The iPad Pro 2021 is official and, just as predicted, the 12.9-inch version boasts a cutting-edge Mini LED display. Apple claims this new screen technology seriously improves the user experience – but it doesn't come cheap. So, should you go all-in on the iPad Pro 2021? Or is the iPad Pro 2020 too much of a bargain to ignore? This handy comparison will hopefully help you to make a decision.
The standard iPad, svelte iPad Air and compact iPad Mini all offer solid performance for the money, but the iPad Pro is the undisputed daddy of the iPad family. The stylus-equipped tablet is perfect for work and play thanks to its faster chipset, better camera and Apple's "best-ever" display tech. The new 2021 Pro offers some unique features, too.
Read on as we pit the iPad Pro 2021 against the iPad Pro 2020 and explain all the key differences...
- Our pick of the best iPads you can buy in 2021
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: price
The iPad Pro 2020 (11-inch) debuted at £769 ($799/AU$1,329) for the Wi-Fi-only model with 128GB of storage and topped out at £1419 ($1449, AU$2429) for the 1TB Wi-Fi and cellular model, with 256GB and 512GB models in between.
The iPad Pro 2020 (12.9-inch) started at £969 ($999, AU$1649) for the 128GB Wi-Fi-only option and rose to £1619 (AU$2749) for the 1TB Wi-Fi and cellular one. The good news is that arrival of the iPad Pro 2021 has driven prices down across the board, so you should be able to pick up last year's models cheaper via the best iPad deals.
Apple unveiled its latest iPad Pro on the 20th April 2021. The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 costs from £749 ($799, AU$1199) for the 128GB Wi-Fi model and £899 for the 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at £999 ($1099, AU$1649) for the 128GB Wi-Fi model and £1149 ($1299, AU$1899) 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.
Long story short: the iPad Pro 2020 is a touch cheaper than its successor but it's a close-run thing. Do you want the latest model and features (and that huge 2TB storage option), or are you happy to compromise and save a bit of money?
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: design
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. That aside, the new Pro tablets look very similar to the current models – no bad thing given that the 2020 iPad Pro is blessed with a wafer-thin bezel and a sleek aluminium chassis.
Both the 2020 and 2021 iPad Pros are suitably slim and light, with 12.9-inch models a tad weightier than their 11-inch counterparts. The Wi-Fi version of the 2020 12.9 inch iPad Pro tips the scales at 641g, while the 2021 equivalent comes in at 682g.
Unlike most other iPads, the 'Pro' models boast a quartet of speakers for a more immersive stereo experience when gaming or, say, watching Netflix. None of these slates feature a 3.5mm headphone port, so you might want to invest in a pair of wireless headphones. The 2021 Pros also get Apple's "best-ever" microphone array, so you should be able to make yourself heard in noisy environments if you need to take a call through the tablet.
In terms of physical connections, the iPad Pro 2020 has a USB-C socket, whereas the iPad Pro 2021 supports both Thunderbolt and USB4 through USB-C.
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: display
Here's where the new iPad Pro appears to come into its own...
The 12.9-inch model boasts a Mini LED screen (Apple calls it a 'Liquid Retina XDR' panel). Like OLED, this technology is used in some modern 4K TVs, but Apple claims the contrast ratio for its new Mini LED display is superior to the iPad Pro 2020's OLED panel. As a result, the new 12.9-inch Pro has a peak brightness of 1600nits – far in excess of what the previous iPad Pro can manage (around 559 nits).
The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 makes do with a more conventional LED screen but it still offers around 600nits of brightness and the same 120Hz refresh rate. The upshot of all this is that the new iPad Pros claim more realistic colours and smoother video than the 2020 models.
Is the 12.9-inch Mini LED iPad Pro worth the extra spend? If you want the ultimate iPad experience or are a filmmaker that wants to edit HDR video, the answer could be a resounding yes. We look forward to reviewing the cream of the iPad crop in due course.
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: specs
The new iPad Pros look similar to the current models but they pack Apple's scorchingly-fast M1 processor. According to the tech giant, the new chip "delivers up to 50 percent faster CPU performance than A12Z Bionic" (the chip in the iPad Pro 2020). Impressive.
The new chip is expected to bring a marginal improvement in battery life, too. Whereas the current iPad Pros manage about 10 hours of power before needing a recharge, the new 2021 models are said to go "all day".
Speaking of batteries, according to the Apple website, the 11in Pro uses a 28.65-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, while big brother gets a 40.88-watt-hour battery.
As expected, the iPad Pro 2021 is the first iPad to support 5G. The high-speed connectivity could come in handy for those who work remotely. Apple has also blessed the new Pros with support for Thunderbolt and USB4 through USB-C for speedy data transfer.
Last but not least, the 12.9-inch model is available with a whopping 2TBs of storage – enough space to stash around 220 hours of 4K HDR video content. The current iPad Pro 2020 tops out at 1TB of storage.
Both models continue to work with the Apple Pencil 2 stylus and there's a new Magic Keyboard with Trackpad accessory.
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: cameras
When it comes to cameras, the iPad Pro 2020 appeals to imaging professionals with 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. There's also a 7MP front-facing camera with FaceID.
The iPad Pro 2021 ups the ante with a new 12MP ultra-wide TrueDepth camera with a 120-degree field of vision. Both the 2021 and 2020 Pros benefit from a LiDAR depth scanner for improved augmented reality experiences but the newer Pro has Smart HDR, which should make it easier to add Hollywood-style special effects and realistic shadowing to your videos.
The new Pro's ultra-wide camera has a nifty trick up its sleeve, too. Machine learning powers a feature called 'Centre Stage', which tracks you around the room during video calls, and automatically zooms out when others enter the scene.
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: verdict
We'll be posting a full review of the iPad Pro 2021 in due course but, on paper, it appears that Apple has taken its flagship tablet to new heights. With oodles of oomph, more capable cameras and the introduction of that Mini LED panel in the larger model, the 2021 iPad Pro provides plenty of reasons to crack open your wallet.
Having said that, the iPad Pro 2020 could be the better choice. It boasts a similarly-sleek design, high-end cameras and more than enough power for state-of-the-art mobile gaming and movie streaming. If you can live without the Mini LED display and new M1 chip, it could be worth lowering your sights to the previous generation model.
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