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SAN JOSE, Calif.—Apple’s WWDC isn’t usually about hardware, but the company used its keynote today to introduce a fairly major new product: a fully redesigned iPad Pro, designed to replace the current 9.7-inch tablet that debuted back in March of 2016.
The new tablet’s defining feature is its new slim-bezeled design, which lets Apple fit a 10.5-inch screen into a body that’s not all that different from the 9.7-inch tablet’s. That larger screen is also used to fit more information: the resolution has been bumped up to 2224×1668, a nice improvement over the 9.7-inch iPad’s 2048×1536.
The new iPad pro features a bump to a spec we don’t often hear much about on iPad screens: the refresh rate. Under the cover of a feature called “Pro Motion,” the device’s display will use a 120Hz refresh rate instead of the default 60Hz. Apple claims this will result in a better Apple Pencil input experience. The iPad Pro can also dynamically adjust its display refresh rate to fit its native content refresh rate, like with 48Hz movies.
In a welcome change, Apple has bumped the base model iPad Pro capacity to 64GB and goes from there to 256GB and 512GB. The updated portable comes with a six-core A10X SOC. That’s three “high performance” cores and three “high efficiency” cores, along with an Apple-designed “performance controller.” The GPU, according to Apple, is 40 percent faster than its predecessor and features 12 cores. There’s no word yet on whether those cores are “high efficiency,” “high performance,” “balanced performance,” “strawberry flavored,” or “extra spicy.” Regardless of what kind of cores are in there, Apple says the tablet should get ten hours of battery life.
The 10.5-inch iPad also includes a bunch of the other features that separate the smaller iPad Pro from the entry-level $329 iPad: an improved four-speaker sound system, a laminated “wide color” display that improves contrast and expands the available color gamut, a True Tone display, a better camera, and support for the Smart Connector and Apple Pencil.
Together with the $329 iPad, the new iPad Pro and the software features in iOS 11 are Apple’s latest attempt to help define what the iPad can do. They also help boost its numbers after more than three straight years of sliding sales. The entry-level iPad is a play for new buyers and for upgraders, the kind of people who bought an iPad 2 five years ago and haven’t gotten a new one since. This new iPad Pro is from the same school as Microsoft’s Surface, which is still seeking to combine the convenience of a tablet with the capability of a workhorse laptop.
The new iPad Pro is available for preorder today and will be released next week. The base 10.5-inch model will cost $649.99, and the 12.9-inch version will start at $799.