iPad Pro

iPad Pro
 

Apple sees the iPad Pro as the next evolution in computing. A central-robotic core that can transform into your laptop, desktop, or art studio, depending on which accessory you pair with it. Now designed with an edge-to-edge display and Thunderbolt, this tablet has a lot to offer for any user.

● M1 or M2 processor
● Face ID and TrueDepth Camera
● Dual lens rear camera system with LiDAR
● Up to 2TB of storage
● Apple Pencil 2 with hover
● Liquid Retina XDR with ProMotion Display on 12.9-inch model
● Find great iPad Pro deals
Discounted prices start at $579

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The iPad Pro is Apple's flagship iPad targeted at professional and prosumer users alike. It is available in two sizes: an 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. They are compatible with the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard.

The iPad Pro can function as a tablet, laptop, or even a desktop with a dedicated monitor depending on your personal use case. A feature in macOS called Sidecar transforms any iPad into an external display for the Mac. A macOS Monterey feature called Universal Control takes this functionality even further by letting a Mac control multiple iPads and Macs at once.

Common uses for Apple's tablets include watching videos, reading books and magazines, taking notes, and general web browsing. Its portability and power have made it popular with college students and those who frequently travel. It is also a powerful dedicated drawing tablet thanks to the Apple Pencil.

Apple's iPad lineup spans from $300 student device to $2,000 professional tool
Apple's iPad lineup spans from $300 student device to $2,000 professional tool

As its name suggests, the iPad Pro is capable of professional work. However, its mobile operating system still falls short for some customers. This applies especially to those who need to perform complex tasks, require specific apps that aren't on iPadOS, or create apps in Xcode.

Evolution

Reviewers and the general public have praised all generations of the pro models. The most common criticism is their premium cost. By the time you've added accessories, its price can be greater than or equal to a base MacBook Air or even MacBook Pro.

Apple threw a curveball into the iPad lineup with the iPad Air 4. While those who already own an iPad Pro will not move to the iPad Air, it rivals the pro-level tablet in several important ways.

The iPad Air 4 and 2018 iPad Pro are very close in specs
The iPad Air 4 and 2018 iPad Pro are very close in specs

These include a similar full-screen design and support for the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil. Compared to the iPad Air, the 2020 pro-level iPads boasted better graphical capabilities, ProMotion, and Face ID but not much else to differentiate.

The 2021 iPad Pro lineup helps re-open the gap between Apple’s “Pro” and “Air” models. The updated tablets use the M1 chip, the same Apple Silicon found in the latest Macs. The larger 12.9-inch model includes a mini-LED backlit display for better contrast and deeper blacks.

Apple continued the back and forth with iPad Pro and iPad Air in 2022 with a new round of updates. Apple added the M1 processor to the iPad Air 5, but moved the iPad Pro lineup to M2 later in the fall.

iPad Pro Review

Apple once again updated the iPad Pro hardware with minor changes to its software. The move to M2 boosts performance, though most users won't notice, and Apple Pencil hover is a novel feature.

The M2 processor is the same no matter the device, coupled with up to 16GB of RAM. That means users get the same power and efficiency found in the 13-inch MacBook Pro packed into a thin tablet.

The camera system hasn't changed, but the neural engine and image signal processor's power in the M2 processor means better video than ever. Users can now take advantage of the ProRes video format for uncompressed recording.

The selfie camera remains in its portrait-oriented location with a 122-degree field of view. Center Stage is still here, and nothing was updated about the camera sensor.

Thunderbolt was also unchanged in the 2022 models. The 40Gbps data transfer and compatibility with Thunderbolt peripherals remain.

Apple Pencil hover adds a new dimension to device interactions, though developers will need to add support. The implementation is well done, as the reactive UI responds well in different cases.

Drawing preview with Apple Pencil
Drawing preview with Apple Pencil

We think the Liquid Retina XDR display makes content pop. With localized dimming across the 10,000 mini LED backlights, this display can achieve a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Apple didn't bring this stunning display to the 11-inch model despite the generational update. Display specs, form factor, ports, speakers, and cameras remain indistinguishable from the previous generation.

New connectivity versions are welcome, as these iPads get WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. These upgrades are minimal, but offers some sense of future-proofing.

With each iteration, the iPad Pro gets more powerful and more capable. However, we believe Apple still needs to introduce pro-level software like Final Cut or Logic Pro to leverage this power.

Pricing and Release

The latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models were announced in October 2022. They start at $799 for the 11-inch version and $1,099 for the 12.9-inch model.

Devices and Features

Apple has released multiple generations of iPad Pro and a handful of accessories to pair with them.

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is an Apple-developed wireless stylus that works with various iPad models. It is a low-latency stylus with pressure sensitivity and angle detection. The iPad will reject a user's palm input when using the Apple Pencil.

The second-generation Apple Pencil charges when attached to the iPad
The second-generation Apple Pencil charges when attached to the iPad

The first-generation Apple Pencil was released alongside the first-generation iPad Pro in 2015. It connects to compatible iPad models via Bluetooth and can be charged using the iPad's Lightning port or a Lightning cable when used with the included adapter. The Apple Pencil will last for roughly 12 hours on a full charge. Fifteen seconds of charging time enable the Apple Pencil to perform for up to 30 minutes. 

The second-generation Apple Pencil has a flat side and uses conductive charging in place of a Lightning connector. It attaches to the flat side of an iPad and pairs utilizing that connection. A double-tap gesture can be used to switch tools in some compatible apps.

The 2022 iPad Pro models gained a new feature with Apple Pencil called hover. The stylus can be held up to 12mm away for various interactions within apps.

Sixth-generation (2022)

Apple's sixth generation of iPad Pro was a minor spec bump that was announced via a press release in October 2022. Apple moved the tablets to the M2 processor and added a new feature called Apple Pencil hover.

2022 iPad Pro models were upgraded to the M2 processor
2022 iPad Pro models were upgraded to the M2 processor

There were very few features included with the updated models beyond the new chipset. Apple says users can now capture ProRes video via the rear camera system thanks to the extra processing power.

Apple included WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 to bring its connectivity options up to modern standards. The 5G cellular option remains the same.

Apple Pencil hover is a new feature that enables the iPad to detect how far away the Pencil is being held from the display. Third-party apps can build support for the feature to open up new interactions within apps.

Fifth-generation (2021)

Apple unveiled the fifth-generation 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro at its “Spring Loaded” event in April 2021. Like previous generations, it ships in two sizes. However, some advanced hardware is exclusive to the larger model.

The M1 processor and a Thunderbolt port are used in the 2021 models
The M1 processor and a Thunderbolt port are used in the 2021 models

Both models upgraded to Apple’s powerful M1 processor. The chip’s benchmarks outscore all Intel MacBooks and most Intel desktop Macs. The eight-core processor and eight-core GPU will combine to provide a significant performance boost over the A-series chips in earlier models.

Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro differs from the smaller model with a new display, which Apple refers to as Liquid Retina XDR. For this iteration, Apple is using mini LED technology.

Housing 10,000 mini LEDs behind its 12.9-inch screen, it uses considerably more light sources than the 72 LEDs used in the previous model. Overall, the display can output 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness.

The advantage of the technology is similar to the Pro Display XDR's system of local dimming zones, but the iPad Pro goes further still. Using the sheer number of mini LEDs, it has 2,596 local dimming zones, enabling a 1 million to 1 contrast ratio.

As well as the improvements to the display, the 12.9-inch model has the same screen features as the 11-inch, including ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color support. Naturally, it is higher-resolution than its stablemate at 2,732 by 2,048 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 264ppi.

A Thunderbolt 3 port is in the base, enabling it to connect to external devices up to 40Gbps. The connection also includes support for USB 4.

The updates also extend to having 5G connectivity, bringing them in line with the iPhone 12 in providing faster cellular Internet access to users.

Fourth-generation (2020)

Apple announced the fourth-generation iPad Pro in March 2020 with new updates to its cameras and processors. The two sizes come with up to 1TB of internal storage and a cellular option.

LiDAR and the A12Z Bionic processor was added to the 2020 models
LiDAR and the A12Z Bionic processor was added to the 2020 models

The A12Z Bionic processor was optimized for more powerful graphical applications and better AI for camera operations. The eight-core GPU and eight-core CPU with improved thermals meant more performance than ever, and all models had 6GB of RAM. Apple said the processor was faster and more efficient than most Windows laptops at the time.

Benchmarks showed a slight improvement in processing and graphical power compared to the A12X. The A12Z is a rebinned version of the A12X, meaning an inactive GPU core is in use now that was not before.

The fourth-generation iPad Pro has a dual-camera system with a built-in LiDAR scanner. A 12MP wide-angle and 10MP ultra wide-angle camera will improve photography and depth capture. The camera system uses a similar sensor to those found in the iPhone XR series of phones, so don't expect iPhone 11 levels of quality and no night mode.

LiDAR can be used for 3D environment mapping to allow AR to be massively improved. The scanner works from up to five meters away and gets results instantly, making AR apps easier to use and more accurate.

There are now five independent studio-quality microphones on the device to capture the best audio possible without extra equipment. While this might be useful for better call quality or recording a quick tune on your guitar, don't expect to launch a Podcast using just the built-in mics.

The wireless capabilities have also improved, with WiFi 6 and improved LTE coverage with 30 bands versus 29 in previous generations. The U1 chip was notably absent from this updated model.

Alongside the new iPad comes a new Magic Keyboard designed to transform the tablet into a laptop. It has a glass trackpad, working with the cursor support Apple added to iPadOS in 2020. It uses a hinge mount to make the tablet appear to float above the keys. It also has a scissor-switch keyboard nearly identical to those on the latest MacBooks. The Magic Keyboard with trackpad works with the third and fourth-generation iPad Pro and the iPad Air 4.

Third-generation (2018)

Apple announced its third-generation pro tablet announced during a 2018 Special Event. It included the classic 12.9-inch size and an 11-inch model that would replace the second generation's 10.5-inch model.

An edge-to-edge design makes the iPad Pro look sleek and modern
An edge-to-edge design makes the iPad Pro look sleek and modern

Both devices received a new edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display, ProMotion with a 120Hz screen refresh rate, improved front and rear cameras, and the Apple A12X Bionic chip. 

The third generation was the first to use Face ID and remove Touch ID, like modern iPhones. Face ID on the third-generation iPad Pro can work in any orientation. The tablets also boast tap-to-wake, allowing a user to wake an iPad via touching the screen rather than pressing a physical button.

The third-generation models were also the first iPads to use USB-C ports instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning port.

The maximum storage capacity of the third generation doubled that of the second generation, with a maximum of 1TB of storage possible on both models. Interestingly, installing 1TB of memory will also gain you more RAM, maxing out at 6GB in both models.

The 11-inch model was initially released for $799 for the most basic model, with additional configurations driving the price upward to $1,699. The 12.9-inch model could be bought for $999 at the cheapest, with the one terabyte cellular-enabled model priced at $1,899. Because of reductions in memory pricing across all Apple products since their 2018 launch, the 12.9-inch and 11-inch now max out at $1,499 and $1,699, respectively.

Second-generation (2017)

The second-generation iPad Pro models were announced at Apple's WWDC event in 2017 and saw significant upgrades over their predecessors. Replacing the 9.7-inch model was the new 10.5-inch model, though the 12.9-inch model's size would remain unchanged. 

The 10.5-inch model offered pro specs in a smaller form factor
The 10.5-inch model offered pro specs in a smaller form factor

Both second-generation models used an A10X Hex-core CPU and a 12-core GPU, ProMotion display, and a True Tone display that was 50% brighter than the previous models. 

The second-generation models also boasted a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 7-megapixel front-facing camera, and storage capacities up to 512 GB. 

At launch, the 10.5-inch model started at $649 and could cost as much as $1,079. Depending on the configuration, the 12.9-inch second-generation model could be purchased for as low as $799 or as much as $1299.

The second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro was discontinued in October of 2018. Then the 10.5-inch model was later discontinued in March of 2019.

First-generation (2015)

Released on November 11, 2015, the first-generation iPad Pro featured a 12.9-inch display and was available in silver, gold, and space gray. Depending on the size or cellular connectivity, it could be purchased for $799 to $1299. 

The original 12.9-inch design made for a very large footprint
The original 12.9-inch design made for a very large footprint

In March of 2016, Apple released the smaller 9.7-inch model, which featured an additional rose gold color to its line. It was available for $599 to $1129, depending on the buyer's chosen configuration. 

Both models included Apple's A9X system-on-a-chip and the Apple M9 motion co-processor, and both featured Touch ID and Retina Display. A smart connector allowed users to connect Apple's Smart Keyboard, and both models were compatible with the first generation Apple Pencil. 

Apple discontinued both first-generation iPad Pros in June of 2017.

 

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