Here's my one shocking discovery when I opened the box for the Apple iPad Pro 9.7.

It looks almost exactly like the iPad Air.

And, it looks almost exactly like the original iPad. 

For some, that might be perfectly fine. The new model feels familiar. It  means, the 9.7-inch size is the same as the previous iPad models, so if you decide to plunk down $599 for one, be ready to feel some déjà vu. That's my  one major surprise for a device that, in every other way, does exactly what you'd expect for a "pro" version of the iPad.

As you may know, I'm still a big fan of the first iPad Pro, which has a 12.9-inch screen. I have larger hands (I'm 6-2, and just recently a bit skinnier than usual) so I like swiping on the larger screen and typing up documents. The 12.9-inch size is more "pro" because of that one simple fact. The software keys are bigger. Magazines look stunning at 12.9-inches, so I still use one as my daily tablet.

The new iPad Pro with the 9.7-inch screen lacks those perks. The software keys for the keyboard case are smaller, so it's less likely to replace your laptop anytime soon. The case, which costs $149 extra, is also smaller. I type an entire document using it, and had quite a few typos, but again--it really depends on the size of your fingers.

In many ways, the new iPad Pro 9.7-inch is better than the 12.9-inch model. It has a better camera, at 12 megapixels, and shoots 4K video--compared to just 8 megapixels and HD video on the 12.9-inch. In my tests, I scanned receipts and signed contracts and felt they showed more pixel clarity such that I could skip a scanner. My photos from both tablets look roughly the same, though. The new iPad Pro has a better FaceTime camera (5 megapixels compared to 1.2) for video chats.

Honestly, the biggest difference other than the size is the price. The new iPad Pro costs $599 compared to $799 for the original Pro model. That $200 goes a long way in adding the Apple Pencil for $99 and the Smart Keyboard case. But hold that thought. Let's talk about the Pencil, which reveals a few other differences

I tested both side by side, and the larger iPad works much better for taking notes during a meeting and jotting down ideas. I love the responsiveness on both tablets, and Apple deserves credit for making this work so well without any smudges or weirdness (like you get on a Surface tablet). Yet, the larger 12.9-inch size gives you more real estate to rest your palm, draw out ideas, and even pull up a side panel, using the Split View feature, with your email or schedule.

And about those magazines. It's a small thing, but when you read this magazine on an iPad Pro 9.7 using the Texture app, be ready to zoom in a bit to read articles. On the 12.9-inch, you don't have to zoom in at all. It's fluid and smooth, a good replacement for paper. It also looks better for movies and playing games.

What else? As I've heard from many other reporters, the new iPad Pro won't win any design innovation awards. Like the Apple iPhone SE, it's a faster version of a well-known device. It won't surprise you, but you might prefer the smaller size and the fact that it weighs only a pound. It's a smart, refined, fast tablet that feels like the original.

Published on: Apr 4, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.