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iPad Pro (2024) review: the best tablet I’ve ever used

M4 iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard.
iPad Pro (2024)
MSRP $999.00
“The iPad Pro (2024) is an unbelievably powerful and well-crafted machine. If you want the best tablet money can buy, this is the one to get.”
Pros
  • Sublime OLED screen
  • Lovely design and build
  • Top-notch speakers
  • Surprisingly good battery life
  • Blistering performance
  • Excellent keyboard and stylus
Cons
  • iPadOS is achingly lacking
  • It's extremely expensive
  • Pricey accessories

It was in 2017 that Apple wowed us with the iPhone X. For years to come, I believed that no product could ever top the sheer magnitude of reinvention that Apple flexed for the iPhone X. The shift to M-class processors inside the Mac was a surprise, as was the introduction of Apple M chips in the iPad.

In 2024, Apple has almost touched that renovation charisma once again with the newest iPad Pro, while also raising the entry fee to $999. It serves an industry-first chip, even eclipsing Apple’s pattern of putting priority on Macs. The tablet redraws the lines of how thin you can go with a slate’s hardware. It also gets a massive upgrade to a unique dual-stack OLED screen. Even the accompanying keyboard has entered a class of its own.

The bar has never been so high. Yet, this is one of the most challenging reviews I’ve written so far — for a couple of reasons. First, for the right audience, the iPad Pro (2024) is a total dreamboat. For anyone else, it’s arguably ridiculous, irrespective of whether you’re eyeing the entry-level trim or the pricier version with all the high-tech bells and whistles in tow.

iPad Pro (2024): design and build

Rear shell of the M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

“This is unlike anything I’ve touched before.” That was my first thought when I took the paper wraps off the iPad Pro. It’s astonishingly thin at 5.1 millimeters. Plus, at just over a pound, you will barely feel the heft of the 13-inch slab in your hands, and certainly not in a bag. It’s almost impossibly thin, especially for a tablet that packs a 13-inch dual-stacked OLED panel.

I was quite skeptical about the weight balance on this one since Apple has moved around a few innards on the current-generation iPad Pro. But Apple engineers have done a great job here. I moved around with nothing but the tablet and the Apple Pencil Pro in a packed conference room, taking notes, and at no point did I feel as if the tablet would slip or fall off due to uneven weight distribution.

Once again, it’s an all-metal enclosure, and it feels great to touch. The profile is familiar, but skinnier and lighter this time around. Will it bend? I am not sure if I can answer that inquiry, nor should you worry about that fluke unless you get nightmares of accidentally sitting on uber-expensive computers. But in an average workspace, it will hold.

iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPad Pro M4.
An iPhone 15 Pro is thicker than the new iPad Pro Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

However, I would strongly advise that you put a skin on this one. The shiny Apple logo gets scuffed rather quickly. Also, if you plan on getting the silver trim, you should definitely go with a protective layer because remnants of scrapes and sharp grazes really stand out on this color — and not in a good way.

One might argue that Apple could have gone with slimmer bezels, the way Samsung managed to cram a 14.6-inch screen on its flagship Android tablet. But for tablets that are as big as the iPad Pro or the Samsung device, bezels add practical value. You need them for a firm grip on the slate, whether you are watching videos, sketching, or taking notes while holding it.

iPad Pro (2024): display

Watching video on M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Prior to working full-time on the M4 iPad Pro, I juggled between an Asus laptop with an OLED panel and an M1 iPad Pro with an LCD screen. The difference in visual quality is stark, especially compared to previous-gen iPads. It’s just brilliant, and I have never wanted to work on a screen more than I do on the new Apple slate.

Apple hasn’t done anything notable with the pixel count here, but the boost in saturation, contrast, and viewing angle is the first thing you’ll notice while looking at the dual-stacked OLED panel on the new iPad Pro. It’s also gratifying to see that Apple isn’t giving the cold shoulder to the smaller 11-inch trim and has given it the OLED upgrade, too.

The screen is definitely glossy, but compared side by side with a nano-etched panel (that costs an additional $200), I don’t see a reason to pick the latter over the regular variant. I handed the iPad Pro to a few friends at my co-working space — a couple of sketch artists and a fashion design intern among them — to check out the screen, and they were also delighted at the sharpness, color reproduction, and brightness.

Close-up view of M4 iPad Pro screen.
A close-up view of the Tandem OLED screen. Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Watching hi-res content is a visual delight. A photojournalist friend of mine spent some time editing a few shots on the iPad Pro and was impressed by the fluidity of the 120Hz refresh rate and the beautiful hues produced by the OLED panel. Playing games is also quite a lovely experience on a 13-inch panel. I burned a few hours playing Diablo Immortal, Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat, and Hades, loving every moment of it.

Plus, with the work Apple has been doing with studios while pushing the Metal pipeline, more AAA titles like Resident Evil will take full advantage of this stunning screen. Of course, the added firepower of the next-gen M4 silicon will help with fluidity. Overall, Apple has done a terrific job of making the display technology jump on its latest flagship tablets, which serve well for both work and play.

That said, the display isn’t perfect. I’ve come across multiple reports on Reddit where M4 iPad Pro buyers have reported a grainy texture issue on the tablet, with photo evidence in tow. In a few of the instances where the buyer requested a replacement, Apple Stores honored it. The issue doesn’t seem to affect all units, and the extent to which it is apparent also varies.

Apple Pencil Pro and M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Thankfully, the iPad Pro I purchased doesn’t seem to exhibit any such display woes. I used it at different brightness levels and solid color combinations and didn’t come across any visible signs of grainy texture, fuzzy text, or any kind of blurriness alongside the edges. But the fact that some buyers are running into those quality problems — especially considering the premium they’re paying — is downright disappointing, and Apple should provide a proper replacement for such units.

Oh, did I say something about the speakers? They’re fantastic. They deliver enough thump that you can clearly feel the sonic vibrations if you’re holding the slate in your hands.

iPad Pro (2024): performance

Editing video on M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

The 2024 iPad Pro is a blazing-fast tablet that delivers more performance than a slate this light should be capable of. The version we have for review is the low-end M4 variant with a 9-core GPU. When compared against the M2 iPad Pro, the M4 version proved to be about 25% faster at Geekbench multi-core and over 30% speedier at single-core test runs.

Those numbers humble the nearest Android competitor — Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra — in quite an emphatic fashion. On Geekbench, the M4 iPad Pro was nearly three times as fast as the best multi-core tally of the Samsung slate with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 ticking under its metallic shell. In fact, it even leaves behind terrific gaming machines such as the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 and an HP convertible with top-tier silicon from AMD and Intel, respectively.

Now, let’s address the upgrade question. Compared to the M1 iPad Pro, the new M4 model averaged double the frames-per-second (fps) range maximum of the M1 at two graphics-intensive tests — one each on the 3DMark and GFXBench platforms.

Moving on to the performance at demanding workflows. I loaded up DaVinci Resolve, imported my lookup tables (LUTs), and moved ahead with edits on a short vacation video. Remapping the keyboard shortcuts proved to be an extra hassle, but it’s nothing too frustrating to address. I edited a short clip of about 1 minute and 18 seconds in DaVinci Resolve after applying an LUT, a film-style credit roll sequence, a visual blur effect at the beginning, and a bit of color correction.

DaVinci Resolve on iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

At no point did the iPad Pro show signs of slowing down, and it took a mere 11 seconds to export the 1080p (60 fps) video on the local drive. Yes, I enjoy video editing more on my larger ultrawide monitor than the 13-inch panel on offer here. However, I’d say the reverse is true for photo editing, and that’s due to a couple of reasons.

The screen is excellent, and the Apple Pencil controls  — especially the new hover feature — make the whole process an absolute joy. I fired up Adobe Lightroom for basic editing and shifted to AI-generated edits in Express. The iPad Pro offered the most enjoyable photo-editing experience of my life, all thanks to the sheer fluidity, smooth screen, and the comfort of using the packed sliders with a hover-supported stylus instead of struggling with your fingertips.

At no point did the iPad Pro show signs of slowing down.

Next, I jumped into gaming, focusing squarely on high-end titles such as Diablo Immortal, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat. I won’t get into the fps numbers, but in almost every game out there (barring developer-side updates and optimizations), you can crank the graphics to their peak value and have a smooth experience.

If you are getting the M4 iPad Pro, the Apple Arcade library is where you should start. You should also push console-grade, Metal-optimized titles such as Resident Evil and Death Stranding. Just keep in mind that iPadOS is not the native platform and is far from the PC-console porting equation for AAA games, so some hiccups are to be expected. But for its part, this sleek fanless machine weighing just about a pound will leave you with a pleasing experience.

iPad Pro (2024): battery life

Side edge view of M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

One would expect that battery life would be the first cut Apple engineers would make while slimming down the new iPad Pro. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, or at least that’s what it seems like based on the official claims. Apple is claiming 10 hours worth of battery life on a single charge for the 38.99-watt-hour lithium-ion unit fitted inside the 13-inch tablet.

Over the course of two weeks, I have been consistently impressed by the battery mileage on the iPad Pro (2024). My most recent workflow included Chrome with nearly three dozen tabs — Safari, Apple Music, Twitter, Trello, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Apple Notes, Messages, Gmail, Freeform, Reddit, Files, and Adobe Express — running in the background.

The brightness was set to nearly 60%, and I was continuously streaming music via a pair of Bluetooth earbuds and connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Under this workload, the tablet — with the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro attached — went from 30% to 10% in 3 hours and 40 minutes and powered off in 5 hours and 11 minutes. Those are terrific longevity figures, the kind I am used to getting from my M3-powered MacBook Air.

Taking notes on M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Efficiency gains from next-generation silicon seem like an obvious explanation, but something even more interesting is at play here. According to multiple research papers published over the past few years, the tandem OLED tech employed by Apple on the iPad Pro brings multiple benefits in addition to the usual OLED niceties.

Let’s delve into some of the science behind screens. Display stacking in a tandem arrangement is a cutting-edge technology offering more than enhanced panel brilliance. Over the years, various chemical experiments have been conducted on the underlying charge generation layer system, yielding diverse benefits.

Fundamentally, a tandem layer comprises two OLED panels stacked on top of each other, connected via charge generation layers. But why not stick with a single OLED panel? A single OLED stack has limited current capacity and can’t achieve high luminance. In a tandem OLED stack, depending on the light extraction design, light extraction efficiency can increase up to three times.

This unique architecture allows a multi-fold increase in photon production when external charge is applied, significantly boosting brightness. In simpler terms, when compared to previous iPad Pros with an LCD or a mini-LED screen, the tandem OLED panel on the latest iPad Pro is brighter and more visually appealing, and most importantly, it sucks up less battery life.

iPad Pro (2024): software

Stage Manager on M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

There’s a lot that can be written about iPadOS, but the status quo hasn’t changed much since Apple switched the name from iOS to iPadOS. It still feels like a stretched-out version of the iPhone’s software, with the added convenience of keyboard and cursor support. The iPad Pro Magic Keyboard may look like a MacBook wannabe, but it is not, and that’s not just a design gulf.

Ever since Apple decided to cram a desktop-rivaling M1 chip inside the iPad Pro a few years ago, the fandom has been yearning for one particular perk more than any — let it run macOS. Dual-boot it, emulate it, or just put a cloud-based version of macOS out there.

Apple doesn’t seem to share the enthusiasm. The biggest argument is why Apple would let the iPad eat into the sale of its Mac hardware, but there are a few other aspects here.

The most important of them all — and this comes from multiple developers that I’ve interviewed over the past couple of years — is that macOS just isn’t ready for touch-based inputs. The touch-based iPadOS interactions won’t translate well on macOS, or maybe the opposite is true. Apple hasn’t ever — and probably won’t ever — considered touch-based inputs for macOS.

Gmail error on M4 iPad Pro.
Google’s apps are arguably the most unreliable on iPadOS. Here’s Gmail giving me hell. Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

So, why bother developers with the added burden of making macOS more versatile from an input perspective, especially when there is no willingness to execute it? That reality leads to a bittersweet outcome. Most iPadOS apps are still not built from the ground up solely targeting the tablet. Their origin lies somewhere on the iPhone. That is reflected in the apps’ user experience, which can range anywhere from meh to downright terrible.

Take, for example, Trello. It’s been optimized so poorly that a burning trash can with the Trello logo is one of the most popular emojis in my workplace. Google — the tech giant with no shortage of billions in its coffers — isn’t too different. For example, in the Gmail app, you can’t add hyperlinks (or use the cmd + K shortcut) to a text. In clusters, I’ve regularly run into an unresponsive app window, or two, every few days. Take a look:

The only app that can bring an M4 iPad Pro to its knees is… Chrome. Here is Chrome frozen like hell at a text research paper of all places.
I've lost count of how many times l lost massive work progress .
And there's no reliable way to restore all the lost tabs.
Absolute… pic.twitter.com/vv6xUCX0f4

— Nadeemonics (@nsnadeemsarwar) June 2, 2024

In fact, Chrome is the only app that has crashed or frozen — and that too, multiple times — on the iPad Pro. Yes, Chrome has a reputation for being an absolute resource hog on desktop, but a mobile version of Chrome bringing a machine like the iPad Pro to its knees certainly can’t be blamed on the resources at hand. It’s just poor optimization. Could it also be blamed on Apple’s annoying browser engine restrictions? I am inclined to put some blame on that, too.

And here’s the worst part. If you close the Chrome window with the hopes of relaunching it anew, you’re in for a bad surprise. Unlike the desktop version, there is no quick restore option here. Your only recourse is to open the history section and restore each page one after another. The three-button shortcut for adding an em dash won’t work in the Google Docs app. The list of frustrations goes on.

Unless you are a creative whose entire workflow revolves around tools like Procreate, Adobe Creative suite, or Logic Pro, a fleshed-out web browser is your lifeline. Safari just doesn’t cut it, and Chrome’s mobile version is unbearably devoid of features compared to the desktop version. I can’t even use the most basic browser extensions on a $1,500 slate. Are you kidding me? WordPress is a test of patience that makes me want to punch a hole through the screen.

Stage Manager active on the M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

During this review, I dusted off the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. Once again, the mobile ecosystem limits your productivity, but elsewhere, there’s so much on the offer. Samsung DeX continues to evolve in the right direction. Even foldables seem to be doing great, especially the OnePlus Open. Take, for example, the ability to create app pairs, or triplets, for quick access to your workflows. Unfortunately, iPadOS won’t let you do that.

If your workflow falls in line with an iPadOS app, go ahead and splurge on the M4 iPad Pro.

Also, Apple, could you please give us a bit more freedom with window resizing? Apple should learn a thing or two about letting multiple apps run in split-view mode from OnePlus’ OxygenOS because Stage Manager seems to be the same limiting experience it was when it was controversially introduced a few years ago. The native file manager approach continues to be a test of patience as well.

Look, Android isn’t a day/night revelation on tablets compared to iPadOS,  but only the former has continued to evolve in a meaningful way over the past couple of years. With the iPad Pro, it’s more of a chance of luck. If your workflow falls in line with an iPadOS app, go ahead and splurge on the M4 iPad Pro. If not, be ready for frustrations, even with some really basic tasks. There’s no middle ground.

iPad Pro (2024): price, availability, and accessories

Side view of the M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

At a starting price of $999, the iPad Pro is already a dear investment. Then comes Apple’s one-of-a-kind stingy approach with processor tiers and outrageous storage premiums. After all, how many tablets can cost $1,499 and still not offer the most powerful processor, 256GB of storage, and just 8GB of RAM? Let’s assume you can live with that hurt.

This machine is a bundle deal, inside and out. And you should absolutely not buy it if all you need is a tablet. For that purpose, the 10th-gen iPad, which costs nearly a third of the iPad Pro, would suffice. The new iPad Air (2024) is a great middle-ground, too.

As far as the iPad Pro goes, you should buy it with the Apple Pencil Pro (another $129) and sketch to your heart’s content in the most demanding apps that the platform has to offer. You should get the luxurious Magic Keyboard (starting at $299) and put it to use for everything from writing a few thousand words on a regular basis to multimedia editing in Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro — especially their new versions that come with a bunch of AI smarts to get the best out of the M4 silicon.

rear shell of M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

I tried living with the iPad Pro as just another slate, but it’s not cut out for that task, especially if you are someone who feels the pinch worth at least a thousand dollars in their wallet. The reverse scenario is also a pricey endeavor. The best of the iPad Pro comes with its accessories and in a future-proof format where you fork out serious cash on the 10-core trim of the M4 silicon.

With that approach, we are looking at a package approaching $2,000 in value, which is almost absurd for a tablet running a mobile ecosystem unless your work squarely depends on it. I’ve talked to designers who would absolutely not think twice about splurging on the M4 iPad Pro because it can ace their workflow demands. But most of them already have an M1 version in their hands or even the older version with the A12Z processor, which is still surprisingly powerful for running apps like Procreate and doing on-the-go video editing.

For some, it’s not about the costs at all. Their key argument is why change when the hardware in their hand is perfectly fine, despite being four years into its product life. That says a lot about the sheer excellence that Apple serves with its tablets and further diminishes any valid reason for impulsive generation-over-generation upgrades.

iPad Pro (2024): verdict

Top view of M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

The M4 iPad Pro is a polarizing device without any concept of a midpoint sweet spot from a value perspective. So, here’s the lowdown. The iPad Pro is expensive. Some might say deservedly so. I’ve been an ardent tablet user for nearly half a decade now, and I can confidently say no slate has ever justified its sticker price solely for its build quality more than the iPad Pro (2024).

It’s loaded with more firepower than you can possibly touch the limits of. The hardware is second to none, and the battery life is also a pleasant surprise. The OLED screen is exceptionally good, and the speakers are a perfect multimedia companion. The redesigned Magic Keyboard is a cherry on top, albeit an expensive one. If you happen to be the target audience from a software standpoint, this machine will have you smiling each day. It’s that good.

But if you don’t fall in that lucky segment, iPadOS is a glorious den of functional and UX frustrations. On a bad day, it will even serve you a stuck, non-resizable Google Docs window. On a good day, you might ponder if you should just get rid of your laptop and work solely on the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro (2024) will have you smiling each day. It’s that good.

I am lucky that my workflow can be executed without any make-or-break flaws with iPadOS, but that doesn’t mean the mobile app limitations don’t vex me. As I said, this is no stopgap device. You’ll either love it or live with a bitter experience. I am just hoping that Apple will give a serious push to iPadOS in the coming years.

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Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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