Apple introduces the iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard cover and Apple Pencil

Apple brings its biggest, most powerful tablet to date – iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard

What would Steve do? What would Apple do? It was rumoured to be announced at the WWDC this year, but it didn’t happen. So, at the Apple Special Event where the Cupertino tech giant revealed the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, a whole new tablet was born. Say hello to the big, bad iPad Pro.

“The biggest news about the iPad since the iPad”

The ‘new’ Apple with Tim Cook at the helm is still very much the same design, user experience-focused Apple we know and love. But some things have changed. Apple’s quicker at shifting. And more willing to listen to customers and delivering products that customers want. Sure, admittedly, most of the time we don’t really know what we want (as Steve Jobs once said), but when we do it’s nice to have products to meet those wants. The iPad mini was a testament of that. And a bigger iPhone. The Apple Watch and its gazillion band options. A very different Apple indeed.

And now, you have a different canvas. A bigger one. Here’s the new expansive 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the biggest, most powerful iPad to date. Packing 5.6 million pixels, it’s also the highest resolution Retina display (2,732×2,048) on any iOS device. It also offers 78% more display area than that of the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2.

In terms of design, the iPad Pro sports a familiar aluminium unibody that weighs just 713g and measures only 6.9mm thin. The new tablet comes in three colour options – Silver, Space Grey and Gold.

For the first time ever, Apple has packed a four-speaker system into its tablet. The speaker housings have been machined into the unibody enclosure giving the speakers 61% more back volume than before. The intelligent speaker system recognises whether you’re in portrait and landscape view so it will always get optimum, balanced sound.

In the heart of the iPad Pro is the new A9X chip. The third-generation chip is based on a 64-bit desktop architecture, with performance that Apple claims beat 80% of portable PCs out there. Importantly, the new chip is energy efficient, ensuring good battery consumption while delivering PC-beating performance.

As a rough gauge, the iPad Pro is 1.8x the CPU performance of the iPad Air 2 – a whopping 22x CPU performance of the original iPad. Where it also excels is in graphics performance. The iPad Pro is 2x faster than the iPad Air 2, and 360x faster than the original iPad. That means you can even edit multiple streams of 4K video without breaking much of a sweat. Coupled with Metal, you’ll get the best performance from the A9X chip and iOS 9 whether you’re running graphics and video apps like AutoCAD 360, iMovie or Photoshop Fix; or playing 3D games.

There’s a built-in 8MP iSight camera with autofocus and a 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera.

Packing all that power and driving the huge Retina display, the iPad Pro still delivers an incredible 10-hour battery life.

In terms of connectivity, the iPad Pro comes in Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 4G LTE Cellular variants. The 4G LTE variant supports up to 20 LTE bands and data speeds of up to 150Mbps. In Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US, you can get an Apple SIM. When you have an Apple SIM installed, you can purchase a data plan right from your iPad in more than 90 countries.

Hello, Apple Pencil

Even since the debut of the original iPad, there have been many shapes and forms of third-party styli for writing, drawing and doodling. With the iPad Pro, Apple makes its very own – the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil has been engineered with tilt sensors and uses fine-tuned pressure. The response between the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro is lightning fast. The subsystem scans its signal at 240 times per second. Ultra low latency means input from the brain to display takes milliseconds.

It’s a pretty amazing piece of kit. You can draw lines of any weight by simply varying your pressure. You can naturally draw, write and shade.

The cool thing about the Apple Pencil is that it comes built in with a rechargeable battery. Slip off the magnetic cap and you’ll find a Lightning connector. You can charge the Apple Pencil by just plugging it into the iPad Pro. 15 seconds of charge time will give you up to 30 minutes of battery life. A full charge will give you 12 hours of use.

The smarter worker uses the Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro

The iPad’s onscreen, touch keyboard is second to none. However, most still find a physical keyboard the best way to get things done. Apple has answered that call to be productive by introducing the Smart Keyboard. At first glance, it will remind you of a keyboard case by Logitech (who make some of the best keyboards and cases by the way). The cover itself is made from durable polyurethane and the bottom is a soft microfibre lining. In the middle is a revolutionary conductive fabric which makes communication between iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard possible.

So how does it work? First of all, there’s no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth. Because it doesn’t need those. Forget pairing and charging. The Smart Keyboard features a new Smart Connector that delivers two-way power and data. Slide the iPad Pro on the Smart Keyboard and it’s activated. Simple, instant.

The 64-key keyboard is also water and stain resistant, with a mechanism that’s similar to the new MacBook.

Apple iPad Pro
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iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard and iOS 9: Match made in heaven?

Coupled with iOS 9’s new features, the iPad Pro may be the most productive iPad yet. There’s new Slide Over, Split View and Picture in Picture modes to enhance multitasking. Sure, it plays catch-up with Microsoft’s Surface but in true Apple style, it’s as refined and fluid as it comes.

Funnily enough, a Microsoft rep was on stage during the Apple Special Event to demo the upcoming Microsoft Office on the iPad Pro, together with the Apple Pencil.

Apple iPad Pro
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Pricing and availability

The iPad Pro will be offered in 32GB and 128GB (Wi-Fi); 128GB (Wi-Fi + Cellular). Prices start from US$799 (RM3,434), US$949 (RM4,078) and US$1,079 (RM4,723) respectively. Colour options include Silver, Gold and Space Grey. Availability is set in November.

The Apple Pencil retails at US$99 (RM425) while the Smart Keyboard retails at US$169 (RM726).

Apple retains the iPad mini 2 (US$269/RM1,156) in its line-up, and it joins the iPad mini 4 (US$399/RM1,715), iPad Air and iPad Air 2 (US$499/RM2,144).

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By Vernon

Vernon is the founder and chief editor of A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.