Apple didn't give the iPad Pro announcement its own standalone event, instead cramming it into its jam-packed September iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus/Apple TV/iOS 9/El Capitan/iPad mini 4/iPad Pro press event. That means we've been waiting almost two months for the 2-in-1 to launch; that wait ends on Wednesday.
Apple fired out a press release today officially announcing that iPad Pro orders begin on Wednesday, November 11, with in-store availability at both Apple Stores and third-party retailers coming later in the week.
The oversized (12.9-inch) tablet has an optional keyboard accessory that can transform the iPad Pro into a laptop-ish kind of device, similar to what Microsoft has been doing with Surfaces for three years. Apple's marketing so far, though, frames the tablet as more of an artists' tool than a 2-in-1. Quotes from execs at Adobe, FiftyThree (makers of popular sketching app Paper) and others try to set up the iPad Pro as less of a Surface rival and more of a digital pad and pencil.
That's thanks to the Apple Pencil, the company's first stylus since the old Newton Messagepad PDAs. More than the crude, plastic pointy-things on those devices (which launched during Steve Jobs' decade-long exile from the company), Apple is hyping up the Apple Pencil's virtually imperceptible lag, pressure sensitivity and ability to sense tilt, opening the door to creating shading effects just like on a real pencil – by angling the tip.
The iPad Pro is the only iPad to get updated with Apple's 9th-generation chips, running a variant of the A9 SoC found in the latest iPhones (here it's called the A9X). The huge display has the same 4:3 aspect ratio as previous iPads, with the same pixel density (264 PPI) as the iPad Air family.
As much as Apple would prefer we avoid branding the iPad Pro as a Surface clone, the whole tablet with snap-on keyboard and stylus thing makes the comparison nearly impossible to avoid. There is one huge difference though: the iPad Pro's iOS 9 software is still a mobile operating system, limiting the tablet's ability to fully replace a laptop. The fact that its keyboard lacks a trackpad or mouse control of any kind doesn't exactly help out in that department either.
Microsoft's latest Surfaces are some of our favorite devices we reviewed this year, and run Windows 10 – a full desktop operating system.
The iPad Pro starts at US$799 for the tablet only. The (likely essential) Smart Keyboard adds another $169 onto that, with the artist-focused Apple Pencil ringing up for $99. You can check out the full list of launch countries in the press release below.