After months of leaks, Apple has taken the wraps off two new iPad Pros. The new models tote Apple's M1 processor, which is said to deliver a "massive leap" in performance.
There's also 5G support, new camera technology for smarter video calling and a 12.9-inch model with a stunningly-bright Liquid Retina XDR display comprised of no fewer than 10,000 Mini LEDs.
Pitched at photographers, filmmakers, remote workers and those who want a "stunning visual experience", the new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros can reasonably claim to be some of the best tablets on the market.
Excited? You should be. Here's the lowdown on Apple's high-end slates...
- Tablets to tempt: best iPads: big, small, budget and premium
iPad Pro 2021: release date
As expected, the tech giant unveiled two new iPad Pros – an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch – in addition to a new Apple TV 4K and the long-awaited location-tracking AirTags, but not the AirPods 3 wireless buds (looks like they could be delayed until later this year).
Both iPad Pros will be available to preorder from 30th April, and begin shipping from the second half of May.
For reference, the previous (fourth-generation) iPad Pro launched over a year ago in March 2020. 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.
- OS agnostic? Read our guide to the best tablets covering both iOS and Android
iPad Pro 2021: price
The iPad Pro is the daddy of the iPad family: a stylus-equipped tablet that's superpowered for both work and play. Want the best games? The crispest movies? Need it for work, be it illustrating, animating, video editing or music production? The iPad Pro is the tablet for you.
Of course, all this power doesn't come cheap. The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 costs from £749 ($799, AU$1199) for the Wi-Fi model and £899 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which offers the Mini LED display, and prices start at £999 ($1099, AU$1649) for the Wi-Fi model and £1499 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The range maxes out at £2149 ($2399, AU$3549) for the 12.9-inch Wi-Fi and Cellular model with beefed-up 2TB of storage.
iPad Pro 2021: screen
There are 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 boasts a Mini LED screen (Apple calls it a 'Liquid Retina XDR' display). Like OLED, this technology is used in TVs, but it has far better contrast ratios than the current Pro's Liquid Retina panel.
Apple says this Mini LED technology delivers "unmatched mobile cinematic viewing experience for HDR and Dolby Vision content." It also lets you edit true-to-life HDR content on the go.
You only have to look back at the previous generation to see the magnitude of the this technological leap. While the 2020 iPad Pro screen is made up of 72 LEDs and offers an average brightness of 559 nits, the new 12.9in Pro has a display comprised of 10,000 Mini LEDs. This returns a full screen brightness of 1000 nits and a peak brightness of 1600 nits.
Apple watchers have predicted the tech for a while now. 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 (correctly, as it turns out) that Apple would launch the tech in the 12.9in iPad Pro. Kudos to Kuo.
As for the latest 11-inch iPad Pro, it uses a Liquid Retina LCD display that's very similar to the display in the 2020 Pro (which is excellent, but the way).
iPad Pro 2021: design
While the screen may be all-new, the design of the iPad Pro hasn't changed much at all. That's no bad thing. The current iPad Pro, after all, is about as sleek as tablets come with a narrow bezel and milled aluminium chassis. It's basically all screen, making movies, games and TV shows all the more immersive.
The newly-minted 12.9-inch iPad is around 0.5mm thicker than the previous generation (6.4mm vs 5.9mm) to accommodate its cutting-edge Mini LED panel. It also boasts four speakers and brand new a mic array that Apple describes as its "best ever".
The 2020 Pro features a USB-C connection, but the new models up the ante with an Apple Thunderbolt connection enabling you to drive an external Apple Pro Display XDR at full 6K resolution. There's also USB-C with USB4 support, which should make for faster data transfers – handy when moving chunky 4K video footage between devices.
There was a rumour that Apple was testing its MagSafe connector for the iPad. The tech was first used in Apple's laptops, but recently made a return in the iPhone 12 as a way of snapping on accessories. In the end, MagSafe didn't make an appearance on the 2021 iPad Pro. Maybe next year?
iPad Pro 2021: specs
While the new iPad Pros might look almost identical to the current models, they are much powerful thanks to the presence of Apple's M1 chip under the bonnet. Indeed, Apple claims the chip 'delivers "50% faster" CPU and "40% faster" graphics performance compared to the A12Z Bionic processor found in the 2020 iPad Pro.
Apple stopped using Intel chips in favour of its own, homegrown ones, known as Apple silicon last year. With Apple making both the hardware and software, it is able to optimise performance – the M1 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.
As a result, the M1 chip in the new iPad Pro is the same M1 you'll find in the company's MacBook Pro laptops. RAM gets an upgrade to 16MB on the 1TB and 2TB storage models while the other models have 8GB of RAM. Apple reckons the new processor also brings "2x faster storage access".
Apple says the iPad Pro battery will last "all day" thanks to the efficient M1 chip. As predicted, the iPad Pro 2021 is also the first iPad to support 5G. The high-speed connectivity could come in handy for those who work remotely.
As for the cameras, the new iPad Pro totes a 12MP TrueDepth selfie camera with a 120-degree field of view. Machine learning provides a new feature called 'Centre Stage', which tracks you as you move around the room, and even zooms out when others enter the scene.
Talking of cameras, Apple's LiDAR camera now supports Smart HDR thanks to that beefy M1 processor. That should make it easier to create Hollywood-style green screen special effects complete with realistic shadowing.
Last but not least, the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models are both available with a whopping 2TBs of storage – enough space to stash around 220 hours of 4K HDR video content. Makes sense – the new iPad Pro is very much aimed at those who create, edit and review HDR video. If that's you, the Pro could be a no-brainer.
Other new iPads for 2021
Before you whip out your wallet, it's worth noting that the new Pros aren't the only iPads in Apple's 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.
In the meantime, you might want to weigh up the iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020 to see which is the best tablet for you.
Read our in-depth Apple iPad (2020) review
Find the perfect Apple tablet for you: the best iPads 2021
Apple's first over-ear headphones rated: read our AirPods Max review
Everything we know so far about the rumoured AirPods 3