Apple iPad Pro 9.7-Inch Review Editor's Choice

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Sleek design; Long battery life; Impressive camera; Stunning display

The Cons

Keyboard is on the small side; No expandable memory option


The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet in its class.

The original iPad Pro helped tablets evolve beyond mere consumption devices, thanks to its desktop-grade A9X processor and powerful Apple Pencil for creative professionals. But not everyone wants a huge 12.9-inch screen. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch (starting at $599) delivers the same speedy CPU, Apple Pencil capability and an optional keyboard in a much more manageable size. You also get a much sharper camera and a new True Tone display that automatically changes the screen color based on your environment. This tablet also nearly lasted nearly 11 hours on a charge, which puts Windows 2-in-1s such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 to shame.

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This iPad Pro is not as ideal as a laptop replacement, but it is the best tablet money can buy.


When it comes to portability, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro definitely leads the field. At 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches, this slate is smaller than all of its professional-level tablet competitors, including the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches) and the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S (11.43 x 7.83 x 0.25 inches). At 0.98 pounds, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is about a half pound lighter than the competition, too.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch back

You could choose the silver, space gray or gold versions, but then how would everyone know you have the new iPad Pro 9.7 inch?

iPad Pro 9.7-inch side view

It's as if Queen Midas touched the 9.7-inch iPad Air -- the new Pro in rose gold looks and feels familiar yet luxurious. The 9.7-inch display is surrounded by a slim, white bezel. The Touch ID home button is rimmed in the same rose gold that covers the back.

MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)

iPad Pro 9.7-inch port

The power button sits along the top edge, just above the volume buttons on the top right. Farther down the right side, you'll find a nano-SIM-card slot that supports Apple SIM. The Lightning connector sits on the bottom. On each corner of the top and bottom, you'll find the four speakers. The 12-megapixel iSight camera protrudes slightly from the top of the backside, while the 5-MP selfie shooter hovers on top of the screen.


The Retina display on the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, with its 2048 x 1536 pixels, is stunning and colorful. Apple covered the glass in an anti-reflective and fingerprint-resistant coating, both of which work well. This new True Tone display actively measures the brightness and ambient light temperature to adjust colors on the fly so that whites always look white, regardless of where you are. In my experience with the tablet, this proved true.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch display

The yellow lighting in my living room didn't affect the colors I saw on the screen. In the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, Jennifer Lawrence's blue skin popped, and Olivia Munn's violet sword even managed to make her look intimidating. And I was so engrossed in the smoky trailer for Tarzan that I could almost feel the thunder of wildebeests as they charged across the screen, or reach out and touch the abs on Alexander Skarsgard.

In comparison, the larger, 12.9-inch iPad Pro sports a higher resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels, but both tablets have the same 264 dpi. Both the 12-inch Galaxy TabPro S and the 12.3-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have screens with 2160 x 1400 pixels, for a lower 216 ppi.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro's display held up well in our lab tests. Using our colorimeter, the screen registered 432.8 nits of brightness, displayed 121.9 percent of the sRGB color gamut and achieved a Delta-E color accuracy rating of 1 (zero is perfect). That's brighter and more colorful than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (374 nits and 111 percent sRGB). But the larger iPad Pro displays more accurate colors, with a Delta-E score of 0.19.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is also brighter than the 341 nits on the Galaxy TabPro S, which is less accurate (4.7 Delta-E) but more colorful (180 percent sRGB). The Surface Pro 4 was dimmer (382 nits), less colorful (99.7 percent) and more accurate (0.35 Delta-E).


Thanks to its four speakers, two on each side, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro produces booming audio. It more than filled my small living room with sound, even drowning out the TV. Regardless of how you hold it or how often you flip it, the two grilles at the top always handle the mid and high frequencies, and all four deliver bass.

During "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand, the driving guitars and thumping drum line had me contentedly bopping my head. And the breathy subtlety of Bebe Rexha in "I Can't Stop Drinking About You" definitely inspired me to pop open a bottle of wine. Sadly, some of the drum line was lost.

Apple Pencil

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro supports the $99 Apple Pencil. First introduced for use with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, this smart stylus pairs with the tablet via Bluetooth. The Pro then actively scans for the Pencil's tip 240 times per second. That means there's no lag between what you draw and when it appears on the screen.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch display

Sensors in the Pencil measure the amount of pressure you're using. Then, it creates thicker or thinner lines accordingly. It picked up my palm by mistake only once. These same sensors also calculate the orientation of your hand.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch pen

But I do wish there were a place to hold the Pencil. With the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the active stylus magnetically attaches to the edge of the tablet. I can see this getting lost in my purse, and likely snapped in half.

MORE:The Best Stylus for the iPad

Removing the eraserlike end of the Pencil reveals a Lightning connector for charging; a 15-second charge provides 30 minutes of usage time, and a full charge should last you 12 hours.

iPad Pro appsWhile drawing with Adobe Photoshop Sketch and taking notes with GoodNotes 4, the Pencil and tablet worked seamlessly. My marks instantly appeared. I do wish the Pencil were a bit shorter, though, as it felt a bit unbalanced and back-heavy to my untrained hand.

iPad Pro apps writing apps

While the Pencil is a great tool for creative professionals, it's not just for drawing. It can be used with apps such as Microsoft Office, Complete Anatomy and Autodesk FormIt 360. You can use the Pencil to mark up an image, sign a PDF or design your own website. The App Store includes an entire selection of Apple Pencil-ready apps, including Scanbot, Houzz and Hudl.

Smart Keyboard

The fabric-covered Smart Keyboard is on the pricey side, at $149. It's not backlit, and it has no touchpad and no dedicated keys for adjusting brightness and volume. But at least it's water resistant. The origami of unfolding and refolding to set it up felt like an IQ test, which I eventually passed but was annoyed by.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch display keyboard

The typing is just OK. It's more cramped than on the similar keyboard for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, which made typing more of a chore than it should be. Because of the muscle memory in my fingers, I often found myself missing the smaller Chiclet-style keys. I also missed having a touchpad. But it felt fairly sturdy when I was typing on my lap. All things considered, this is a keyboard to use in a pinch, not as a replacement for your laptop.


Apple has included its A9X and M9 co-processor inside the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, promising notebook-grade power. Apple says this CPU offers enough oomph to let you edit multiple 4K videos at a time -- which is good, because the camera can shoot at that resolution. I combined two streams that I shot, and added sound effects and transitions in iMovie without experiencing a single hiccup.

During my time with the tablet, I saw no lag in switching between many open apps or open Safari tabs. The camera app opened and focused within a second, and the Amazon Video app took just 3 seconds.

On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro scored 5,151, which was better than most of the competition. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro came in at a higher 5,296, which may be due to the fact that it has 4GB instead of the 2GB in the 9.7-inch model. The Core m3-powered Galaxy TabPro S' 4,675 score was lower, and the tablet average is a mere 2,764. The Surface Pro 4 notched a much higher 6,811, thanks to its 6th-generation Core i5 chip.

In an attempt to tax the smaller amount of RAM on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I created identical iMovies on the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch models. I used AirDrop to transfer two 4K videos shot on the smaller Pro, which caused the tablet to crash and restart. Using iMovie to add a transition, filter, theme music, text overlay and two sound effects, I saw no difference in processing time. Once finished with both creations, tapping Done instantly saved both clips and made them available for playback. Playback was seamless on both.

On the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which measures graphics performance, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro hit 32,413. That's lower than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (32,920), the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (60,424) and the Galaxy TabPro S (51,305) but better than the average tablet (18,061).

iOS 9.3

The Pro 9.7 inch runs iOS 9.3. The newest version of Apple's operating system offers some upgrades. Night Shift mode changes the light coming from the screen during the evening hours to remove the blue. The resulting yellowish light is easier on the eyes and won't keep you up at night.

You can also now password-protect your notes, and you can sort your notes by date and title.

For the education market, students now can share an iPad by logging in with different accounts. Apple is also introducing Apple IDs for education that are created and managed by school administrators.

iPad Pro homescreen

iOS 9.3 still has all of the multitasking features from iOS 9, which help make this iPad Pro better at productivity. You can slide over to add a second app in a sidebar. Split View lets you use two apps simultaneously. And Picture-in-Picture can put a small window running a video inside other apps.

I did find it odd that the on-screen keyboard for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro doesn't include a dedicated number row like you'll find on the 12.9-inch version. Sure there's less screen real estate, but still feels like an omission.

Battery Life

Apple packed a 27.5-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery into the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The company claims this battery should lead to an endurance of up to 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching video or listening to music. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Wi-Fi Web surfing), the Pro went above and beyond, lasting 10 hours and 53 minutes.

That's nearly an hour longer than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and several hours longer than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (6:05) and the Galaxy TabPro S (6:46). It's also longer than the tablet average of 9:11.

MORE: 10 Tablets with the Longest Battery Life


With the release of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple announced that there are now more than 1 million iPad-specific apps. Many of those are integrated with the Apple Pencil for unique functionality. The iOS App Store is still the first place where many apps appear, and some never make it to other platforms. For instance, you won't find Clear or Papers, Please on Android.

Drawing apps such as Adobe Photoshop Sketch seem to have been designed with the iPad Pro in mind. The app takes advantage of the Pencil, allowing artists to subtly shade and paint with watercolors.

iPad Pro apps drawing app

But it's not just about artwork. With apps such as Autodesk FormIt 360, architects and designers can build on their ideas by adding shapes and even looking at the effects of the sun on a building location.

iPad Pro apps

Complete Anatomy brings to life the human form in 3D, letting you tap and swipe to see every angle.

The Houzz app lets you take notes directly on images that inspire you and then lets you share them with your home professional or spouse. Hudl lets coaches and analysts quickly draw and show corrections to team formations.


Apple loaded the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the most sophisticated cameras (front and back) of any iPad. The 12-MP rear shooter sports autofocus with Focus Pixels, auto HDR, a sapphire crystal lens cover, improved noise reduction and an f/2.2 aperture. It supports Apple's new Live Photos feature.

iPad Pro sample kitty

My calico cat looked sharp and well defined, making me want to reach out and scratch her behind the ears.

For video, that same camera can shoot in slo-mo and comes with what Apple calls Cinematic Video Stabilization. It can shoot in 4K (3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second). A video of people and cars in New York City was steadier than I would have thought possible for this size slate.

However, I wish a slo-mo video of me shooting pool had come out sharper.

A 5-MP camera with Retina Flash sits on the front. When in low light, the whole display becomes the flash.

iPad Pro selfies

A selfie shot in a dark room came out remarkably well.


The 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599 for the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only model. If you add storage space by going with the 128GB or 256GB models, you're looking at a base cost of $749 or $899, respectively. Adding LTE coverage will also cost you more at each storage size: $729 for 32GB, $879 for 128GB and $1,029 for 256GB.

Then, if you add the $99 Pencil and the $149 Smart Keyboard, you're looking at $847 minimum and $1,277 maximum. While the keyboard is definitely high-quality, cheaper third-party options from companies such as Logitech are available.

Bottom Line

For professionals looking for a grab-and-go tablet that can handle their workload -- and plenty of fun on the side -- the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the tablet to buy.

iPad Pro 9.7-inch

At a relatively affordable $599 ($847 if you get the keyboard and Apple Pencil), you get a sleek design, a stunning display, strong multitasking abilities and stellar battery life. Plus, Apple offers tons of tablet-specific apps. Just don't expect a great typing experience or the ability to control the cursor with a touchpad.

MORE: Our Favorite Tablets for Work and Play

If you want something that can run desktop apps and a more laptoplike keyboard, the 12.3-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (starting at $999 for Core i5; $1,128 with keyboard) is a better option. Or, if you want a device about as thin and light as the iPad Pro but don't mind sacrificing some performance, consider the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, which starts at $897.99. However, no Windows-powered detachable's battery life even comes close to the iPad Pro's.

If you're willing to sacrifice a little screen size in favor of a more portable 9.7-inch size, the more affordable, 32GB iPad Pro is the way to go. Even if you add the $149 Smart Keyboard and the $99 Pencil, you'll still be paying less than you would for competing devices.

Author Bio
Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson, Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson heads up features and special projects for, in addition to covering social networking and accessories. She joined the LAPTOP staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.
Anna Attkisson, Managing Editor on
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RAM Included
RAM Upgradeable
Storage Drive Size 256GB
Storage Drive Type
Display Size 9.7
Display Resolution 2048 x 1536
Graphics Chip
Graphics Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Has Bluetooth Yes
OS iOS 9.3
Camera Resolution 12-MP
Front-Facing Camera Resolution 5MP
Ports Proprietary
Ports Headphone
Ports microSIM
USB Ports
Card Reader Size
Warranty / Support
Size 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches
Weight 0.98 pounds
Company Website
Add a comment
  • BravoSix Says:

    Poor pen? Don't dissuade potential users with BS. I just sold my SP4 for this and Apples Pencil is far superior. But not included and that stings. I'll admit Excel sucks on it vs any x86 device, and Outlook is just passable at best but it destroys SP4 as a tablet, in battery life, portability and does 90% of what I need. As the earlier poster mentions neither the IPP or SP4 are perfect. But it's getting there slowly. But comments that the iPad pencil isn't a proper pen is flat out garbage. I had plenty of issues with Wacom. And the SP4 random hangs and unresponsiveness are classic Windows trash. In addition, I shouldn't have to force sleep over hibernate to use my device. It's effing 2016.

  • ToddM Says:

    I would like to point out one small error. The Surface Pro 4 has a superior PPI of 267 at a resolution of 2736x1824. Not a lower then iPad Pro 216PPI as article suggests.

  • Antonio Sturniolo Says:

    iPads dominate the market for essentially anything that passes as a "real tablet". Unfortunately, the market has been flooded with $50 white box no name Android based tablets that are only suitable for playing Angry birds and maybe watching some video.
    While technically, they are classified as tablets, they are not used as such. One Basic Problem remains design and the materials they are made of, they are more likely to be dropped.
    So I had to design a new case for your 1000 bucks Investment

  • JoeSmith Says:

    To me, it is a great Ipad. The problem is the price. No 64GB available, so that almost forces you to buy the 128GB which is much more expensive, as 32GB feels smaller everyday. No 3D touch is a bit weird too. Maybe it is not as future proof as could be because of that. But I would encourage people to wait and teach Apple a lesson so they lower the price. What? Your sales of Ipads are down? What? You will get a new model out that is great, but not revolutionary? Good. For the same price as they 18 months old one it replaces right? No? And you think this will reverse the trend of sales going down? Laptop replacement? Not for me. Great tablet? Yes. At that price? No. I bet they try it high for early adopters, then they will have to lower the price.

  • AndyLim Says:

    Surface is a good laptop replacement but is a mediocre tablet (heavy, poor battery life). Ipad is a great tablet that but a poor laptop replacement (iOS, lack of connectivity). There is no perfect solution yet at this moment. It all depends on your needs. Apple needs to modify iOS to take advantage of the hardware capabilities.

  • Justin Says:

    Goodnotes app and Apple Pencil is all you need for perfect note taking .
    And true full day battery life .
    The Surface lines need better App and 12 hr battery life .
    PS I own IPad Pro and Thinkpad 10 ..
    iPad for work , Windows for games .
    Some believe it to be the other way around.
    I would buy the surface book IF IT HAD GOODNOTES APP !

  • William Says:

    I'm not sure if you understand the true tone display technology. It's not about color accuracy! After all it's not a piece of paper that reflects the ambiant light of the room. Apple is trying to make it mimic a piece of paper. That would reflect the ambiant light of the room. So if the room has an orange light in it the display would look orange!! So you see the paper is not orange but the light in the room is making it look orange! That's not color accuracy that's fooling your eyes to think your looking at a physical piece of paper. If you want true color accuracy you would turn the true tone display setting to off!! Hope this helps.

  • Jackson Says:

    Please, this thing is a (poor) copy of the Surface line, with a terrible pencil compared to the proper pen that comes with the latter. Compared to the elegant kickstand/keyboard design of the Surface, this thing is clumsy.

    Nothing more than an expensive toy in comparison.

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