9.7-inch iPad Pro First Impressions: Major Improvement Over iPad Air 2, True Tone Display is Great

Apple’s newest iPad Pro, the 9.7-inch model, made its way into the hands of customers on March 31, and now that a day has passed, many people who purchased the powerful little tablet have shared their thoughts on the device on our forums.

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Reviews and impressions from media sites came out earlier this month, but there are always new details and small tidbits of information that come out when products see a wide release. First impressions from actual Apple consumers can also be valuable for those considering a purchase, so we’ve gathered up some of the details MacRumors readers have shared about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

A thread querying users about their happiness level with the new iPad Pro suggests opinions on the device are largely positive. More than half of respondents said the device is “amazing” or a “great upgrade.” While some are upgrading from an iPad Air 2 or earlier, there are buyers who traded their 12.9-inch iPad Pros for the smaller models. MacRumors reader Traverse outlined a long list of positives about his iPad Pro, highlighting the speed improvements over the iPad Air 2.

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Noticeably faster performance than my Air 2. I loved the Air 2 and never thought of it as slow and expected the A9X to yield no real world benefit in day to day use. I think a combination of that and the NAND flash improvements are huge. Apps install faster, many app launches are noticeably faster. The Music app is nearly instant open whereas the Air 2 took 2-3 seconds. I set up my iPad as new and launched Sky Guide for the first time by accident when I was putting it’s widget in NC and by the time NC swiped up the app was already loaded and waiting :eek:. It’s noticeable more zippy.

The True Tone display, unique to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, is getting some rave reviews, but not all iPad Pro owners are fans of the yellowing of the display. Patriot24 says it’s “insanely great,” but BitSlap says he prefers bright and crisp whites. On the whole, most readers seem to like the feature quite a bit.


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Can we talk about how insanely great (yeah, I went there) True Tone is?

I had to switch to my MacBook Pro/iPhone every few minutes during the setup process of my new iPad Pro to get two-factor authentication codes, and holy cow is it a major difference. I didn’t realize just how stark all of the displays around me are until now. I think it has ruined me forever.

People aren’t going to run out and buy iPads because of it, but it isn’t hard to imagine a future where all displays have this feature.

Sound on the new iPad Pro is described as “stunning,” but Cakefish points out that the speakers are prone to vibrating at high volume levels, much like the iPad Air 2. 3goldens says the vibration issue is less pronounced, though.

I personally couldn’t care less. Does not bother me at all with my Air 2. But I know it aggrevates some people enough to want to rip their own hands off. So for all of you who are sensitive to the speakers vibrating I’ll give you a warning that the speakers on the Pro 9.7″ also vibrate. By the same amount as the Air 2. I checked it out in store today.

Some prospective buyers were concerned about the protruding rear camera on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as it could potentially prevent the tablet from laying flat on a surface, but many report that is not the case.

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The camera sticking out doesn’t affect it’s ability to be stable while laying flat. I usually use a foldable stand with my tablets so it’s a non issue for me. The flash is great and it takes great pictures, I won’t use that feature often but it’s nice to have when my phone isn’t nearby.

One other interesting camera quirk — wdam123 points out that there’s no flashlight option in the Control Center on the iPad Pro despite the fact that it now includes a rear flash like the iPhone. For those wondering about the color of the Space Gray iPad Pro, CD3660 says it matches the iPhone 6s but is lighter than the 2015 MacBook and the original iPad Air.

A list of all of the threads mentioned in the post is included below, along with other interesting 9.7-inch iPad Pro forum discussions.

iPad Pro 9.7 pictures/opinions

How happy are you with your new 9.7″ iPad Pro?

Space Gray Lighter on iPad Pro

iPad Pro 9.7 has no option in Control Center for flashlight

If speaker vibration was a deal breaker for you with the Air 2, don’t bother getting the new Pro.

True Tone is a Great Innovation

The Big Pro or Little Pro

Will itWobble?

iPad Pro 9.7 Screen is Nice

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is now available online, in Apple retail stores, and from third-party retailers. Pricing on the tablet starts at $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only model and goes up to $1,029 for the 256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Pro (Buy Now)

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Apple Introduces 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Apple today introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which at just under one pound features a new pro Retina display with greater brightness, wider color gamut, lower reflectivity, Night Shift mode, and new True Tone display technology. The new iPad Pro also has a 64-bit A9X chip that rivals most portable PCs. “iPad Pro is a new generation of iPad that is indispensable and immersive, enabling people to be more productive and more creative. It’s incredibly fast, extremely portable, and completely natural to use with your fingers, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard. And now it comes in two sizes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

iPad Air 3 Cases to Fit Four Speakers, Rear Flash, and Smart Connector Appear

Last week, a design drawing surfaced claiming to show an iPad Air 3 with a few differences compared to the current iPad Air 2, most notably a stereo four-speaker design similar to the iPad Pro and an apparent LED flash located below the rear camera.

The design drawing likely came from a third-party manufacturer, and these companies apparently now feel comfortable enough to begin producing cases based on the design, as seen through Chinese site Alibaba’s 1688.com business portal (via Nowhereelse.fr).

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The new low-cost cases currently selling at around $3–4 each in quantities of 500 or more and even cheaper for greater quantities match the earlier design drawing, including two slots on each of the top and bottom edges to accommodate the device’s speakers, and a teardrop cutout on the rear to fit the camera with an LED flash below.

At least one of the cases appears to have a cutout along the left side that matches the shape and location of the Smart Connector used to dock and power accessories such as keyboards on the iPad Pro. A Smart Connector was not observed in the design drawing from last week and does not appear to be included on the other case being offered for sale.

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Other features appear identical to the iPad Air 2, including a decently large cutout high on the right edge of the device for the volume buttons, and small holes on the right edge and next to the rear camera for microphones. Additional cutouts for the headphone jack and power button on top and the Lightning port on the bottom are also present.

Apple opted not to update the iPad Air lineup last September when it debuted the iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro, and a new iPad Air 3 has been rumored for release during the first half of this year, most likely at a March media event.

Related Roundup: iPad Air 3
Tag: case leak
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Air (Don’t Buy)

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DigiTimes Says iPad Air 3 Will Have 4K Display and Up to 4GB RAM

Taiwanese touch panel makers General Interface Solution and TPK will share production of a third-generation “4K” iPad Air set to debut in March, according to sources out of the China supply chain (via DigiTimes).

The same sources claim that in addit…

iOS 9.3 Beta 2 Allows iPad Pro’s Smart Connector to Update Accessory Firmware

smartconnectorupdateThe second beta of iOS 9.3, which was seeded to developers on Monday and the public earlier today, includes a new feature that allows the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector to update accessory firmware. The new feature was first spotted by German developer Stefan Wolfrum (via Cult of Mac) when he plugged his Logitech Create keyboard case into his iPad Pro.

In the past month, several users in the MacRumors forums have noted that the Create keyboard case suffers from lag and dropped keystrokes. A MacRumors forum member, who also reported that his Create keyboard had its firmware updated when plugged into an iPad Pro running iOS 9.3 beta 2, said that both issues were resolved by the firmware update.

MacRumors was able to recreate the steps that led to the update by updating our iPad Pro to beta 2 and connecting the keyboard. When the keyboard is connected, a pop-up is displayed alerting users to an “accessory update”, asking whether they want to update the “Smart Connector Accessory”. If a user chooses to update, the pop-up stays on the screen and displays the update progress. Once progress hits 100 percent the dialog box disappears; the update took 30 – 40 seconds. However, there was no dialog or indication of what the update changed once the process was complete.

The Smart Connector’s ability to transmit both data and power at the same time has been on full display with keyboard accessories like the Smart Keyboard and Logitech Create, but it was unknown whether the port could be used to update firmware for accessories. It’s unclear whether the new iOS beta housed the firmware update or whether it quickly pinged a server to download the update before applying it.

Related Roundups: iPad Pro, iOS 9
Tag: Smart Connector
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Pro (Buy Now)

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How to Download the iOS 9.3 Beta to Your iPhone or iPad

ios93Ahead of new software releases for iOS devices, Apple provides early copies to both developers and public beta testers to work out bugs and refine features. Major updates often include exciting new additions that people are eager to try out right away, such as iOS 9.3’s Night Shift Mode and all of its other new features.

If you want to get your hands on iOS 9.3 ahead of its prospective spring public launch date, there are two legitimate ways to do it: a developer license or a public beta invitation. We’ll outline both ways to get iOS 9.3 below, plus we’ll include some instructions on downgrading in case you run into bugs.

Both those who sign up for a developer license and those who test betas through Apple’s public beta testing program should use caution when installing beta software. It’s called a beta because it’s unfinished, and there are often significant issues and problems that can prevent apps and features from working, especially in the early beta testing process.

iOS 9.3, though relatively stable, should not be installed on a main iOS device that’s used on a daily basis. Testing should be done on an extra device that can be easily wiped should something go wrong.


First, Create an Archived iTunes Backup

Before installing beta software (or any update), it’s important to make a fresh iTunes backup in case something goes wrong and a restore is needed. You don’t want to lose important data. Even if you regularly back up using iCloud, you will need a separate archived iTunes backup to restore to an earlier version of iOS. iCloud backups don’t work for downgrading.

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  1. Connect your iPhone or iPad to a PC or Mac with the latest version of iTunes installed and click on the device icon in iTunes.
  2. Under backups, choose “This computer.” Select “Encrypt iPhone backup” and set a password. An encrypted backup includes account passwords, Health, and HomeKit data. A non-encrypted backup will wipe all of this data if it’s used for a restore.
  3. Click “Back Up Now” and wait for the backup process to finish. It will take approximately five minutes to complete depending on what’s installed on your iPhone.
  4. To archive the backup, choose “Preferences” from the iTunes menu and select the “Devices” tab. Choose the fresh backup and right click to bring up the “Archive” option.
  5. Once archived, a backup will be marked with the date and the exact time that it was archived.

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Getting iOS 9.3 Beta With a Free Public Beta Account

Once a backup has been created, the first (free) option is to sign up to participate in Apple’s Beta Software Program. Apple has been offering OS X public betas since mid-2014 and iOS betas since March of 2015.

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The only disadvantage using this method is that public betas for iOS software are often released a week or two after developers first receive the betas, but sometimes the wait can be just a matter of days.

To sign up for Apple’s beta program, go to the Apple Beta Software Program website and click on “Sign up.” You will need to enter your Apple ID and password, along with a verification code if two-step authentication is enabled. Once signed up, getting the beta is easy.

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  1. After creating an account, to go beta.apple.com/profile on your iOS device and tap on “Download Profile.”
  2. The beta profile will be downloaded and opened within the Settings app, where you will be prompted to install it by clicking “Install.”
  3. After agreeing to the terms of service, the configuration profile will be installed. You’ll be prompted to restart your iOS device.
  4. Open the Settings app, tap on the “General” tab and then “Software Update.” The beta can then be installed over the air like any standard iOS update.
  5. All future iOS 9.3 public beta updates will be installed in the same way, through the Software Update mechanism on iOS devices.

Getting iOS 9.3 Beta With a Paid Developer Account

Developers have access to iOS betas to develop apps for new features and to make sure existing apps are up to date when new software is released to the public. While there are free developer accounts available, downloading beta software requires a paid developer account, priced at $99 per year.

Developers used to have to pay $99 for access to OS X and another $99 for iOS, but the developer programs were merged in 2015. $99 now allows developers to access betas of iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS.

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Developer betas are designed specifically for actual app developers, hence the cost, but Apple does approve accounts even without an app in the App Store. Given that a developer account is expensive and oriented towards iOS and Mac developers, most general testers will want to opt for the public beta instead of signing up for a developer account. For those who want to create a developer account, it’s a simple process.

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  1. Go to Apple’s main Developer Program website and click on the “Enroll” button.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and agree to the terms of service. Read the terms of service carefully – there are restrictions on the sharing of information from the beta.
  3. At the “Entity Type” menu, Select “Individual” to enroll as an individual or “Company” to enroll a multi-person organization.
  4. Enter your legal name, phone number, and address.
  5. Agree to Apple’s Developer Agreement and confirm the information listed is correct.
  6. Complete the purchase with a payment of $99. There’s an optional checkbox for automatic renewal on a yearly basis.

Before a developer account can be created, there is a short waiting period while Apple approves and activates the account. This process can take up to 24 hours, but once a developer account is available, betas can be downloaded right away.

Installing a developer beta via iTunes:

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  1. Go to the iOS section of the Apple Developer Center.
  2. Click on “Download.”
  3. iphonemodelnumberlocationFind your device and select the appropriate software from the list. For newer devices like the iPad Pro, iPad mini 4, and iPhone 6/6s, a model number isn’t required. Just select the device.
  4. For older iPhones and iPads, the model number can be found in the small print on the back of the device. The number you want starts with an A followed by four numbers.
  5. Install the beta by connecting an iOS device to iTunes. At the device menu, hold down the option key (shift key on a PC) and click on “Check for Update.”
  6. Select the file that was downloaded from the Developer Center. The iOS beta will be installed as a traditional update, without wiping all of the content from an iPhone or iPad.
  7. To install a fresh copy of the iOS beta, follow the same steps, but click on “Restore iPhone” instead.
  8. Subsequent betas can be installed over the air through the Software Update option in the Settings app.

Installing a developer beta over the air:

As of January 2016, developer betas can be installed over the air like public betas using a configuration profile. Prior to that date, installing the first developer beta required iTunes.

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  1. Navigate to the iOS section of the Apple Developer Center on an iOS device.
  2. Scroll down to “Configuration Profile” option and click on “Download.”
  3. When the iOS Beta Software Profile pops up, click on “Install.” After agreeing to the terms of service, the profile will be installed and the iPhone or iPad will need to be restarted.
  4. Open the Settings app, tap on “General” and then “Software Update.” The beta can then be installed over the air like any standard iOS update.

Avoid Sketchy Beta Download Offers

Now that Apple offers public beta access to its major iOS updates, there’s little reason to use sites that advertise ways for non-developers to install developer betas using beta files. Such tools used to be popular when iOS betas were restricted to developer accounts, but with a legitimate way to get early software access, attempting to install a developer beta without a developer account isn’t worth the trouble.

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We don’t recommend installing the iOS 9.3 beta using unofficial methods like this.

Public betas are often a week or two behind developer betas and that can tempt some people into using alternate means to get access to developer betas, but the earliest beta content is restricted because it can be rife with bugs, glitches, and other serious issues. Installing an unofficial version of the developer beta can result in activation errors and other problems that can’t be resolved so we recommend sticking to official channels.

Downgrading From a Beta

If you’ve installed an iOS beta but want to reinstall the standard non-beta version of iOS, you can downgrade. Downgrading without losing data requires an iTunes backup, which is another reason why it’s important to make a backup before installing beta software.

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  1. Turn off Find My iPhone in the iCloud section of the Settings app.
  2. Turn off the iPhone or the iPad.
  3. Hold down the Home button while plugging the device into a PC or Mac running iTunes.
  4. Continue to hold down the Home button until the iTunes logo pops up on the device display.
  5. At the popup menu, click on “Restore.” A warning will pop up letting you know the device will be erased. Click on “Restore and Update” to bring up the iPhone Software Update menu, which will display details about the current publicly available version of iOS. Click “Next” and then “Agree” to agree to the terms and conditions.

Restoring an iOS device to a prior version will result in a clean install. Apps and data will be erased, which is why an archived backup is required.Once the older version of iOS has been installed, choose “Restore Backup” in iTunes and select your archived backup. Your iOS device will be restored to the condition it was in prior to the beta.

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Apple’s iOS 9.3 operating system update won’t see a public release until the spring, so that means we have several months of betas to go through before we get to the final version of the software. If you have a spare iOS device, signing up for beta access is a great way to try out new features without having to wait for months.

For those of you without an extra device who are considering installing iOS 9.3 on a main device, it’s a risky choice. The first betas of iOS 9.3 are relatively stable and most apps appear to be fully functional, but there’s always a chance there could be an installation issue or that a major bug could come along later in the beta testing process.

Related Roundup: iOS 9
Tag: iOS 9.3

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March Event Could See Launch of iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 and New Apple Watch Bands

Apple is rumored to be planning to host a March event to unveil new products, but exact details on what will be shown off at the event have been in flux. An early December rumor from 9to5Mac suggested Apple would use the event to unveil a second-generation Apple Watch, but a report from TechCrunch indicated that rumor was false – no Apple Watch 2 is in the works for an early 2016 launch.

Instead, TechCrunch shared information indicating something smaller but still watch-related could be introduced in March, perhaps a minor update to add a FaceTime camera or new bands and partnerships similar to Apple’s collaboration with Hermès. In a new report on what may come out at the March event, 9to5Mac backtracks on earlier claims of an Apple Watch 2 and instead agrees with TechCrunch, pointing towards a new Apple Watch lineup with new bands but no hardware changes.

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At its September 2015 event, Apple introduced its Hermès partnership and debuted new colors for several Apple Watch bands, and we may see the same kind of update at the March event. New colors for existing bands and bands in new materials may be in the works. Apple is also planning to release watchOS 2.2 at or shortly after the event.

Apple’s March event may also see the debut of the rumored 4-inch iPhone, now thought to be called the “iPhone 5se” to reflect its position as a successor to the iPhone 5s. The device is said to have an iPhone 5s-style exterior with iPhone 6-style curved cover. Internally, it will feature an A8 or A9 processor, NFC support for Apple Pay, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and while it won’t have 3D Touch, it will be capable of taking Live Photos.

Previous rumors have suggested we could also see the next-generation iPad Air at the March event, as it is said to be debuting in the spring of 2016.

Though no Apple Watch 2 update is planned for early 2016, a second-generation update is undoubtedly in the works. It’s possible Apple could be planning to release a new Apple Watch in the fall months alongside the iPhone 7.

Apple’s plans for a March event remain tentative, and should products not be ready for release, there’s a possibility that it could be canceled in favor of an online-only unveiling and announcement for the 4-inch iPhone and new Apple Watch bands.

Related Roundups: iPad Air 2, Apple Watch, watchOS 2, iPhone 5se (2016), iPhone 6c
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Air (Don’t Buy), Apple Watch (Neutral)

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iPad Pro’s A9X Chip Rivals Performance of Intel’s Low-End Core M Processors

AnandTech today published an in-depth iPad Pro review with detailed hardware and software analysis, including an interesting performance comparison between the tablet’s dual-core A9X chip and Intel’s Core M processors.

The test was conducted to determine to what level Apple’s custom ARM chips have caught up to the performance of Intel’s Core M lineup, given Apple’s continued advancements in architecture and manufacturing, compared to Intel’s slower rate of growth over its last few generations of Core processors.

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The review pitted the iPad Pro’s A9X chip against various Core M devices, including the Broadwell-based 12-inch Retina MacBook with a low-end Core M chip and ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi with a high-end Core M chip, and Skylake-based ASUS ZenBook UX305CA with a base-tier Core m3 CPU.

The SPECint2006† benchmark results reveal that the iPad Pro is competitive with the Retina MacBook and Asus ZenBook UX305CA in certain tests, winning half of the benchmarks against each device, but the tablet lags behind in overall performance. Meanwhile, the high-end ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi unsurprisingly beat the iPad Pro in every category.

Evidently, Intel’s Core M lineup continues to lead in overall performance, but Apple is quickly closing the gap.

A9X can compete with both Broadwell and Skylake Core M processors, and that’s something Apple couldn’t claim even a generation ago. That it’s only against the likes of Core m3 means that Apple still has a way to go, particularly as A9X still loses by more than it wins, but it’s significant progress in a short period of time and I’ll wager that it’s closer than Intel would like to be, especially if Apple puts A9X into a cheaper iPad Air in the future.

Apple’s progress is notable given multiple rumors that suggest the company may release ARM-based Macs in the future.

In this scenario, Apple would replace the Intel chips it currently uses in Macs with custom designed A-series chips, allowing the company to better time processor upgrades with new product launches. On multiple occasions, Apple has had to hold off on updating its Mac lineup while waiting for Intel’s latest generations of processors.

In January 2015, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo projected that Apple could begin launching ARM-based Macs within one or two years based on its custom chip designs. As these A9X benchmarks show, however, the use of A-series chips in Macs would very likely be limited to lower-end devices like the 12-inch Retina MacBook at first.

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In May 2014, French website MacBidouille reported that Apple has prototyped several ARM-based machines, including an iMac, Mac mini and 13″ notebook with 4-8 64-bit ARM quad-core processors, and new keyboards with large-format Magic Trackpads, but many doubted the feasibility of moving forward with such a plan.

Nearly two years later, the prospect of Apple releasing ARM-based Mac remains questionable, especially for high-end Macs, but the A9X chip is evidence that Apple’s A-series processors are increasingly rivaling the performance of Intel’s entry-level offerings. At the very least, it gives Apple options moving forward.

SPECint2006 is a CPU-intensive cross-platform benchmark that tests processors based on a wide range of real-life usage scenarios, ranging from video compression to PERL execution to AI. For a detailed technical explanation of the SPEC CPU benchmark and its 12 sub-benchmarks, read the full review.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Pro (Buy Now)

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