Apple Launches 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Posted by at 5:10 pm on September 9, 2015

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Today Apple brought out the long-rumored iPad Pro, a 12.9-inch version of the market-leading tablet aimed at both consumers and education that features a full-size keyboard that “can do things a smartphone can’t do” — including large split-screen functionality and more powerful processing, featuring a 2732×2048 display pushing 5.6 million pixels, more than are even found in the Retina MacBook Pros. The machine runs an Apple A9X processor, with double the memory bandwidth, and is said to be 1.8 times faster than the A8X processor found in the iPad Air 2.

In addition to the device itself, which features a new quad-speaker system, a new magnetic Smart Connector and the ability to handle up to three 4K video streams in what appears to be a new version of iMovie for iOS, two new rumored accessories were announced — the magnetic Smart Keyboard for physical keyboard use, and the Apple Pencil, a new drawing stylus that demonstrates a level of sensitivity not previously seen for mainstream tablets before. Demonstrations from Microsoft and Adobe, among others, show much-improved sensitivity for both finger use and Apple Pencil.

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Cross-section of new Apple Pencil

The new Smart Keyboard uses an all-new magnetic connector seen on the side of the iPad Pro, meaning the keyboard is used in landscape mode only. When connected, the software keyboard is automatically hidden to allow use the keyboard, which also features a standard array of iPad-exclusive keys, such as a home button and special app keys.

Irene Walsh of D4 Medical showed off both the much more powerful graphics of the iPad and the Apple Pencil by demonstrating live-rendered, 60fps 3D anatomy graphics and marking up demonstrative injuries, surgical approaches, and other graphics that can be sent to patients’ own devices. The Apple Pencil will be available in November, and will cost $99 (the Smart Keyboard will ship at the same time for $169).

The new iPad Pro itself will start at $799, and Apple will continue to offer the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 at $399 and $499 respectively, and introduced the iPad mini 4 (which is the functional equivalent of the larger iPad Air 2, with exactly the same capabilities) for $399. The previous iPad mini 2 is also available, at a new lower price of $269.

The iPad Pro was said by Apple to have faster graphics than 90 percent of the portable notebooks shipping today, with SVP Phil Schiller referring at one point to the device’s “buttery smoothness” when referring to the graphics, particularly in conjunction with Apple Pencil. CEO Tim Cook pointed out that the new iPad is 22 times faster than the original iPad overall, and 360 times faster than the first iPad in terms of graphics.

The iPad Pro offers two times faster graphics than the previous iPad Air 2, but despite the larger screen is only slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2 (6.9mm versus the iPad Air 2’s 6.1mm. The device is of course much heavier than most other iPads, but has a weight comparable to the first iPad (1.57 pounds). The software keyboard in the iPad Pro is large enough to be considered full-size, which should interest people planning on typing on it often with either the on-screen keyboard or a physical keyboard or keyboard case, either provided by Apple or third-party vendors.

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iPad Pro on-screen, full-size keyboard

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The iPad Pro will be available in capacities of 32GB and 128GB with Wi-Fi only, with a 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular option. Prices will be $799, $949, and $1,079, respectively.

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