​Apple’s 9.7” iPad Pro Review: Take your creativity everywhere!

One of the best aspects of sketching is that it is inherently mobile, and flexible. We sketch on napkins, we sketch on sticky notes, and we sketch in our sketchbooks which we take everywhere with us. When we have a great idea, we sketch it down no matter where we are or what we are doing, or what we have with us-- hence the napikin sketch. So when we move into the world of digital sketching, it's somewhat important that our digital device goes with us and is ready for our ideas whenever we need it. Enter the 9.7" iPad Pro. When Apple initially developed the iPad, the 9.7” screen size and form factor was the result of tireless research and development, and it defined the size of what a truly portable but usable tablet could be. Despite Apple creating a smaller 7.9” tablet, and then creating the first iPad Pro with it’s beautifully huge 12.9” display, Apple has continued to keep the 9.7” screen size as part of the iPad Lineup and for good reason - it’s a really great size for a tablet! So it only made sense for Apple to introduce the 9.7" iPad Pro and bring pencil compatibility to the smaller form factor. Featuring the same core componnets as the larger iPad Pro, along with Apple's best display, a smart connector, and four speakers around the body, the new 9.7" iPad Pro is more than just an update to the iPad Air 2, it truly is an iPad made for professionals on the move. A few weeks ago we picked up one of the new iPad Pro's so we could not only test uMake on it, but also get a better feel for how the smaller iPad Pro compared to the larger iPad Pro. Here are our takeaways.


If you've had an iPad prior to the larger iPad Pro, the new smaller iPad pro will feel totally familiar. My first real experience with uMake was on an iPad Air 2, and this feels the same... except now there is a great stylus that actually works with the iPad -- the Apple Pencil. Thus while everything feels familiar, it feels better when using the Pencil as you have much more precision compared to previous iPads.  


The original 12.9" iPad Pro is more of a "two handed" device that is meant to be used on a surface as opposed to handheld while walking around. The larger screen is beautiful and allows for more precision, but also means that it is a bit less portable. The new 9.7" iPad Pro on the other hand feels great to create on while walking around, or holding one handed and sketching with the other hand. The day we got ours, we went to an industiral design meetup, and demod uMake while standing at a crwoded bar, for example. The smaller form factor lets it really be your go-everywhere digital sketchbook, as it really deosn't take up much space, even with a small case on it.

The Screen:

Apple claims their new display is the best display they have ever made with an incredibly accurate color gamut. They also implemented ambient light sensors to adjust the color of the display based on your surrounding light which they call True Tone. While initially this may seem like a gimmick, it is actually quite incredible and makes working on the iPad a wonderful experience. When we first configured the new iPad, we were in a dimly lit room with a very warm tone to the light. When the iPad prompted us to decide if we wanted to enable the True Tone technology, the comparisoin was literally eye opening. With it off, the display almost looked neon blue- and true to Apple's claim, with it on, the white displayed on the screen was the same as a white piece of paper in that space. For those who will be working a lot on their iPads, the Tue Tone tech will literally save your eyes. I felt I could work longer with less fatigue thanks to this tech. This could easilyt be an overlooked feature, but I also feel this is one of the best traits of the new iPad, and can't wait for Apple to bring it to the larger iPad Pro.

As a Creative Tool:

The new iPad Pro is just as much of a creative tool as it's larger counterpart, if not moreso due to it's portability. It is literally like your own digital sketchbook that you can easily take anywhere and work with anywhere. Yes, the screen is smaller, but the payoff is the portability. Performance wise it is just a snappy as the larger iPad pro, and the new camera takes beautiful photos. Actually taking photos with it is much less awkward than it is with the larger iPad pro. From a creative standpoint, it really just comes down to what form factor you would prefer, and how you intend to use it.

As a Productivity tool:

When Apple launched the new iPad Pro, they marketed it as a replacement for the PC. This could easily be said about the larger counterpart, but as a productivity tool, the new smaller iPad works well, the difference in screen size is deffinitely felt. Having two apps open at the same time on the larger iPad Pro feels totally normal, but on the smaller one, the screen becomes very small quite quickly. Thus if you plan on using your iPad for a lot of word processing and e-mailing, the larger iPad Pro may be a better choice but it really depends on how you work.


The new iPad Pro is a welcome additoin to the iPad lineup, and for creatives everywhere, the compatibilty with the pencil and familiar form factor make for an absolutley terrific experience. Powerful features such as vastily improved sound (compared to the iPad Air 2), a great camera and the True Tone work together to help you be more creative whether you are creating music, sketching in 3D, or editing photos. While we really liked it as a creative tool, we still feel it is a bit small for multi-tasking, and that the larger iPad is a better option for those looking for a tool for more productivity related tasks. If you are looking for the ultimate, go-anywhere do-everything digital sketchbook, the new iPad Pro 9.7" delivers more than you could ask for.

Posted on

May 4, 2016