A (late) review of the iPad Pro 10.5 vs 12.9 (as someone who owns both)
I still see quite a few “should I get the iPad Pro 10.5 or 12.9” posts, so I figured that I would offer my opinions as someone who owns both. As an owner of both I feel like my review will be mostly unbiased. I know this review is late as these have been out for quite some time (and a refresh is due soon), but in a way that’s a good thing because I’ve had a lot of experience with these tablets, so it’s not just a “first impressions” type of review.
For a little context as to why I own both:
I first went with the 10.5 and I fell in love with the damn thing, but I’m also an amateur musician on the side (bassist). The 10.5 became glued to my hip. This thing has been a godsend for me because I no longer have to keep binders full of sheet music, and I no longer have to struggle with music stand clip lights barely illuminating the pages, but what I did struggle with was the physical size of the tablet as reading sheet music on the stage was a bit of a struggle, but the 12.9 completely changed that. Now sheet music is roughly the size of an actual printed page, which is just awesome.
I own the 256GB WiFi+LTE 10.5, and a base model 64GB (WiFi only) 12.9.
For a quick size comparison, here’s the 10.5 laying on top of the 12.9. Although an extra 2.4 inches of screen real-estate doesn’t sound like a whole lot, it really does translate to a much larger footprint.
[Size comparison (footprint).](https://imgur.com/nhqqxZh.jpg)
The 12.9 is also slightly thicker, and although it doesn’t look like much in a picture, it does feel quite a bit more “beefy” when handled in person.
[Thickness comparison (10.5 on top).](https://imgur.com/CnsWwUd.jpg)
For portability the 10.5 wins hands-down. It would seem like when you stuff these things away in a backpack it wouldn’t really matter all that much, but as you can see in the following pics when packing light with a smaller backpack (which I often do while cycling and such) the 10.5 really does shine. It tucks away nice and neat, allowing me to fit more in my pack.
[10.5 in my small cycling backpack.](https://imgur.com/LewaytC.jpg)
[12.9 in the same backpack.](https://imgur.com/HYPVnqZ.jpg)
Even when using a larger backpack the 10.5 is still nice to have. It fits in smaller pockets, such as this outside mesh pocket on my larger pack.
[10.5 tucks away nicely in my outside mesh pocket, making it very accessible.](https://imgur.com/9gyogyW.jpg)
[12.9 will not fit in the same pocket.](https://imgur.com/cIHvHLT.jpg)
One-handing the tablets, as I tend to do, is also significantly more comfortable with the 10.5. Although there is only about a 0.4lb difference in weight, the extra size of the 12.9 causes significantly more pressure in my hand when I one-hand it, and it becomes tiring hold it this way after a short time, but I feel like I could one-hand the 10.5 all day. Holding the 12.9 like this kinda feels ridiculous, whereas with the 10.5 it feels much more natural.
[One-handing the 10.5.](https://imgur.com/y7tASQY.jpg)
[One-handing the 12.9.](https://imgur.com/pqX7CBa.jpg)
I find that I greatly prefer the 10.5 when just laying around. I can prop it on my chest and easily access the whole screen with my thumb, but the 12.9 requires more arm movement, making it feel more cumbersome for this application.
At this point it might seem like the choice is easy, go with the 10.5, but portability isn’t everything. Sometimes that extra screen real-estate can make all the difference, plus the 12.9 has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
As I mentioned earlier, I love the 12.9 when it comes to reading sheet music. In this application the 12.9 is clearly better as it’s virtually like reading an actual printed page, whereas the 10.5 causes me to strain my eyes which distracts me and can cause me to lose my place on live gigs (not good!).
[Actual sheet music vs same music on 10.5 vs same music on 12.9.](https://imgur.com/dHHUBdP.jpg)
I’m a little bit of a comic book/graphic novel nerd and reading on the 12.9 is more immersive and less straining.
[Actual graphic novel vs 10.5 vs 12.9.](https://imgur.com/w7ZYXez.jpg)
The iPad also makes for a fantastic portable dual-screen setup with something like a MacBook Pro (using Duet). The 12.9 clearly shines here. Unfortunately at the moment I’m experiencing issues getting Duet to work properly, but when it does work the 12.9 is much better.
I’m not an artist, but I imagine the 12.9 would be much more ideal for drawing, painting, etc.
The 12.9 is also clearly better in couple more areas. I thought playing music through the 10.5 sounded pretty good for a tablet, but I was blown away the first time I played music through the 12.9. It clearly sounds much better than the 10.5. Music is louder, fuller, and in an intimate party situation it’s actually quite adequate. The 10.5 sounds tinny in comparison.
Also, split-screen multi-tasking is much better on a 12.9. It’s doable on a 10.5 but you basically get two iPhone applications whereas with the 12.9 it’s a lot like having two iPad Minis next to each other, you get the full experience for each application. This is very helpful for me when learning new songs because I can read music on one side while scrubbing back/forth through the song on the other.
[Split-screening bass tabs with Apple Music on 10.5.](https://imgur.com/idyQMV4.jpg)
[Doing the same with the 12.9.](https://imgur.com/0CHnHEx.jpg)
[Split-screening with the 10.5 uses the “iPhone” UI.](https://imgur.com/0mBGvBm.jpg)
[With the 12.9 you get a fuller experience.](https://imgur.com/Cncax2S.jpg)
So in the end, if I could only have one, which would I go with? That’s actually quite difficult to answer. I love both for their own reasons. If someone twisted my arm hard enough then I’d pick the 12.9 because it’s incredibly useful for me on music gigs. I strained too much trying to read music in real-time on the 10.5, so the 12.9 has a real tangible benefit in that regard and makes my life much easier. If I took the sheet music aspect out of the equation then I’d go with the 10.5. When I handle the 12.9 for awhile and then go back to the 10.5 is feels incredibly airy and light. It’s easier to handle, it’s easier to pack away, and it still packs all the punch as the 12.9 in regards to processing power.
In the end I say think about what you want out of an iPad and go with your gut! You probably won’t be disappointed no matter which one you choose.