Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2018) review: a cautionary tale [Part 1]

It’s been over a year since Apple released its newest iPad Pro. Since then, things have changed. The device’s software has greatly improved, pricing has gone down at some retailers, and it’s gained new siblings like the refreshed iPad Air and mini.

But the iPad Pro still stands as the best iPad you can get, and with the new software, it’s a killer everyday-carry device that’s good for productivity, entertainment, and more.

However, 2020 is coming up, and rumors are starting to spread regarding the next iPad Pros. So now the question arises: is it still a good idea to buy the 2018 iPad Pro or should you just wait for the new ones later this year?

I nicknamed this review “a cautionary tale,” and it’s thanks to my answer. The 2018 iPad Pro is still a great buy, but it’s better to be careful and know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not the latest iPad you can buy and it will be succeeded by something better within a matter of months. To me, though, it’s still a fantastic gadget, even though it’ll become “obsolete” soon.


Design

Apple’s near-bezel-less design philosophy that started with the iPhone X has managed to stand the test of time on every device that it’s featured on. The iPhone X, XS, XR, 11, and 11 Pro all look like they could’ve been released in 2019 since they all carry a similar “edge-to-edge” screen atop a metal and glass sandwich. While the iPad Pro isn’t a metal and glass sandwich, it does adopt the Cupertino company’s edge-to-edge aesthetic on the front, therefore helping to keep it relevant in the design department for much longer.

Seriously, you could’ve told me Apple was gonna release this iPad Pro in 2020 and I’d be fine with the design. The screen, while certainly not completely bezel-less, looks much more modern than what you’d get with an iPad Air or baseline iPad. Meanwhile, the design gets a much more boxy and industrial outer shell which makes it feel robust, powerful, and, most importantly, professional.

The 11-inch iPad Pro keeps the same power and volume buttons we’re all used to, and it follows in the iPhone’s footsteps by not including a headphone jack. I’m fine with this since I’ve moved onto Bluetooth headphones, and I’d advise you to do so as well if you’re still carrying around wired buds everywhere you go.

You’ll also find a ton of speaker grilles around the iPad. I’ll talk about them a bit later and their quality.

Finally, at the bottom of the iPad Pro, there’s a USB-C port. It replaces the aging Lightning connector, and my God is it handy to have. This is another topic I’ll bring up a bit later, but just know that it’s miles ahead in terms of usefulness when compared to a Lightning port.

Overall, the design of the iPad Pro is nice. It’s a tad boring, but so is every other iPad. To me, this is the best looking iPad Apple has ever released. It’s not too big, it’s comfortable to hold, it’s light, it’s balanced correctly, and it keeps a familiar iPad vibe with its all-aluminum construction. Plus, the squared-off edges make it feel industrial which is nice since it’s one of the most powerful tablets on the market.


Display

Let’s talk about the screen, shall we?

My iPad Pro came with an 11-inch “Liquid Retina” display with a resolution of 2388×1668. It’s an LCD panel, but I really don’t care. It’s good and sharp, colors look nice and accurate, contrast is on point, it gets plenty bright (up to 600 nits, in fact), and it features True Tone to adjust the color temperature depending on the environment you’re in. In short, I love it.

There’s another reason why I love this screen so much, and it has to do with its refresh rate. Apple has a feature it debuted last year with the new iPad Pros called ProMotion. Essentially, whenever you see that name, it means the device you’re dealing with comes with a 120 Hz refresh rate. That’s double the rate of a standard refresh rate, and it basically means everything on the screen moves quicker and looks smoother.

I’m telling you right now, the moment you start using the iPad Pro and its ProMotion display, every other iPad screen will look terrible. 120 Hz is such a big improvement over 60 Hz that it’s hard to ever imagine going back to a slower panel. Granted, it does draw extra power to refresh everything faster, and there is a toggle in Accessibility to limit it to 60 Hz. But I’ve found that it’s hard to live without 120 Hz always on, and it’s definitely worth sacrificing the extra juice.

These features help the iPad Pro remain relevant. No one else has done a tablet with a faster refresh rate than Apple’s, and smartphones are just now starting to ditch 60 Hz. If you buy this thing, the screen will do enough to not make it feel dated, even though it came out over a year ago.


Face ID

In the top bezel of the 2018 iPad Pro is an array of sensors that enable Face ID. It’s the same system as what’s on the iPhone, but it works no matter what orientation you’re holding it in. It even works upside down, which is impressive.

I’ll admit, the Face ID system on the iPad Pro is a bit less reliable than what you get on the iPhone. In other words, it tends to fail more often than my iPhone XS. Quite frankly, though, I don’t notice this issue enough for it to be a problem. In fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times it failed in the past month. It’s still worth mentioning, though, since I don’t have that problem with my iPhone.


USB-C

Below the bottom bezel of the iPad Pro lives a USB-C port. This is potentially one of the greatest features to ever reach the iPad line. It unlocks so many great capabilities and pits the iPad Pro further against traditional computers. It also future-proofs the iPad since so many devices nowadays have a USB-C port.

You can plug adapters into it. You can charge your iPhone with it. You can handle files with it on flash drives and SD cards. You can even plug headphones into it (there’s no headphone jack here, by the way). It unlocks way more versatility than a Lightning port could even dream about.

As boring as it sounds, though, my favorite advantage of owning an iPad with a USB-C port is being able to charge it over USB-C. Almost all of my daily carry items use the connector, with the exception of my iPhone. If I’m using an Android phone as my daily driver, that means I can literally carry one cable to charge my phone, my tablet, and my laptop. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now all Apple has to do is give the iPhone a USB-C port and I’ll be the happiest person on planet Earth.

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2018) review: a cautionary tale