Forget the iPad Air 3. Apple’s new 9.7-inch tablet will be a scaled-down version of its supercharged 12.9-inch iPad Pro — called (drumroll, please) the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
The new, smaller iPad Pro features four-speaker audio, a rear flash, Apple Pencil support, a Smart Connector for an all-new 9.7-inch Smart Keyboard, Apple’s most advanced iPad camera yet, and some very, very cool True Tone technology for matching the ambient light wherever you are.
Oh, and a fancy new 256GB storage option.
The iPad Pro display looks pretty impressive, with a screen that’s 25 percent brighter, has 25 percent greater color saturation and 40 percent less reflectivity than the iPad Air 2. The True Tone technology works courtesy of two new four-channel ambient light sensors, capable of measuring the color temperature in a room and adjusting the display to deliver a more natural appearance.
The camera’s getting super-charged, too, with the same 12-megapixel camera sensor found on the iPhone 6s. That’s a step up from the 8-megapixel sensor of the larger iPad Pro. Appearing onstage, Phil Schiller called it “the most advanced iPad camera yet.” (Unfortunately, while not explicitly mentioned, it does appear that the camera juts out like it does on newer iPhones.)
Beneath the hood, the iPad Pro’s processor is a 64-bit A9X chip, with all the usual support for standard iOS features including Apple Pay, Touch ID and Bluetooth 4.2.
Unlike the baseline storage of 16GB for the iPad Air 2, the new iPad Pro starts at 32GB, jumps to 128GB and — for the first time ever — includes a 256GB option. Colors include space gray, gold, rose gold and silver. Price points are $599 for the 32GB option, $749 for the 128GB model and $899 for the 256GB version.
All in all, a very impressive showing for Apple’s iPad product line. Orders begin March 24, for shipping on March 31.