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Apple Inc. iPad Pro 9.7-Inch First Impressions

By Ashraf Eassa - Apr 2, 2016 at 9:30AM

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Apple's latest iPad is great, but can it save the iPad business?

Image source: Apple.

As I said in a previous article, I planned to place an order for Apple's (AAPL 0.17%) latest iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as soon as they were available on the iDevice maker's online store. Sure enough, I did just that and several hours ago my iPad Pro arrived in the mail.

Although I plan to follow this column up with a more detailed review once I've spent some more time with the device, there are several thoughts that I would like to get out there following my first several hours using the device.

Without further ado, let's get to it.

New display is awesome; True Tone is incredible
One of the big problems that I've had with many iDevices is that they are simply calibrated out of the factory to be "too blue." When Apple's new True Tone feature (which adjusts the color temperature of the display to match current ambient lighting conditions) is disabled, the display is -- as per usual for Apple's iDevices -- too blue.

However, when the True Tone feature is enabled, the white balance of the display looks far more accurate and pleasing. Additionally, the display appears to have a higher contrast ratio than my older iPad Air 2 and looks about on par with the display on my iPhone 6s.

Finally, as somebody who is a fan of the "AMOLED Photo" display mode on the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy S7/S7 Edge series of phones (which enlarges the color gamut to Adobe RGB, a much wider color space than sRGB), I enjoy the richer color saturation of the iPad Pro 9.7-inch display. Coverage of the wider DCI P3 color gamut in this new iPad makes colors really "pop" compared to those on my older iPad or even on my iPhone 6s.

Excellent sound
Another one of the big features of the iPad Pro lineup is the use of a quad speaker setup. Sound on this new iPad is quite loud and "full" compared to that on my older iPad Air 2. When playing games, listening to music, and playing video clips/TV shows, the new speaker system is a big step up from the one found in the Air 2.

Crazy speed
The iPad Air 2 was already quite fast -- arguably the fastest non-Windows tablet out there aside from Apple's larger iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro packs in a performance-reduced version of the A9X processor inside of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it's still appreciably quicker than the iPad Air 2.

Web pages load a bit quicker, intense 3D games like Dead Trigger 2 appear to run more smoothly, and scrolling also seems smoother (the new content that's being pushed onto the display seems to render quicker).

This is an incredibly quick tablet; I suspect that in terms of performance the device will age quite well (which is good for the consumer, but obviously not-so-great for Apple which likely wants to find ways to shorten iPad upgrade cycles, not lengthen them).

Is it worth the money? Can it save the iPad business?
I don't think very many people upgrade their iPads every year or even every two years; unless you're just a big fan of having the latest iPads, I would say that sticking to a cycle of three to four years seems sensible.

For users of the iPad Air 2, there are clear benefits to the new Pro but probably not enough to justify the $599-plus price tag for most people. However, for all users of older iPads – say, iPad 2 through 4 -- the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is probably a worthwhile upgrade.

The only fly in the proverbial ointment is that a good portion of older iPad users probably have newer, larger iPhones. Although a 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch display isn't anywhere close to as large as the 9.7-inch display on the new iPad Pro, the larger phones will be "good enough" for most use cases.

Although I really like the new iPad Pro so far, I'm not convinced it'll be enough to put iPad back on a growth track. 

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