Does Apple's new, more compact iPad Pro have what it takes to be your next work companion? The 9.7-inch tablet, which pairs with a keyboard and active stylus, is a lot more portable than the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which launched last year. That makes the smaller model easier to slide into your bag before you run out of the office — and it doesn't sacrifice performance or battery life in the process. But the inherent limitations of the iPad as a productivity device are just as apparent this time around.
If portability is your top concern, then the iPad Pro is the 2-in-1 tablet for you. The slate has a significantly smaller footprint than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, and weighs about a half pound lighter than each of those slates. But both of those devices offer 2 extra inches of screen space.
Performance and battery life are equally impressive for a device this svelte. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes equipped with Apple's A9X processor, the same chip that powers the 12.9-inch model. That means it's fast enough for you to edit two 4K videos side by side, without a hint of lag. Meanwhile, the tablet ran for a seriously impressive 10 hours and 53 minutes on our battery life test, which is nearly twice as long as the Surface Pro 4 and the Galaxy TabPro S lasted.
The iPad Pro's biggest limitation as a productivity device is its keyboard. Apple's Smart Keyboard accessory snaps effortlessly onto the bottom edge of the device, transforming it into a miniature laptop computer. But unlike the Surface Pro 4, which lets you adjust its kickstand to view the screen at any angle you want, the iPad Pro has just a single steep viewing angle, which is annoying if you're typing with the device on your lap.
The cramped keyboard is also an issue; it's smaller than the Smart Keyboard for the 12.9-inch model, so long typing sessions can be uncomfortable. And the lack of a touchpad is another problem for workers. You'll be reaching up to tap the screen constantly, without the accuracy of a mouse cursor.