes, the iPad Pro is all hard corners and flat sides, with massive, asymmetrical antenna lines on the back and a huge camera bump. Most people I showed our space gray review unit to thought it looked cool, but I think it’s kind of brutal looking — almost like a reference design.
The display remains unchanged from last year’s iPad but that’s not a bad thing since it is still the best mobile displays around.
Apart from the corners, the new iPad Pro display is substantially the same as last year’s Pro, with Apple’s extremely smooth 120Hz ProMotion variable refresh rate system, True Tone automatic color calibration, and wide color support. This is one of the best, most accurate mobile displays you can look at.
The massive camera hump houses a 12MP f/1.8 aperture shooter which Apple says delivers the same level of performance as the previous iPad Pro. It also has Smart HDR for better details and contrast, though the overall image quality is not as good as the iPhone XS.
The iPad Pro can power 5K external displays but don’t get too excited about it.
External displays work just like the old Lightning-to-HDMI adapter: the system will simply mirror the iPad Pro by default, but apps that support an extended screen can do different things. Keynote will use the external display as the presentation monitor and show you the next slide on the iPad, for example. Djay will show visualizers on the second screen. But most apps don’t do anything except mirror, so don’t get too excited about your crazy multiple-monitor iPad Pro rig just yet. All of this is exactly the same as the older iPad Pro, which supported external displays using a Lighting-to-HDMI dongle — the only real changes are that the new Pro can support up to 5K displays, and run a display simultaneously with other USB-C devices.
What’s worse is that the iPad Pro does not support external drives natively. Apple is allowing third-party devs to create such apps but out of the box, this functionality is missing.
But one extremely important category of devices will definitely not work: iOS does not support external storage. You can plug as many flash drives or hard drives as you want into the iPad Pro’s USB-C port, and nothing will happen. Apple says third parties can write apps to talk to external storage, but out of the box, this $1899 tablet simply won’t talk to a flash drive.
Irrespective of how much power the A12X Bionic chip inside the iPad Pro offers, the device is limited by iOS.
These roadblocks are made all the more heartbreaking by the A12X processor, which appears to be absolutely lightning-fast. Nothing is ever slow, and it always feels like there’s more headroom to work with. We have an early build of Photoshop for iPad, which is coming next year, and it handled a file with tons of layers just fine. Games were super-smooth, although no iOS games really offer Xbox One-quality graphics. We were able to import several minutes of 4K footage into Adobe Premiere Rush, edit them, and export without breaking a sweat. We were not, however, able to export that footage in 4K, because Premiere Rush is yet another disappointingly limited iPad version of an app, and only exports in 1080p
The new design of the iPad Pro makes the device exactly what envisioned it to be when it launched the first iPad eight years ago.
All of these changes to the original iPad Pro formula really add up. What used to require two hands to use can now be handled with one hand (though people with small hands might prefer the smaller 11-inch model). Reading on the subway is easier. Holding it up while watching YouTube videos in bed is easier. It fits more easily into my already too full backpack. Perhaps more important is the fact that the Pro’s Retina display is the exact same size and resolution as before; there’s just less bezel running around it.
The switch to USB-C port means one can connect their existing USB-C dongles to the iPad Pro and they will work without any fuss as well.
My main work computer is a MacBook Pro, and to really get anything out of it, I had to buy a USB-C dongle with a load of extra ports: a few USB-As, an SD card slot, Ethernet and so on. Turns out, this little accessory has come in remarkably handy in testing the iPad Pro, because I’ve been able to put every single one of those ports to good use.
While messing around in GarageBand, I used that port to connect a Blue Yeti microphone and record audio that sounded noticeably better than when I used the tablet’s built-in mic.
The new iPad Pro is not going to be a laptop replacement simply because of the restrictive nature of iOS.
Key parts of my workflow, however, were built with a more traditional computer in mind, and they just don’t translate well to iOS. Take Engadget’s publishing system, for instance: I tried writing a news story on it last week, but unfortunately our CMS doesn’t quite know what to do with touch inputs. You’re definitely not going to run into this specific problem (unless you’re a co-worker, in which case sorry, friends, no dice), but I’m sure there are other legacy applications that iOS doesn’t play nice with.
The design and display of the iPad Pro are a sight to behold.
The back of the 5.9mm aluminum shell feels incredibly sturdy, and sheds the tapered edges that have defined the iPad for most of its existence. The back is now flat like the bottom of a box, right up to the side. The design looks like a refined version of the iPhone 5. The shape also feels like what the original 2011 iPad was trying to accomplish—this time with no bump in the back, except for the camera.
The Liquid Retina LCD displays are huge, stretching 11 or nearly 13 inches, depending on which model you choose. They’re gorgeous and packed with pixels. Like the iPhone XR, the corners of the display are rounded thanks to precision-milled glass and a host of other tech treats. Color is vibrant and precise enough for Photoshopping and minute color tweaking if needed.
The iPad Pro stands well on its own as a tablet but it is no laptop replacement simply because of the various limitations it has.
As a more traditional work PC, it sometimes struggles. In a pinch, the iPad Pro and its Smart Keyboard are usable. For example, I wrote this review on the Pro in Google Docs while also opening webpages on the right side of my screen, but it took me longer than normal to do research and collect links—and a good long while to figure out how to do other tasks. I wanted to use the normal web version of Docs, but I had to use the app. My office also uses a collaboration tool called Airtable that wouldn’t work in an iPad browser. It also tossed me to the app, which lacked key features. Attaching specific files was kind of a nightmare in the Gmail app, too.
Ultimately, it looks like the new iPad Pro suffers from the same issues as its predecessor. While it packs beefy internals and has the best hardware around for a tablet, it is limited by iOS which has some frustrating limitations. So, if you are looking to replace your laptop with an iPad Pro, you might want to reconsider your decision as that future still has not arrived.