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5 exciting features on the new iPad Pro, and one very pricey downside

Is the new Apple iPad Pro a tablet or a laptop? Or is it finally the hybrid many people have been waiting for? We will find out for sure once we live with it for a while, but in the meantime there is plenty to get excited about with Apple’s latest tablet. Here are the five most exciting features you should know about if you’re deciding whether to pre-order the iPad Pro or not, and also one crucial negative point.

Pro: The Magic Keyboard

The most talked-about feature of the new iPad Pro isn’t part of the iPad Pro itself. It’s the Magic Keyboard accessory, which for the first time has a trackpad that effectively turns the iPad Pro into a complete laptop replacement. The pad itself has a click-anywhere design, and works in conjunction with Apple’s iPadOS version 13.4 for gesture controls and plenty more.

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Apple iPad Pro 2020 Keyboard

The software will integrate the trackpad into the normal touchscreen operation of the iPad. Apple says the trackpad will work well for switching between open apps, as well as complex editing tasks and for tricky touch operations like selecting text. The cursor will highlight areas on the screen where clicking works well too, so you know how to use it best. All Apple’s apps will work with the trackpad, from Safari to iWork apps, and most third-party apps will work without a problem too. Apple has an API for developers to use, so they can introduce special trackpad features to their own apps too.

We’re interested to try out the typing experience, which Apple says is its best yet. The backlit keys have 1mm of travel and are suspended by a scissor movement. We love the way the keyboard’s case cleverly suspends the iPad Pro in midair, for a cool look and handy additional elevation. The new keyboard, the trackpad, and the Apple Pencil stylus promises to complete the iPad’s journey to becoming a powerful laptop alternative. However, the Magic Keyboard is an expensive addition. It costs $300 for the 11-inch Magic Keyboard, or $350 for the 12.9-inch version.

Pro: iPadOS 13.4, and the laptop-like experience

We don’t know exactly what the new software will bring, or how it will change iPadOS, but Apple has confirmed iPadOS 13.4 will be released on March 24. However, it and the introduction of the Magic Keyboard and trackpad further blur the line between the iPad and Apple’s entry-level MacBook laptops, a change that started in earnest with the release of iPadOS. The change from iOS used on the iPhone to something more tailored toward productivity was a big step in making the iPad a powerful work device.

Many will take a good look at whether an iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard suits their needs better than a MacBook Air. The new 2020 MacBook Air, announced alongside the iPad Pro, starts at $1,000 and has a 13-inch Retina display, 256GB of storage, and a 10th-generation Core i7 processor. It runs MacOS Catalina, and has the same improved keyboard introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Which should you choose? A lot will depend on how deeply you are invested in Apple’s ecosystem, and whether your work dictates that you need the greater flexibility and power provided by the MacBook, or if the speedy productivity, excellent app experience, additional versatility, and long battery life of the iPad Pro will serve you better.

Pro: The LiDAR Scanner

This is an unexpected addition to the iPad’s feature list. The Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar, sensor is probably best known for its use in high-tech automotive cruise control systems and autonomous cars, where lasers accurately and quickly measure the distance between an object and the sensor. Apple says the lidar fitted to the iPad Pro has been custom designed for the tablet, and will be used mostly for augmented reality features.

Like on cars, the iPad Pro’s lidar measures distance, operates at up to five meters indoors and outdoors, and takes nanoseconds to perform the action. Combine it with the cameras and other sensors in the iPad, and it will greatly improve AR effects, including object recognition — both digital and real world — for a more immersive and realistic visual experience.

Apple has been investing in augmented reality for years, and it has been rumored to introduce a set of AR glasses, or a headset, for some time too. Currently, it has an impressive list of AR apps available, covering both business and entertainment. The iPad Pro’s massive screen is probably the best way to enjoy them too. What’s intriguing about the lidar tech is that it has come to the iPad first, paving the way for something similar to arrive on a future iPhone, where in addition to AR features, it may further enhance the camera with 3D abilities too.

Pro: The biggest screens, the highest specs

The iPad Pro comes in two sizes, giving you more flexibility, and the chance to still pick up a new model for well under $1,000. The smaller of the two has a screen size of 11-inches, and the larger a 12.9-inch screen. Both have the same Liquid Retina display with 120Hz ProMotion technology. This makes them the largest iPad models you can buy at the moment, with the 10.5-inch iPad Air just behind.

Apple offers the iPad Pro with up to 1TB of internal storage space, way beyond the 256GB found on the iPad and iPad Air, and it’s also driven by the new A12Z Bionic chip. Apple calls this the most powerful chip used in an iPad yet, but does not make it clear where the improvements come over the A12 Bionic chip used in the iPad Air, iPad Mini, and the iPhone 11 series.

What we do know is Apple has improved the thermal performance of the octa-core chip, and mentions its ability to perform intensive operations like editing 4K video and building 3D models. Even without knowing everything about the chip itself, the 2020 iPad Pro is still the biggest, fastest, and most powerful iPad you can buy at the moment.

Pro: Two cameras

Like the iPhone 11, the iPad Pro has two camera lenses on the back. A 12-megapixel main lens is joined by a 10-megapixel wide-angle lens, which matches the functionality of Apple’s standard iPhone. Most people will find this is a flexible, fun setup that’s useful in many situations. However, it’s questionable how many people use the iPad for photography in the first place.

Where the camera comes in handy is when it’s used for video, where it takes advantage of the five microphones on the body to record atmospheric, high-quality sound. Rather than being just good for your vacation, this is arguably more useful for creators and filmmakers, due to the larger screen and strong app support for on-device video editing including Adobe Premiere Rush and Photoshop.

Con: Price, and availability

You can pre-order the iPad Pro now, but if you want the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with iTB of storage and 4G LTE, it will cost $1,650. The cheapest option is to take the 11-inch iPad Pro with 128GB of storage and a Wi-Fi-only connection for $800. However, to fully enjoy the tablet — and to see if it really can replace your laptop — you have to pay an extra $300 or $350 for the Magic Keyboard. That means almost $2,000 for the top iPad Pro with a keyboard. Ouch. Worse, the keyboard isn’t available until May, so even if you get the tablet now, you’ll have to wait to really exploit its talents.

If you decide to order the iPad Pro now, expect it to be delivered on March 25.

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