Apple’s latest iPad Pro, released in 2021, has been updated with the transformational M1 processor. The chip makes it the fastest tablet available measured both by benchmarks and real-world use, beating Androids such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+. It is also at least 1.5x faster in benchmarks than the 2020 model, which was itself pretty nifty.
The fifth-generation iPad Pro comes in two versions, one costing £749 with an 11inch screen and another with a 12.9inch screen costing £999. Both feature the new M1 chip, but only the larger model has the stunning new XDR screen, which rivals that of most TVs, let alone laptops and other tablets. The new screen technology used in the 12.9inch version is an evolution of the traditional LCD display called “mini LED”, which has until now been the preserve of high-end televisions. An array of 2,596 individual LEDs behind the LCD display only light up behind bright parts of the image, producing super-bright lights and deep, pigmented blacks in dark areas.
The tablet lasts up to ten hours of passive usage, such as movie watching, or well over nine hours of work using text editors, web browser, Affinity Photo, and various chat apps, which is about an hour longer than its predecessor.
USB 4/Thunderbolt 3
A new feature of the M1 iPad Pro is the upgrade of the USB-C port to full USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3 support, which quadruples the bandwidth of the connection and offers further expansion capabilities. A variety of USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 accessories can be attached, including external monitors and docks, although iPad OS can only mirror the iPad’s display on a second screen.
It also supports the fastest external storage drives such as the very fast 1TB G Drive Mobile Pro SSD.
“Centre Stage” camera
The front-facing camera on the iPad Pro has been souped-up to a 12-megapixel ultrawide angle camera and given some very helpful automatic framing skills for video calls called “Centre Stage”. The camera pans and zooms to keep you in view as you move around. It makes it much easier to get a good view, and functions with any video calling app, not just Apple’s FaceTime.
It’s a feature found on dedicated video conference cameras, and some smart displays, but combined with the excellent microphones and speakers in the tablet, it elevates the iPad Pro’s status to the very best portable video calling device available – one that is straightforward to use and that works better than any comparable device.
The tablet runs Apple’s iPadOS, which offers some multi-tasking capabilities (though admittedly not as many compared with macOS), via the split-screen configuration.
It has long and dependable battery life, the option of 5G for data, and it is immensely portable. It is also possible to get real work done, which means it is the closest thing to a true laptop substitute.
The tablet is comprised of a 100% recycled aluminium body, 100% recycled tin in the solder of its mainboard, flash, and wireless charger, 98% recycled rare earth elements, and at least 35% recycled plastic used in multiple components. Furthermore, Apple uses renewable energy for the final assembly of the machine. Apple also offers trade-in and complimentary recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
Whilst Apple does not provide an estimated lifespan for the iPad Pro’s battery, it can be easily replaced for £99/$135. The tablet is generally repairable with the out of warranty repair fee at £456.44 ($499), which includes the screen.
In terms of optional extras, the iPad Pro supports the second-generation Apple Pencil (£119/$129), which can be used for drawing, creating markups, and signing documents, amongst many other things. The £329/$299 Magic Keyboard is another excellent optional accessory, which really helps the iPad Pro to be a better computer replacement, without sacrificing any of the benefits of it being a tablet.
The iPad Pro is available in either space grey or silver and starts at £749/$799 for the 11in version and £999/$1099 for the 12.9in version. Both come with wi-fi-only and 128GB of storage. Models with 5G cost an additional £150/$200 plus mobile broadband subscription.
The iPad Pro 2021 is a super tablet. It has one of the very best displays available, making it supreme for video. It packs a lot of punch with the M1 chip, and a reliable nine to ten hours of battery life. It even has Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and optional 5G.
It is such a versatile, multipurpose device that it is invaluable, whether it’s for the best-in-class video-calling experience, the broad media app support, or even the more niche uses such as art production or video editing. What sets it apart from other tablets, for me, is that I can get every part of my work done on it, without resorting to bothersome workarounds, or finishing on a PC. This review was written, edited, and uploaded exclusively on my iPad Pro – something I’ve not been able to do before.
The premium features are reflected in the price, but the iPad Pro is without doubt the best tablet you can buy.