I think it’s safe to say that in 2018, the tablet market has not shaped up like anyone had expected, not even Apple. Tablets weren’t the next smartphone – and indeed the sales of dedicated tablets are downright soft – and yet at the same time tablets have successfully carved out a meaningful niche for themselves. But more importantly still, the tablet concept is everywhere even if “pure” tablets themselves aren’t. One needs only look at all the various PC 2-in-1s and convertibles to see the influence tablets have made on the traditional laptop market, forcing these many clamshells into becoming something more.

As a consequence of the introduction of modern tablets and their subsequent efforts to secure their own place in the market, we’ve essentially seen the tablet and tablet-alike market bifurcate into two real clusters of tablet designs. On the one hand are the cheap content consumption devices – the iPads, Fire TVs, and myriad of cheap Android tablets. On the other hand is the far more exclusive market for high-end, productivity-oriented tablets; devices that don’t just consume content, but create it as well. This market has been slower to develop, but it’s also important for its own reasons, as it’s the real crossover point between tablets as envisioned by the iPad, and the traditional PC laptop market.

Apple for their part has opted to go after both of these markets, and has done so successfully. The traditional 9.7-inch iPad needs no introduction, and while the iPad Pro is a little less known, the difference isn’t by much. Built upon the shoulders of the original iPad, the iPad Pro family takes things one step further, building towards not just a bigger and better iPad, but by giving the tablet the features that are needed for productivity and content creation, at both a hardware and a software level. The iPad Pro doesn’t try to be a traditional laptop, but it certainly tries to capture a lot of their usefulness, and this is especially the case for the 2018 iPad Pro.

With the introduction of the latest iPad Pro models, Apple’s iPad lineup for 2018 offers arguably the largest design change since the original iPad launched. The new design offers a much higher screen-to-body ratio than ever offered before, mimicking what they’ve done with the iPhone lineup. As a result, Apple has more or less reinvented the iPad Pro design, and offers plenty of new features inside and out.

Apple’s ambitions with the iPad Pro start with their chip design team, which has created the Apple A12X System on a Chip to power the latest iPad Pro. As outlined in our iPhone XS review, the A12 series of SoCs are already well ahead of the ARM competition, and Apple clearly has its sights on the performance levels of x86 CPUs from Intel. A12X features four Apple Vortex CPU cores, double that of the regular A12 in the iPhone, and seven A12 GPU cores which Apple says provides the power of an Xbox One S in a device with a far smaller power budget.

For better or worse, the iPad Pro is attached at the hip with Apple’s mobile operating system iOS, and unsurprisingly the iPad Pro ships with the latest version, iOS 12.1.

Apple’s iPad Pro lineup has also been their test bed for their newest display technology, and the iPad Pro keeps the 120 Hz ProMotion display, which offers variable refresh rate down to 24 Hz, along with P3 display gamut coverage tied in with their color managed software. Apple also keeps their True Tone option to dynamically adjust the white balance of the display to match the lighting conditions of the room it’s in.

Apple iPad Pro Comparison

  iPad Pro 11-Inch
iPad Pro 12.9-Inch
SoC Apple A12X
4x Apple Vortex
4x Apple Tempest

7 core A12 GPU
Display 11-inch
P3 D65, 120Hz
 P3 D65, 120Hz
Dimensions 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm
468 / 468 grams (WiFi / LTE)
280 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm
631 / 633 grams (WiFi / LTE)
RAM 4 GB (up to 512 GB Storage)
6 GB (1 TB model)
NAND 64GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Battery 29.37 Wh 36.71 Wh
Front Camera 7MP, f/2.2, Smart HDR, Wide Color Gamut, Retina Flash
Rear Camera 12MP,  f/1.8, PDAF,
Smart HDR, Wide Color Gamut, True Tone Quad-LED flash
Cellular 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 16)
Intel XMM 7560 Modem
SIM Size NanoSIM
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO, BT 5.0, GPS/GLONASS
Connectivity USB-C
Apple Smart Connector
Launch OS iOS 12.1
Launch Price Wi-Fi:
$799 (64GB)
$949 (256GB)
$1149 (512GB)
$1549 (1TB)

Wi-Fi + LTE:
$949 (64GB)
$1099 (256GB)
$1299 (512GB)
$1699 (1TB)
$999 (64GB)
$1149 (256GB)
$1349 (512GB)
$1749 (1TB)

Wi-Fi + LTE:
$1149 (64GB)
$1299 (256GB)
$1499 (512GB)
$1899 (1TB)

Apple has also taken the opportunity to switch the iPad Pro lineup over from their proprietary Lighting connector to the more ubiquitous USB-C port, making this the first iOS device to offer USB connectivity. Where they give, they also take away though, and the 3.5 mm headset jack has gone the way of the Dodo, and for more or less the same reasons.

For those that want to work on the go, Apple continues its excellent tradition of offering cellular connectivity with the iPad Pro, and those that need a lot of storage will be happy to see models up to 1 TB, which is more important because the iPad offers no way to access external storage to increase this.

What first set the iPad Pro apart from the rest of the iPad lineup was the ability to use the Apple Pencil as well as a first-party keyboard solution. For the 2018 iPad Pro, both of these accessories have gotten refreshes as well.

The iPad Pro for 2018 is a major change from the outgoing models. Let’s dig in and see how it fares.

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  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    16nm did substantially cut its power use, and 16nm was less of a node leap than 7 (iirc it was closer to 22nm, but one of the finfett rebrandings?)

    Xbox One S 35-90
    Xbox One 70-120

  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Yup, that is an impressively quick bit of hardware hiding inside the new iPad. It doesn't speak well for a lot of hardware that soaks up a bunch more power and needs a lot more cooling to accomplish similar task. I'm hoping the A12X will be something of a kick in the proverbial pants for the rest of the chip industry to get off their behinds and deliver better performance at much lower TDP, that is both CPU and GPU companies that are inflating real TDP to comparably absurd levels while chasing incremental and insignificant increases in performance.
  • sing_electric - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    To be fair, the A12 is one of the first 7nm chips to ship. AMD's Ryzen 2700U, in theory, is at least as powerful, but is built on a 12nm process so it consumes more power.

    A year from now, its very likely that AMD will have a mobile Ryzen built on the 7nm same process at the same foundry (TSMC) as Apple, which has the possibility of being more powerful at the same power consumption depending on workload (again, AMD and Apple optimize for different things in their chips, and an.... Apple to oranges comparison is hard to make).

    Within a couple years, we'll see how Intel's new GPU unit does - they've committed to releasing dGPUs but you'd have to think that a side effect would be increased performance of their iGPUs as well. IF they're finally able to start mass-manufacturing on their 10nm (and future) process, they should be competitive as well.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - link

    +1 to this. Very interested in what Intel can do at low TDPs given their experience there. UHD620 is an old architecture now, so you have to wonder what all the intervening development will grant their first real next-gen GPU.

    AMD have been struggling of late but it sounds like, if they coalesce their development around Navi, they should see some serious benefits at low TDPs too.
  • GruenSein - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    I actually considered buying the new iPad Pro but as long as iOS and its and 3rd party apps keep working the way they are working, all that performance is wasted IMHO. For the device to be really productive, a real file browser and full access to files is required. Let me organize my files the way, I want. The share button and weird iCloud browser doesn't cut it. Professional workflows require multiple apps to work on the same files, so, as antiquated as Apple wants to make it feel, an "open with" and "save as"-Dialog is crucial. Same goes for file access and network integration. Why can't I access SMB-shares? Most iOS users I know still send files per eMail because that is still the most convenient way to do it. The 3rd party file browsers can help but it is still hardly possible to use these files in any other apps. Some actually start a streaming server if you want to play media with VLC because you cannot tell the app to simply open the file.
    From my point of view, the hardware is great and way ahead of the competition. But the software is keeping it at a toy level for the time being.
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Well, far from a toy level, which you would know if you used one. But you’re right that some things are just not available, or not up to snuff. Apple was expected to make major changes to iOS this year for the iPad Pro, but held off until next year due to the rwoerking of the OS for efficiency so that older devices would work better, as well as more modularizing the OS and getting rid of some higher level bugs.

    I hope these expected changes to the Desktop next year not only involve the look and function of the Desktop, but also full use of the USB port for mass storage and hierarchical folders.

    Apple seems to be moving in the right direction, but more slowly than I would like.
  • sing_electric - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    At this point, I'll believe it when I see it. Adobe had to get very creative with handling files on iOS to bring real Photoshop to the iPad, and they've got the "benefit" of their own cloud platform that they've foist on all their current customers.

    And lack of pointer support is getting harder to stomach - its annoying for pro-users with a keyboard, and it ALSO really limits the ability of people who use assistive communication devices to use iOS AT ALL since a lot of them work via mouse drivers. You'd think adding decent mouse support would be like, a weekend project for a team of engineers.
  • melgross - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Adobe ran that file at the presentation while it was residing on the iPad. You can’t do that from the cloud. That’s storage, not live functioning in the app. It doesn’t matter how they did it on the iPad. The fact is that they did, and it was very impressive indeed.

    Pointer support isn’t a matter of a team of engineers. It’s a matter of philosophy. Apple, at this time, still doesn’t believe in it. I don’t happen to agree with their stance. With the original 9.7” iPads, sure, but not for the bigger Pro models. So I agree there.

    But even without it, things work dine in most cases. Would I want to write a novel 9n it? No, but I can get away with several pages of writing.

    iOS is praised for its ability with assisted communications. Not as good as the Mac, but better than Android by a long shot.

    I’m happy to see what happens in the developers conference next June. We should have a good idea where their going then. If nothing much happens, I’d be surprised. I don’t expect everything I want, but some of it.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Yeah, mouse support is probably a toggle away in their development process. Anyway, Affinity Photo for iOS is impressive, with both cloud and local storage options. Local photos much be handled through iOS Photos, and traditional file management must be through the files app/cloud service of your choosing. Not as many options as a desktop, but there are at least some options.
  • KPOM - Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - link

    Mouse support is a double-edged sword. It would make some things easier but also make other things harder, particularly if apps “expect” a cursor.

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