2018 iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard Folio — a big leap from the first Pro

While I upgrade my iPhone every year, my iPad upgrade history trends toward every other generation: iPad 2, fourth-gen, Air, and 9.7-inch Pro. Skipping a generation (with the exception of the fourth-gen to original Air) has served me well as each upgrade is less incremental and more dramatic.

(I later acquired the original iPad — seen above stacked on the new iPad Pro — to collect; the new 11-inch iPad Pro feels like the modern version of that design with similar flat sides and the bulbous back squashed.)

This time around I’m upgrading from the 9.7-inch iPad Pro from early 2016 to the brand new 11-inch iPad Pro. The combination of upgraded specs, an all-new design, and subtly improved accessories is making this step all the more rewarding.







Price

The upgrade comes with a steeper price however. The base model 9.7-inch iPad Pro started at $599 plus $149 for the Smart Keyboard and $99 for the Apple Pencil. About $850 total. Throw in the $69 Silicone Case for back coverage and you’re at $916 total.

This year the base model iPad Pro has a larger display and more storage and everything is pricier across the board. $799 for the 11-inch iPad Pro, $179 for the new Smart Keyboard Folio, and $129 for the new Apple Pencil puts you at $1,107.

One difference this year is that back coverage isn’t optional with the Smart Keyboard, but you do get a little less protection for $191 more.

You also get a 1.3-inch larger display, 64GB storage over 32GB, and all the benefits of Face ID over Touch ID and the A12X chip over the A9X chip (including 4GB RAM over 2GB), and 120Hz refresh rate with ProMotion is excellent if you skipped the 2017 iPad Pro revision.

Size & Weight

The 11-inch iPad Pro is absolutely thinner in the hand than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro when wrapped in the Apple accessories. That’s definitely noticeable. The depth difference between the two iPads without accessories is harder to perceive: 6.1mm versus 5.9mm.

In terms of overall footprint, the difference between the 11-inch iPad Pro and 9.7-inch iPad Pro is not dramatic. The new iPad Pro is slightly taller and slightly wider but packs a lot more screen thanks to the slimmer side bezels and extremely reduced top and bottom bezels.

The 11-inch iPad Pro is ever so slightly heavier than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro at 1.03 pounds compared to 0.97 pounds, but that’s not something I would have guessed before referencing the spec sheets. There’s a bit of an illusion at play here where the larger iPad actually feels impossibly lighter and sort of hollow because of the larger screen while the older iPad feels more dense and evenly distributed.

That benefit is lost when you wrap a keyboard cover or case around it, but I often use my iPad on its own as well. It’s also sort of amazing that both of these iPad Pros are “space gray”, but Apple’s vast universe of space gray shades is nothing new.

Display

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro introduced True Tone for adjusting the color temperature of the display based on ambient lighting. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro debuted with ProMotion which doubled the maximum frame rate from 60Hz to 120Hz. The 11-inch iPad Pro chops off the forehead and chin bezels and rounds the corners with the new Liquid Retina display.

Upgrading from the 9.7-inch iPad Pro to the 11-inch iPad Pro means True Tone is nothing new but ProMotion is very new and very noticeable. The new iPad Pro is obviously faster, but doubling the refresh rate makes basic things like scrolling content or swiping between Home screens feel faster.

The new rounded corners and dramatically reduced bezels are also excellent. iPad Pro feels like it’s from the same era as the iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 4 with slim bezels and rounded corners.

Of course a change in the display size and shape means apps will need to update to be optimized. If the app was already updated for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the effect on the 11-inch iPad Pro isn’t a major eyesore. Slim black bars above and below the app where the status bar and new Home indicator exist. You’re not losing much content.

If the app hasn’t been updated for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2015, the letterboxing is pretty rough. Cough, Facebook, ahem.

And then there’s my favorite app to plead with for an iPad version, Instagram, which is actually slightly less miserable on the 11-inch iPad Pro compared to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro thanks to the increased height and reduced forehead and chin bezels: