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if you are using a tablet that is more than three years old, it's time to upgrade to the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. It's great for content consumption and playing games even if it's expensive. The Smart Keyboard isn't for everyonr and feels inconvinient. Overall the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is a great tablet with good battery life, loud speakers and a stunning display.
The iPad has been the go to tablet for anyone that wants to consume content on the go and for that one purpose, the tablet performs very well. Over the course of its existence, the iPad has served a variety of niche uses. It has become a great entertainment and gaming device, and one of the ideal devices if you are looking for a home automation control center. Suffice to say, the tablet is here to stay, despite dropping sales.
Today we have with us the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. The tablet is powered by the same internals as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with some new display tech and a better rear facing camera. Should you be interested in purchasing it? Let's find out.
Build and design
I have been a 3rd gen iPad user for a long time and keeping these two devices side by side, it is clear how far Apple's engineers have come. The new device is light and easily potable. Comparing it to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the 9.7-inch version isn’t as unwieldy. It is available in a bunch of colours including silver, space grey, gold and the infamous pink AKA Rose Gold. The review unit we received was the gold one and we are happy to say that it is quite a good looking device. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the only iPad available in Rose Gold right now.
It looks identical to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the obvious difference weight and screen size. It has the same four speakers that the 12.9-inch sibling had and is 0.8mm slimmer.
Put simply, the iPad Pro 9.7 inch is one of the best built tablets available in the market. It's light, comfortable to hold for long hours, and the 9.7-inch form factor, at least for me, is the perfect size for a tablet.
Just like its larger sibling, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has the Smart Keyboard accessory (sold separately). It’s the exact same one in terms of design and connectivity as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but smaller. This is to fit the 9.7-inch design and the keys are overall smaller and feel slightly cramped. I'm used to a full sized laptop keyboard though, and it takes some time to adjust to the Smart Keyboard. If you've been typing on mini and portable Bluetooth keyboards, you may find it easier to adjust.
The Smart Keyboard is essentially a keyboard panel attached to the iPad’s Smart Cover. It takes time to get used to positioning it, or attaching it. One good thing about the keyboard is that it doesn’t have a battery, and doesn’t need to be charged. It draws battery from the tablet, and there is no setup process required. The Smart Keyboard also snaps on to the tablet magnetically, and it's not the best attachment . Unlike some other tablet-laptop hybrids, which have an adjustable hinge, there is only one position at which you can rest the iPad Pro on the Smart Keyboard, and this is a big disadvantage.
The display of the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is really gorgeous with great viewing angles and is a treat under direct sunlight too. What’s new here is something called True Tone. This automatically adapts the iPad's display, based on Ambient lighting conditions to make colours appear consistent in different environments. Personally, I think it doesn't make a big difference. It will however make a difference to you if you are finicky about colour reproduction. Switching True Tone on and off in different lighting conditions, you will see the colour temperature shift from blue to a slight yellow. Personally, I left it on and forgot about it.
Night Shift is here too (a feature available on the iPhone too) and with this you can manually control the temperature of the display based on how warm you like it. Again, it is great for those finicky about the colour temperature on the device, but the average joe won't be bothered by it.
The 9.7-inch display is a treat to watch videos on and play games. The colour reproduction is great and the brightness of the tablet is superb. The only place where the tablet feels compact (not cramped) is with multitasking. Split screen multitasking is here as it was on the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro 12.9-inch and it works well. There is enough space to multitask on the 9.7-inch display and I think the form factor is perfect for tablet multitasking, unless you have specific needs for a bigger display.
The iPad Pro 9.7-inch has 2GB RAM whereas the iPad Pro 12.9-inch has 4GB RAM. On paper this should make a world of difference, but in the real world usage, I couldn’t tell any difference between the two. Apps open fast, multitasking is a breeze and the tablet is a dream to consume content on and play games. Despite having half the RAM, the performance is at par with the 12.9-inch sibling. You can check out the performance of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch in our review. For the performance of the Pencil, you can read the 12.9-inch iPad pro review.
iPad Pro 9.7-inch vs Surface Pro 4
We’ve been asked this question a lot and here is the answer. The Surface Pro 4 is the way to go if you are looking for a laptop replacement with desktop-grade multitasking. The iPad is the way to go if you are okay with smartphone like multitasking. The best example is that on the iPad if you want to listen to a YouTube music playlist, you will have to have the YouTube app open in split screen multitasking. On the Surface Pro 4, you can have YouTube running on any random browser tab in the background.
Also, another thing to keep in mind is that the Surface Pro 4 has an abysmal battery life when compared to the iPad Pro.
Coming to the battery life of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the tablet ran for a little over 14 hours on the GeekBench battery test. In real world, it's subject to how bright you keep the screen. I have crossed the 10-hour mark while watching Netflix on the iPad Pro, but the brightness was about 40%, which was decent for my viewing experience. It's safe to say that the iPad has great battery life.
In all honesty, I have fallen in love with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Sure, for consuming content and playing a few games the cheaper alternative of the iPad Air 2 seems to be the logical choice, but if you want my opinion, I’d still recommend the iPad Pro 9.7-inch. The display is to die for, especially when consuming high resolution content. The 4 speakers are great when listening to music or watching videos and you really don’t need headphones or external speakers if you are showing the video to a few people in a relatively quiet room. The battery life is great and it’s the ideal upgrade if your current tablet is three years old. I recommend you skip the Smart Keyboard as its function is limited to those that need a keyboard for typing a lot. For the rest of us, the on screen keyboard should do just fine. If you are an iPad 4th gen or earlier, user, it's time you upgrade to this beast. The upgrade is totally worth it. I am still waiting for an Android tablet to impress me to this level. The last time I was impressed by an Android tablet, it was the second generation Nexus 7.