iPad Pro 9.7 First Impressions

My days of being an iPad hold out are over. I picked up an iPad Pro 9.7″ an hour or two after they became available. I also picked up the Pencil, but missed the last keyboard by minutes (maybe seconds). 

I have some experience with my wife’s iPad Mini, but not owning my own, so keep that in mind. Also, any too big, too small or too anything else are for me, maybe not for you.

Why now?

I was looking at picking up an iPad a couple years ago, and decided that they were too much of a consumption device, and not enough of a creative one, and ended up with a MacBook Pro. I believe that has changed over the last couple years, with the continued introduction and perfecting of creative apps. Adobe has released  several great apps, as have many other developers. Apple built on this with the release of the Pencil, which is a very solid product. 

Adobe has a mobile version of Lightroom, and a couple Photoshop based apps, which make for a powerful option for editing on the go, which is increasingly important to feed the beast that is social media. 

The other creative field the iPad has made great inroads in is music, with Garage Band, a couple other DAWs, and may instruments. I have played with Garage Band, Propellerheads Figure, iMaschine, and some others on my iPhone, which is fun,  but rather cramped. On the iPad, they are much more useful. While I am not a great musician, I expect to be able to use these tools to create soundtracks for timelapses, etc. The music for this was created with GB on my Mac, and while it is not going to win any awards, I think it adds to the video:


Do I see the iPad replacing my Mac? No. Well, not completely. I do most of my RAW processing in Capture One, and at this point there is no mobile option for that. Lightroom mobile is also an option, but that is designed more to augment the desktop version than to replace it. RAW images cannot be directly imported into LRM, and the ones imported into the desktop and synced are stored as “Smart Previews” and the edits synced back to the desktop, rather than as real RAW files.

What I can potentially see is moving to a desktop computer, due to the increased storage and processing power, and letting the iPad take over mobile duties.

It has been working quite well for writing this, reading e-books, etc. and I can certainly see it continuing to take over desktop duties. 

Do I regret not getting it earlier? Yes and no. In a world with all the money I could need, I would have bought it earlier. However, I think the money has been better spent on my D610, MacBook, etc, and there is not anything I would change taking that into consideration.

Thoughts on the Pro Specifically

So why the iPad Pro 9.7, and what do I think of it?

I liked the look of the original iPad Pro, especially the Pencil. However, the size was too big for me. I figured that the Pencil, and some of the other tech, would soon come to the smaller profile devices, and I kept an eye on the rumor mill, and since late last year it has been widely rumored that this was correct. Some people have said that it would cannibalize business from the larger iPad Pro, and while there may be some of that, I think that people are going to buy the size that works for them, and buy other styluses, etc if the Pencil is not available. Also, the price is not that far different, especially when you subtract out the cost of production, and this may get people who already own the 9.7″ devices to upgrade.

When the announcement came out, there were two big things the rumor mill hadn’t gotten: the 256 Gig model, and the TrueTone screen. Personally, when the original Pro came out, I was surprised they had not released at least a 256 Gig, or even a 512, so as far as I was concerned, it only made sense to do it now. 

The True Tone display is great, it makes the screen much easier on the eyes, especially after dark. The only concern I have is photo editing, I will have to do some testing to see if it throws me off setting color balance. 


The pencil is pretty much what I expected, no surprises good or bad. The one bad thing is that since there is no way to store the pencil in or on the iPad, it is easy to lose track of. There are some aftermarket options which I may end up looking into. The pressure and tilt sensitivity work as expected, but the experience can vary greatly depending on the app you are using. 

So has Apple gone back on Steve Jobs saying that your finger is the only stylus you need? I don’t really think so. The iPad experience is still very much optimized for fingertip use, and the Pencil probably detracts from user experience when doing most tasks. If you are not planning on drawing or doing photo retouching, the Pencil is probably not a good investment, but if those things interest you, it works quite well.

The Apple Store did not have the keyboard, but the had some demos, so I got to play a little bit, and it seemed alright, but a little tight, which is only to be expected. The key movement is also very short, which may be a little hard to work with. I am planning to get one once they are in stock, and maybe I can give some more feedback later. 

3D Touch, or lack thereof. I have heard two reasons for the lack of 3D Touch, either supply chain issues, or not being compatible with the Pencil. To me it is too bad it doesn’t have 3D Touch, but not a big deal. There are some good applications with it, like after touch in Garage Band, but so far I don’t think it is really making that big a difference. 

The speakers are definitely good. They lose it a little as you get to the top of the volume range, but most speakers are going to do that.

Cameras: the one on the back is the same as the camera in the iPhone 6S, and is a pretty solid camera for a phone/tablet. Apple finally upgraded the “selfie” camera  from 1.2 to 5 megapixel, but is still only 720P video. Hopefully they are able to update it for 1080P in a future update, which would be great for video blogging or live streaming on Periscope or the like. With th popularity of those applications, and selfies, I find it a little odd that this hasn’t been done long ago. 

Split-screen multitasking: not really iPad Pro specific, but still fairly new. For the most part I find it very useful, especially when writing. I can be typing in the WordPress app, and have Twitter or a browser open next to it, or be reading, and taking notes along side. However, not all apps support this feature, which can be a serious limitation. For instance, the Bible app I use on my MacBook and iPhone does not, so it is more difficult either taking notes on what I am reading, or using it for reference while writing something. 

The other fairly serious limitation is that you cannot have the same app in both windows, for instance to compare documents, or have two browsers open. The brain browser one can be worked around by downloading chrome or Firefox, and running different browsers.

All in all, I think it was a good purchase, and look forward to using it more. 

What are your must-have apps? Let us know in the comments.

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