- HDR content is the only way to appreciate the new screen tech fully
- Expensive, especially with accessories.
- iPadOS still feels a little clunky for productivity use
The new iPad Pro has so much in common with the MacBook that it might be hard to decide which one offers more. It comes down to what your preferences are. Here’s the run-down from reviewers around the world.
Most reviewers were quick to note that this iPad Pro was ‘chunkier’ than the last but amended that it wasn’t by much. Everything else is virtually identical, however. It’s still one of the most premium-feeling tablets you can buy. The 12.9-inch model might be less than ideal for frequent hand-held use, though. So unless you have big hands, you might factor in the cost of a stand or case to help prop things up.
The display above all else is what makes this version of iPad Pro a standout machine. It’s a Liquid Retina XDR display, meaning Apple has added HDR-capable micro lighting zones to the screen. This gets the tablet close to AMOLED contrast levels, and reviewers raved about the effect. They loved how bright the display could go without washing out the colors and contrast as well.
Featuring Apple’s latest M1 chipset, the iPad now extends its lead on every other tablet in power by a substantial margin. Simply put, there’s never been a more powerful tablet created. This is because the new Apple chipset is the same one powering their Macbook Air and Mac Mini devices. It’s no longer a mobile processor at all.
Whether you’re looking to edit 4K footage, play games, check email, or stream movies, the tablet will have zero problems bouncing back and forth between tasks without hesitating, buffering, or delay.
Software & Storage
The new iPad Pro runs iPadOS 14.5. While the software has come a long way, most reviewers felt that iPadOS holds the tablet back from its full potential. The range of storage options is expansive, having anywhere from 128GB - 2TB, which reviewers liked. While there’s no support for microSD storage, Thunderbolt 4 support means you can easily connect a card reader or external hard drive or SSD if you need work or store larger files.
Tablets have never been known for their photography prowess. However, Center Stage -- a new subject tracking feature in the iPad’s front-facing camera -- seriously impressed reviewers. What does it do? While you’re in Facetime, it will actively follow your face attempting to keep you in the center of the video no matter where you move. Reviewers raved about it and found it an excellent addition in a world full of Zoom meetings. Better still, it just worked for most. There was no need to tweak lighting or fine-tune settings.
Reviewers discovered that the battery life of this tablet was surprisingly good. Under a rigorous web browsing test, it took around 10 hours to drain the battery completely. That’s more than enough for the average workday and a little evening media binging before bed.
The audio experience on the iPad Pro has always been a strong point. The four speakers on the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) are no exception. Reviewers found them to be loud and the listening experience balanced enough to skip their usual Bluetooth speakers. This is something that will likely improve further as Apple adds spatial and lossless audio to the iPad in a future software update.
The Apple Magic Keyboard makes the tablet a little bit heavier but allows for hands-off use and a keyboard/track mouse. The Apple pencil goes without saying. Both greatly expand the functionality of the iPad but are also compatible with lower-priced models, so don’t make them the sole reason for going for the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021).
Specs at a Glance
- Large, squared-off design
- 12,9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
- Apple M1 Octa-core processor
- 8/16GB of RAM
- iPadOS 14
- 128/256/512GB and 1TB/2TB storage options
- 12MP lens, 2x Optical and 5x Digital cameras
- 10-12 hours of battery life
- 4-speaker audio
- Apple pencil, Apple magic keyboard support
The Bottom Line
Reviewers found the price the most significant point to consider. After you add the Magic Keyboard and an Apple Pencil, you could spend a very similar total and get an M1-equipped MacBook Air. That said, if you prefer a touch-based interface, a more mobile experience, and top-notch audio, the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) delivers. It’s fast, reliable, and tops nearly every benchmark imaginable.
Arstechnica says, “If you have one of the previous couple iPad Pro models, only one thing might stir you to upgrade: the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's exceptional Mini LED display. This is the best screen we've ever seen in a tablet—it's one of the best screens we've seen in any personal computing device, period. If you're a content creator or even just an avid consumer of HDR movies on your tablet, the upgrade could well be worth it.”
Tom’s Guide states, “But those professionals who bought the iPad Pro 2020 — and catch themselves waiting for it to export video faster — should upgrade. It's without a doubt the best tablet there is — especially if you can see the difference between HDR and 4K HDR. I bet, though, that they'd love for iPadOS to mature a bit and provide the capabilities their Macs can.”
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