Review: 9.7-inch iPad Pro

I love my iPads and I use them all the time for work, and while I’m lounging around, but still want to stay connected. There is no doubt that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is very powerful, but there are some things, for me, that made this a standout release.

Before I talk about the new model, let’s take a look at the older iPad Pro for just a minute. The larger 12.9‑inch iPad Pro is a magnificent device. However, I found after using it for a while, that device required me to make a decision to use it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was still a decision I made to pick that up and start using it.

For the most part, I would use the larger iPad Pro on a table top or other flat surface. Due to its size, it really wasn’t a device I would use on my lap or walking around with.

Having said that, every artist I know loves the 12.9‑inch iPad Pro and they happily make that decision every single day. It’s all in the way you use it.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a bit different for me. It’s the same size as the previous iPad, so it has a familiarity that is very comfortable. This is a device I instinctively reach for at the end of the day when I put my computer down. It’s the perfect size, and with the updated innards, it’s a powerhouse of a machine.

I’m not one of those people that wants an iPad to replace my Mac, and I don’t force myself to use an iPad to see if it can replace any of my other devices. For me, the iPad plays a very important role in my workflow as it is.

Sometimes, the iPad does replace my Mac for certain tasks, but that’s because it’s powerful enough to do it, not because it’s forced. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has taken that a step further in the week that I’ve been using it, mostly because of its standout feature: True Tone.

Here’s how Apple describes True Tone:

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro features advanced display technologies, including a True Tone display, which uses new four-channel sensors to dynamically adjust the white balance of the display to match the light around you for a more natural and accurate, paper-white viewing experience.

Add to that, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s new anti-reflective display, which Apple describes:

The advanced Retina display is 25 percent brighter and 40 percent less reflective than iPad Air 2, making content even easier to see indoors and out.

Sounds great, right?

One of the biggest knocks on the iPad as a product is how difficult it is to read outdoors. I’m always moving around to create a shadow on the screen so I can see the words. It’s just how it is.

I’ll admit, I listened to Apple talk about True Tone with some skepticism. Having the power and clarity of a Retina Display and be able to see it outdoors seemed a bit much to expect.

After I unpacked my iPad and set it up, I took it outside, put in direct sunlight and sat down. To my utter amazement, I could see the screen perfectly. True Tone is like magic.

At one point the screen went to sleep—when I turned it back on, there was a couple of seconds when you could see True Tone adjusting the display for the ambient light around me, which in this case was direct sunlight. I had to look really quick to see it, but it was there.

It doesn’t matter where you are, the True Tone sensors are always monitoring your surroundings to give you optimal viewing. If you take it inside, it monitors the lighting in your house and adjusts the display for those conditions too.

As a test, I held my iPhone 6s Plus next to the iPad Pro and I had difficulty reading the iPhone screen. That’s not new, it’s just the way things are with devices in direct sunlight—I expect to shimmy around until I have a shadow on the screen so I can see it.

True Tone is an important feature for me because of the way I use my iPad. It’s the device I take to the coffee shop to do some writing. I use it outside to browse the Web and get caught up on email. I take it on trips and use it in airports, hotel rooms, and on the plane.

I use my iPad everywhere and that is exactly why True Tone is going to make such a big difference for me. That’s also why I find myself using this iPad a bit more than its predecessors.

It’s not that True Tone just adjusts the display, it actually makes it more comfortable on your eyes. That is incredibly important for someone like me that reads all day long. I don’t want to be fatigued just trying to read.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also uses the same P3 wide color gamut as the iMac with Retina 5K display. Think about that. The images on the iPad are stunning.

If there is one thing I could change, it would be the keyboard on the smart cover. I’m sure there is a technical reason why the keys are on the smaller side, but I’m used to 12-inch MacBook keyboard, which has the wider keys. It’s a small complaint, but I’d love the keys to be more like the MacBook.

Take True Tone, the anti-reflective display and add in the performance with the 64-bit A9X chip, Night Shift, a four-speaker audio system, 4K video, 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, faster wireless technologies, and support for the Apple Pencil, among other features, and you have a clear winner of a device.

I’ve been using the 9.7 iPad Pro more than any iPad before it. Apple not only made the iPad more powerful, it made it more useable, and that’s what’s important to me.



  • eilfurz

    can you turn off true tone? it should give you a more accurate viewing experience in most environments, but i wouldn’t neccessarily trust it for judging images. up until now, an ipad with it’s more or less calibrated ips-lcd has been a pretty constant way of looking at images and videos and showing them to clients. recently, someone sent me a photo and asked if it had a yellow cast – naturally i had to switch off “night shift” to judge that.

    • Yes, you can turn it off.

    • I can see why night shift would hurt you, but I’m surprised that true tone does. Isn’t it the same as printing out the image and looking at it? Isn’t that more accurate than a display?

  • Richard Glover

    A question for someone that possesses the 9.7″ iPad Pro: does the camera bulge on the back make it a “tippy top” when you lay it on a flat surface? When using it as one might a 12.9″ one (as a drawing tablet) does the protrusion interfere with the function?

    • I’ve seen multiple reviews say that it didn’t wobble and not a single review saying it did. It’s still ugly though.

      • a difference that makes no difference is no difference.

  • VRSmiffSteen

    Jim…. Thanks millions. I can’t wait to get mine on Thursday…..

    Is the setup basically the same as before ?? Just restore from an iTunes backup and you’re done ???

  • dr.am

    iMac has 10-bit panel iPad Pro has 8-bit panel. So this whole Wide color in iPad is simulated at most.

    sRGB is 8 bit color standard. DCI-P3 is higher but not specified anywhere.

    Most of Apple’s laptop have been 6-bit variety thrughout history.

    So 10-bit 1 billion color is a wet dream.