Apple 2021 iPad Pro with M1 review – lives up to its Pro name

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  • VERDICT

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro have hit a new level of performance with the M1 processor and next level quality with the Liquid Retina display. It truly lives up to its Pro name.

Just when you were wondering what Apple could possibly do to improve the already excellent iPad Pro we see the company’s M1 processor has been added to the latest models to make them even more powerful and convenient.

An iPad Pro customer is usually someone pretty savvy who want to get a lot of work done on the move and be creative and collaborative at any moment when inspiration strikes.

And it’s different proposition to using a MacBook because the iPad Pro offers a hand-on touchscreen experience so it’s not a case of being a laptop replacement but a laptop alternative.

The 2021 iPad Pro – available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch – is a remarkable upgrade that opens up new possibilities for users.

The addition of the M1 processor is a game-changer in terms of performance and speed.

And the 12.9-inch model goes a step further with a stunning new Liquid Retina XDR display which uses mini LED technology to offer next level picture quality and colour accuracy.

DESIGN
Not much has changed with the 2021 iPad Pro designs – they have the same all-screen look with narrow bezels.

The new 12.9-inch model is slightly thicker than last year’s model to accommodate the new Mini LED Retina XDR display.

But overall they basically look the same as the previous generation but the biggest differences are on the inside.

PERFORMANCE

The biggest improvement to the 2021 iPad Pro is the addition of the M1 chip – Apple’s very own silicon – which brings a new level of power to the device as well as power efficiency.

Under the hood is an 8-core CPU which includes four high performance cores and four high efficiency cores and the result is a 50 per cent faster CPU performance than last year’s A12Z Bionic chip.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

On the graphics side, the 8-core GPU offers a 40 per cent improvement which comes in to play when you’re doing things like handling hundreds of layers in Photoshop, editing 4K videos and retouching photos.

The result is a fast and buttery smooth performance. We had to remind ourselves we were getting this type of performance from a tablet.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

The other benefit of the M1 processor is the amazing power efficiency which maintains the iPad Pro’s excellent battery life that will run for up to 10 hours of continuous use.

DISPLAY

Another feature that has had a huge upgrade is the screen on the 12.9-inch model – the Liquid Retina XDR display which offers a noticeably improved experience with Extreme Dynamic Range with impressive clarity and colour and an incredible 1600nits peak brightness.

iPad Pro 11-inch

There are more than 10,000 mini LEDs grouped into more than 2500 local dimming zones – similar display technology that we are seeing on the latest 2021 smart TVs – so you’ll see even more highlights in HDR (high dynamic range) photos and videos.

And having so many dimming zones also means amazing contrast – 1,000,000:1 to be precise – and solid black levels.

This quality and precision with Extreme Dynamic Range offers creative professionals like videographers, photographers and filmmakers the ability to view their content accurately and in high quality.

iPad Pro 11-inch

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch display also supports Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG so it becomes a mobile cinema as well.

The 11-inch iPad Pro Liquid Retina display has a resolution of 2388 x 1668 which is made up of nearly four million pixels.

5G

Another welcome new feature is 5G connectivity which follows hot on the heels of Apple’s first 5G device – the popular iPhone 12.

With 5G on the Wi-Fi + Cellular model, users can connect at high speeds from anywhere when there is a SIM card and a 5G-compatible data plan.

Having a 5G connection means a user can, like with their smartphone, always have a connection to the internet whenever thy need it.

During our review we had a Telstra SIM card onboard and hit 500Mbps on a speed test in suburban Sydney.

That’s faster than my NBN connection at home.

CAMERA

Centre Stage is a new feature that uses the ultra-wide camera and machine learning to recognise you and put you in the centre of the frame.

The iPad Pro doesn’t actually move but instead it intelligently adjusts the focus and zoom to make sure you’re centred.

And if someone else joins you onscreen, Centre Stage will also adjust to fit them in as well.

We are still having a lot of virtual meetings and video calls, this is a feature built for the times.

The iPad Pro’s TrueDepth camera also enables Portrait mode for an even better selfie.

On the rear panel is a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide camera.

APPLE PENCIL

Naturally, Apple Pencil goes with iPad Pro like bacon goes with eggs – you can’t have one without the other.

It attaches magnetically on the top edge of the iPad Pro which pairs it and charges it at the same time.

Since the upgrade to iPadOS, the Apple Pencil is more powerful and precise than ever.

The pixel precision can be enjoyed whether you’re writing, sketching or painting.

And with Scribble you can use the Apple Pencil to handwrite directly into text fields before it is recognised and converted to typed text.

CONNECTIVITY

On the connectivity side, the iPad Pro has a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port for fast data transfers at up to 40GB/s.

Users can also use port to connect to an external display like Apple’s Pro Display XDR.

And, of course, you can connect drives and drag data on and off the iPad.

STORAGE

There is no more storage available on the iPad Pro than ever before with configurations at up to 2TB.

That’s means there’s lots of room for photos and videos. 4K videos take up a lot more space than HD video but having thus much storage at your fingertips means this is no longer an issue.

AUDIO

The iPad Pro has four speakers so it not only looks good but sounds good as well to deliver a complete cinematic experience.

And the speakers can also adjust no matter what orientation the iPad Pro is in – landscape or portrait.

And for recording audio, the iPad Pro also has you covered with five studio-quality microphones whether you’re on a Facetime call, a virtual or recording.

MAGIC KEYBOARD

The Magic Keyboard is now available in white and offers a full sized, backlit keyboard that’s comfortable to type on.

It also has a trackpad which allows users to navigate the device with the circular pointer instead of using the touchscreen.

The iPad attaches magnetically to the keyboard and appears to be floating above the keyboard. This never ceases to fascinate us.

It connects to the iPad Pro through the smart connector so you’ll never need to charge the keyboard.

Also onboard the Magic Keyboard is a USB-C charge pass through port on the end of the hinge so you can still use the iPad Pro’s port for other purposes.

PRICING

The iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch models are not cheap. They are called Pro for a reason.

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,199 while the 12.9-inch with its Liquid Retina XDR display is available from $1,649. That’s more expensive than the entry level M1 MacBook Air.

But the iPad Pro packs in a lot of features and capabilities that the MacBook Air and even the MacBook Pro can’t match – starting with a touchscreen and the Liquid Retina XDR display.

Performance-wise, the iPad Pro can also not only match the MacBook Pro but also exceed it in some areas.

What’s adds to the price is adding more memory capacity and the cellular connectivity.

The most specced up 12.9-inch iPad Pro you can get comes with 2TB memory and Wi-Fi + Cellular brings the price to $3,549.

And the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil adds $549 and $199 respectively for a grand total of $4,297.

For that you’ll end up with powerful device with a stunning display, the ability to connect from anywhere and the accessories to make it a complete solution.

The right professional who doesn’t want to compromise on performance and quality will see it as an investment rather than an expense.

VERDICT

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro have hit a new level of performance with the M1 processor and next level quality with the Liquid Retina display. It truly lives up to its Pro name.

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