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Up close and personal with Apple’s new iPad Pro

September 10, 2015, 12:26 AM UTC
Apple's iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard.
Photo by Jason Cipriani

On Wednesday Apple (AAPL) unveiled its newest lineup: a revamped Apple TV, bigger iPad Pro, and new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

Shortly after Tim Cook ended the live portion of the event — which featured a surprise performance by rock band One Republic — the company opened up its demo area to journalists, so those in attendance could test out its new gadgets.

The first product I managed to try out was the same device Apple opened the event with: the iPad Pro. As I scrutinized the device I couldn’t help but chuckle over the device’s 12.9-inch screen. My initial thought was that Apple was playing some sort of joke on critics, since at first glance the iPad looks like a prop from the Carrot Top show.

The laughing soon stopped after I learned more about the large tablet. An Apple representative walked guests through its new setup by launching two apps found in the Microsoft Office app (which is now optimized for a bigger screen) to demonstrate iOS 9’s new multi-tasking features. The representative was able use both Word and Excel at the same time without any apparent hiccups or performance issues. Clearly, this is a tablet meant to target enterprise users.

The same multi-tasking feature will also be included in the iPad Air 2 and made available for older iPads, although the latter will have limited functionality. It’s obvious that the iOS 9’s split-screen mode was made with a larger display in mind; the fact the iPad Air 2 is capable of the same feature is simply just a bonus.

Weighing in at 1.57 pounds, the iPad Pro is roughly a half-pound lighter than the Macbook and only slightly heavier than the iPad Air 2. Although, due to its size the iPad Pro didn’t feel heavy at all.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 for a 32-gigabyte model, with accessories such as the Apple Pencil (which the company describes a “precision input device”) costing $99 and $169 Smart Keyboard (which doubles as a stand and cover) purchased separately. Meanwhile, the device’s 128GB version will retail for $949. Apple didn’t provide an exact release date for both devices, only stating that the company’s tablet would be made available in November.

While test-driving the iPad Smart Keyboard, I found the keys to be responsive and easy for my fingers to find. I wasn’t forced to adjust to the new keyboard, and could easily type a few lines of random text.

Meanwhile, the same butterfly mechanism the company first introduced in its March MacBook will also be included in the Smart Keyboard. This feature allows the keys to move very little when pressed, without forfeiting reliability and responsiveness.

The Apple Pencil looks and feels just like a mechanical pencil, if not slightly bigger in length. The stylus is light and easily fits right into the natural curve of your hand. Writing or drawing with it was smooth and responsive, with almost no noticeable lag between when the stylus is applied to the tablet and when digital ink is displayed on screen. Additionally, the device features a lightning connector, so that users can charge the device when it’s not in use.

At the end of the day, I’m still a little puzzled over the fact that both the iPad Pro and smaller iPad run the same version of iOS. The iPad Pro’s familiar app icon grid feels like a lot of wasted space; there has to be more Apple can do with it. Once you’ve opened selected apps, however, every pixel on the screen is used up.

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