Apple announced a new, completely redesigned iPad Pro moments ago in New York, and I just got to spend a few minutes trying it out. The iPad Pro no longer has a home button; it’s all Face ID from here on out. The transition to Face ID allowed Apple to make the iPad’s side bezels slimmer, and the result might be the truest embodiment of a “tablet” yet. This thing is just a giant, beautiful screen.
The 11-inch display is housed in a device similar to the size of the previous 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and the 12.9-inch model is physically smaller than its predecessor — about the size of a sheet of paper. The screen looks great; it’s the same 264ppi as the previous Retina iPads, and it’s as bright and sharp as ever. The corners are rounded off using the same pixel-masking technique as the iPhone XR. Apple’s actually calling it a “Liquid Retina” display, just like the iPhone XR, but honestly, it looks far nicer than the XR.
The overall feel of the thing is way more squared off than I was expecting. It feels much denser and pro than before. There’s a big camera bump for the 12-megapixel camera, and the LTE version has large antenna lines on the back that you will definitely notice.
The headphone jack is gone. For what reason? We’ll have to ask Apple. And USB-C takes the place of Lightning. Note that this isn’t Thunderbolt 3, it’s USB 3.1 gen 2, supporting up to 10-gigabit transfer speeds. I watched the iPad Pro drive a 5K display out of DJay Pro, and it can now support an extended display, while previous iPads just mirrored. That’s up to individual apps to support, though. I also saw it connect to a camera, which automatically popped open the camera roll import screen, but we’ve confirmed that it will not support external storage over USB-C. (When I complained that I just want to import RAW directly to Lightroom CC and skip the camera roll, Apple pointed to a Siri Shortcut that automatically deletes photos from the camera roll after import to Lightroom. So.)
The new Apple Pencil is a huge improvement: it’s smaller with a flat edge and matte finish that makes it much easier to hold. It also charges wirelessly, which is a major upgrade over the doofy Lightning connector on the old Pencil. The charging is neat: it magnets into place on the side of the iPad Pro, and a little battery indicator pops up on-screen with the battery level. The Pencil also has a double-tap shortcut function: tapping the flat side twice in Notes switches from the pen to the eraser and back again. Other apps can remap that feature: in Photoshop, it’ll zoom in and out of the canvas. Overall, the Pencil feels like a much nicer and better-integrated piece of the iPad puzzle than before.
The new Keyboard Folio is basically the same as the old one, but the Smart Connector has been moved to the bottom (side?) of the iPad, so it connects slightly differently. Face ID works perfectly in landscape and in the keyboard cover. A neat trick is that you can just double tap the spacebar to open and unlock the iPad using Face ID, which is very fast.
The new iPad Pro starts at $799 (64GB) for the 11-inch model and $999 for the 12.9-inch size. If you spec it out with 1TB and LTE, the 12.9-inch model runs all the way up to $1,899.