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After having dropped a bombshell on the tablet market in the form of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple’s forged ahead. As part of its ongoing drive to develop and refine the tablet concept, the firm has seen fit to craft a smaller 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro.

Far from being just a shrunken version of its bigger brother, this tablet is a product unto itself – and, moreover, is one well worthy of wearing the ‘Pro’ badge. Check out our review to see why!

Deceptively styled

Apple decided to go for the “all in the family” approach when it styled the 9.7-inch Pro. It looks quite a bit like the lower-echelon iPad Air 2; so much so, as a matter of fact, that even seasoned techies could be forgiven for mistaking it for one when they see it.

Not that the Air 2 is chopped liver, but all one needs to do is put the smaller Pro through its paces in order to see it for what it really is. They can both do practically the same tasks – but the Pro boasts far better specs, amps up the ‘wow factor,’ and gets its work done far faster.

That’s because Apple has sweetened the pot by giving the 9.7-inch Pro much of the firepower its bigger sibling packs. Both tablets share the same A9X processor, four stereo speakers, and compatibility with the Smart Keyboard (via Apple’s Smart Connector for keyboards) and Pencil drawing instrument. These features place the iPads Pro leagues ahead of the Air 2, not to mention the iPad mini lineup.

In addition, the Pro has a much better screen than that of the Air 2 – a screen that’s far less prone to being reflective (Apple says it’s 40 percent less reflective than the one the Air 2 has) and which has a wider color gamut.

Not just a ‘baby Pro’

But all that having been said, it’s important to note that this smaller Pro isn’t just a smaller carbon copy of its bigger Pro stablemate. Because it also rocks some features that even the top of the line Pro doesn’t have.

For one, the 9.7-inch Pro comes with Apple’s True Tone display technology, which allows its screen to adjust to the exact intensity and percentage of white light needed (and allows, for instance, for the smaller Pro to be more readable in direct sunlight). The larger iPad Pro doesn’t offer True Tone technology.

Secondly, Apple’s placed the 9.7-inch Pro ahead of the other iPads in the camera stakes with its excellent 12MP camera – which is quite a bit more powerful than the cameras in all other iPads, and also boasts an f/2.2 lens. It supports the Live Photos feature to boot, bringing it more in line with the cameras in the iPhones. The FaceTime HD camera in the smaller Pro is also far more powerful than all others in the iPad family – 5MP vis-a-vis 1.2MP.

It must be noted that the smaller Pro comes with less RAM than the larger one – 2GB to 4GB – which on paper can seem a little limiting, but which in actual use is far from an issue.

Happily, across the iPad family, all 16GB base versions have been retired, and the least expensive models now come with 32GB of storage space.

This tablet flies

Thanks to Apple having gifted it with such powerful specs, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a standout performer. Its screen is phenomenally bright and clear, making images and text exceptionally readable and usable under practically any and all circumstances.

The littler Pro took on any task we threw at it without breaking a sweat, despite having less RAM than its older sibling – for instance, it was able to render web pages about twice as fast as an Air 2 could (and note that the Air 2 is far from a slouch). When we tried running split-screen apps it still wouldn’t stutter; performance remained smooth all throughout. And its powerful camera helped it snap great pictures really quickly.

The four-speaker setup is impressive; although the sound it cranks out isn’t as bass-heavy as some people might like, it still does manage to reproduce sound accurately at nearly all sound levels.

Lastly, no matter what we asked our test unit to do, its battery performed admirably, consistently lasting up to a full workday.

Laptop replacement?

Apple has gifted the smaller Pro with this much power and hardware this good in order to help it – along with the larger Pro – make a credible case for being a bona fide laptop replacement.

Whether this or the larger iPad Pro can really take the place of one’s laptop is definitely up to individual users and their unique requirements. Its Smart Connector and integrated Bluetooth allow it to use a wide range of keyboard accessories to boost productivity, and its compatibility with the Pencil offers users the capacity to bolster the creative potential of their work.

Users’ mileage, as they say, may vary depending on what they need their work computers to do and how they like to work. But they can bank on the fact that Apple’s crammed the 9.7-inch Pro with plenty of industry-leading features that stand it in good stead for many usage scenarios.
The bottom line

Our conclusion is that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro encapsulates nearly all the goodness of its bigger brother in a much smaller and more portable package – while offering quite a bit of ‘goodness’ all of its own.

This smaller iPad Pro has power to spare thanks to its awesome specs that in some cases overshadow even those of its elder sibling.

It really does deserve the ‘Pro’ monicker and is well worthy of even power users’ consideration.

 

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