Monday, April 4, 2016

iPad Pro 9.7 review: Apple's best tablet, but it won't replace a laptop

You get the same "Pro" power, but in a smaller, sleeker body.

The iPad Pro raised some eyebrows when it debuted last year, but it really shouldn't have. Although tablet sales as a whole have been tanking, sales of tablets with detachable keyboards have actually grown. Is it any surprise, then, that Apple built a 9.7-inch version of the Pro to try and regain some of its tablet momentum? Not at all. Whether or not this new Pro can be the "ultimate PC replacement" Apple was hyping at its launch event depends on your personal preferences, but let's get one thing straight from the start: This is one the best tablets you can buy.


Fantastic screen

Slim design with excellent build quality

Strong performance

Best iPad camera yet


iOS still isn't great at multitasking

Only has half the RAM of the larger model

Optional keyboard is cramped


Calling it a full-blown laptop replacement is a stretch, but Apple's new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best conventional tablet the company has made. It combines the power of the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the thin frame of the iPad Air 2. Additionally, it brings a vibrant, color-accurate screen and the best camera we've seen on an iPad to date. If you need a proper laptop, you should still buy one, but if all you want is a great tablet, the 9.7-inch Pro is the one to get.


Tell me if this sounds familiar: Apple, looking to broaden its appeal, takes an existing high-end device and squeezes its important bits into a smaller, familiar-looking body. That was the case with the iPhone SE, and at first glance, that appears to be true of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as well; it seems like last year's iPad Pro in the body of an iPad Air 2. Still, there are some omissions to be aware of. The A9X chipset in the 9.7-inch model is back, for instance, but it's paired with 2GB of RAM -- half of what the larger model has. I'll dig into what that means for performance a little later (spoiler: not much for most people), but the change nonetheless makes this Pro seem, well, a little less Pro. 3D Touch still hasn't made it over to the iPads, either because of cost or sheer technical infeasibility. There's a Touch ID sensor embedded in the Home button as usual, but it seems to be the slightly slower, older version, not the one in the iPhone 6s. Oh well.

Your mileage may vary, but the tradeoffs seem well worth it to me. It's been a week since Apple loaned me a review unit (a silver LTE model with 256GB of storage, priced at $1,029), and I'm still impressed with its fit and finish. The physical differences between this model and the Air 2 are nearly non-existent, which raises an interesting conundrum -- at first, this thing doesn't feel any more Pro than the Air 2 because they share a frame.

Then again, I'm not the kind of person who's eager to trade a traditional laptop for a tablet. Full disclosure: I've been an outspoken fan of the Air 2's design since it came out, but using the super-snappy Pro ruined that older tablet for me. Now nearly all that power is available in a more manageable size, albeit one that feels less like a full-blown PC replacement. After all, the big Pro's 12.9-inch screen was great for movies and certain professional applications (as was that extra RAM).
The rest of the new Pro's broad strokes are the same as its big brother's: There's a power button up top, four speakers drilled into each corner and the same three-pin Smart Connector on the left side for accessories. Apple couldn't downsize the massive 38.5Wh battery to fit in the Air 2-sized chassis, though, so we're left with a smaller 27.5Wh battery instead.
Curiously, the 9.7-inch model is in some ways more impressive than the original. For starters, it features the iPhone 6s's 12-megapixel rear camera with a f/2.2 lens (tourists, rejoice!). I won't dwell on it since I've basically reviewed the same camera sensor three times now; suffice to say, it's the best camera ever put in an iPad and you'll be able to capture some primo shots—if tablet photography is your thing. Oh, and the plastic panel on the back of 3G models has been replaced with an iPhone-like antenna band, too. Now it's time for some nitpicking: The antenna band carved into the LTE Pro's aluminum body isn't completely even, and I can't un-see it. On the plus side, the camera lump on the back doesn't make the iPad wobble when it's resting face-up on a table -- iPhone 6s owners can't say the same.
All this power might cost you, though. The Pro starts at $599 for the 32GB WiFi model, with 128GB and 256GB versions costing an extra $150 and $300, respectively. And as always, cellular-ready options will cost you even more: a $130 premium across the board.

Display and sound

Now, about that screen. It's fantastic. The 9.7-inch LED display runs at a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536, so it's not any crisper than the Air 2 or original Pro, but whatever: It's still sharp and beautifully saturated. Videographers and editors in particular will appreciate Apple's support for the P3 color gamut, a standard with a broader range of colors that sees wide use in the film industry. The feature first debuted on the recent 4K and 5K iMacs and could be quite valuable for some -- after all, the Pro offers enough power to ingest and edit three 4K video streams at the same time. Then again, if you're an amateur like me, you'll likely never need to know these specifics.
The screen is very bright too -- actually a hair brighter than the first iPad Pro (the difference is 100 nits, if you're keeping count). The difference might not be vast, but if nothing else, it makes for a display that's easy to read in direct sunlight. The sun's only going to get more intense as spring wears on, but I was able to breeze through a few chapters of a Rafik Schami novel while lounging in my backyard. Reading, as it turns out, is a great way to test one of the new Pro's unique features, the True Tone display. In short, it uses an ambient sensor stuck in the iPad's forehead to figure out what kind of light you're in and change the screen's color temperature to look more natural.
It might sound like one of those uber-nerd features you'll never use, but it's actually lovely. See, the iPad's display is normally neutral to the point of looking slightly bluish. True Tone automatically adjusts the color so that whites look like a sheet of paper no matter what weirdly lit environment you're in. This might sound a little familiar: Samsung's Galaxy Tab S did this too years back, but it's a neat feature nonetheless. True Tone doesn't seem to have much of an impact on battery life either, so the only reason not to use it is if you're editing photos or cutting video -- situations where you really need that color accuracy.
Meanwhile, the speakers are just as loud as they were on the original Pro. If you haven't used the larger model, take it from me: This is a good thing. Speaker design aside, we've also got some clever software to thank for this. As on the first iPad Pro, no matter which way you're holding the iPad, highs and mids get routed to the top-most speakers, while lower frequencies issue forth from the bottom pair. The end result is crisp sound whether you're listening to audiobooks or the amazing finale fromWhiplash.

Performance and battery life

Geekbench 3.0 Multi-core5,2355,3794,510
3DMark IS Unlimited33,40332,54421,659
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Off/onscreen (fps)51.2/34.979.3/33.613.0/8.8
SunSpider 1.0 (ms)199191393
Google Octane 2.019,94619,87210,659
Mozilla Kraken (ms)1,5121,4992,332
JetStream 1.113914183

I'll admit it, I was pretty curious coming into this review. After all, this iPad Pro has half the RAM the other Pro does, but then again, it's driving a much smaller display (and therefore needs to push fewer pixels). As it turns out, I was concerned over nothing. Thanks to Apple's A9X chipset, the 9.7-inch Pro is almost equally fast.
I spent my week putting the Pro through a wide (and weird) variety of scenarios. It was well-suited to shooting off Slack messages and Outlook emails during workdays, as well as light photo editing in Pixelmator and incessant Tweetbot refreshes. Basic actions like switching between apps and using iOS 9's Slide Over feature to run two apps in split-screen felt smooth too. I expected multitasking in particular to be a little jerkier because of the smaller RAM allotment, but nope: All was well.
Of course, the Pro line prides itself on running specialized, power-intensive apps, and those posed no problem here either. I blew an entire evening spinning a meticulously rendered skeleton around to learn the names of bones and trying (in vain) to design something worth showing off in 3D design apps like UMake and Autodesk's Formit 360. (Sorry mom, I'll never be that architect you wanted.) When my misguided attempts at creativity failed, I threw myself into gorgeous games like AG Drive andWarhammer 40,000: Freeblade. Surprise, surprise: Both of them (and many others) ran smoothly.
Now, I didn't see any differences in graphical and gaming performance between the two iPad Pros, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. The Pro 9.7 notched near-identical benchmark scores as the bigger model, except for some strangely low frame rates when I ran GFXBench's off-screen Manhattan test. (Both Pros delivered near-identical numbers when rendering frames on-screen.) That hiccup aside, this is the most power Apple has ever crammed into a 9.7-inch iPad, and if you're coming from an older iPad, it's downright revelatory.
The iPad Pro 9.7 ships with iOS 9.3, and aside from a few notable additions like Night Shift and a more secure Notes app, the software experience is nearly identical to the original Pro. Sadly, that means multitasking can feel clumsy and inelegant -- not quite what I hoped for out of a device Apple claims can replace a traditional laptop. Swiping on the screen to open the app drawer (where you can choose an app to run in "Split View" mode) reveals an unorganized list that often requires some poking around to find the app you were looking for.
And when you're split-screening, it takes to work to change how those two apps are displayed. Let's say you've got Safari running on the left side and Mail on the right: To make them switch places, you have to drag the divider to make Mail full-screen and open up Safari from the Slide Over panel. Nightmare? Hardly, but it's still more tedious than it should be. Then again, this is the sort of interface issue that affects power users and PC switchers more than anybody else; if you're just looking for a speedy tablet, you might not care at all.
iPad Pro 9.79:21
iPad Pro 12.910:47
iPad mini 413:04
iPad Air 211:15
Galaxy TabPro S10:43
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro7:36
Surface Pro 47:15
Apple likes to say that each of its iPads can last through "up to 10 hours" of continuous use, and each of the last three iPads we tested easily exceeded that mark in our battery rundown test (looping an HD video with screen brightness set to 50 percent). The 9.7-inch Pro sadly didn't fare quite as well: It lasted for nine hours and 21 minutes before giving up the ghost. I'll admit, I was a little disappointed that it didn't do better, but I also can't fault Apple for "only" delivering what it promised. Managing expectations can be tricky, folks.
Not everyone uses their tablets for daily Netflix marathons, though. The 9.7-inch Pro hung around for between three and four days of mixed use. Think: firing off emails, watching YouTube videos, streaming podcasts and more, mixed with long stretches of idle time. This sort of off-and-on usage more accurately reflects the way most people use their tablets, and in that regard, the iPad Pro does a fine job.


The iPad Pro formula extends beyond just the tablet: It includes some first-party accessories too. First up is the $99 Apple Pencil, which is as useful as always. I did a lot of doodling in notebooks growing up and even tried my hand at drawing webcomics (which you will never, ever see). Using the Pencil to sketch in Procreate and even the stock Notes app is a surprisingly lovely experience; the screen does a great job tracking the Pencil's textured nib, and pressing harder to get bolder lines works way better than I expected it would. If anything, I enjoyed using the Pencil more with the smaller Pro because the tablet is closer in size to a clipboard, making it better for one-handed note-jotting.
Then there's the new, smaller Smart Keyboard cover ($149). I tried writing this review using the keyboard just to prove a point, and man, I just couldn't do it. Mechanically, there's no difference between this version and the bigger one meant for the full-size Pro; the whole thing is covered in a custom fabric is both liquid-repellant and gives the keys their shape. Since iOS doesn't support mice, there's no trackpad here either, so you'll frequently be reaching to tap the screen.
The problem is, the keyboard itself can feel pretty cramped if you're used to anything more spacious. Notably, the Return and Tab keys are much smaller than on the big Pro's keyboard, making it frustrating to navigate and format some documents. I eventually got half-decent at pecking out short stories, but using it for anything longer than that can be tricky. The keyboard cover only props up the iPad at one angle, so you're out of luck if you need to adjust it. If you don't mind looking a little silly, though, you can attach the Smart Keyboard meant for the full-sized Pro onto the baby model and peck out memos no problem. In fact, that's how I wrote the majority of this review. While there aren't any keyboard alternatives that run into Apple's Smart Connector, that'll change soon (and they'll probably cost less too).

The competition

At the company's recent keynote event, Apple's Phil Schiller kept calling the iPad Pro the "ultimate PC replacement," but that honestly seems like a stretch for most people. That's why I'm not lumping the new Pro in with typical flagship laptops. Between its smaller screen and thin build, I suspect people are more likely to use it as a normal tablet than a full-on productivity machine.
Anyway, if you're considering buying this, there are two obvious alternatives you'll need to consider: the 12.9-inch Pro and the iPad Air 2. Apple dropped the price of the 16GB Air 2 to $399 to serve as the company's entry-level big iPad, but really, if you're scrimping for a roughly 10-inch tablet, you're better off paying the extra $200 to get a 32GB iPad Pro 9.7. The better screen and improved horsepower are worth it. Meanwhile, there really isn't a functional power difference between the two iPad Pro versions: The bigger model ($799-plus) is the better bet if you really want to use an iOS device as a workhorse, but you'll probably need to buy some accessories to complete the effect.
You could also consider something like Google's Pixel C: It's a well-built tablet that also doubles as a faux-laptop with a surprisingly nice little keyboard add-on. The base 32GB model will set you back $499 -- $100 less than the base iPad Pro 9.7 -- but Google needs to do a better job getting developers to craft thoughtful, well-designed tablet apps. There's no split-screen multitasking in Android Marshmallow, though that won't be a problem for too much longer; Android N includes that feature and it seems to work well even on phones like the Nexus 5.
And of course, there's the Windows side to look at too. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 starts at $899 but comes with more storage, its own pressure-sensing pen and an OS that can run crucial legacy desktop apps in addition to touch-optimized ones. In short, the Surface Pro 4 is a Windows laptop with the body of a tablet. The iPad Pro 9.7, meanwhile, is a tablet that only aspires to be as versatile as a PC.


As I've been working through this review process, I've been struggling with one question: What, beyond just marketing, makes this iPad a Pro? Don't get me wrong, the 9.7-inch Pro is easily the best conventionally sized tablet Apple has ever made, but its size makes it tougher to use as an "ultimate PC replacement." In the end, though, the "Pro" distinction might prove to be meaningless. If you're looking for a new tablet, you'd miss out if you didn't at least consider this thing. It's just a fantastic little machine.

Samsung's Galaxy TabPro S is more than just a Surface knockoff

Image result for samsung galaxy tab pros

Microsoft's Surface tablets are so great, it seems, that everyone wants to copy them. So far, we've seen similar devices from AppleLenovoDellHP and Google. Incredibly, though, one of the biggest companies we cover, Samsung, is only just jumping on the bandwagon. The Galaxy TabPro S recently started shipping here in the US, and in many ways it takes after its competitors. Similar to the Surface Pro 4 and other hybrids, it has a 12-inch screen that accepts pressure-sensitive pen input, and an Intel Core M processor powerful enough to potentially replace your laptop.
Unlike some of its rivals, however, the TabPro S is the first device in its class with a Super AMOLED screen. It's also exceptionally thin and, for the starting price of $900, the click-in keyboard cover actually comes in the box (take note, Microsoft). Too bad the typing experience isn't very good.

Gallery: Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review | 22 Photos


Exceptionally thin and light

Longer battery life versus its competitors

First device in its class with a Super AMOLED screen

Touchpad on the keyboard cover works well

Included keyboard is cramped
Screen angle isn't adjustable when the tablet is docked
Performance is fine for everyday use, but occasionally sluggish
Pen not available at launch


The Galaxy TabPro S is the latest Surface Pro competitor: a tablet with a click-in keyboard that's powerful enough to potentially replace a laptop. As a first-generation product, it excels in tablet mode, offering both a thin design and long battery life -- a rare combination. But the keyboard needs work: It's cramped layout makes typos inevitable. Perhaps Samsung could retool the keyboard, but keep the same magnetic connector, making it easy for early adopters to upgrade.


Just as Samsung was getting ready to start selling the TabPro S, it invited reporters to a launch event at which execs from Intel and Microsoft were also in attendance. The message was clear: Samsung brought its hardware-design chops to the table, while working closely with the leading chipmaker and the company behind Windows 10. In theory, then, the TabPro S, was to represent the best that each tech titan had to offer.

And in many ways, the device does indeed meet those lofty expectations. For starters, this thing is unbelievably, shockingly light: 6.3mm thick and 1.53 pounds, versus 8.45mm and 1.69 pounds for the Surface Pro 4. I know, we always wax poetic in our reviews about how skinny devices are. But I seriously did not expect the device to feel this insubstantial in-hand. Combined with the keyboard cover, which only adds 4.9 millimeters of heft, the tablet feels like a book when I cradle it under one arm. Brings me back to my college days, except this time my backpack is way lighter.

Those thin edges, by the way, aren't home to many ports or openings, but they don't need to be. With the tablet docked in the keyboard, you've got the volume rocker and power button up top; a headphone and USB-C charging/data port on the right; a Start button on the left; and speakers on either side. I did find in my testing that the power button didn't always respond on my first try; there's a trick in how long you have to hold it down (longer than I initially expected, I guess). I eventually got the hang of it, but it was a little frustrating in that first week.
In the name of getting the thickness and weight down as much as possible, Samsung made some other slight compromises in build quality. Don't get me wrong, I like the look of the TabPro S's rounded corners and black matte-finish case (which ends up covered most of the time by the keyboard cover anyway). I'm just saying, if this were a beauty pageant, the aluminum-and-polycarbonate device we have here would rank as runner-up to the Surface Pro 4's magnesium enclosure and clean, sculpted lines. In some ways, then, Microsoft -- pigeonholed at Samsung's event as the software expert -- actually built the more premium device.
That said, Samsung just might have the better screen. The 12-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 panel here is, according to Sammy, the first Super AMOLED display in a device with this form factor. That might seem like a gimmicky claim -- a desperate attempt to be first at something -- but it's actually very nice. You'll notice it as soon as you boot up the device and see the "Samsung Galaxy TabPro S" splash screen: That alone does a good job showcasing the screen's deep blacks and pure whites. Samsung also helpfully pre-loaded a deep blue desktop background that showcases out of the box the kinds of colors the screen is capable of.
From there, of course, you can watch movies and view photos at full screen, but you'll even appreciate the vibrant colors on the everyday stuff, like desktop shortcuts. It reminds me of how I felt when I switched to the new 4K, color-accurate iMac as my daily driver; if you weren't using one of these machines, you wouldn't know what you were missing, but once you experience it, it's hard to go back.

Keyboard cover

I'm typing on the TabPro S's included keyboard as I write this. I don't hate it -- anymore. Similar to Microsoft's own Type Cover, the keys here are flat and arranged close together, with just the skinniest sliver of space separating the individual buttons. So although the keys provide a good amount of travel, I made many, many typos at first, and still do; it's just too easy to accidentally land on the wrong key when they're all bunched together. Also, even if I did hit the correct key, my press didn't always register, leaving me to tap, tap, tap at the Backspace button until I had gone back and retyped what I meant to say in the first place.
Now that I've spent a week with the device, and have used it to peck out many emails and Slack messages, I can appreciate that it's a more productive mobile device than, say, my smartphone. But if I had my druthers, I'd still travel with a laptop or, at the very least, a 2-in-1 with a more comfortable keyboard. Something like the HP Spectre x2, or even that Surface Pro 4 I keep talking about.
There are other problems with the keyboard. One is that the screen angle isn't adjustable, as it is on competing devices from Microsoft and HP. To its credit, at least, the keyboard cover is easy to attach: Just snap it into the magnetic connector on the bottom side, then fold the flap in the back to attach to the top of the tablet via magnets. The problem is, things get awkward when you want to switch from propped-up laptop mode to using the keyboard cover as an actual, you know, cover.
You'd think you could just unfold the propped-up piece in the back and then fold the case over the tablet, like a book cover. But to make the cover line up with the tablet, similar to a book spine, you have to also remove the tablet from its magnetic connector and scoot it down so that the case can fold over the back edge. It's a bit clumsy, and the magnets are actually quite strong. That's a good thing if ever you want to dangle the tablet upside down by its keyboard (don't), but it makes the disassembly that much more cumbersome.
On the plus side, the tablet and keyboard cover are comfortable to use in the lap, with the weight distribution such that the device never feels like it's going to topple backward. Also -- surprise, surprise -- the small touchpad built into the keyboard cover actually isn't half bad. Though it's susceptible to some of the same pitfalls as other Windows trackpads (causing me to accidentally reorder my pinned browser tabs, for instance), it's generally adept at both single-finger tracking as well as multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom.

Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S (1.51GHz Core M3-6Y30, Intel HD 515)4,3092,986E1,609 / P944 / X2912,119550 MB/s / 184 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 15t(2.4GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel HD 520)5,0403,458E2,672 / P1,526 / X4203,542561 MB/s / 284 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth(2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520)5,1313,445E2,788 / P1,599 / X4263,4421.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Toshiba Radius 12(2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520)5,4583,684E2,865 / P1,6223,605552 MB/s / 489 MB/s
HP Spectre x2 (1.2GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515)3,3953,307
E1,884 / P1,148 / X331
2,737554 MB/s / 281 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520)5,4033,602
E2,697/ P1,556/ X422
3,6141.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900(2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520)5,3683,448
E2,707 / P1,581
3,161556 MB/s / 511 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Book(2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520)5,4123,610
E2,758 / P1,578 / X429
3,6231.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s
Like other superthin devices in this class (and at this price), the Galaxy TabPro S makes use of an Intel Core M-series processor -- a dual-core, 1.51GHz Core M3-6Y30 chip, to be exact. In addition, it's paired with 4GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 515 graphics and a 128GB solid-state drive. As with some other Core M devices I've tested, the performance is mostly fine for mundane tasks, which in my case include juggling Slack, Spotify and nearly a dozen pinned Chrome tabs.
To maximize the fairly skimpy screen real estate, I took to working with two apps snapped side by side -- usually Chrome on the left and Slack on the right. That all worked just fine, although I consistently noticed that when I snapped Slack into place to occupy half the screen, it didn't automatically scale so that the app filled all the available vertical space; I had to manually drag the window down the rest of the way.
I also noticed that while the device ran smoothly once I got going, it could take a while after the 15-second boot-up sequence for me to fully regain control of the desktop. One time, for instance, I tried to load display settings soon after startup, but it took a few seconds to load even that simple screen. I also noticed that the back of the tablet could get warm at times, though the leathery keyboard cover helped mask that somewhat. In any case, the device never got so hot that it was uncomfortable to touch or use in my lap.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S10:43
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)12:51
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)11:23
iPad Pro10:47
HP Spectre x360 (15-inch, early 2016)10:17
Chromebook Pixel (2015)10:01
Lenovo Yoga 9009:36
Microsoft Surface 39:11
Apple MacBook (2015)7:47
Dell XPS 13 (2015)7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 47:15
Microsoft Surface Pro 37:08
HP Spectre x26:43
Razer Blade Stealth5:48
Toshiba Radius 125:12
So far, then, the TabPro S performs like other Core M devices, which is to say it's adequate for basic use, but, as you'd expect, not nearly as powerful as Intel's higher-end "Core i" line. What's really soured me on other Core M machines, though, is that despite having lower-powered CPUs, they didn't offer any advantage in battery life over Core i. Basically, then, the main advantage was that they were cheaper (but not even that much cheaper).
In a major exception to the rule, however, the Galaxy TabPro S not only holds its own against Core i-series systems, but outlasts them by several hours. All told, I got 10 hours and 43 minutes of continuous full HD video playback with WiFI on and the screen brightness fixed at 65 percent. That's slightly longer than the 10.5 hours that Samsung promised, and it's hours better than the Core M-based HP Spectre x2 (6:43) and the Core i5-powered Surface Pro 4 (7:15). The TabPro S might not be the most powerful productivity machine, but it more than makes up for it with enduring runtime and a thinner- and lighter-than-average design.

The competition

The Surface Pro 4. I mean, obviously. Though it starts at a similar price of $899, and starts with similar specs (Core M3, 4GB of RAM), the keyboard isn't included; it costs $130 extra. For the money, you do get a pen in the box and, of course, that slightly more premium (and slightly heavier) design. The keyboard itself is more comfortable to type on, and the Surface Pro 4's built-in kickstand allows for adjustable screen angles. Neither device is perfect; they each have some clear pros and cons. If you do want pressure-sensitive pen input, though, that makes your decision an easy one: While the SP4 comes with a writing implement in the box, Samsung's pen isn't available yet (it arrives later this quarter), and the company hasn't revealed a price or tech specs like how many levels of pressure it recognizes.
For shoppers already tied into Apple's ecosystem, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($799-plus) could make sense: It's powerful enough for everyday computing, supports pressure-sensitive pen input with the optional Apple Pencil ($99) and works with various keyboard covers. Battery life is on par with the TabPro S, but then again, it's bigger and heavier. Also, iOS doesn't support mouse input, which means none of the available keyboards have a built-in touchpad. For that reason, I'm hesitant to recommend it to people who expect to do a lot of typing or spreadsheet editing. That said, it's a better fit for creative types who plan to use some of the specially optimized apps, especially those meant to take advantage of the optional Pencil.


I don't know that the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is necessarily better than the Surface Pro 4: It isn't offered in any comparably powerful configurations, the keyboard isn't as easy to type on, the screen angle isn't adjustable when propped up, and the pressure-sensitive pen isn't available yet. That said, the TabPro S bests the SP4 in some ways, and even succeeds in some areas the Surface doesn't. Its battery life is hours longer, despite the fact that it has a skinnier design that in theory doesn't leave room for as big a battery. It's the only 2-in-1 right now with a Super AMOLED screen, and it might just be prettier than the already-nice one on the Surface Pro 4. And, the keyboard comes in the box, which is welcome news, even if the keyboard is occasionally maddening.
The Galaxy TabPro S is a fine product in its own right -- no small feat, considering Samsung had never made a device like this before. It will be even better, too, once the company releases the optional pen. Heck, Samsung even has an opportunity to retool the keyboard; space out the buttons a bit, make the screen angle adjustable and then sell it as an optional, backward-compatible accessory. Because if Samsung can fix the typing experience -- clearly the weakest link here -- early adopters would easily be able to upgrade to a much-improved product, without having to spend $900 all over again.