When Apple announced the new 10.5” iPad Pro at WWDC this year, I told myself that I did not need to buy one. I already had the 1st generation 12.9” iPad Pro, and I figured that the 10.5” was not better enough to consider upgrading. When I purchased the new MacBook Pro, I figured that was the nail in the coffin. No way I would buy a new Mac and a new iPad.

And then I read a review about ProMotion (i.e. the 120Hz refresh rate). And then I had an idea about an iPad app to take advantage of some of iOS 11’s new features1. And then I noticed how my 12.9” iPad was physically bigger than my MacBook Pro. And then I realized I could sell my old iPad to pay for most of the upgrade. And then I bought a new iPad. Oops.2

Before I get into the review, I want to give a little bit of perspective about my history of iPad usage.

I had an iPad Air 2 that I used all the time. In fact, I wrote about 90% of the first version of this website using Coda on that iPad. I assumed that because I used that iPad for a bunch of tasks and because I wanted to be able to use it to do more, I would do well to upgrade to the 12.9” iPad Pro (hereby listed as the old iPad). I figured that the extra screen real estate and the ability to run two full size apps side by side would be the key to using my iPad to do more.

I was right about those assumptions, but only when I was at my desk. When it was set up in a laptop configuration (I had the Smart Keyboard), I was able to do more with it that I could on my iPad Air 2.

However, that quickly became the only way I wanted to use it. It was simply too large to comfortably hold in my hand to use. All the tasks that I used to do on my iPad in my hands quickly became more practical to do on my phone.

The iPad that I got to help me use the iPad more actually made me use the iPad less.

The Screen

Most of the benefits of the new iPad have been pretty well hashed out by others, so I won’t spend a bunch of time on them here.

To sum up…

  • This thing was made for iOS 11. I installed iOS 11 on it minutes after unboxing it, so keep than in mind as you read.
  • The ProMotion screen is awesome. 120Hz is a game changer.
  • True Tone is even better. True Tone is not a new technology, but it new to me. After using the new iPad for literally a few minutes, the other screens around me looked odd and artificial. I think that True Tone is more noticeable to me than ProMotion because it is always visible — ProMotion, as implied by the name, is only noticeable when content on the screen is moving.

    I don’t know if they will ever be able to fit True Tone into the iPhone due to the extra sensors that it requires, but I hope that they are able to figure it out at some point.

Real Estate

Since getting the 10.5” iPad Pro, I have not missed the extra screen space from the 12.9” once. I’m sure part of this is because the 10.5” screen is bigger than the 9.7” screen I was coming from before3, but I think most of it has to do with the multitasking changes in iOS 11.

In iOS 10, you could run two side-by-side in either a 50/50 or 66/33 configuration. On the larger iPad Pro, the 50/50 configuration would give you two iPad-optimized apps. On the smaller iPads, the 50/50 configuration shows iPhone UIs for those apps.

iOS 11 fixes this by offering a 33/66 configuration. You cannot display both apps in an iPad UI at the same time, but switching which one is displayed larger is as easy as sliding your finger across the screen.


The biggest difference that I have noticed after switching from the 12.9” iPad Pro to the 10.5” is how much more I actually want to use it.

For me, the 12.9” iPad was too big to comfortably use anywhere except for a desk. Therefor when I was not at a desk, I would just use my phone. This includes pretty much anything I do on the couch, but the biggest example is reading. I had shifted all of my reading in iBooks to the iPhone because holding the big iPad on the couch was awkward. With the 10.5” iPad Pro, I am back to being able to comfortable use a larger display to read.

The other thing I find myself using more is the Apple Pencil. When I got the Pencil with the 12.9” iPad, I really wanted to like it and use it. I am not artistic and I am no longer a student, so I was never able to find a good use case4.

I have used my Pencil with my 10.5” iPad in the few weeks I have had it more than I used it the entire year I had the 12.9”. I am using it more because the smaller size of the iPad allows me to comfortably take my iPad more places – I have been handwriting my notes at church on Sunday mornings since getting the new iPad. Even if no one had said anything, I would have felt ridiculous carrying the old 12.9” iPad into church with me every Sunday; but the 10.5” feels like carrying a standard size notebook5.

The last thing that I have found myself liking more about the smaller iPad was the most surprising.

The Keyboard

I had the Smart Keyboard Case on my 12.9” iPad. I tried to like it, but I never really did. I liked the convenience of always having it with the iPad and I loved that it was powered with the smart connector, but I never got used to typing on it. The felt-like material that covered the keys never set well with me.

Because I had the Smart Keyboard and not the Smart Cover, I could not prop the iPad horizontally for typing with the on-screen keyboard6. So even though I did not like the feel of the Smart Keyboard, it was my primary way of typing on the device.

With the 10.5” iPad, I went back to a standard Smart Cover. Unless I am going to be typing something long-form, I prefer to just use the on-screen keyboard and the Smart Cover lets me do that. If I am doing something longer, I use Apple’s Magic keyboard with a Studio Neat Canopy Case7.

My main issue with typing on the old iPad had more to do with my accessories than it did with my actual iPad. With iOS 10, using the on-screen keyboard with a Smart Cover while typing on a desk would still be a nicer experience on the 12.9” iPad than it would be on the 10.5” because you get a full-sized keyboard.

That is still probably true in iOS 11, but the gap is smaller. For the smaller iPads8, Apple introduced a Key Flicks for the iPad software keyboard. Key flicks allow you to flick down on keys to access the number row of symbols without having to completely swap the keyboard out for a different mode. This gives you quick access to more keys without taking up more space. This is not quite as nice as having them all available like on the 12.9”, but it is close — and more fun.

The situation where the 10.5” keyboard is clearly better is when using the iPad away from a desk. To 10.5” (and smaller) iPads have a slit keyboard that lets you hold the iPad with both hands and thumb type. For some reason, this option is not on the 12.9” iPad9. Trying to type on the 12.9” iPad while on the couch was horrible — doing the same on the 10.5” is just like typing on your iPhone.

When I got my 13” MacBook Pro, I remarked to some co-workers that it was the best Apple device I have ever purchased. That designation only lasted about a week.

Before getting the 10.5” iPad, I found myself drifting toward my new Mac for tasks that both could handle. That all changed with the 10.5” iPad Pro.

With the 10.5” iPad Pro, I am one step closer to my ideal computing setup: a 27” iMac10 for when I am at my desk and my iPad for everywhere else. Right now, the iPad covers “everything else” for every task except for writing iOS apps.

Even though I can’t have this setup now, it is nice to know that the I already have an iPad that will be able to handle just about any extra software that Apple can throw at it.

  1. To be announced. ↩︎

  2. My wife later told me that she knew I was going to buy the new iPad as soon as I told her that I definitely did not want to upgrade my iPad. ↩︎

  3. Citation needed↩︎

  4. I always loved the idea of using an iPad and a good stylus as a student. I used an original iPad (followed by an iPad 2) to take handwritten notes most of the last year of college, but that was much more a novelty than something actually beneficial. ↩︎

  5. I really want to buy Apple’s Leather Sleeve for this use case, but I have not been able to convince myself it is worth $130 yet. ↩︎

  6. Typing with the on-screen keyboard when it is flat on a desk is horrible. ↩︎

  7. The Canopy does not work quite as well with the 10.5” iPad as it did with the 9.7”. The Canopy is designed so the bottom of the iPad rests just behind the back of the keyboard.

    The 10.5” iPad has a much smaller bezel than the 9.7” did, so the bottom of the screen rests just under the back of the keyboard. The entire screen is still visible, but it is hard to swipe up from the bottom of the screen (which is how you reveal the Dock in iOS 11).

    Luckily, it is easy to work around this issue by leaving the Smart Cover attached and folding it behind the iPad. ↩︎

  8. Anything smaller than 12.9”. ↩︎

  9. At least it wasn’t in iOS 10. ↩︎

  10. Ideally an iMac Pro. Realistically an iMac. ↩︎