iPad Pro
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, announces the 9.7-inch iPad Pro at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, March 21, 2016. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At 9.7 inches, Apple's new iPad Pro is smaller than the supersized 12.9-inch iPad Pro released last fall, but it comes with an upgraded camera, processor, brighter screen and great battery life. With the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories, can it replace a PC, as Apple marketing claims? Not quite, but at $599, it may be Apple's best tablet yet.

Apple's new tablet earned a rave review from Mashable. The 9.7-inch iPad includes an upgraded 12-megapixel iSight camera and 4k video recording capability and weighs just under a pound. There are additional speakers for a better listening experience. The iPad Pro has the same screen resolution as the iPad Air 2 — 2,048 x 1,536 — but features a brighter screen with crisper colors, according to Mashable.

The additional processing power from Apple's A9X chip means the new tablet can get away with just 2GB of RAM. The 32GB of storage is another strong selling point of the latest iPad Pro.

For a more technical analysis, Ars Technica put the iPad Pro through its paces with a series of benchmark tests. Aside from the iPad Pro 12.9, the iPad Pro 9.7 is the best-performing Apple device, besting the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPhone 6S. In battery life, the iPad Pro 9.7 outperformed the standard 10 hours of Wi-Fi use and nine hours of cellular browsing, clocking in at 646 minutes, just behind the iPhone 6S Plus (651 minutes) and much better than the Surface Pro 4 (491 minutes).

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a great tablet, but there are reasons to question the need for an immediate upgrade. Even Ars Technica's positive review says users with an iPad Air 2 who don't want the Apple Pencil can skip the new iPad Pro. A refurbished 64 GB iPad Air 2 with many of the same features as the iPad Pro 9.7, with a downgrade in camera, can be found for $419.

Positioned as a PC or laptop replacement, the iPad Pro 9.7 falls flat, according to the Wall Street Journal. The lack of a mouse or trackpad is a big strike against Apple's tablet. Software developers also complain about restrictions from Apple that reduce overall revenue. With a limited range of support from productivity software makers, the iPad does not feature the broad range of tools that a PC can offer. And the limitations of iOS are more prominent when one uses an iPad as a laptop replacement, according to Forbes contributor Brooke Crothers.