Apple has taken the wraps off of the long-rumored iPad Pro, which features an M1 processor that puts its performance on par with the latest MacBook Air and iMac models. The tablet offers other fresh features too, including an all-new “XDR” display on the 12.9-inch model, a USB 4 port, and 5G on cellular models. It was released at Apple’s 2021 Spring Loaded event.
I’ve long been a fan of the iPad Pro, and in fact, replaced my laptop with an iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard last year. Safe to say, I use my iPad Pro a lot. So will I upgrade to the new model? Well, probably not. The upgrades look great and all, but frankly, for the vast majority of people they just won’t matter.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: The M1 chip is a beast. I used an M1 Mac Mini for a few weeks, and found it to offer an incredibly fast experience the majority of the time — and including it on the iPad Pro is likely to make for a similarly fast experience.
But while the new iPad Pro will very likely vastly outperform the previous-generation model in benchmarks, it’s hard to imagine that it’ll make much of a difference in day-to-day life. Why? Because the previous-gen iPad Pro already performs like a dream. Sure, a 50% performance boost is great and all, but 50% faster than “very fast” likely won’t make much of a difference in real-world use. That’s not to mention the fact that the iPad Air also performs incredibly, and for things that people use iPads for, it’s more than powerful enough.
Now, that kind of logic does fall apart when you start thinking about future-proofing a device, especially if you plan on using your device for actual pro workflows. As Apple continues to try to differentiate the iPad Pro from devices like the iPad Air, it will need to continue to refine its software tools to match. What does that mean? Well, a good start would be the release of pro apps like Final Cut Pro and a full version of Logic Pro for the iPad.
Of course, the second biggest upgrade to the iPad Pro is the addition of a mini-LED — Apple calls it “XDR” — display. This makes for deeper black levels, better contrast, and an overall better display experience.
There’s only one problem: It’s limited to the 12.9-inch model.
That’s a real shame, because there are a lot of people out there, including myself, who would like to see the new display on the smaller device. That’s not because the display on the previous-generation iPad Pro is necessarily bad — it’s actually very good — but the upgraded display is one of the most important upgrades to the 2021 iPad, and not including it is simply another reason to avoid spending the money on upgrading to the new model.
It’s also a shame given the iPad Pro’s audience. Plenty of users will be getting an iPad Pro for things like photo editing and graphic design — areas where a better display can actually make a real difference. Those users should still be able to get that tech on a more portable device.
I get a little frustrated when I have to choose between better features or a size that fits my needs better. It happened with the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max — as the iPhone 12 Pro Max has Apple’s new larger sensor and its pixel-shift technology. But the 12 Pro Max is also huge — and too big for me. Now, it’s happening again with the iPad Pro.
My personal use of an iPad Pro comes from a time before the new iPad Air — when getting a modern, powerful iPad experience meant that you had to buy an iPad Pro. If I were to lose or break my iPad Pro, I’m not so sure I would buy a new one — as a writer, occasional gamer, very occasional audio recorder, and movie watcher, the iPad Air is more than enough iPad for me.
Now, that might change a little depending on how much I can sell my current iPad Pro for. If I can sell it for not much less than what it costs to buy a new iPad Pro, maybe I’ll do so just so I can stay up to date. If you haven’t gathered, I’m a bit of a tech nerd, and staying up to date is important to me. It may also change depending on what’s announced at the upcoming WWDC. perhaps Apple will announce a series of upgrades to iPadOS that could actually take advantage of the new M1 chip.
We’ll have to wait and see how Apple continues to differentiate the iPad Pro from other iPad models — but until then, if you’re looking for a premium tablet and you’re not using your device for actual video editing, the iPad Air is the way to go, especially if you don’t want the gargantuan 12.9-inch iPad with its new display.
We’ll have a full review of the new iPad Pro in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
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