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iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) vs. iPad Pro 11-inch (2020)

Apple has unveiled the new iPad Pro 11-inch (2021), aiming to go one better than last year’s already excellent model, which we declared the “definitive tablet” in our review. It introduces a new M1 chip, includes full support for 5G (if you opt for the cellular model), and also packs a 12-megapixel ultrawide selfie camera, just in case you want to take some panoramic photos of yourself.

It certainly looks like it provides some meaningful advances over its predecessor, but is it really worth upgrading if you already own the iPad Pro 11-inch (2020)? We attempt to answer this question by subjecting both tablets to a comprehensive head-to-head comparison. We weigh up their specs, designs, displays, performance, cameras, and special features, and in the process, we find out which is the better iPad Pro overall.

If you’d like to look at some other iPad models, check out our article on the best iPad to buy in 2021.

Specs

iPad Pro 11-inch (2020) iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)
Size 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm (9.75 x 7.03 x 0.23 inches) 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm (9.75 x 7.03 x 0.23 inches)
Weight 471 grams (Wi-Fi), 473 grams (LTE) (1.04 pounds) 466 grams (Wi-Fi), 470 grams (5G) (1.03 pounds)
Screen 11-inch Liquid Retina IPS 11-inch Liquid Retina IPS
Screen resolution 1668 x 2388 pixels (265 pixels per inch) 1668 x 2388 pixels (265 pixels per inch)
Operating system iPadOS 14 iPadOS 14
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Apple A12Z Bionic Apple M1
RAM 6GB 8GB, 16GB
Camera Dual 12MP and 10MP ultrawide, LiDAR, 7MP front Dual 12MP and 10MP ultrawide, LiDAR, 12MP ultrawide front
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor No No
Water resistance No No
Battery 28.65Wh

Fast charging (18W)

28.65Wh

Fast charging (18W)

App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon (Cellular models only) AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon (Cellular models only)
Colors Silver, Space Gray Silver, Space Gray
Price $799+ $799+
Buy from Best Buy Apple
Review score 4.5 stars out of 5 News

Design, display, and durability

iPad Pro 2020 Screen
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

You may need a magnifying lens to notice the aesthetic differences between the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) and the iPad Pro 11-inch (2020) because there aren’t really any worth mentioning. In fact, not only do both tablets feature the same 11-inch edge-to-edge display with attractively svelte bezels, but they have exactly the same spatial dimensions. The only minor difference — and this is extremely minor — is that the newer iPad Pro 11-inch is 5 grams lighter if you buy the Wi-Fi model and 3 grams lighter if you buy the LTE/5G model. This is a difference of a hundredth of a pound, so you’ll notice no difference in terms of comfort or hold-ability.

Disappointingly for anyone wanting some serious innovation, the display used by the 2021 iPad Pro 11-inch is also identical to that used by its predecessor. It’s a Liquid Retina IPS LCD screen, capable of a maximum brightness of 600 nits and also compatible with HDR10. It still looks very good, to be fair, but there is no discernible difference in quality, so don’t buy the 2021 iPad Pro thinking you’re going to see an improvement. (That said, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) does offer some distinct enhancements compared to last year’s model.)

It’s the same story with durability: Neither model offers an official IP rating for water resistance, although the use of an aluminum frame and back means that they can probably take a fair amount of casual neglect. This round is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPad Pro 2020 USB
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

As with the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021), the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) benefits from the inclusion of the almighty M1 chip. This new processor debuted with the latest MacBook Air, and as you’d expect from a chip being used in an actual computer, it outperforms the Apple A12Z Bionic you’ll find in last year’s 11-inch iPad Pro. The newer model also benefits from the fact that it comes with 8GB of RAM as standard, compared to the 6GB of the 2020 iPad Pro. This can also be increased to a whopping 16GB if you happen to be a really demanding user and also have an extra $700 lying around.

Both iPad Pros ship with 128GB of internal memory as standard and the 2020 model can be upgraded to 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB. However, the 2021 can go one step further to 2TB. This will cost you an extra $1,100 compared to the starting price, yet it will basically give you nearly unlimited storage space, perfect for using the tablet as a work computer. Neither tablet offers a slot for microSD cards, although you probably won’t need one if you buy a model with more storage.

While Apple prefers to guard exact battery sizes as if they were an official state secret, reports indicate that the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) has exactly the same battery as its 2020 forerunner. Our review of the 2020 model found that it can last around five days under moderate use, so this is a good thing, although heavier users who watch plenty of videos may find that the battery drains a little quicker.

This equality aside, the M1 chip means that the 2021 iPad Pro outperforms its 2020 rival, so this round is a win for the newer device.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Cameras

iPad Pro 2020 Camera
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

When it comes to their rear cameras, the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) and the iPad Pro 11-inch (2020) are once again very hard to tell apart. They both feature a dual-lens setup, with a 12MP wide lens and a 10MP ultrawide lens, as well as a LiDAR sensor for depth and augmented reality (AR) applications. As our review of the 2020 model discovered, these lenses provide the best camera experience you can find on a tablet, even if they don’t quite reach the level of a high-end smartphone. That means they take very good photos in most conditions, capturing a nice amount of detail, balancing colors well, and handling low-light environments surprisingly well. Of course, you may look a bit silly taking photos of the Eiffel Tower with it, but it’s a great stand-in if you don’t have your smartphone to hand.

Fortunately, Apple has managed to introduce an innovation for the 2021 iPad Pro’s selfie camera. In contrast to the 2020 model’s 7MP lens, it’s now a 12MP ultrawide lens, letting you take more scenic, panoramic selfies. It does help to make your selfies a little more interesting and colorful, and while you might conceivably worry about your face being lost in the scene, the tablet uses the new Center Stage feature, which utilizes artificial intelligence (A.I.) to keep you in the middle of a wide-angled picture.

This sounds like more than just a nice gimmick, so we’re going to say this round is a slim victory for the newer 11-inch iPad Pro.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Software and updates

iPad Pro 2020 Widgets
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Regardless of whether you opt for the 2021 11-inch iPad Pro or the 2020 version, you will be using iPadOS 14. Compared to previous versions, this introduces a modest range of new features. Most useful of all is the new Scribble feature, which lets you use the Apple Pencil (sold separately) to enter handwriting into text fields and boxes so you don’t have to type. There’s also the addition of App Clips (letting you download smaller portions of apps) and revamped home screen widgets, which let you set their size in order to show more or less info.

Given that the iPad is an Apple product, you’ll be well-serviced with software updates irrespective of which model you choose. You’ll also be supported for many years, so both tablets should last you well beyond the point at which you start thinking about upgrading.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Verizon 5G Super Bowl
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The new 11-inch iPad Pro (2021) is the first iPad to offer 5G support (if you buy the cellular model). This will cost you $200 extra, but the device does support the faster mmWave 5G bands, as well as the longer-range sub-6Hz, so it truly is a 5G-ready device. With the 2020 iPad Pro, you’ll be stuck with LTE and 4G, so if having the fastest possible download speeds is an issue for you, you may prefer the newer model.

Aside from 5G support, both devices are once again identical. They house a LiDAR sensor, which facilitates the use of various AR apps and can be used to measure items using the Measure app. They also feature Face ID so that you can finally put your ugly mug to good use, and they support the Magic Keyboard accessory, essentially letting you have a tablet and a laptop at the same time.

While both devices are very similar, the inclusion of support for 5G means that this is another round that the 2021 iPad Pro sneaks by in.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Price and availability

The iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) is available to pre-order from Apple, starting from $799 and going as high as $2,099 for the 2TB model with added 5G support. It will work on all major networks (if you have the cellular version) and will be sold pretty much everywhere.

The 2020 11-inch iPad Pro is no longer available on Apple’s own site, although you can easily find it on places like Best Buy and Amazon. It officially launched from $799, although you may be able to get around $100 off if you look hard enough.

Overall winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Apple iPad Pro with M1 chip and Apple Pencil

While this wasn’t a one-horse race, the iPad Pro 11-inch (2021) is undoubtedly a superior tablet to the iPad Pro 11-inch (2020). Its performance is tangibly faster, thanks to the M1 chip and more generous helping of RAM. It also offers a helpfully improved selfie camera and 5G support, making it an iPad that’s very much ready for the future.

Still, the 2020 iPad Pro looks just as sleek as its successor, while it also runs the same excellent software. Even though its processor isn’t quite as speedy as the 2021 model’s, it’s hardly a slouch, so the vast majority of users will hardly suffer. In other words, if you can find it at a discount — or if you already own it — the 2021 version may not be worth the upgrade.

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