There's a new iPad on the way. Or, rather, four to be exact.
Apple is said to be about to launch a new iPad Pro next month. While most range refreshes include minor tweaks, this one should bring some major new screen technology into play – and it's tech that could really improve the user experience.
Not only that, but Apple is also thought to be working on a new iPad Mini that's bigger than the current model, as well as a refresh to the standard iPad; both of those should launch this year. Add them to the two different-sized Pro models, and that makes four new iPads in the pipeline.
Excited? You should be. Here's why.
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iPad Pro 2021: release date
The next iPad Pro refresh could happen very soon indeed. That's according to Bloomberg, which carried a report recently detailing the new models.
Its sources say that the new Pro models will launch in April. There's no firm date set, and Apple is yet to announce any events for the coming weeks. But it usually gives at least two weeks' notice. Unless it just punts out a press release. Either way, it's looking like the devices will launch in the second half of April.
Once they have been announced, however, the new iPads could go on sale just days later, or even immediately.
This would be the fifth generation of iPad Pro. The current model launched just over a year ago, last March. But a spring launch isn't a given for iPad Pros. The third generation launched in October 2018, while the second gen landed in June 2017. The first model was announced in September 2015 and launched in November of the same year. Fingers crossed it becomes a new spring regular.
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iPad Pro 2021: price
The iPad Pro is the daddy of the iPad family, a stylus-equipped tablet that's superpowered for work and play. Want the best games? The crispest movies? Need it for work, be it illustrating, animating, video editing or music production? It's the tablet for you.
Of course, all this power doesn't come cheap. Here's how the current Pro models stack up.
- iPad Pro 11in: from £769 ($799, AU$1329)
- iPad Pro 12.9in: from £969 ($999, AU$1649)
With all that natty new screen tech at hand to go with all the usual improvements, we can't see Apple dropping the price of the new models. Expect them to be in keeping with the current price tags.
iPad Pro 2021: screen
We're expecting two new models of iPad Pro, in the same sizes as the current models (11in and 12.9in). And it's the bigger of the two that's really got our attention.
That's because it is said to boast a Mini LED screen. Like OLED, this technology is used in TVs, but it has better contrast ratios than the current Pro's OLED panel. It is also less susceptible to burn-in, so if you accidentally leave your tablet on YouTube over the weekend you won't have to worry about the logo being forever etched in the screen.
We don't have only Bloomberg's word for it. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said back in 2019 that he expected Apple to start using Mini LED screens in its tablets and laptops. He even predicted that Apple would launch the tech in the 12.9in iPad Pro. When two such reputable sources say the same thing, the odds are that it's true.
Mini LED has a lot going for it. It's pitched as a more affordable version of OLED, though it works similarly to LCD tech. Essentially, the LEDs on a Mini LED panel's backlight are much, much smaller than those used on a traditional LCD screen – and therefore there are a great many more of them; we're talking tens of thousands rather than tens of hundreds. The idea is that the more LEDs used, the greater control the device has over over local dimming – i.e. how bright or dim parts of the screen can go. Theoretically as a result, Mini LEDs can produce pictures with better contrast, pictures with more precise shading and, in turn, better colour reproduction than your average LCD screen.
With a backlight, Mini LED TVs can reach a higher peak brightness than an OLED screen is capable of, and as there is greater control over what portions of the screen are dark it's easier to achieve deeper blacks. That said, as there is still a backlight in the mix and the LEDs can't turn completely off, as the self-emissive diodes in OLEDs can, it's doubtful they'll be able to produce quite the lights-off blacks that OLEDs can.
Still, we can't wait to see the technology in action on an iPad.
There is one downside: supply. According to a recent Bloomberg report, Mini LED panels are currently experiencing production issues, leading at least one of Apple's suppliers to pause production. So we could see the Mini LED-toting iPad Pro launch later than its smaller sibling, and initially in limited numbers.
iPad Pro 2021: design
While the screen may be all new, it doesn't sound as if the design of the device will change much, if at all. According to Bloomberg's report, the new Pro models will look similar to the current models. But that's no bad thing.
The current iPad Pro, after all, is about as sleek as tablets come. Thanks to its narrow bezel, it's basically all screen, making movies, games and TV shows all the more immersive. Sticking to this design will only serve to better show off the new screen tech, too – when the device is all screen, it really enhances those popping colours and sharply defined edges.
The current models are super slim and light, too. The 11in model sizes up at 24.7 x 17.8 x 0.6cm, while the 12.9in version comes in at 28 x 21.5 x 0.6cm. The smaller model weighs 473g, while the larger tips the scales at 643g – that's lighter than a squeezy bottle of ketchup.
Unlike some other tablets, the Pro features speakers on both its top and bottom. This means that, when watching a film with the tablet in landscape orientation, you benefit from stereo sound, in contrast to those tablets with speakers in only one place.
The Pro also features a USB-C connection, but the new models have reportedly been tested with Apple's Thunderbolt connectors. It's not clear at this point whether they will ship with Thunderbolt or USB-C.
Apple is also reportedly testing its MagSafe connector for laptops. MagSafe is a magnetic connector – because it connects using magnets, the connection breaks if the cable is yanked out, and your device won't tumble to the floor (say if someone trips over the cable). It was first used in Apple's laptops, but recently made a return in the iPhone 12 as a way of snapping on accessories. With Apple mulling over MagSafe for MacBooks, could the next iPads also use it?
iPad Pro 2021: specs
While the new iPad Pros might look almost identical to the current models, they should be much more powerful. So powerful, in fact, that performance should reportedly be "on a par" with Apple's M1 MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros and Max Mini.
These M1 devices are the first to feature Apple's own processors. That's because last year the firm stopped using Intel chips in favour of its own, homegrown ones, known as Apple silicon. With Apple making both the hardware and software, it is able to optimise performance – these chips are made specifically for Apple devices, after all, as opposed to off-the-shelf processors that power all manner of desktops, laptops and tablets.
It's rumoured that the iPad Pro will boast Apple's new A14X chip, the successor to the A14 Bionic found in the firm's current iPad Air. According to a leaked Geekbench test, the A14X is faster than the Intel Core i9 processor in the 2020 MacBook Pro (via AppleInsider).
Reviews have praised Apple silicon devices, due to their notably improved performance. They have also shown big improvements in battery life.
For example, the latest Apple MacBook Air boasts up to 15 hours of wireless web performance, and up to 18 hours of movie streaming via the Apple TV app. The current iPad Pros manage only about 10 hours of power before needing a recharge, so it's quite possible that the new models will see a significant battery bump.
The new Pros are also said to have new cameras, but here details are a bit thin on the ground.
Tablets' cameras are usually a bit of an afterthought; but not on the Pro. This is a device built for creative professionals, after all, and imaging technology is likely to be high on their priority list. It has two rear cameras (a 12MP wide-angle lens, and a 10MP ultra-wide), with 2x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. It also allows for 4K video recording at 24fps, 30fps or 60fps, 1080p HD video recording at 30fps or 60fps, and 720p HD video recording at 30fps.
The 7MP front-facing camera also has 1080p HD video recording at 30fps or 60fps.
Any upgrade on these would be most welcome, especially to the filmmakers eyeing up a new tablet to help make their movies.
Other new iPads for 2021
As we said, the new Pros aren't the only iPads in the Apple pipeline. The firm is also reportedly working on a new iPad Mini and a refresh of the standard iPad.
The Mini should have a slightly larger screen than the current 7.9in iPad Mini. This follows the trend in mobiles, which has been for bigger screens in recent years. Though it would still carry the Mini moniker, so don't expect it to supersize anytime soon.
It will also have a very similar design to the current model, according to a leaked photo.
The standard iPad will reportedly be slimmer and lighter than the current model. The current iPad measures 25 x 17 x 0.7cm, so cutting down these dimensions will be no mean feat.
Expect minor spec bumps for these two devices, too.
Both of these iPads are expected to launch later in the year, possibly around September. That would be a year on from the last iPad range refresh. It's also when we're expecting the new iPhone 13. Could be a busy month.
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