Australian Review: iPad Pro 9.7-inch (2016) - Make iPad great again
On paper, the 9.7-inch is iPad Pro is more of the same. It's another yearly refresh that adds faster hardware and a few new features. While these features might not really seem like major additions, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro plays host to a number of small-but-meaningful changes that can improve the tablet experience for most users, no matter what the use-case.
From a design perspective, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro isn't really that different from the iPad Air or the iPad Air 2. In fact, stereo speakers and a slight camera bump are all that make the iPad Pro look like an iPad Pro, unless you're gazing at the rose gold model, that is. But as soon as you switch it on, you'll start to see changes.
The most significant of these is the True Tone display. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is able adjust the colour temperature and intensity of the display to match the lightning of the environment you're using it in. While might sound minor, it makes the iPad Pro much easier to use for extended periods of time without any noticeable eye strain.
When combined with iOS' newish night mode, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro becomes perfect for reading e-books. I've powered through novels quickly and comfortably, almost as if they're paper. Turning off True Tone makes the iPad Pro display look unnaturally blue, which is a bit jarring, especially given that's what we've been looking at for years. Fingers crossed Apple adds True Tone to the next iPhone.
Stereo speakers are another nice addition that we first saw in the larger iPad Pro. The iPad Pro sounds far better than you'd expect from a tablet, and goes reasonably loud. At the very least, it will save you from reaching for headphones whenever you fire up Netflix or Stan.
And of course, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the beneficiary of a power bump that results in a very smooth user experience. We're almost at the point where the iPad is starting to feel like a magic piece of glass. With the exception of opening up more demanding applications that need time to load, I never found myself waiting while using the iPad Pro.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is also compatible with the Apple Pencil and has a "Smart Keyboard" cover designed to go with its smaller screen. While the Apple Pencil is a joy to use (even as someone with abysmal handwriting), I'm really not a fan of the Smart Keyboard. Travel is non-existent, which for me, makes typing a chore. It's just too far removed from the MacBook keyboards that initially sold me on Apple's hardware. At the same time, the Smart Keyboard is much less of a must-have when it comes to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. While the 12.9-inch iPad Pro wants to be a laptop killer, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro doesn't explicitly feel like it's trying to replace your laptop. It's much easier to see it as a companion device.
I had mixed feelings about the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is much easier to recommend. Given the more conventional form-factor, it's not a device that necessitates replacing your laptop. Sure, you can use it to replace a laptop (I personally wouldn't), but you can also use it to complement one. And most importantly, you can comfortably throw it in your bag while carrying a laptop, which you can't really do as easily with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is an iPad that's worth upgrading to. Maybe not if you have an iPad Air or Air 2, but if you're on anything older and you're contemplating the jump up, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is one hell of an iPad. It might not blow your mind, but there's so many small improvements that make it a worthwhile buy for almost anyone looking to upgrade.
Cybershack Score -
|True Tone display is fantastic||More expensive than ever|
|Apple Pencil||Camera bump|
|Lightning fast performance||Smart Keyboard is underwhelming|