iPad Pro 10.5-inch Hands-on: Closing the Surface gap

ipad pro 10.5-inch

While the various iPad-focused features included in iOS 11 are arguably more exciting than Apple’s latest tablet announcement, I checked out the tech giant’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro during a hands-on session following the company’s WWDC 2017 keynote, and walked away surprisingly impressed with the device.

As you may have guessed, the new iPad doesn’t stray dramatically from the current iPad Pro lineup and features the same overall physical design as the 9.7-inch iPad and the still massive 12.9-inch iPad Pro, though with considerably thinner bezels.

More screen real estate, but not much larger

10.5-inch iPad Pro

Apple has managed to pack a larger display in a device that looks and feels only marginally bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It’s worth noting that the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro also weighs the same as the the 9.7-inch iteration, according to an Apple representative I spoke to at the event. This results in a device that feels ‘normal’ sized and very manageable; the new 10.5-inch Pro doesn’t seem too small like the 9.7-inch iPad, but it also doesn’t seem overly large like the 12.7-inch iteration.

I tested out the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro during a demo of ARKit — which I discuss in greater detail here — the company’s new augmented reality development kit. I was also able to try out the smart keyboard designed for the 10.5-inch iPad; it’s much easier to type with when compared to the cramped version for the 9.7-inch iPad Pad because its size more closely resembles that of a full-sized keyboard.

The 10.5-inch iPad features a brighter display, a powerful new 64-bit A10X Fusion Chip and a feature Apple is calling ‘Pro Motion’ that increases the display’s refresh rate, removing the blur that sometimes occurs when swiping rapidly. The company claims this technology also makes the Apple Pencil feel more accurate and natural, but in my brief hands-on time I wasn’t able to discern any substantial difference in sensitivity.

Multitasking actually makes sense now


What’s more interesting about the device, however, are iOS 11’s new multitasking features, making Apple’s mobile operating system feel decidedly more capable and macOS-like. While I’m sure I’ll still feel limited when using the iPad Pro, Apple has made strides towards solving many of the tablet’s most significant issues through much-needed new features.

For example, Apple now allows users to access files and manipulate apps in new ways, which is reminiscent of the simplistic tablet version of Windows 10 prominently featured in Microsoft’s Surface devices, or even the recently announced Windows 10 S.

Multitasking makes more sense now too, with the standard dock being available even when inside apps, allowing users to swipe up from the bottom of the screen at any time to access it — you can then drag and drop any app to the side of the screen to put it in multitasking mode. Some apps also feature floating sidebars, like iMessage for example, with others snap to the side of the screen.

10.5-inch iPad Pro

While a subtle shift, I feel like multitasking in iOS 10 never really clicked for me and didn’t become a feature I instinctively used frequently. Now, however, I think it’s possible I’ll utilize multitasking more frequently when using Apple’s tablet line, though more hands-on time with the feature is definitely necessary.

The ability to drag and drop two apps, opening them side-by-side, is also very useful. The demonstration showed off involved opening Mail and Safari and dragging web content directly into an email draft, a task that was a chore to perform before.

The new Files app however, which I briefly mentioned earlier, is perhaps the most interesting iOS 11 feature because it gives users access to the iPad’s file system for the first time, though I unfortunately wasn’t able to test it out myself. Multi-touch can even be used to move multiple files from one folder to another.

The hybrid productivity battle continues

ipad pro multitasking

With the 10.5-inch iPad Pro coupled with iOS 11, Apple has taken steps towards solving many of the iPad and particularly the iPad Pro’s productivity related issues. While those looking to replace their laptop with an iPad Pro will still likely run into frustrating issues related to the still mobile-focused operating system’s limitations, thanks to iOS 11’s new features, these problems are likely to occur less frequently.

I still, however, am not sure if I could really use a Pro on a daily basis for work or basic productivity. This is the type of question that can only be answered after spending time testing out iOS 11 for a longer period of time.

On the other hand, Apple is successfully moving towards closing the gap between the Pro and Microsoft’s popular Surface line of laptop/tablet hybrid devices.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro model starts at $869 CAD for a model with 64GB of memory, $999 for 256GB or $1,259 for 512GB. For cellular versions of the smaller model, the price is $1039 for 64GB, $1,169 for 256GB or $1,429 for 512GB. All versions of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro are available to order now from Apple Canada’s website and ship within an estimated four business days.


  • Steve W

    Those prices are crazy!

    • Brad Fortin

      The A10X chip is about 4x faster than a quad-core i7 when it comes to things like photo editing, so you’re getting a pretty powerful computer for the price.

  • Dimitri

    ” , $1,169 for 256GB or $1,429 for 512GB.” you are kidding me right? Even for cellular this is crazy and MS staff should recognize this but doesn’t. I paid $480+ taxes from Rogers in December for my 128GB iPad Air 2 cellular ( full outright) during a promotion. This is why everyone makes fun of apple. Pricing is ridiculous but u have those that are dumb enough to pay for it so they can show off they have the new thing.. It’s not owning a item to use it anymore. It’s to show off that you got the new toy. Then weeks later it will be sitting collecting dust.

  • Omar

    iOS will never be able to compete with full Windows 10 on the Surface lineup. Having to compare it to tablet mode or Windows S is trying desperately to “close the gap”.

    • jellmoo

      Why not? No really, I see this argument a ton, but I never see the rationale behind it. For most users, what is it that they would be lacking with an iPad Pro over a Surface Pro?

    • Omar

      Applications. Flexibility. There’s a reason why people aren’t throwing away their desktops or laptops to replace them with these oversized iPhones.

    • jellmoo

      What does that mean though? Applications and flexibility don’t describe what a Surface Pro can do that a most users would need over an iPad Pro.

      And honestly? A lot of people have done just that.

    • Brad Fortin

      For a lot of people it’s already better, especially for those who don’t depend on legacy software, so your statement of “never” being able to compete doesn’t hold water.

    • Omar

      Anecdotal fallacy aside, yes it still does hold water.

    • Brad Fortin

      The iPad already competes with Windows 10. Many people are ditching their old PCs in favour of iPads. Your “never” is actually “now”.

    • demigod79

      That’s what Tim and Phil wants people to do, but it’s just not happening. iPad sales continue to decline and there is no indication that it will be making a comeback anytime soon. IMO, Apple needs to stop the “iPad can replace a PC” approach because it’s simply not working.

    • Brad Fortin

      Not only is it what’s happening but it’s been happening for years. Millions of people already use their iPad as their primary, and often only, computer. Not only that but thousands of businesses have integrated iPads into their workflow, with some even going iPad-only.

      Sales of smaller iPads are being cannibalized by sales of large iPhones, but sales of larger iPads have rebounded recently. There’s an Above Avalon article titled “Apple Is Pushing iPad Like Never Before” that goes into much more detail.

      Apple is right to keep up its “iPad can replace a PC” approach because it’s true, and they know it. There’s an AppleInsider article titled “A very false narrative: Microsoft Surface vs Apple iPad, Mac” you might also be interested in reading if you think the iPad can’t compete with a PC like the Surface (spoiler: the iPad is outselling the Surface by a wide margin).

      And if you think it’s impossible to switch to an iOS-only setup I invite you to read Federico Viticci’s article titled “A Computer for Everything: One Year of iPad Pro” on his website and full-time business MacStories. If it piques your interest he’ll likely post a follow-up article later this year or early next year once he’s had a chance to play with iOS 11 and use the new iPad Pros.

    • demigod79

      You sound like an Apple ad. The fact of the matter is that iPad has been sliding for years, and there is every indication that it will continue to slide for the foreseeable future (I’m predicting another 10% – 15% slide YoY for the following quarter).

      I am convinced that as long as Tim and his crew continue to promote the iPad as a PC replacement, iPad sales will continue their downward trajectory.

    • Brad Fortin

      And I’m convinced that once iOS 11 rolls out this fall there’s going to be a spike in iPads replacing PCs. Time will tell which outcome is the correct one.

  • Ricky

    For those who want more, they can pay more. No everybody need the 512GB version with cellular. Wasn’t the last iPad Pro 9,7″ the same price for 32GB? Or there’s alway the 450$ ipad…

  • Croc Ography

    Every time I hear one of these ‘writers’ comparing these two very different machines, I wonder what they are smoking. Comparing the iPad with the Surface is like comparing a horse and buggy to a modern car… iOS is just not up to the task. (not to mention how incredibly overpriced the media consumption device is)

    • jellmoo

      Again, at doing what? What is it that the Surface Pro does that the iPad Pro doesn’t? Does it affect the average consumer? Does it affect it as a productivity device?

    • Ryan

      Full multitasking – programs that actually run in the background. And a trackpad is something that I would never give up if I wanted to replace my laptop/Surface with an iPad. The hinge on the Surface is superior to the keyboard cover on the iPad for different positions. I could go on, but Apple needs to concede that having a separate OS for tablet and desktop doesn’t make sense in 2017.

    • ciderrules

      iOS runs programs in the background. Been doing it for years now.

    • Brad Fortin

      I really don’t understand how people don’t know this. Then again, people think Siri isn’t context-aware. ????

    • jellmoo

      First party apps do multitask, but I’d also argue that for most users the difference between true multitasking and task swapping is not apparent.

      I agree that the mouse input is an excellent point, but this is also conceivably just an example of doing things differently. Pencil input vs mouse input accomplish the same goal, just in a different way.

      I agree with the point that the Surface Pro can do more, no doubt. I’m just not convinced it means all that much to the casual user. I absolutely disagree about the tablet and desktop OS split though. Having an OS that is dedicated to one over the other makes the experience that much better. As improved at touch that Windows 10 is, it still suffers when compared to an OS that is dedicated to it like iOS or Android. The user experience suffers when trying to do too much.

    • Alex

      finally, a comment that is more mature,

      to me, surface is a great product. but its not for me. Its a product for a type or person thats not me. I work and game. I need a dedicated laptop that can handle games, and a device like an ipad thats dedicated for casual use. I like it for netflix, youtube, keeping up with emails, reading news, etc. I dont think a surface will satisfy me atm in those use cases. The ipad is just better with that atm, when in casual use. If i ever need to use a keyboard and mouse, i’ll use my laptop for that. Other than that, my ipad follows me everywhere does a great job.

    • ciderrules

      Surface Pro 4 is garbage as a laptop. Had one, returned it as software is horribly optimized for tablet usage.

    • Croc Ography

      Then we have something in common I bought (not) the iPad Pro and returned it because it fails as a computer.

    • Regardless of your opinion on either device, Apple and Microsoft compare the Surface and the iPad Pro and view them as competing products.

    • Croc Ography

      That is correct information… MS thought that the “Surface” not the “Surface Pro” was the direct competition. The Surface never ran win32 or Win64 apps either. Glad you backed me up on this. It has been forgotten somehow due to all these lame comparisons.

  • TheCuddlyKoala

    Why so much bezel still? Come on.

    • Brad Fortin

      So you have something to grab onto without accidental input.

    • Nil

      when it comes to apple even a bad thing is a good thing, right? let’s make the bezels huuuuge so we can hold it better. also let’s make it thicker too so if we drop it it would cut through the floor. the lousy OS is also no an issue as it has the super retina display. in the end it is an apple product,,,could be also a lemon but as long as it is branded right it’s all good.

    • Brad Fortin

      If you prefer grabbing the screen and getting a bunch of accidental input you’re free to use a tablet without bezels. That is, if you can find one, as most tablet manufacturers agree that it’s good to have a bezel to hold onto while using the device (after all, you won’t using a tablet one-handed like a phone).

    • demigod79

      I agree. A tablet without a bezel would be a nightmare. Just imagine someone trying to take a picture with a bezel-less tablet, LOL.

  • Allyouranusarebelongtous

    It’s odd how many ipad pro reviews I’ve read today really just review iOS 11 with a cursory mention of ipad pro updates. I like this review because it’s one of the few that didn’t say “Finally, the ipad is a replacement for your laptop”. Thankfully this one is based in reality. Though it seems the ipad with ios will be good.

    The problem is, they seem to need ios 11 to sell the ipad pro…when any ipad will do really. Also, am I to believe that once again the smaller ipad pro has the better screen?

    Apple seems to have gone for quantity over innovation. IMHO of course.

    • DonatelloNinjaTurtle

      Makes you wonder if they had the hardware ready but wanted to show it off with iOS 11 and waited until WWDC.

      In terms of the hardware, the 10.5 and 12.9 have near identical specs. The only differences being size (obvious one) and screen resolution. Otherwise same CPU, RAM, etc.

  • Bill___A

    Usually, “closing the gap” refers to two similar devices that do the same thing, one better than the other. The Surface Pro is a Computer running the Windows operating system. The ipad is a tablet running a very restricted operating system which allows certain apps. They complement one another but I don’t do a direct comparison.

    • Brad Fortin

      Usually, “closing the gap” refers to two similar devices that do the same thing

      Curious how you open with that statement but then instead of talking about what the devices do you talk about what the devices are. What they do is pretty similar for the majority of people: They both check and send email, check the weather, flights, and other information, allow things like online banking and social media, content consumption as well as content creation, etc. Both are suitable for the majority of tasks most people would throw at it, they simply accomplish their tasks using different input methods (primarily keyboard & mouse vs primarily touchscreen).

    • demigod79

      You can say the exact same thing about a smartphone, and yet nobody would argue that an iPhone is a PC replacement.

      For me, one of the biggest drawback to the iPad is the lack of expansion ports. A single lightning port leaves very little room for expansion, especially since that port is required to charge the device as well. A laptop or desktop PC with a single port would be virtually unusable, even with wireless accessories. A mobile browser is also still very limited compared to a desktop browser, and I always prefer the latter if given the choice. The ultimate drawback though is the lack of a mouse/pointer. Although touch is useful for most occasions there are times when a precision of a mouse/trackpad/pointer is required. I usually alternate between the touchscreen and the trackpad/mouse on my Surface Pro, depending on which is more convenient, but the iPad does not have that luxury.

      It’s nice to see Apple improve multitasking and implement a file browser, but the lack of a pointer and expansion ports still leaves a massive gap between the iPad and a PC.

    • Brad Fortin

      You can say the exact same thing about a smartphone, and yet nobody would argue that an iPhone is a PC replacement.

      Hundreds of millions of people would, actually, since their smartphone is their only computer.

      It’s nice to see Apple improve multitasking and implement a file browser, but the lack of a pointer and expansion ports still leaves a massive gap between the iPad and a PC.

      For some people, but not for everyone, so it’s wise to avoid blanket statements based on your personal use case.

    • demigod79

      I do not know a single person who uses their smartphone as their sole computer. Not one. Do you have an actual figure from a source or are you just generalizing?

    • Brad Fortin

      Yes, the Pew Research Centre in the US annually publishes their results in an article titled “Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States | Pew Research Center”.

      That’s just one developed country. In many developing countries people cannot afford a computer but can afford an inexpensive smartphone, and for those people their phone is their only computer.

    • demigod79

      I really don’t see how you get “hundreds of millions” from a survey in the US – after all, the US only has three hundred and twenty million people (this would mean a majority of Americans only have a smartphone). I’m going to consider this number a generalization on your part.

    • Brad Fortin

      Are you making the assumption that, of the 1.5 billion smartphones sold per year, most if not all are being sold to PC owners?

  • Brad Fortin


    but it also doesn’t seem overly large like the [12.9-inch] iteration