The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is an extremely powerful tablet. It packs in a new A10X Fusion chip, increases the size and brightness of the display over the previous generation, and introduces a 120Hz refresh rate to the lineup. That translates to insanely smooth animations and transitions, plus fluid response from the Apple Pencil with almost no latency.
No one is disputing the awesome capabilities of this new iPad Pro. What I am disputing, however, is the need to buy one. At $649, its starting price is higher than ever before for an iPad Pro in this size range. That price, once you factor in an Apple Pencil and/or Smart Keyboard, enters full-on laptop territory. That’s okay for some, but I suspect you’re questioning whether you can get an iPad Pro that has more bang for your buck. You definitely can.
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The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a Better Value
Getting an older 9.7-inch iPad Pro from 2016 saves $100. That iPad Pro, though not widely advertised by Apple, is now sold starting at $549 for 32GB of storage.
The only features you miss out on are the improved display (600 nits of brightness, 120Hz refresh rate, etc.) and the A10X Fusion chip. The chip is noticeably faster than the A9X in the 2016 iPad Pro, but not fast enough to justify the extra cash. You also don’t get the improved cameras, but does anyone actually do any serious photography with an iPad anyway?
If you’re scared to buy refurbished, don’t be.
Better yet, buy a refurbished 9.7-inch iPad Pro. As soon as Apple announced the 10.5-inch model at WWDC, I went on Apple’s website and snagged a refurbished 2016 model for only $470. If you’re scared to buy refurbished, don’t be. They look identical to new products and have a 30-day warranty. Plus, consider how often brand new products have a few duds come off of the manufacturing line — the risk is pretty close to the same.
If you’re in need of more storage, the 9.7-inch wins again. You can get the 2016 iPad Pro with 128GB for $629 — still saving $20 off of the entry-level 10.5-inch. To me, it’s no contest.
The Regular 9.7-inch iPad is an Even Better Value
Here’s a question worth asking: do you even need an iPad Pro at all? If you don’t care about getting a Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil or having features like a True-Tone display and the fastest CPU, probably not. In which case, the new 2017 iPad is an enormous value. The 32GB model is only $329 — nearly half the cost of the new iPad Pro. Still, it packs the same battery life, a great 9.7-inch display, and the same processor that’s in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
So what it’s slightly thicker? The bottom line is the 9.7-inch iPad is half the price with well over half the features that the iPad Pro has. It’s a bargain, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Smart Connector is Not Necessary
The Smart Connector is an awesome feature of the iPad Pro, but unfortunately over a year after its debut it doesn’t have many uses. It basically only serves as a connector for Apple’s Smart Keyboard. It also works with a couple Logitech keyboards, but that’s it. You can count how many accessories work with the Smart Connector on one hand.
If your only reason to get an iPad Pro is this, reconsider. Hundreds of Bluetooth keyboards are available for various models of the iPad at a fraction of the price. The 10.5-inch Smart Keyboard is a bold $159. Search Amazon and you can find keyboards for as little as $20. Even keyboards built in to iPad cases are $50 or $60. Many of them type better and have more features than Apple’s offering too.
Note: One downside to conventional Bluetooth keyboards is having to charge them separately. Apple and Logitech win points for charging through the Smart Connector so no external power source is necessary.
Bonus: One Reason You Should Buy the 10.5-inch iPad Pro
Most critics and tech enthusiasts will tell you the most important reason to buy the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the 120Hz refresh rate on the display. It makes everything buttery smooth and delightful. That’s not a lie, but I respectfully disagree that’s why most people should buy a 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
If you’re going to buy this $650 (or more) machine, do it for the 600 nits of brightness. Yes, the iPad Pro’s screen is the brightest Apple has ever put in a tablet. Tablets, as well as any devices in general with LED screens, still to this day often suffer from poor usability in direct sunlight. That’s a problem that almost all of us encounter at some point.
An impressive 600 nits of brightness should significantly remedy that issue outside. That means you can take your iPad Pro out on your porch, to the beach, to an outside cafe, or all of the above and not have to worry about not seeing your content.
If you’re going to buy this $650 (or more) machine, do it for the 600 nits of brightness.
120Hz is an amazing feature too, but it’s not something anyone really desperately needs. It’s a nice bonus. Eventually, all screens will be 120Hz, but I’d argue that almost no one has ever felt crippled before by the 60Hz refresh rate on any older iPads. That said, if you buy a new iPad Pro for the brightness, you’ll get that nice, speedy refresh rate too.