Unlike the 24-inch iMac, there are no major industrial design changes in either iPad Pro model, but Apple has made significant upgrades under the hood, most notably switching from the previous A12Z Bionic chip to the M1 chip that now powers an increasing number of Macs. The M1 chip offers roughly 50% greater performance, significantly differentiating the 11-inch iPad Pro from the highly capable fourth-generation iPad Air introduced late last year.
Apple also updated the iPad Pro’s port from USB-C to Thunderbolt/USB 4, allowing users to take advantage of higher-performance hardware, such as external storage devices and high-resolution external displays. You can even connect Apple’s Pro Display XDR at its full 6K resolution. As welcome as Thunderbolt is, iPadOS could use enhancements to enable users to take full advantage of it.
For those who need constant connectivity while out and about, the cellular models of the iPad Pro now support 5G wireless networking, including the millimeter-wave version that offers the greatest throughput. Although 5G coverage is still extremely spotty, it’s only getting better, and supporting it will help future-proof these iPad Pro models.
Both iPad Pro models also receive a new 12-megapixel Ultra Wide TrueDepth camera on the front. Along with help from the M1 chip’s machine-learning capabilities, it enables a new feature called Center Stage that recognizes you in video calls and pans and zooms to keep you in the frame as you move around. It will work with FaceTime, of course, and Apple says third-party services will also be able to support it.
Last but far from least is a new display for just the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Based on the technology behind Apple’s $5000 Pro Display XDR, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina Display XDR is lit by more than 10,000 miniature LEDs, combined into nearly 2600 dimming zones. (The previous model’s screen had 72 LEDs.) The result is a display that’s brighter and offers more contrast than before, making it ideal for photo or video editing. If you think screen quality is the deciding factor between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, we encourage you to compare them in person with the same images or videos.
Pricing has changed a little for the iPad Pros. The 11-inch model continues to start at $799 with 128 GB of storage. However, the 12.9-inch model is $100 more expensive than previously, thanks to the Liquid Retina XDR display, starting at $1099 for 128 GB. Both are upgradeable to 256 GB ($100), 512 GB ($300), 1 TB ($700), or 2 TB ($1100), and note that the models with 512 GB and less come with 8 GB of unified memory, whereas the 1 TB and 2 TB models have 16 GB of memory. Adding 5G cellular now costs $200, up $50, although special deals with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon may reduce or erase that cost.
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