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Apple iPad Pro 9.7 review: The best just got better

By James Lu - 14 Apr 2016

Overview & Design


It's been over a year and a half since Apple launched the iPad Air 2, its last 9.7-inch tablet. And while I was thoroughly impressed by the power, performance and features of the iPad Pro 12.9, its huge size meant that it's not for everyone. If only you could get all of the same pro-level features, but in a standard 9.7-inch form factor. Well, now you can.

  Apple iPad Pro 9.7
  Apple iPad Pro 9.7
  • 4G LTE (optional)
Operating system
  • iOS 9.3
  • Apple A9X chip with M9 co-processor
  • 2GB
  • 9.7-inch
  • 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution (264ppi)
  • IPS
  • Rear: 12-megapixel, f/2.2, 29mm, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.2, 31mm
I/O Ports
  • Headphone jack
  • Lightning port
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, HT80 with MIMO Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, EDR, A-GPS, NFC, GLONASS (4G LTE version only)
  • 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB
Other Features
  • Touch ID sensor
  • 7,306mAh
  • 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm
  • 437 (Wi-Fi) / 444g (WiFi + Cellular)



The iPad design has remained pretty much unchanged for the past three years and for the most part, the iPad Pro 9.7 looks exactly like the iPad Air 2. In fact, the two tablets have the exact same dimensions of 240 x 168 x 6.1mm, and they even weigh the same: 437g for the Wi-Fi version and 444g for the 4G LTE version. That's astonishing considering the hardware upgrades inside the Pro 9.7. Apple will probably need to refresh the iPad's design sooner rather than later - those shiny chamfered edges are looking a bit dated - but for now, the iPad Pro 9.7 remains clean and aesthetically pleasing.

As with the last couple of iPads, you get a lightning fast Touch ID fingerprint scanner below the Retina display. The lightning port is still on the bottom, the headphone jack and power button are still on the top, and the volume rocker remains on the right side. In fact, the only way to guarantee that people know you have a brand new iPad Pro 9.7 is to get the new and exclusive Rose Gold color, as it's the only tablet, big or small, that Apple offers in Rose Gold. And yes, it's a perfect match to your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.

Upon closer inspection you will notice some differences between the Pro 9.7 and the Air 2. Most obvious among these is the redesigned rear camera. There's a bit of a camera bump now, which is always disappointing to see, but the tradeoff is worth it. Gone is the 8-megapixel rear camera, replaced instead with a 12-megapixel iSight camera that's also used on the iPhone 6s. Unfortunately there's no optical image stabilization, but for the first time on an iPad, you do get an LED flash. It's a good one too: it's the same True Tone LED flash you'll find on the iPhone 6s. By the way, the front camera has also been upgraded. It's now the same 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera found on the iPhone 6s.

The camera bump is a bit unsightly, but the upgrade in camera performance is worth it.

The rear antenna on the 4G LTE version has also been redesigned. Gone is the unsightly plastic block, replaced with more discrete antenna lines that mirror the ones found on the iPhone 6s. Notice how subtle it looks now:-

You'll also notice that, like its bigger brother, the iPad Pro 9.7 has four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, for a true stereo sound setup. The last minor change is a Smart Connector port on the left side, which lets the tablet connect with Apple's Smart Keyboard accessory.

Like the iPad Pro 12.9, the 9.7 has speakers on the top and bottom.

For more photos, you can also check out our photo gallery comparison of the iPad Pro 9.7 against the bigger 12.9-inch brother and the iPad Mini 4.

Next, we'll cover the key features of the iPad Pro series and how the 9.7 variant fares in those aspects.

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  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 7
The Good
Class-leading performance
Great stereo sound
Excellent rear and front cameras
Gorgeous display
Thin and light build
The Bad
Pretty expensive
Battery life could be better
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