The iPad Pro 11-inch is a device that Apple has designed to offer creative users freedom. Armed with the best iPad Pro apps (opens in new tab), it gives digital illustrators a powerful sketchbook on the go and allows architects to show their complex ideas without needing to wrestle a cumbersome laptop around. Movie makers get a screen that can display true colour and photographers will be delighted with the portable studio they’ve been craving. It’s an ultra-thin tablet fighting against the most powerful laptops on the market – and it’s giving as good as it gets.
CPU: A12X Bionic
Screen: 11-inch 1668 x 2338
Storage: 64GB - 1TB
Ports: 1x USB-C
Size: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
Weight: 468g (without keyboard)
iPad Pro (2018): Price
Let’s not hide it: the iPad Pro is a very expensive machine, especially when it doesn’t offer a desktop-class experience. The base price of $799/£769 isn’t terrible, but you’ll be spending another $300/£300 or so for the necessary keyboard and Pencil, and you’ll probably want the LTE (Wi-Fi and Cellular) version so you’ll be adding another $150/£150 to the cost. That means that for the base 64GB storage size, you’re already spending $1250/£1219 – roughly the price of a Core i5 Macbook Pro.
If you want to up the storage to the maximum 1TB, then you’ll be easily spending over a couple of grand – and this is for a tablet that doesn’t quite have the capability to fully replace a Windows machine or MacBook.
At least, those are the prices you would expect to pay when the device launched in 2018. Nowadays it's possible to get a refurbished version for much less, and Apple sells refurbished 11-inch iPad Pros for $519/£479, which is a much more attractive price. If that takes your fancy, be sure to check our round-up of the best iPad deals (opens in new tab) to see if you can get even more money off.
iPad Pro (2018): Power and performance
Even today, the A12X Bionic chip in the 2018 iPad Pro 11 is still fantastically powerful. In our benchmarking tests it outstripped the nearest device by nearly double, and thrashed a number of capable Windows laptops too – including the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and the HP Zbook X360 G5.
This power translates into speed through the machine – combined with 6GB of RAM there’s very little this tablet can’t manage, as long as there’s a dedicated app for it. See our pick of apps that come alive with the Apple Pencil (opens in new tab) for more.
We saw a demonstration of Adobe Photoshop for the iPad (opens in new tab), and the speed at which it can zoom while managing over a hundred layers was truly impressive. We’ve had no moments of slowdown with the machine so far, and the only real issues we’ve encountered are with apps not quite being optimised for the new machine, such as Gmail slowing down and failing to react to touch on the odd occasion.
However, these are being quickly eradicated now the iPad is on the market, and we’d expect the raw power to be fully exploited by developers as they get their hands on the new tech.
There is one thing to note, though. Apple's latest iPad Pro 11-inch from 2021 comes with the desktop-class M1 chip (the first time Apple has put a desktop chip in an iPad), and its performance is exceptional - even beyond the already impressive A12X Bionic. On heavy-duty workloads, there is no matching the M1 in the tablet world.
In normal usage, though, you probably won't notice much difference because both the A12X Bionic and the M1 are so powerful. With that in mind, you probably don't need to upgrade to the M1 model unless you want as much power as you can get your hands on. The 2018 iPad Pro 11 is certainly no slouch.
iPad Pro (2018): Display
Apple loves to create a more natural look with its screens, with the P3-level color display definitely erring away from the sharper, punchier colours of tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.
The result is that things can look more muted on the display in comparison, but for those wanting truer colour reproduction for creative projects, Apple is claiming industry-leading quality in terms of the vibrancy and saturation on screen.
We’re not sold on the idea that the 11-inch screen – which features specially-crafted curves at the edge for a more natural look – is an edge-to-edge display, as the bezel around the edge is still pretty chunky, to make sure you don’t tap the wrong thing when zooming through your apps.
The 2388x1668 resolution translates to a 264-pixels per inch sharpness, and it looks great for every task we tried. The peak brightness of 600 nits is a little on the low side these days though, as it means the screen is not HDR-compliant – although it is capable of playing back HDR content, just to confuse things. The 2021 iPad Pro 12.9 can go brighter – up to 1,600 nits of peak brightness – and might be a better choice if that's something you really need.
iPad Pro (2018): Apple Pencil
The Apple Pencil has been redesigned, but it’s hard to call it a true upgrade in terms of performance. The main changes are useful though: it now magnetically clips and charges to the side of the iPad Pro, and there’s a double tap function baked in to allow you to switch between modes in apps.
In Apple's Notes app, this is easily the best performance we’ve seen from a stylus from Apple, with the app making full use of the Metal 2 framework to give direct access to the GPU. This results in far-reduced latency when sketching or writing, and it’s easily the best experience we’ve had on an iPad.
Variable pressure levels and the capability to use the edge of the tip give a new dimension to input, and the range of apps set up to take advantage of the Pencil (with Pixelmator and Procreate strong favourites) are numerous. Lightroom and Photoshop are also available.
We did have a couple of issues with the Pencil, namely that the Metal framework isn’t used in every app yet, it seems, as we noted a little more latency in some applications. Also, the Pencil just refused to connect when being removed from its magnetic charging on the side of the tablet, which isn’t what you expect for a device of this cost.
iPad Pro (2018): Features
Apple has baked in a few new features for the new iPad Pro, with Face ID replacing Touch ID in the Home button. The facial recognition is swift and far easier to use, and works in any orientation, although we did manage to cover the camera most of the times we picked up the iPad Pro.
The lack of Home button means the interface is navigated with gestures, flicks and swipes moving you through the screens. It’s incredibly intuitive, and allows you to easily jump between apps and multitask across two apps with ease.
The speakers around the edge of the new iPad Pro, one in each corner, have their own woofer and tweeter, and movie audio in particular is excellent.
One thing to note: USB-C is now the physical connection on offer here, bringing it more in line with the MacBook and allowing for faster data transfer. It’s annoying if you’ve got your life set up around Lightning cables, although it does mean you can now connect flash drives and external hard drives.
iPad Pro (2018): Should you buy it?
Apple insists the iPad Pro 11 can replace your laptop, and in some cases that might be true. Pair it with Apple's excellent Magic Keyboard case (it's one of the best iPad keyboards (opens in new tab)), download the right apps, and you could have a good little laptop-like setup ready to go.
But even as a second machine, one that allows you to be creative on the go and have a portable music studio, AutoCAD platform and photography editing suite in your bag, there’s very little better out there. The bugs in the system still irk, but if you’re after a powerful tablet that lets you get on with your job, the new iPad Pro is certainly worthy of a strong consideration.