Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch) Review (2023)

The iPad has now gone as far as its software will let it. The new 9.7-inch Apple iPad Pro (starting at $599) is a powerful, portable tablet with high-end features and a high-end price. But the limits of iOS and iOS apps mean it's no laptop replacement. Like its big brother, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it's more expensive than the iPad or Android tablets, but isn't as capable as Windows 2-in-1s in the $800-1000 price range. So while the iPad Pro 9.7 has a terrific processor, a gorgeous screen, and is more affordable than the larger iPad Pro, the apps available for iOS don't justify its high price.

Pricing and Physical Features
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes in six models. Wi-Fi-only versions are $599 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, and $899 for 256GB. Cellular versions cost $729 for 32GB, $879 for 128GB, and $1,029 for 256GB. The Smart Keyboard cover adds $149, and the Apple Pencil stylus is $99.

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The Pro 9.7 is the exact same size, shape, and weight as the iPad Air 2: 9.40 by 6.60 by 0.24 inches (HWD) and 0.96 pound. It comes in dark gray, gold, rose gold, or silver. The most visible change from the iPad Air is how the camera lens slightly protrudes from the tablet body, because the Pro is using the 12-megapixel iPhone 6s camera rather than the 8-megapixel iPhone 6 camera on Apple's other recent tablets. (No, it doesn't rock when it's set down on a table.) The front camera has been upgraded to the 5-megapixel unit from the iPhone 6, too. If you look along the edges of the tablet, you can see the new quad speaker setup. As with other iPads, the only port is a single Lightning connector.

The True Tone display is new, too. It's the same 2,048-by-1,536 resolution screen as you get on the Air 2, but it's less blue because of ambient light sensors that change the display's white point to respond to surrounding lighting. You can turn that off (which makes the display bluer). It's a nice feature, but far from a must-have. While Apple claims the screen has a wider color gamut than previous iPads, I found that difficult to see.

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The most useful advance that I found from the iPad Air 2 is the new speaker arrangement. Not only are the speakers about 6dB louder than the iPad Air 2's speakers, their more diverse placement makes for a richer sound that surrounds you much better than the speakers on the iPad Air 2 do.

Accessories and Networking
My review unit came with Apple's Smart Keyboard cover, which docks to a magnetic connector on the bottom of the tablet. It's a lightweight and very usable keyboard. It's narrower than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro keyboard, but Apple kept the overall space around the letter and number keys the same by shrinking the function keys around the edges. That's smart, and it makes for an unusually pleasurable typing experience—I had less finger fatigue than I do typing on Logitech's Ultrathin keyboard cover, our favorite keyboard for the iPad Air.

The Pro also works with the Apple Pencil ($94.99 at Amazon) , which is smoother and better than other available tablet styli. The more expensive Surface Pro 4, for instance, comes with a pen that clips right onto the side of the tablet, but it feels cheap and chunky, and the tablet's screen flexes a bit when you press hard. The Apple Pencil is much more solid and well-balanced, feels more realistically grippy on the screen, and has options for tilt and shading sensitivity that other styli lack.

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch) Review (18)

Like the iPad Pro 12.9, the Pro 9.7 has dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO. In practice, I got the same excellent Wi-Fi speeds and performance on this iPad as on the 12.9-inch Pro, and significantly better performance than I saw on the iPad Air 2. While the iPad Air 2 topped out around 120Mbps on a 150Mbps connection, the Pro models were able to get 150Mbps; they also got significantly faster speeds at the edge of the Wi-Fi cell, sometimes to the tune of 60Mbps versus 10Mbps.

For LTE connections, the Pro 9.7 has the embedded Apple SIM, which lets you activate the tablet with day passes or monthly subscriptions on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or GigSky, a roaming provider. Unlike all previous iPads, the Pro 9.7 includes band 12, which extends T-Mobile's suburban and rural coverage, and band 30, which alleviates congestion in some AT&T cities. But I don't find those additions blockbusters the way they are for the iPhone SE, because cellular service is mostly a supplement to Wi-Fi on iPads, rather than its primary form of Internet access.

The iPad Pro 9.7 uses a 2.26GHz Apple A9x processor with 2GB RAM, which provides performance in between the iPad Air 2 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. With Geekbench scores of 3,081 single-core and 5,294 dual-core, it's still faster than any Android tablet. The Pro 9.7 benchmarks better than Intel Atom-based Windows tablets or the 12-inch Intel Core M-based MacBook, and competitively with a two-year-old MacBook Air. Its graphics hardware is also strong, notching 32fps on the GFXBench OpenGL ES 3.0 Manhattan test, just like on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In other words, this is completely laptop-class hardware, able to crunch numbers and generate images as well as Macs or Windows devices.

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But, of course, it's running iOS. We have a full review of iOS 9.3, and its split-screen multitasking is an absolute must for anyone trying to get work done. iOS still has better-written, better-looking tablet apps than Android does, with more and better business and productivity apps available. In terms of gaming and multimedia playback, the Pro is spectacular: Streaming video and immersive driving games that use the built-in tilt sensor pair gorgeously with the bright screen and quad speakers. But once a tablet costs over $600, it's not really competing with Android, and iOS's sandboxed file system and often feature-limited apps still don't compete well with the options available for Windows. More on that in the next section.

The 12-megapixel camera on the new iPad is very similar to the one on the iPhone 6s and the iPhone SE. The most standout new features are 4K video recording and continuous autofocus. With tablets, don't think about using the main camera for family snapshots—think of it rather as a tool for computer vision or augmented reality. More pixels can really help there.

The front-facing camera on a tablet, meanwhile, is for video conferencing and live streaming, among other things. While the sensor has bumped from a grainy 1.2MP up to 5MP, it's still only capable of 720p video, which is disappointing. There's no obvious reason for that, especially since most conferencing and live streaming platforms now support 1080p or better.

In our battery test, which streams a video over Wi-Fi at maximum brightness, I got 5 hours, 38 minutes. That's much better than the 3 hours, 51 minutes I got on the larger iPad Pro, and slightly better than the 5 hours, 15 minutes I got on the iPad Air 2. Remember, cutting the screen brightness to half—as you do most of the time in real-life usage—generally almost doubles that, giving you the 10 hours of battery life that Apple predicts.

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch) Review (21)

But Is It Pro?
Apple is pushing the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, but it isn't. The iPad Pro simply doesn't do the kind of work we do on laptops as well as a laptop does. But it does new kinds of work, tablet-centric work, that's still relatively inchoate and hasn't entirely been defined yet.

Big-name professional apps are now appearing on iOS, but they're generally de-featured in some way. Microsoft Office is great for basic document creation, but it doesn't include all of the features you find on Office for Windows. (I rely a lot on Excel macros, for instance.) Pro artist apps like Photoshop, Procreate, and Sketches get basic document creation down pat, but fall short when you need to do the kinds of layering, correction, editing, and export tasks that many artists need to finish their jobs. There are a lot of PostgreSQL database clients, but none are quite as convenient to use as Postico on the Mac. You can absolutely edit multiple 4K video streams, but the workflow in the touch-only iMovie is awkward when you're managing a large library of clips (and you can't attach an external hard drive with footage). In the professional world, there's also a huge library of line-of-business apps that have always been custom Windows solutions, including chunks of our own content management system here at PCMag.

The best "pro" apps I've seen on the iPad are usually designed to be used standing up or walking around, including point-of-sale apps, airline or hotel check-in apps, architecture and real estate CAD or viewing apps, astronomy apps, and others. These are apps that never worked well on laptops anyway. And for these apps, I find the 9.7-inch iPad better than the 12.9-inch iPad, because it's more portable. The 12.9-inch model is great if you're working on a drafting table or at a desk, but it's unwieldy to hold in the crook of your arm. The 9.7-inch model can be used with the Pencil to take notes while standing up without awkwardness, for instance. So on one level, it is more Pro than even its bigger sibling.

Comparisons and Conclusions
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is more powerful than the iPad Air 2, but I'm having trouble justifying the increased price for most buyers. For $499, you can get a 64GB iPad Air 2 with similar size, shape, and performance. The Pro's sweet spot is the 128GB model, which costs $749 (or $879 with cellular). Add the keyboard and Pencil to take advantage of the tablet's "pro" features, and you're up to $997 (or $1,127 with cellular).

Were it priced like the iPad Air 2, the Pro would be a good buy. But the Pro lives in a sort of uncanny valley of the tablet market, where it's priced like high-quality Windows 2-in-1s such as the HP Spectre X2 ($449.00 at Amazon) or the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, but can't run fully featured Windows or Mac business apps. While our reviews of the Spectre and Surface Pro 4 make them look more expensive than the iPad Pro, that's because we reviewed higher-end models. A 128GB Spectre X2 with keyboard costs $799; a 128GB Surface Pro 4 with keyboard and pen costs $1,028. That's pretty close to the price of a similarly equipped iPad Pro.

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch) Review (22)

Business applications, in general, are still designed for a mouse-and-keyboard paradigm rather than a touch-centric approach, and I don't think that's going to change in the next few years. iOS applications also tend to have fewer features than their counterpart Mac OS or Windows applications. Most business and vertical iPad apps, meanwhile, don't need the Pencil support, quad speakers, or screen tweaks you get with the Pro, and so they'll work perfectly well on an iPad Air 2.

The big exception here is if you intend to draw or take notes with the Apple Pencil, which provides an unmatched stylus experience. I'd also suggest the price premium might be worth it if you intend to use the internal speakers frequently, as the new quad speakers are a major improvement over those in the iPad Air 2. Overall, though, while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a very good tablet, the iPad Air 2 and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 remain our Editors' Choice picks.

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch)


(Video) iPad Pro 9.7 Review

Check Stock$313.99 at Best Buy

MSRP $599.00


  • Fast.

  • Top-notch Pencil stylus and keyboard accessories.

  • Loud speakers.

  • Great-looking screen.

View More


  • Expensive.

  • iOS apps fall short of Mac and Windows apps in traditional business functionality.

The Bottom Line

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the most powerful Apple tablet you can comfortably carry, but it can't replace a traditional laptop or 2-in-1 for the most common business tasks.

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(Video) NEW iPad Buying Guide (2023) - Don’t Waste Your Money!


Apple iPad Pro (9.7-Inch) Review? ›

The iPadOS 17 update also drops support for most of the pre-2018 devices that iPadOS 16 still supported, including the 5th-gen $329 iPad and the very first 12.9- and 9.7-inch iPad Pros from 2015 and 2016.

Is the Apple iPad Pro 9.7 still supported? ›

The iPadOS 17 update also drops support for most of the pre-2018 devices that iPadOS 16 still supported, including the 5th-gen $329 iPad and the very first 12.9- and 9.7-inch iPad Pros from 2015 and 2016.

What is the value of the iPad Pro 9.7 inch? ›

Current Storage Prices for iPad Pro 9.7"
StorageAvg list priceAvg sale price
32 GB$166$143
128 GB$201$218
256 GB$174$271

How long will my iPad Pro 9.7 last? ›

how long should I expect it to run solid for? 4 years should be fine. The iPad Air 2 is still supported, and that's like 6 years already. Just max out the storage according to your budget.

Are older iPad pros still good? ›

About Those Older Pros

It's still totally fine to buy the 2021 11-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but try not to spend more than $600 and $950, respectively. The same goes for the 2020 11-inch iPad Pro and the 2020 12.9 incher, but try not to spend more than $500 and $700.

Can iPad Pro 9.7 be updated to iOS 16? ›

Device Compatibility

‌‌iPadOS 16‌‌ is compatible with the ‌‌iPad‌‌ (5th generation and later), iPad mini (5th generation and later), ‌iPad Air‌ (3rd generation and later), and all ‌iPad Pro‌ models.

What is the oldest iPad that can still be updated? ›

What Is The Oldest Ipad That Will Update? The oldest iPad that will update is the iPad Air 2. It was released on October 22, 2014, and it will receive updates until at least September 2019. Users are not always aware of Apple's end-of-life device schedule.

How much would an old iPad be worth? ›

iPad “Sell” Prices (What you can expect to sell for as of 07/20/2023)
ModelOnline Buyback StoresOnline Marketplaces (eBay, after fees)
iPad Pro 11 2nd Gen$369$396
iPad Pro 11 1st Gen$263$320
iPad Pro 10.5$138$216
iPad Pro 9.7$75$138
20 more rows

How often should you replace your iPad Pro? ›

iPads generally have a lifespan of about 5 years. Keep your software as up-to-date as possible. Plan to replace your tablet every 3 years. Reference Table 1 below to determine if your iPad is still supported.

Can iPad last for 10 years? ›

An iPad will not last 10 years because it will not be able to stay compatible with modern apps. Operating system updates to the device may not be possible on a device that is 8, 9, or 10 years old. If you asked us: Can an iPad last 5 years? though, the answer would be absolutely.

Can an iPad be too old to update? ›

How do you update an iPad that won't update? If it's too old, you can't. Unfortunately, there's no way to get past the limitations of your older iPad model if it's too old to update. These models don't have enough internal RAM to run the new and improved technology of later updates like iPadOS 16.

What is the difference between the iPad and the iPad pro? ›

What is difference between iPad and iPad pro? The standard iPad has a 10.9-inch screen, as well as an M2 processor. The iPad Pro has the same M2 chip, but still offers better performance overall. It's also slightly larger, with an 11-inch or 12.9-inch screen.

How many years are iPad pros supported for? ›

Operating system support
ModelAnnouncedSupport lifespan
11-inch (2nd generation) 12.9-inch (4th generation)March 18, 20203 years, 4 months
11-inch (3rd generation) 12.9-inch (5th generation)April 20, 20212 years, 3 months
11-inch (4th generation) 12.9-inch (6th generation)October 18, 20229 months
5 more rows

What is the difference between the new iPad Pro and the old iPad pro? ›

The main difference between the new and old iPad Pro is the upgrade from an M1 to M2 chip. That delivers up to an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (10-core vs 8-core), and a 2x boost in memory bandwidth from 50GB/s to 100GB/s.

Which ipads are no longer supported? ›

Apple iPad
iPad Mini (1st generation)10 years ago (02 Nov 2012)Ended 4 years ago (22 Jul 2019)
iPad 212 years ago (11 Mar 2011)Ended 4 years ago (22 Jul 2019)
iPad (1st generation)13 years ago (03 Apr 2010)Ended 10 years ago (19 Sep 2012)
Show more unmaintained releases
24 more rows
Jul 17, 2023

What generations of iPad Pro are still supported? ›

In other words, iPad Air 3rd generation, iPad Air 4th generation and iPad Air 5th generation. Finally, the iPad Pro. There are lots of these: iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd generation through to 6th generation, iPad Pro 11-inch—all generations are still compatible.

How long will my iPad Pro be supported? ›

Expensive iPad Pro models should get, AT LEAST 6-7 years of full support from Apple.


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