Apple's latest iPad Pros are finally en-route to customers, set to officially arrive on Friday, May 21st. We spent a week with the wildly powerful iPad Pro 12.9” model, outfitted with the stunning liquid retina XDR display and the new Apple Silicon M1 chip to give the lowdown on Apple’s latest iPad Pro.
Borrowing its looks from the recent refresh to the iPad Air, the new pro iPads come in either 11” or 12.9” flavors but only the latter’s larger screen has the benefit of the insanely vibrant and detailed XDR Liquid Retina screen.
The angular metal body of the device is hefty and feels durable while housing a significant battery array, camera sensors that rival the exceptional set on the iPhone 12 Pro, five studio-quality mics and cleverly hidden magnetic contacts for accessories like Apple’s Magic Keyboard or an Apple Pencil.
While these iPad Pros may look like their iPad Air siblings, that’s where the comparison ends. The new iPad Pro is a much more capable machine, thanks largely to the inclusion of Apple’s M1 chip and its eight-core CPU and GPU. Functionally, that translates to the iPad Pro being able to do things normally reserved for desktop computers like editing multiple 4K video streams at the same time or working on enormously large images without any trace of a stutter.
This kind of power packed into a tablet might be overkill for average users but video editors, photographers, musicians and other creative pros will be supremely satisfied with how the iPad Pro allows more direct manipulation of their work than a full-fledged computer, but without sacrificing horsepower.
The benefits of the beefed-up hardware of the iPad Pro is only worthwhile if the software running on it is optimized to take full advantage. Not coincidentally, the App Store is stocked with pro-level software like ProCreate, LumaFusion, StaffPad and a bevy of Adobe offerings that do just that and even more is on the way. No matter what the workflow, the new iPad Pros offer up the hardware to make the best apps even better.
That means gaming, too. Game developers are taking their mobile games to an entirely new level by leveraging the iPad Pro’s graphics capabilities and the results are damn impressive. Sure, every game on the App Store looks better and plays smoother here but games developed with these pro iPads in mind will use the M1 chip to allow for asymmetric couch co-op that previously wasn’t possible on a tablet.
The 12.9” iPad Pro also provides the best experience for remote play of both Xbox and Playstation consoles. Apple’s iOS now plays nice with controllers from both systems. Thanks to integrated 5G cellular data, the iPad Pro might have just become the best way to play console hits like GTAV or Rocket League outside of the living room.
Finally, there’s no way to talk about the iPad Pro without mentioning the Apple accessories that elevate its possibilities to a new level. Add a Magic Keyboard and suddenly the iPad Pro is able to mimic a Macbook, complete with trackpad. Need a more hands-on way to control images? Enter the Apple Pencil and its satisfying feel of drawing or painting directly on the screen.
Prefer an even bigger screen for presentations? The iPad Pro supports thunderbolt connections to UHD monitors or just AirPlay to an AppleTV and use almost any TV as a secondary monitor. Or maybe it’s the iPad Pro that should integrate as a secondary monitor to a Mac, in which case OSX’s Sidecar option would be best. Apple appears to have planned for almost every use imaginable with the new iPad Pro.
As with most of Apple’s products that blow away their competition, best-in-class hardware comes at a premium price. The iPad Pro 12.9” starts at $1,099 but can run north of $2,800 when the specs get turned all the way up (2TB HDD, cellular integration, an Apple Pencil and a Magic Keyboard.)
That price may be a hard pill to swallow, but the target audience here is mostly those who use these products to actually make money and it’s bad business to skimp on the tools of your trade. For everyone else, the iPad Air is still an admirable alternative. The new iPad Pro’s are available for pre-order currently and will be available in-store on May 21st.