iPad Pro 9.7 (2016) review

Apple's best tablet all grown up again

iPad Pro 9.7 review
iPad Pro 9.7 review

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This is where the iPad Pro 9.7 earns its "pro" label, even though it's smaller in stature and the processor and RAM inside are slightly different than that of the original iPad Pro 12.9.

At the heart of the iPad Pro 9.7's specs is Apple's A9X System-on-a-Chip, which includes the the embedded M9 motion co-processor and a 12-core PowerVR Series 7 graphics chip. It sits right next to 2GB of RAM.

iPad Pro 9.7 review

Not quite a laptop replacement for the New MacBook

All of that means this tablet can pretend to be a computer, handling opening as many apps as you want, scrolling through menus without hiccups, summoning Siri at a moment's notice and watching video while multitasking in Mail and Twitter. I experienced no slowdown whatsoever.

Backing that up are a series of GeekBench 3 scores that average out to 5,227. That's slightly inferior to the iPad Pro 12.9 (2015), at least on paper, because it scored an average of 5,472 in the same tests. It shares the same Apple A9X chip, so what's the difference?

Apple's clock speed for the 9.7-inch model is 2.16 GHz and it has 2GB of RAM. The larger 12.9 tablet can run at 2.26 GHz with 4GB of RAM. But they're marginally different speeds for different tablet sizes (and more pixels), so I didn't notice a change between the two and you won't either.

iPad Pro 9.7 review

The 256GB version of the iPad Pro 9.7

While the iPad Air 2 is by no means a slow tablet, it scored an inferior 4506 and I did notice apps and menus loading more quickly on the new Pro.

The more important thing to pay attention to is the internal storage configurations. The iPad Pro 9.7, like its bigger counterpart from 2015, comes in 32GB, 128GB and now 256GB. There's no 16GB option any more, like on the iPad Air 2. That's for good reason - everyone was running out of space and couldn't upgrade to iOS 9.

Of course, there are now 1TB tablets like the iPad Pro 11 if you need even more space.

What's frustrating is the 32GB iPad Pro 9.7 price remains the same as the iPad Air 2 32GB launch price. That sets the entry-level fee for the new iPad much higher for consumers shopping for the best tablet. $599 is harder to justify, no matter the upgrade compared to the $499 price point the iPad Air 2 16GB option was offered at.

The excuse of "Well, it's technically under $500" is no longer a small lie if you still think that while waving your phone around to trigger Apple Pay.

Matt Swider