Apple iPad Pro Review: A Truly All-Purpose Device With Laptop Functionality

The star hitter of Apple’s new lineup.

Tech 
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Apple’s supercharged iPad Pro is a major leap forward for the portable device. The biggest change made to the 12.9 inch iPad Pro is the addition of Apple’s super-fast M1 chip, which provides a huge boost to performance, while the Liquid Retina XDR display provides stunning visual quality with an incredibly life-like dynamic range.

The new iPad Pro comes in two sizes, 11 inches or 12.9 inches, and two colors, silver or Apple’s signature Space Gray. Considering the fun range or colors available on the all-new iMac, I was hoping that the iPad Pro would also include some more vibrant options for spring. Both models come equipped with 5G cellular connectivity and fast Wi-Fi 6 support, and also have options for a major boost in storage capacity, offering 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB. It starts at $799 USD and is available for purchase at Apple Stores, apple.com and authorized resellers around the world. Shipments will begin arriving to customers on Friday, May 21.

The 11-inch model stands at 9.7 inches high and about 7 inches wide, weighing just over a pound. The 12.9-inch model is about 11 feet in height and 8.4 inches wide, weighing about a pound and a half. The 12.9-inch model feels intentionally massive — Apple appears to be trying to push the iPad to further resemble a laptop, enhanced by the addition of the Magic Keyboard that comes with backlit keys, an integrated trackpad, a cantilevered floating design and a dual-hinged smooth angle adjustment. From the side, the sleek device almost matches the design profile of the new iMac, another possible association with personal computing.

Apple iPad Pro Review: A Truly All-Purpose Device With Laptop Functionality

The 11 and 12.9-inch models differ in their display offerings — the 11-inch model comes with a standard Liquid Retina display while the 12.9-inch model delivers an incredibly immersive experience with the new Liquid Retina XDR display. Engineered with over 10,000 mini-LEDs, the device can reach a peak brightness of up to 1600 nits that adds intense highlights to HDR photos and a 1 million-to-1 contrast ratio, which results in a precise adjustment of brightness in the display.

Both sizes offer edge-to-edge displays with rounded corners to remove the boxiness of previous generations, bringing it even closer to a computer display. In addition, the devices feature P3 wide color with industry-leading color accuracy, True Tone, which subtly adjusts the white balance onscreen to match the color temperature of the environment, an antireflective coating and the impressive ProMotion technology, which automatically adjusts the display refresh rate on a sliding scale from 24Hz up to 120Hz. This allows for seamless scrolling, an enhanced editing or gaming experience and near-perfect responsiveness for the newly redesigned Apple Pencil.

Apple iPad Pro Review: A Truly All-Purpose Device With Laptop Functionality

The second-generation Apple Pencil retails for $129 USD and is optimized for use with the new iPad Pro. The Pencil attaches to the top of the iPad Pro magnetically and pairs and charges wirelessly, though in my case, it required several tries before initially setting up. The matte finish and Apple branding on the gently-weighted device is sleek, and enhanced tilt and pressure sensitivity allows for more intuitive note-taking or drawing. A double tap helps the pencil switch between tools, a useful feature for creatives and designers that can be even further customized.

The Magic Keyboard — now in black or white and priced starting at $299 USD — also greatly enhances the iPad Pro experience. The keyboard is backlit and features individual hard keycaps and a quiet scissor mechanism for smoother typing, while the click-anywhere trackpad enables control of the cursor in iPadOS with laptop-like accuracy. The iPad Pro attaches to the keyboard with a strong magnetic hold and features a USB-C port for pass-through charging. The keyboard uses the Apple-designed Smart Connector interface that allows data and power to pass to-and-from the iPad Pro with incredible ease, and also means there’s no pairing or charging required. The Smart Keyboard Folio protects the front and back of the iPad Pro when folded and can auto-wake the iPad when opened or closed. It’s offered in five colors — black, white, deep navy, electric orange and mallard green, which are less whimsical than the iMac’s color offerings but still provide personality to the otherwise monochromatic device.

The addition of the breakthrough M1 chip delivers high-performance and power efficiency that makes the iPad Pro faster than its competitors. It offers 8-core CPU, which features four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, introducing up to 50 percent faster performance compared to last year’s iPad Pro in a thin and light design. The 8-core GPU delivers up to 40 percent faster graphics performance than the A12Z Bionic used in previous models, and the next-generation 16-core Apple Neural Engine offers advanced machine learning and completion of up to 11 trillion operations per second. The smaller chip also results in up to 10 hours of battery life, great for those who use the device on-the-go and rely on a single charge to carry them through the day.

Apple iPad Pro Review: A Truly All-Purpose Device With Laptop Functionality

The cameras, speakers and mics on the iPad Pro have also been enhanced with four-speaker audio for high-fidelity sound and five studio-quality mics that can pick up super clean recordings in either portrait or landscape mode. The TrueDepth camera system enables Face ID and other familiar features like Portrait mode and support for Memoji, and the all-new 12MP Ultra Wide camera delivers a 122-degree field of view specially-designed for iPad. Notably, the camera allows for Center Stage, a super-useful new video tool that utilizes machine learning to recognize and put you in the middle of the shot, even as you move around. Center Stage also has the capacity to recognize multiple people and can zoom out to keep everyone centered. iPad Pro can shoot 4K video up to 60 frames-per-second, and the LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner uses impressive technology to better enable truly-realistic augmented reality.

Overall, the iPad Pro is the star-hitter of Apple’s new spring lineup. Upgraded camera features enhance on-the-go functionality while the M1 chip significantly boosts performance and speed. If you’re looking for an in-between device that combines the function of a personal computer with portability, the iPad Pro truly delivers.

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