The iPad Pro 2021 has finally arrived, but can one of the best tablets on the market replace a computer in all respects (regardless of the operating system used)?
The iPad Pro 2021 is far from a huge departure from its predecessors in terms of exterior design. In fact, it’s virtually indistinguishable from the fourth generation iPad Pro 2020. The 12.9-inch model looks more or less exactly the same as the previous model, except it’s slightly thicker to accommodate the new Liquid Retina XDR display. The 11-inch models, which sport the same display as the 2020 iPad, show no substantial differences.
The iPad Pro 2021 is dominated by its display, with minimal bezels and no Home button to contend with. The sides are square, with flat edges that give it an appearance reminiscent of the iPhone 4. It is said by many to be one of the best looks in Apple design history.
Unfortunately, the iPad Pro is only available in two colors – Apple evidently reserves its more diverse palette for cheaper models.
Liquid Retina XDR display
While not an OLED display – capable of perfect blacks – the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina XDR display is truly superb: it features an absurd 1,000,000: 1 contrast ratio comparable to OLED technology, which makes the iPad a great candidate for both viewing and evaluating HDR photos and videos. This contrast is made possible by the mini-LED technology. These custom designed light sources are 120 times smaller than the 2020 model’s LEDs, and feature custom diffusers, and optical films to produce a stunning image.
For years the iPad has mounted chips that seemed to have no reason to be inside a tablet so limited by its software. The disparity seems even more striking this time around, considering that the iPad Pro 2021 features the same M1 chip used for computers like the iMac 2021 and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. To say the least oversized.
Storage and memory
Having 1TB of flash storage on an iPad is nothing new, but the ability to mount 2TB is. The iPad Pro is now able to have the same memory and storage configurations as Mac computers with M1 chips. Having 2TB of storage at your fingertips makes the iPad Pro a papable workstation for creative professionals dealing with large amounts of data.
Storage and memory on the iPad Pro go hand in hand, because the higher storage levels get double the memory of the lower models. Therefore, if you opt for the 1 or 2 TB versions, you will get 16 GB of RAM instead of 8 GB.
To be sure, 8GB of RAM on an iPad is already a notable selling point, because no other iPad has so far mounted more than 6GB. But 16 GB of RAM? This is a huge luxury that will pay for itself with multitasking, being able to manipulate large photo and video files, etc.
iPad Pro has a USB-C port since the 2018 update, but the 2021 model is the first iPad to be bundled with a Thunderbolt port. As mentioned in the beginning, not having Thunderbolt on the iPad was frustrating when moving peripherals between Mac and iPad. Now, this problem has also been solved.
But Thunderbolt is more than just being able to connect to Thunderbolt peripherals. It also brings a huge increase in available bandwidth between the iPad and external devices. This means that you can transfer huge video files between the iPad Pro and an external SSD in a reasonable amount of time, which was not possible before.
Ultra Wide Angle Camera with Center Stage
Center Stage takes advantage of the 122-degree field of view of the new ultra-wide TrueDepth front camera. This new camera offers a much larger field of view, and is necessarily a bit slower (f/2.4 vs f/2.2) than the 2020 TrueDepth camera. The new camera boasts a higher resolution, up from 7MP at 12MP.
Software: let’s talk about it
The boldest move was the creation of the iPad’s iOS fork, aptly named iPadOS. This allows the iPad to get its own version of the software, which adds much more flexibility, to allow the iPad to grow in ways that previously would not have been possible.
That said, is there room for iPad to grow from a software perspective? Surely. iPadOS needs to improve to do its fantastic hardware justice. We’ll likely see big strides forward from the iPad Pro in terms of software capabilities, and perhaps we’ll see professional apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro make their long-awaited iPad debut as well.