9.7-inch iPad Pro reviews: A small powerhouse that is worth buying

Reviews of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro have started to come in, and the critics are mostly impressed with Apple's latest iPad. It offers the same power as the 12.9-inch model but in a much more portable form.

Ever since Apple announced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro many users have wondered whether or not it’s worth buying. Reviews have finally started to come in and so far the critics seem quite impressed with the smaller iPad Pro. The consensus seems to be that it packs the power of the 12.9-inch model into a much more portable form.

Read on to see what reviewers are saying about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Ars Technica: The smaller Pro straddles the line between the 12.9-inch version and the Air 2

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica notes that the smaller iPad Pro has a great screen that offers a wide color gamut:

When I reviewed the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I said that I was having trouble envisioning the type of user who would choose it over a “real” computer like a MacBook Air or Pro. I still feel the same way today. The full-size Pro is large enough and expensive enough that you could buy any number of high-end Macs or Windows PCs for the same price, and you wouldn’t have to put up with the potentially frustrating limitations of iOS.

The equation is a little different for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which is both smaller and cheaper. The tablet is still “Pro” insofar as it is very fast and supports the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, but expectations are a little lower. At $599 (plus the cost of accessories), this tablet is competing more against midrange Windows PCs, and it’s substantially cheaper than any MacBook that Apple offers.

For many active but less-demanding users, the strength of the hardware and the relative simplicity of the software could be enough to recommend it, though for the time being there are things that regular old Windows PCs are just better at than iOS is (including running legacy apps and connecting to just about anything that needs a standard USB port). It really depends on how you work and what you need to do, and we can’t answer all of those questions for you.

The good

Great performance. The A9X is still a fast chip, and it’s a big upgrade over the A8X in some important ways.

Characteristically great build quality.

Great screen with a wide color gamut. True Tone isn’t essential, but it’s definitely nice.

Smaller Smart Keyboard provides a decent typing experience, given its compromises, and lets the tablet sit flat on your lap.

Apple Pencil works great, and the smaller iPad is an excellent sketchpad.

Offers some iPad Pro capabilities for substantially less than the 12.9-inch version.

All Apple products should start at 32GB of storage. 128GB and 256GB options are icing on the cake.

Good battery life.

Camera is as good as the current-gen iPhone, a first for the iPad line.

Charges much faster than the big iPad Pro using the included charger.

The bad

Smart Keyboard is more cramped, which makes typing more frustrating.

Aside from Apple Pencil support, it doesn’t offer a ton of features that the now-cheaper iPad Air 2 doesn’t also offer.

iOS is still a limiting operating system in a lot of ways, and using an iPad as your primary computer still requires changing up some of your workflows.

Accessories quickly add to the cost.

Smart Keyboard can only hold the screen open at one angle.

You’ll need to find a place to store the Apple Pencil and its lid while you aren’t using it.

Missing 3D Touch and the faster TouchID sensor.

You’ll need a boatload of expensive accessories and dongles for this thing to truly realize its “Pro” potential.

Lightning port only supports USB 2, not USB 3.

The ugly

Doesn’t match the larger iPad Pro spec-for-spec. 2GB of RAM may prove limiting in the future, even though it’s not a problem now.

More at Ars Technica

Mashable: The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best iPad Apple has ever made

Lance Ulanoff at Mashable was very impressed with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and feels that it is worth the higher price:

The best flagship iPad you can buy is now the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro introduces a much brighter (500 nits, as measured by Apple) screen that’s noticeable to the naked eye, reduced reflectivity that doesn’t kill reflectivity all together, a wider color gamut and True Tone.

The processor is Apple’s top-of-the-line A9X. For comparison, the iPad Air 2 still runs the A8X chip. Benchmark numbers are just as good as the ones I saw on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, despite the fact that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has half as much RAM (2GB versus 4 GB on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro).

The tablet also starts with twice as much storage space as the base model iPad Air (32GB instead of 16GB). And, of course, there’s the 12-megapixel iSight camera, which not only shoots sharper images and 64-megapixel panoramas, but also records videos in 4K resolution.

Did Apple just raise the price of the best iPad? Yes, it did. Is it worth it? When you consider the components and storage in the $599, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, absolutely.

I don’t know if this new Pro model will revitalize the iPad market, but with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple has certainly given it its best effort. I know I will find it hard to switch back to using an iPad Air 2.

More at Mashable

The Independent: All the power of Apple’s top tablet, but smaller and more affordable

David Phelan at The Independent also considers it to be the best iPad yet:

I've been using the new tablet for a week and it’s a pretty unqualified success, offering all the extra functionality of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro but at a lower weight and price point.

The iPad Pro 9.7 inch brings the latest advances to the world of the tablet. It builds the considerable steps forward from the 12.9-inch version into a model that is more affordable. Mind you, you can still spend more if you wish by opting for the 256GB storage capacity now available in both 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch models, starting from £739 on this smaller screen size.

The Pencil and Smart Keyboard – this smaller keyboard costs £129 –are essential add-ons that work perfectly and add real extra capability.

But the real reason this is the best iPad yet built is because it combines a stunning display, stonking audio and relentless processing power into a tablet that’s supremely portable.

More at The Independent

iMore: Smaller on the outside!

Rene Ritchie at iMore notes that the smaller iPad Pro can be a terrific mobile productivity machine:

After kicking off the modern tablet revolution, showing the world technology alone was not enough, and then becoming light as Air, the 9.7-inch iPad is once again being reinvented — this time by going Pro.

When the 12.9-inch model felt like it was filling a really important niche and growing Apple’s addressable market, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro feels like it’s bringing everything great about that device — the power, the connectability, the Pencil, the speakers and, most importantly, the attitude.

This can still be your everyday iPad, and better so than ever, but it can also be your ultra-mobile productivity machine, with little in the way of compromises. Sure, you lose some display and keyboard real estate, but you gain portability and an excellent camera system.

For people who’ve had a 9.7-inch iPad for a while but haven’t seen a need to upgrade, and for those with aging Windows system looking for a modern alternative, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will be compelling.

If you need OS X, you’ll still need a Mac. If you want the bigger screen, the 12.9-inch iPad remains for you. If you want all the power of a Pro in the original, super-portable format, though, get the new 9.7-inch.

More at iMore

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Get the best of CIO ... delivered. Sign up for our FREE email newsletters!