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Apple's Newest iPad Professionals on: iPad X We Expected



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Sarah Tew / CNET

I could not tell if I watched the 12.9-inch iPad Pro or 11-inch one. It's a testament to how Apple has shrunk down the Pro series, and seems to have delivered on a more portable high-end iPad this year.

New iPad Pros announced in Apple's October event in New York are quite big changes if you want to maximize the display in a metal frame. Both new versions fit larger screens in smaller, thinner bodies. Face ID has been added almost invisibly, built into the thinner bezel via an in depth TrueDepth camera, just like iPhone X has. But there is no notch, which makes it seem much more subtle.

Nor does it mean a home button. It's more like a big magic window now. But with a monitor and an A12X processor inside that promises so much, it seems that iPad is about to release even more inputs and accessories. Apple has delivered on some, and not on others.

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Lighter, More Screen and Face ID Hiding

I kept both new iPad Pro sizes for a little while in Apple's demo room, and sometimes it's hard to tell each other. The 12.9-inch version is easier, and finally a handy feel, provided you're okay holding a sheet of metal and glass in one hand. I had a call to coddle these tablets more than ever. The bit around the edge of both helps to provide a handheld zone, but I really wanted these iPads in protective cases.

It appears that the 12.9-inch version is the most impressive change this time. The new 12.9-inch version has a smaller footprint than last year's model, while the 11-inch Pro fits a larger screen in a size similar to last year 10.5-inch Pro .

iPad Pro's screens now have slightly curved corners like the iPhone X and Apple Watch, but it has an LCD display. Apple has called "Liquid Retina" that should be similar or better to the iPhone XR screen. Screen resolutions this time are 2,388×1,668 for 11-inch and 2,732×2,048 for 12.9-inch, both 264ppi (entry-level iPad has a 9.7-inch 2.048×1.536 screen, compared to, with the same pixel density).

To me is less better. The difference between iPads feels much more subtle, but resembles bump-up between iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max . 12.9-inch version costs an additional $ 200 per storage configuration.

USB-C, with some warnings

USB-C replaces Lightning on the new iPad Pro, which sounds exciting, but it's brand new. Read our breakdown . does not necessarily mean what you think it does. The new Pros will support USB accessories and export video to monitors, but last year's Pros could also do it with dongles. More interestingly, iPad Pro can use its USB-C port to reverse charge other USB C devices, or an iPhone via a USB C to Lyn cable. It may also mean that buying USB-C charger cables and adapters for the Pro device will be much easier (and less expensive).

Apple has already said that the USB-C port does not support external storage. However, app developers can design specific USB-C accessories that do certain things. There is no need to connect via Lightning, which opens new opportunities. (Apple supports SD card readers over USB-C, but only to transfer photos and videos to iPad.)

It also brings a few complications. There is no headphone jack on the new pros, and there is also no lightning port, so Apple's own Lightning EarPods packed with current iPhones do not work. And that also means that the existing Apple pencil does not work. Instead, it's a new pencil.

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The pencil now charges against the side of iPad (and has a losing page that performs actions).


Sarah Tew / CNET

Pencil: Now Magnetic, Wireless Charger, With Double-Sided Pages

Apple's Improved Pencil Pen now inductively charges a magnetic stripe on the side of iPad: clicks it on and charges. The pencil is still round, but the flat side also keeps rolling away on a table. The pencil's latency and pressure sensitivity are the same as last year (the new Pros also have similar ProMotion-faster update displays as last year, up to 120Hz).

There is also a new double-tap check that can do specific things in specific apps. Sketch apps and Apple's Notes app uses it to switch between the last brush and eraser. Other apps may use it in other ways. However, the double-click action seems to be limited to a single action at a time, almost like how Apple's wireless AirPod dual-push features work.

These changes are welcome. But I do not want Apple to ask us to buy a brand new pencil.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

A new keyboard folio case

Apple has its own expandable keyboard housing that seems like shades of what Logitech has made for previous iPads. The case is powered by Apple's new smart touch on Pro models, unfolding into a more lap-friendly base where iPad docks into the keyboard like a small laptop. It looks like a nice enough case, but I have not checked out or spent enough time writing on it. But it's missing what I wanted most: a trackpad like Google Pixel Slate and Microsoft Surface keyboards. And it's also expensive, at $ 179 for the 11-inch version or $ 199 for the 12.9-inch version.

Fancy, and $$$

iPad Pro seems like a perfect vision of where Apple touchscreen computers go, but these tablets are expensive this year. Starting at $ 799 or $ 999 for 64GB of storage means you want the next level at least, plus $ 129 pencil and some kind of keyboard case (Apple or otherwise). Expect to pay well over $ 1000. At these prices, I wonder, would you have been better with an older iPad model and a laptop instead? Last year, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro began at $ 649 for the same storage.

But if you dreamed of an even better art tool at a still super high price, maybe this was the iPad you were waiting for. Even more than bent hardware, these iPads will only be as good as the new apps that make the most of them.

Of course, we will have a complete review of CNET at some point. These are just early thoughts in a demo room.

Follow CNET's live blog for real-time coverage of the Brooklyn iPad event.

The New iPad Pro: Everything We Know So Far


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