iPad Pro goes big with A9X CPU and 12.9" variable-refresh screen

The tablet market—and more specifically, the iPad—have both faltered a bit in recent quarters. Apple's response to that slowdown: go big. The company introduced a bigger, more powerful iPad today, called the iPad Pro, that packs a 12.9" screen and the company's latest A9X processor. The Pro also gets a keyboard cover and a pressure-sensitive stylus, called the Apple Pencil, that allows for precise drawing and annotation.

First, that screen. The display has a 2732x2048 resolution—that's 5.6 million pixels—that Apple VP Phil Schiller proudly points out as being higher-resolution than the company's 15" MacBook Pro Retina displays. What's more, the display has variable-refresh-rate technology built in so that hitches in animation aren't as evident to save power during periods where nothing is moving on-screen.

Underneath the aluminum-and-glass shell lies an Apple A9X chip with a CPU that's claimed to be two times faster than the company's previous top-end mobile CPU in the A8X. It gets there with two times as much memory and I/O bandwidth as its predecessor, and the GPU supposedly performs twice as fast as the one in the A8X. The company says the A9X is powerful enough to allow for tasks like editing three separate 4K video streams in iMovie. 

In keeping with the Pro name, Apple is releasing two new input methods for this iPad: a Smart Keyboard cover, and a pressure-sensitive stylus called the Apple Pencil. iOS 9 knows when the keyboard cover is magnetically attached to the iPad Pro, and it'll switch between touch and keyboard input modes accordingly. The Apple Pencil combines pressure sensitivity and high-precision position tracking to enable natural drawing and annotation on the bigger display.

Even with the beefier internals, the iPad Pro remains thin and relatively light, at 6.9 mm thick and 1.6 pounds. The battery is apparently up to the task of powering the A9X and bigger display, too: Apple claims that it'll have 10 hours of battery life in regular use.

The iPad Pro will start at $799 for a 32GB model with Wi-Fi, or at $949 for a 128GB model. A third model with 128GB of storage and LTE wireless connectivity will cost $1079. The Apple Pencil is an extra $99, and the keyboard cover is an extra $169. All of these iPads and accessories will arrive in November.

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