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Hands-on with the massive iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is nothing if not enormous.

Apple’s biggest tablet ever, which features a 12.9-inch 2732 x 2048 pixel display with a density of 264 ppi — not surprisingly, the same as the iPad Air 2 — needs to be beheld, and held, to comprehend its enormity.

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While the tablet is only a hair about a pound and a half, which turns out to be the same weight as the original iPad released back in 2011, its 6.9mm body is easily held in one hand, as its mass is evenly distributed throughout the aluminum frame.

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But forget using it in one hand: this tablet is meant for tabletop use, attached to Apple’s new $169 USD Smart Keyboard case, or laid flat as one would array a drafting table, for use with the new $99 Pencil, a powered pressure-sensitive stylus that charges by plugging into the tablet’s Lightning port.

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Like any blank canvas, even Apple isn’t entirely sure what the iPad Pro is great at. Its vertical resolution, 2048, is the same as the iPad Air’s horizontal equivalent, allowing two apps to live on the screen side by side using Apple’s new Split View feature in iOS 9. The company showed off an array of multitasking-optimized apps, which we looked at in our iOS 9 preview, but right we’re still waiting for third-party developers to show what they can do.

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Regular iPad apps scale up to the screen’s resolution without trouble, but Apple promises that those developed to take advantage of the larger real estate will truly benefit. Apple showed off a number of examples during the keynote, including a cameo from Microsoft, which showed off Word, PowerPoint and Excel optimized for the display. Productivity, gaming and editing — experiences that were heretofore dismissed by notebook defenders as being too difficult to perform on a tablet.

While those concerns have not been entirely allayed on the iPad Pro — even Apple acknowledges there are things a laptop still do better — the ability to use two apps side by side, coupled with the new Smart Keyboard, makes it easy to see the combination used in offices, schools and coffee shops alike.

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Perhaps more interesting for fans of sketching, painting and note-taking is the new Apple Pencil, a take on the capacitive stylus popularized by FiftyThree (which released a product of the same name) optimized for the custom touch controller in the new iPad’s screen.

The iPad Pro runs the company’s new A9X chip and 2GB of RAM, which should be more than powerful enough to fill all of those pixels. The A9X is around 1.8x faster than the A8X in terms of CPU power, according to Apple, with the company showing off a number of high-powered desktop class games to prove the chip’s graphical prowess as well.

We don’t have Canadian pricing for the tablet at the moment, but the iPad Pro is coming to the U.S. in November starting at $799 USD for the 32GB WiFi version, rising to $949 for the 128GB model. There will also be a 128GB WiFi+LTE version costing $1079 USD.

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