10.5-inch iPad Pro Review: Approaching the ‘Surface’

10.5-inch iPad Pro

The Pros

  • Impressive power
  • Build quality remains impressive
  • Full-sized keyboard is great

The Cons

  • Expensive when compared to the regular 9.7-inch iPad
  • Not a significant improvement over the 9.7-inch Pro or original 12.9-inch Pro
  • Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are still sold seperately

I typically prefer Microsoft’s Surface devices, whether it’s the Pro or Book, when compared to Apple’s iPad Pro line.

The Pro, for better or worse, has always felt restrictive to me and not capable of completely replacing my trusty MacBook or Surface Book in terms of functionality. Of course, a lot that has to do with how I use my computer; I’m often sizing images, have multiple windows open on two displays and generally just multitasking like crazy.

10.5-inch iPad with Pencil

Some will argue that the iPad Pro and MacBook shouldn’t be compared. The Surface, they’ll often say, is designed to be a productivity-focused device, while the iPad Pro offers an expanded set of features over the regular 10.5-inch iPad because it features Apple’s mobile iOS operating system.

I’ve always viewed the Pro and the Surface as competing devices, and conversations I’ve had with both Apple and Microsoft over the last few years indicate the two tech giants hold a similar opinion of each other’s devices.

Users may view iOS as a limiting operating system, but Apple seems intent on maintaining a stark division between macOS and iOS — though in a fascinating shift, iOS 11 actually makes the mobile operating system more desktop-like.

With all this in mind, the 10.5-inch iPad is Apple’s latest effort to offer consumers a viable productivity-focused iPad designed to replace a traditional laptop and compete directly with Microsoft’s Surface brand.

Waiting for iOS 11

10-5-inch iPad Pro back

It’s difficult to review the 10.5-inch iPad as it stands right now. The tablet features upgraded hardware and a handful of new features, but the 10.5-inch iPad pro is definitely designed with Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 update in mind, giving the 10.5-inch Pro additional much-needed productivity features.

For example, in iOS 11 the App Dock is set to be constantly visible, similar to macOS. This makes jumping between apps significantly easier than it was in previous versions of the operating system, as well as more comparable to macOS. Other features like drag-and-drop cutting and pasting, a revamped, far more useful Control Center and perhaps most importantly, completely redesigned multitasking that allows users to drag and drop apps to split the screen, are coming as well.

iPad Pro corner

All of these new features are significant steps in the correct direction towards making using any iPad Pro and to a lesser extent even the regular iPad, more closely resemble the experience macOS offers. This is a move Apple should have made when the Pro first launched a few years ago. For me, multitasking on the iPad has never made complete sense because many of the developers behind my favourite apps don’t fully support Split View.

Hopefully, now that Apple plans to revamp the Pro’s multitasking setup, more developers — it would be great if Google made its entire suite of apps work with these new features — will ensure their apps take full advantage of the new operating system’s features.

Unfortunately, iOS 11 isn’t available yet, which means I haven’t been able to test out these features beyond the brief amount of time I spent with a 10.5-inch iPad following Apple’s keynote. Because of this, I’ll be updating this review, as well as the 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s review score, when iOS 11 drops.

Killing off the 9.7-inch iPad Pro

10.5-inch iPad keyboard

While many criticized the 9.7-inch iPad Pro because they felt it was too small, I was a fan of the tiny device. It was powerful, portable and fit better in my hands when compared to the too-large 12.9-inch iPad Pro, though its tiny keyboard quickly became frustrating.

This isn’t an issue I experienced with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and is the most notable physical change to the tablet. While the Smart Keyboard still adopts the love-it-or-hate it enclosed key fabric cover, it’s now full-sized, making typing accurately for extended periods of time significantly easier. In fact, most of this review was actually written with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro (this isn’t something I would have attempted with the 9.7-inch iPad).

10.5-inch iPad with folio case

Given the criticism the Smart Keyboard has received it would have been great to see Apple slightly revamp the Pro’s keyboard or at least offer a more traditional keyboard option. It’s also worth mentioning that the Smart Keyboard still only allows the iPad to be tilted to a single angle, so those hoping Apple would adopt a Surface-like adjustable approach to the iPad Pro’s kickstand, will be disappointed. In terms of build and usability, the lack of a way to adjust the angle the tablet sits at remains one of the Pro’s most baffling issues.

The overall size of the 10.5-inch Pro is also impressive. The most important element to point out here is that the screen-to-bezel ratio of the 10.5-inch Pro has been improved significantly, resulting in a device with a larger display that actually isn’t much bigger than the 9.7-inch iPad. Apple also says that the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro weighs in at roughly the same weight as its 9.7-inch predecessor, approximately 0.45kg (1lb).

10.5-inch iPad side view

Both the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch version are more in sync this time around as well — both feature Touch ID, an impressive four-speaker sound system, a Smart Connector, a sizable camera bump (some people may not like this), and a 3.5mm headphone jack, a move that seems to contradict Apple’s wireless vision for the future.

The original iteration of the Pro, whether it’s the 9.7-inch or 12.9-iteration, is a sleek looking tablet with an extremely low profile, and that hasn’t changed with the new 10.5-inch Pro.

Power in a tiny package

10.5-inch iPad side

The other notable addition to the iPad Pro line is Apple’s heavily touted “ProMotion” display. 120Hz scrolling and animations remove the blur that sometimes appears when scrolling rapidly through the iPad Pro’s display are gone. The entire experience is notably smoother, though it’s impossible to convey what this looks like unless you see it in person.

Apple says that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s screen will automatically jump to various hertz levels — for example from 60Hz to 120Hz, depending on what app is running. The tech giant says that it’s offering developers a new API to take advantage of this feature and that it is something that will need to be added to apps. It’s likely that given how great 120Hz looks when in motion, most developers will jump on board, however, it’s worth pointing out that Apple’s ‘ProMotion’ display technology will only be successful if app creators opt to take advantage of it.

10.5-inch iPad Apple Pencil

Apple says that the new 120Hz display makes the Apple Pencil more fluid to use. In my experience, however, using the Apple Pencil with the new generation of iPad Pro feels identical to the previous iteration. It’s possible that the benefit can only be experienced by someone with the ability to draw or who has extensive experience using the Apple Pencil with the Pro.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro also comes equipped with Apple’s new A10X Fusion chip, silicon with a six-core CPU and a 12-core GPU. Apple says that of these six CPU cores, three are high-performance and three are low-power, which actually resembles the configuring present in other ARM SoCs features in Android smartphones over the last few years.

Apple says that the new A10X chip is approximately 30 percent faster than the dual-core A9X chips features in the first-generation iPad Pro.

This results in specific tasks being sent to certain cores to be handled in the background.

During my roughly week long testing of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, I didn’t run into a single instance of lag or slowdown, whether I was multitasking, watching high definition video, or rapidly switching between resource intensive games. In terms of memory, the iPad Pro features a weighty 4GB of RAM, adding further fuel to the tablet’s ability to multitask.

iPad Pro benchmarks

Though I’m far from the type of person who is into benchmarking their devices, I ran Geekbench4 on the device, resulting in a single-core score of 3,929 and an impressive multi-score score of 9,326.

To put these benchmarks in perspective, the iPhone 7 Plus hits a multi-score score of 5,411 with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro netting a 4,879 and the now defunct 9.7-inch Pro ending up with 4,750. Make no mistake, Apple’s new 10.5-inch device is an impressively capable and powerful device.

10.5-inch iPad Pro camera

Other specs include a 2224 x 1668 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi), the True Tone lighting condition display changing technology featured in the 9.7-inch Pro and new for both the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch, a wider P3 colour gamut that is 25 percent larger than sRGB and finally, Apple says the tablet still comes in at 10-hours of battery life (in my experience, this estimate seems accurate, though I didn’t run a formal test).

It would have been great to see Apple adopt support for HDR, though it’s not unsurprising the tech giant opted not to.

Camera wise, the 10.5-inch iPad’s specs have been bumped up to match the iPhone 7, resulting in 12 megapixel, f/1.8 front-facing shooter and a rear 7-megapixel, f/2.2 lens. While the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is far from a device designed with photography in mind, it’s capable of shooting solid photos. Given Apple’s launch of ARKit, the company’s augmented reality development kit, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s impressive photography capabilities could soon come in handy.

The productivity conundrum

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is arguably Apple's best iPad yet. Coupled with the Smart Keyboard, the Pro is a capable, powerful and impressive looking device. Unfortunately, however, many of the issues that plagued the original Pro remain in this second-generation 10.5-inch iteration, with iOS' limitations as an operating system remaining the most glaring problem.

These issues are set to be mitigated with the eventual release of iOS 11, but until the latest version of Apple's operating system drops, it's difficult to know how well these new features -- particularly multitasking -- will work.

Will the Pro every be able to be a laptop replacement for my purposes? That's likely never going to comfortably happen given the programs I use on a daily basis. This doesn't, however, mean that Apple's productivity-focused Pro won't work for other people. In fact, I know a handful of people that opt to use their iPad Pro on trips and in other situations where portability is important.

With this in mind, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro takes everything that was good about the original iPad Pro, particularly the 9.7-inch version, and kicks things up a notch; and isn't that everything a second-generation product should be?

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro starts $869 CAD for the 64GB model, $999 for the 256GB version, and or $1,259 for 512GB iteration. For cellular versions of the 10.5-inch Pro, pricing starts at $1039 for 64GB, $1,169 for 256GB and $1,429 for 512GB. The Smart Keyboard is sold separately for $219 and the Apple Pencil is priced at $129.

"The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is arguably Apple's best iPad yet"                                                                                                                                                                 7.5/10


  • rob

    Is the refreshed 12.9 inch iPad Pro also running the CPU at the same speed?

    • Indeed it is Rob. That’s what Apple told me.

    • rob

      Thank you so much Patrick! That means the CPU speed and the amount of RAM (4GB) is exactly the same in both units this time around. Good on Apple for doing this!

    • Blair Davis

      Hope they do the same with next iPhones too

  • ciderrules

    The A10X is a monster. And people want to try and run emulated Windows on an 835? A10X slaughters the 835.

    The Surface is pretty much useless as a tablet due to the lack of Apps that are actually optimized to work in tablet mode. If you want to run Windows you’re better off just getting a regular laptop. That’s why I returned my Surface Pro 4 after a few days of use.

    • Marshall Davidson

      You’re a well known fanboy of Apple products so your comment is hardly surprising but to be frank with you, the processor isn’t the be-all and end-all of a device’s usefulness and actually demonstrates how little you understand what you’re talking about.
      I won’t repeat hyper hyper’s comment above suffice to say he is bang on. The iPad is a limited device with a hemmed-in ecosystem, no peripheral support and most importantly no capacity for any additional external storage. For a professional device Apple still doesn’t get it.

      And FYI, people using Surface or ANY Windows device for that matter could care less about the app ecosystem whereas we all know its the foundation of any iOS device. Sorry but most would and will continue to disagree with your ridiculous assertions.

    • ciderrules

      Funny how someone with a brand-new account knows who I am. So what happened to your other account? Get banned for trolling?

      Sorry, but I had a Surface Pro 4 (the i7 version that cost me over $2,000, not the entry level version). Bought it for my daughter to use with her illustration and animation software. It was useless. Most high-end software doesn’t even work properly in tablet mode (or isn’t utilized). Two examples are Toon Boom and Illustrator. Or in tablet mode not all toolbars/functions are available so you have to switch back and forth (PITA) in order to use all the features in the software.

      Microsoft advertises the Surface Pro 4 as being useful for graphic artists/designers, but it’s far from it.

      However, if you disagree then feel free to tell us all about your high-end software you have experience with on the Surface Pro 4. I doubt you’ll be able to come up with any real-world examples, because unlike me, you don’t have a Surface Pro 4 let alone any software to test on it. I’ll be here waiting for your response.

    • Marshall Davidson

      What has my having a new account got to do with anything? I’ve been reading these boards for a while and forgot the password to my old account I haven’t used in over 2 years.

      Furthermore, you are referencing two particular software programs you have gripes with but at the end of the day people have more choice to install varied software on a Windows device than they will ever have on an iOS unit that forces you to use the software Apple PERMITS you to download. That is unacceptable considering the price they charge for their hardware. But what is truly laughable about your comment is that neither Toon Boom nor Adobe offer either Harmony or Illustrator as an app on iOS so unless you buy Astropad you can’t install or do much on an iPad at all. Toon Boom does offer some mickey mouse ‘lite’ versions of their software but nothing like the desktop version from what I can tell.

      And your comment about my not having an SP4 or any software to test on it really just shows your incredible arrogance which we’ve come to expect from all Apple fanboys. What is so high end about an inferior app download or having to pay out extra for side loading an app otherwise unsupported? Get real.

    • ciderrules

      Sure buddy. If I had a nickel for every time a new poster said “I’ve been reading the boards for some time, and ONLY JUST NOW did I decide to post”, well I could buy a couple new iPad Pros.

      Still waiting for you to list a few Apps on the Surface Pro that take advantage of tablet mode and the stylus. Surely you can name a few. And I want “pro” Apps, since that’s what people seem to think the Surface Pro is for.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Haha. Whatever pal. I see you have nothing to say about Toon Boom or Adobe offering equivalent apps for iPad and yet you’re out here talking like some big power user. LMAO!

      Fact is few of the apps out there for iOS require serious horsepower and the rest are water down versions of the genuine article. The other poster is right. You are a joke and you need to get a clue

      PS. Hope that Apple cheque cleared last month for your lame efforts here

    • Kim

      You are a real joke!

    • ciderrules

      Says they guy with ANOTHER brand new account posting in iPad Pro vs Surface articles on various sites. Did the Microsoft shill cheque clear this morning?

    • John Lofwire

      Just block him.

      Thats guy is an apple paid troll.

      As long as its running a mobile OS and not a desktop one its never be on par with the surface.

      The SOC excuses is old..

      IF i have a 2000 horse power engine supercar its wont matter if its not a truck and i need to bring big load of stuck.

      So its very fast but useless for real professional use.

    • ciderrules

      Says the guy who knows less about Android than the so-called Apple fanboy. As I said before, whenever you want to learn about the architecture of Android (or how to code/develop for it) then feel free to ask. It appears, based on your post history, you could use the education.

    • Kim

      Ciderrules It’s a fast tablet. No more no less! And tablets are for kids. Mabey you are a kid who likes tablets? But it’s your choice to believe in the Apple marketing that a fast tablet can replace your computer. Most Americans believe in marketing instead of common sense. In Europe we believe in common sense and not marketing that a fast tablet can replace your computer. Cheers mates in the states!

    • ciderrules

      I use Windows PCs for gaming (running a 6700K, 1080 and Samsung SSDs for my gaming rig right now) and also for work because the primary software I use is Windows only. Most other stuff I do on Macs or iPads. In other words, whatever works best for the task at hand.

      BTW, I use iPads with my Soundcraft Vi5000. I suppose every kid you know has one of these, right? We also use iPads at work for recording engineering data in the field for failure analysis. I suppose that’s also something kids do?

    • southerndinner

      Your Apple shilling is legendary at this point.

      0 people believe you actually bought a Surface Pro 4

    • ciderrules

      Seeing all the trolls I was able to catch with a short truthful post is legendary.

    • Marshall Davidson

      You post the nonsense you do because you know it’ll elicit a contrary response from people who actually know what they’re talking about.
      No serious individual who knows even the basics of tech takes you at face value.

    • Brad Fortin

      The A10X is a monster. And people want to try and run emulated Windows on an 835? A10X slaughters the 835.

      Now imagine if Apple allowed Boot Camp on the iPad.

  • I don’t see why people are so keen on trying to see the iPad be something that it is not. The OS is gimped and the lack of a mouse will always keep it as a second class citizen for the “power users” (a term created by people who have high views of themselves I think). Some light photo editing, netflix, facebook, email , basic spreadsheets, reading and games are great for this device – not doubt there. But please don’t say this is a desktop replacement for those who actually use desktops for what they are meant for. Glad to see they switched their mind on the 3.5mm jack. This is one time that Apple’s inconsistency turned out to be a good thing IMO.

    • John Lofwire

      Agreed fully.

      Its also come nowhere close to surface pro.
      When its run a real desktop grade OS with real desktop grade app then its will come close.
      right now its pretty far far away.

  • Kim

    It’s a pimped IPad or tablet. No more no less. Toy for kids. Not for professionals. White the official keyboard, it looks terrible. The dimensions white de IPad pro and the keyboard are the most ugly mach ever. I don’t understand. Am I the only one who see this? No the Apple pro is a joke. Only Apple fans see this as a real computer replacement. But if you are a normal human then it’s very fast tablet and very expensive. Tablet are for kids to watch animations and play simpel games. But as always the marketing of apple makes people believe the IPad pro is a computer replacement. No you can’t run desktop programs or connecting other usb aperture like storage or simply connected white your company intranet etcetera. If you are a professional you need that kind of staff, not de pimped IPad or tablet like the IPad pro.

    • jellmoo

      How do you figure? If you look at what most people use their computer for (in either an office or home setting), you see things like word processing, spreadhseets, email, games, social networks, web browsing, photos, media consumption. This device will do all of that.

      Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that this is a true desktop replacement, rather it compliments a desktop. But for a lot (and I mean *a lot*) of people, this will literally do everything they need.

    • Kim

      Wrong conclusion. It said it’s a very fast tablet the IPad pro. No more no less. In Europa a tablet or an IPad and also a IPad pro is a thing next your laptop or Desktop. What you said it’s al media consumption and yes it’s true. 80% is media consumption. But if you want too be productief, in Europe we use the laptop, desktop and hybride computers. By productief I mean word, excel, PowerPoint, photo and video editing, serious gaming etcetera. Most people in Europe are looing now for a hybride like a surface pro or book. The reason is simpel. Whit a hybride you can use all. The tablets, IPads and also the IPad pro sales in Europa are falling and the hybride computers are rising. The hybride computers are the rising stars by students and professionals. But the marketing of Apple works very well in America to sell a pimped IPad that can replace your laptop, but not in Europe.

    • jellmoo

      The iPad Pro can do everything you listed though. iOS 11 will bring the ability to do all those things all the better.

      Regardless, I think you’re overstating the needs of all Europeans as I’m sure that there’s a wide array of users and use cases there just as there is in North America. Is the iPad Pro a suitable replacement for everyone? Absolutely not. For a lot of users? Sure.

    • Brad Fortin

      Toy for kids. Not for professionals.

      Absolutely. That’s why IBM partnered up with Apple to deliver enterprise-grade software for the iPad: Because it’s a toy for kids, and kids need that enterprise-grade software.

      It’s also why the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use iPads: They need something for their daycares.

      You iPad skeptics are adorably ignorant.

    • Kim

      You are a joke. Professionals and ipad are a joke too

    • Brad Fortin

      lol, so funny!

    • Brad Fortin

      Yes, that’s why they are a measure of success, because of the humour! Haha! So funny, being the most successful companies and products in the world, haha! Funny! /s

    • Kim

      I work by a fotune 500 company and we don’t use ipad. Mabye American companies, but they are brainwashed by american marketing. Buy everthing you don’t need 🙂

    • Marshall Davidson

      Your entire statement is ignorant. I mean in the more than one year since Apple introduced the iPad Pro and the announcement of the IBM partnership what kind of ‘software’ have they brought forward that is ‘enterprise-grade’? I mean seriously there is a dearth of enterprise grade apps for these devices that would even come close to defining it as a professional device.

      And the Fortune 500 companies you refer to are likely using these devices for presentation purposes, not so much for creating material or content whatever their business may be.

      Keep reaching Fortin

    • Brad Fortin

      Haha, how little you know. Do some homework. 😉

    • Raj Brar

      I tried using Excel on an iPad and I was so annoyed I threw it across the room. Then there has been attempts to make trading apps on iPad. Which also have been no where close to the desktop versions. Simply put, the iPad is great for entertainment but will never match Windows (or even OSX) as a desktop replacement https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/44a8d4f0212d3f0b2cc631708c4a459f643f8e2efb219f9216e2542c940e18fe.jpg

    • Brad Fortin

      So what you’re saying is that developers need to work harder on their iPad apps, especially Microsoft.

    • Raj Brar

      No Brad, there is a ground up redesign required for iOS to actually be used as desktop replacement. As much as the Surface makes for a mediocre tablet, the iPad isn’t a productive machine I don’t know how you continue to defend the iPad.

    • Brad Fortin

      I don’t know how you continue to defend the iPad.

      Because many people already use it as their full-time computer, myself included, and some even run their entire business from an iPad. I haven’t touched my iMac in months because I can do everything I need from my iPad. So when you tell me that what I and others are doing isn’t possible I can’t take you seriously because it’s simply not true. iOS might need to be overhauled for you to use it as a desktop replacement but for many people it’s already a desktop replacement.

    • Raj Brar

      Maybe you don’t have to do serious work in your iPad. Maybe you have found an app or the browser to get what you need to get done. Yea, maybe there is probably a bunch of people using an iPad to run a business. Point is just because you can use an iPad to do work doesn’t make it productive.

      checking the weather, Looking at emails, reading, surfing and more can be done. But it won’t replace our PCs(for work) anytime soon nor in the near future.

    • Brad Fortin

      Point is just because you can use an iPad to do work doesn’t make it productive.

      Doing work is pretty much the definition of being productive.

      Yea, maybe there is probably a bunch of people using an iPad to run a business. […] But it won’t replace our PCs(for work) anytime soon nor in the near future.

      Way to contradict yourself.

      You’re hilarious. I’m done here.

    • PeterC

      “Doing work is pretty much the definition of being productive.”

      Every hear of the term “busy work”? Doing inefficient work to make you look busy. Like needing to make 10 emails to send 10 attachments because iOS can’t do it with one email.

      Ever work on a project with multiple files that include documents and pictures and spreadsheets? Can’t put them in a single folder to group them together. You need more workarounds, can’t use the same workflow you have on a real computer.

    • Kim

      If you are so focused on the IPad, than you don’t have a free mind and that’s a pitty. Live free, think free! Don’t became a narrow minded apple fan. The world is full of narrow minded people.

    • Brad Fortin

      None of what you said is relevant to this discussion and contains false assumptions.

    • PeterC

      Imo, Apple is the one that needs to work harder on iOS and app store restrictions to let devs make better apps.

    • Brad Fortin

      Really? Which App Store restriction is stopping Microsoft from adding Pivot Table creation to the iPad?

  • Massimiliano Piolatto

    Wait no hdr? In the keynote they said there’s is hdr video …

  • Raj Brar

    No idea what to make of this “It would have been great to see Apple adopt support for HDR, though it’s not unsurprising the tech giant opted not to.”

  • PeterC

    If you are going to re review the iPad when ios11 comes out, then one of the current cons should be incomplete software features or “same software as last gens iPad”

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