iPad Pro 11in (2018) Review: Still a Great Choice

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The 2018 iPad Pro was arguably the tablet’s biggest ever refresh when it launched, with an all-new design and some new tech. But with a successor now available in the form of the 2020 model, is it still worth buying this older version? Find out in our full review.

Design & Build: The full works

Until the release of the 2018 iPad Pro, Apple’s tablets have stuck with a similar design language since the early releases. However, in 2018 the iPad received its biggest makeover yet.

Following in the footsteps of the iPhone, the iPad Pro no longer has a physical home button. This creates various pros and cons.

One reason is to provide a larger screen, so you get 11in here in the same sized device at the older 10.5in Pro model. The larger 12.9in model stays the same but the body is smaller. Reduced bezels mean there’s no room for the iconic Home button.

This means you’ll have to forget about Touch ID and get used to Face ID, unless you stick to old school security methods. You’ll also need to use iPhone X-like gestures to navigate since you can’t hit the Home button to, well, return home.

If you’ve been using a recent iPhone then these changes won’t feel particularly dramatic and even if you haven’t, the feeling of alienation will quickly subside after a few days of learning the new system. We’ll talk about the new gestures and Face ID in more depth later.

Back to the design and the iPad Pro is simply stunning with its new look. The previous generation instantly seems dated in comparison, namely due to the new display with its rounded corners and the screen-to-body ratio. Bezels aren’t overly small but this actually gives you a little bit of room to hold the tablet without touching the screen accidentally. We’d rather this than the iPad get a notch.

The aluminium chassis now has a square edge, similar to old iPhones like the 5S. This might seem odd but because the iPad Pro is so thin at just 5.9mm it doesn’t seem dated and we quite like it. It’s effectively the same weight as the iPad Pro 10.5 at 468g.

Other design elements to be aware of include the camera sticking out a little, the Smart Connector being moved to the back and a big change from Lightning to USB-C for the port. There’s also a magnetic connector on the side which is for the new Apple Pencil (more details on that later).

Specs & Features: Power to the people

A spec bump is the bare minimum you’d expect from a new iPad, so it’s no surprise that Apple upgraded the internals on the 2018 model. They’re not quite as impressive as the 2020 version, but should be more than enough for most people:

Here’s an overview:

A12X Bionic processor, Neural Engine, M12 coprocessor
64/256/512GB/1TB of storage
11in (2388×1668 at 264ppi) LED ‘Liquid Retina’ screen, True Tone, ProMotion
12Mp rear-facing camera, f/1,8, flash, 4K video, slow-mo at 240fps
7Mp front-facing camera, 1080p video, ‘Retina Flash’ feature, Portrait Mode, Animoji
Four-speaker audio
Face ID facial recognition
802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
nano-Sim/eSIM
USB-C connector, no headphone port
247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm; 468g
What is Liquid Retina anyway?

Apart from the new screen size of 11in, up from 10.5in on its predecessor, there’s a new tech in town which Apple calls Liquid Retina. This was first introduced on the iPhone XR and essentially means it’s LCD and not OLED, not that any iPad has used the latter before.

Apple says it’s to allow the screen to “follow the curves of the device, while a new backlight design allows the display to extend into the corners.”

Panel technology specifics aside, the display is extremely bright, crisp (the usual 264ppi density) and colourful as you would expect. You get features like TrueTone and ProMotion so it’s responsive in more ways than one.

Gestures

Possibly more important than the specs of the screen are the ways you’ll now use it considering there’s no Home button. As we said earlier, people using the iPhone X and later will find it a breeze, but here’s the deal if you’re new to this era.

Swiping up from the bottom of the screen will do various things depending on how far you swipe. You can go back home, summon the Dock or view you’re open apps. You’ll also need to swipe down from the top of the screen on different sides to access notifications or the Control Centre.

Even if this is new for you, it won’t take long to get accustomed and you’ll get a short tutorial during setup. if you’d like a little more depth, here’s how to use the iPad Pro 2018.

Face ID

With new gestures also comes Face ID for the first time on an iPad; essentially using the front-facing TrueDepth camera to log in rather than your fingerprint. This is easy to set up but has a few quirks in use.

Considering an iPad is used in a very different way to an iPhone, Apple’s engineers have had to put a lot of work into making Face ID functional at a greater distance and in different orientations.

It works well a lot of the time but it’s not as reliable when compared to using it on an iPhone. For starters, holding the iPad Pro in landscape mode is likely to result in your hand covering the camera. You’ll be told but it’s still annoying.

Holding the tablet in portrait but upside down means you’ll be prompted to look down at the camera to use Face ID. Sat in the new Smart Keyboard Folio case we found we were too far away despite sitting around half a meter from the camera.

You also can’t use it if the iPad is flat on a desk, like the iPhone but it’s more effort to pick it up to log in so a passcode is easier here.

Apple Pencil 

This is an optional accessory but it’s arguably one of the biggest upgrades that comes to the iPad Pro.

The ridiculous Lightning connector on the end covered by a cap you probably lost is gone, replaced with what appears to be nothing. The new Apple Pencil now attaches to the side of the iPad Pro with magnets and also charges this way, although the tech being used is undisclosed.

It’s a huge improvement – we like the new matt finish and the flat edge not only helps it fit the side, but makes it more ergonomic in the hand. Furthermore, there’s a new double-tap feature so you can switch between tools or various things depending on the app you’re using (if the developer has enabled it).

Depending on your usage, you might find the Apple Pencil a huge boon. Our only real complaint is that you can’t use it for the new gestures required for navigation, or even to tap on the icons in the top corners to open things like the Control Centre.

Note: The original Apple Pencil does not work with the iPad Pro 2018, and the 2nd-gen isn’t compatible with any other iPads.

The storm has passed

If you’ve become familiar to the Lightning port, then it’s time to learn about USB-C (version 3.1 gen 2). Although it seemed an unlikely change to make, Apple has made with switch, with professionals like photographers in mind.

While it means you can connect the iPad Pro to various devices – cameras, monitors, keyboards and even musical instruments – it doesn’t simply mean it will work with any USB-C device. You can’t for example, just plug in a hard drive and expect to use it like normal. But you can import images with an SD card reader.

You can also use the USB-C port for headphones, but there’s no adapter in the box to regular 3.5mm and non-Apple adapters may not work.

There are a range of USB-C adapters you can buy including to Thunderbolt 3, USB-A and a digital AV multiport adapter.

A cool feature is that you can use the iPad Pro as a power bank with reverse charging. So if your phone or other gadget runs out of power then you can charge them up wherever you are. It’s not restricted to Apple devices, either; you’ll just need the right cable.

Smart Keyboard Folio

The other optional, but semi-necessary, accessory is the keyboard case. It’s expensive but you’ll need one if you want a laptop-like experience.

This time around it’s a full folio case so covers the front and the back of the iPad. There’s more protection then, but it adds thickness and weight. If you’re buying a high-spec model and will need the keyboard, then you might want to consider whether the MacBook Air is a better purchase.

We found the case is good quality and fits, as you would expect, perfectly. Typing is a surprisingly nice experience, although can take a bit of getting used to. Our main complaint is only having two viewing angles to choose from.

Top tip: Press and hold the command key to see what shortcuts are available at any given moment.

The engine room

We’d normally talk about core specs earlier in a review but other changes are more impactful. The headlines here are the new processor and an optional 1TB of storage.

With most new Apple products comes with a new chip, and the iPad Pros get the A12X Bionic which is dubbed the ‘smartest and most powerful chip ever’, naturally. It’s an octa-core processor with a seven-core GPU. Apple says it’s two times faster than the A10X inside the 2017 iPad Pro, although it will be slightly slower than the A12Z on the 2020 Pro. 

The other big news is that there are now four storage capacities. The lowest at 64GB probably won’t be enough for most professionals so you’ll need to jump to 256GB or 512GB. There’s even a 1TB option for the first time which is a lot of storage should you have the cash to splash.

That top-end storage also comes with more memory – 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB. This is the model we’re testing here in the following benchmarks.

Battery life

Although specs change, Apple makes the same usual claims about battery life. That’s up to 10 hours of browsing the web, watching videos or listening to music over Wi-Fi. You can take an hour off for using cellular data.

In our Geekbench battery test, the iPad Pro 11in lasted a very respectable nine hours and 32 minutes. The iPad Pro 12.9 has a large battery so can go around an hour longer. These are both slightly behind rivals like the Surface Go, which in turn is miles off the excellent Snapdragon Windows devices that can last more than 20 hours looping video.

Despite the switch to USB-C for charging, there’s nothing in the way of fast charging. The iPad Pro 11 will reach 22% with a 30-minute charge starting from 0 using the supplied 18W charger. It will then take a good few hours to reach 100%.

If you happen to have a MacBook Pro charger, then its 87W adapter will do a better job. We’ve tested it with other non-Apple chargers and work, which is handy if you need to borrow a charger.

The best of the rest

That’s the main elements of the iPad Pro 11in reviewed, but there are a few other elements left to talk about before we summarise.

As usual, there’s a 12Mp rear camera which is decent should you need to do tablet photography or AR within some apps – optical image stabilisation is gone, though. The front 7Mp TrueDepth camera isn’t just for Face ID, you can use it for video calls or selfies and it now has Portrait mode as well as Animoji or Memoji.

Not having a headphone jack is a little annoying, but when it comes to built-in audio there are still four speakers despite the iPad Pro being so thin. A redesign was in order and they still sound excellent, with audio being directed appropriately depending on orientation.

Should you need cellular connectivity, the iPad Pro has both a Nano-SIM card slot and an eSIM. The latter means you can simply buy a data package whenever you need it from within iOS 12 which is a neat idea.

iOS 12 is the last thing to mention and there’s not much to say – skip back up if you missed the section on new gestures. Key new features include Shortcuts and Group FaceTime but read our full iOS 12 review for a more in-depth look at the OS.

Premium Price

The 2018 iPad Pro was the most expensive iPad ever when it was launched, and the 2020 model matched it on price. The device started at £769/$799 for the 11in model we’re reviewing here.

It’s no longer available from Apple, so your best bet for picking one up in the UK is through John Lewis. Disappointingly, the price hasn’t dropped much, despite it now being two years old. 

What you also need to factor in is the optional accessories. Normally these wouldn’t matter too much but with the iPad Pro, you won’t get the most out of it without them. First up is the new Apple Pencil (2nd-generation) which is £119/$129 while the Smart Keyboard Folio is £179/$179.

See below for a full iPad Pro 2018 price table:

 
iPad Pro 11 (Wi-Fi)
iPad Pro 11 (Wi-Fi + cellular)
64GB
 £769/$799
 £919/$949
256GB
 £919/$949
 £1069/$1099
512GB
 £1119/$1149
 £1269/$1299
1TB
 £1519/$1549
 £1669/$1699

If you’re in the market for an iPad Pro, it’s definitely worth considering the 2020 model. 

Aside from Apple, there are plenty of worthwhile competitors in our best tablet chart, many of which are more affordable .

Verdict

There’s no doubt that the iPad Pro for 2018 is a stunning device in various ways. It brings a lot of change with it that’s mostly positive. We love the design with its svelte shape and impressive screen-to-body ratio making older devices look instantly dated. Even if you’re new to the gesture era with no Home button, you’ll quickly get used to it.

Specs and performance are excellent across the board. Not everyone will like the change to USB-C, but it has some really useful benefits including reverse charging and being able to easily attach a monitor.

However, for most 64GB of storage probably isn’t enough and you really need the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio to make the most of the iPad Pro. There’s also the newer iPad Pro 2020 to throw into the mix.

Can you justify spending over £1000 on a device that’s two years old and has been replaced? Probably not.

Specs
Apple iPad Pro 11in (2018): Specs

iOS 12
A12X Bionic processor, Neural Engine, M12 coprocessor
64/256/512GB/1TB of storage
11in (2388×1668 at 264ppi) LED ‘Liquid Retina’ screen, True Tone, ProMotion
12Mp rear-facing camera, f/1,8, flash, 4K video, slow-mo at 240fps
7Mp front-facing camera, 1080p video, ‘Retina Flash’ feature, Portrait Mode, Animoji
Four-speaker audio
Face ID facial recognition
802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Nano-SIM/eSIM
USB-C connector, no headphone port
247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
468g



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