The 2021 iPad Pro reviews are in. Mine appeared in the AppleUnboxed newsletter on Wednesday, in a special extra edition. You can sign up for the newsletter here. The content is usually exclusive to subscribers but for the special issue, I’ll be publishing it on Forbes shortly, to give you a flavor of the newsletter.
In the meantime, here’s what other reviewers are saying.
Stuart Miles has been reviewing the iPad since day one, year one, so he knows his stuff. He praised the display:
“The 2021 iPad Pro gets an updated display technology – called Mini LED – which makes it considerably brighter than older models. It’s a relatively new panel technology that’s only just making its way into the latest TVs.
In the case of this 12.9-inch model that means over 10,000 LEDs are positioned behind the screen to create, at times, a much brighter display that is also more nuanced to what is happening on the screen.”
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But while he admired the performance, he felt that iPadOS was holding the tablet back from being a laptop replacement. I hear what he’s saying but if I may chip in here, that’s not Apple’s intent. It sees the Mac and iPad as separate with their own distinct strengths.
But this seems to have been a consistent drawback reviewers fastened onto.
“For all intents and purposes the 2021 iPad Pro 12.9-inch is like a touchscreen-enabled MacBook Pro with 5G connectivity that runs iPadOS instead of macOS. It’s the closest to a laptop-replacement that Apple has ever taken the iPad.
“Yet the iPad Pro is still in transition. It doesn’t completely replace the laptop just yet, because Apple hasn’t quite cracked the software. So if that’s what you’re after then let’s hope iPadOS 15 changes that later in 2021.”
Over at Tech Radar, the excellent James Peckham loved the power and display of the new tablet, saying it was the biggest iPad Pro since its inception.
For what it’s worth, I’d go further, saying it’s the biggest leap forward for iPad since the tablet first launched. Not everybody needs all this power, perhaps…
“Then there’s the power – much has been made of Apple’s M1 chipset, and this is the first time the company has included its new, own-brand silicon in an iPad. Do you absolutely need it? Probably not, but if you want some truly impressive power that blows every other tablet out of the water, again the latest iPad Pro is a great choice.
“You likely won’t appreciate having this much power on tap unless you’re intensively gaming, using power-hungry apps, or pushing the tablet to its multi-tasking limits. This will load apps like YouTube, Netflix and your email faster than before, but in most cases the difference is negligible, and you’ll only really notice when powering up the App Store’s most intensive experiences.”
He described the display as a great viewing experience.
“The 12.9-inch Pro’s display features new Mini LED technology that offers a crisp image as well as improved brightness. The company calls this a Liquid Retina XDR screen, and we’ve found it to provide a great viewing experience.
“The peak brightness is arguably excessive at 1600 nits, and we often found the maximum setting to be too much in everyday use. The display also has a 120Hz refresh rate, which means the on-screen image refreshes twice as fast as on many other tablets for a smoother look and feel.
“It’s especially effective when you’re scrolling through social media feeds, or playing an intense game and need the image on the screen to keep pace with the action.
Peckham’s last thought was that you should buy it if, “you want a tablet that can do everything.”
Dieter Bohn talks about the new iPad Pro’s “dream screen” saying that how much you care about a great screen “really is the only question that matters with the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
“It has a new kind of display so good I think it is the best thing for watching movies that isn’t a high-end television.”
While recognizing the new iPad Pro is plenty fast, he added “in my usage, I didn’t actually perceive any speed improvements in any of the apps that I use — because everything was already very fast on the iPad Pro. I got the exact same export speeds in Premiere Rush on the brand new 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the M1 as on my 2018 iPad Pro.”
There were things to praise:
“One new invention I love is the Center Stage feature. It zooms and follows human faces to keep them centered in the frame of the iPad’s wide-angle front facing camera. It works in any video conferencing app without the need for setup and it performs very well, better than similar features on smart displays like the Echo Show or Facebook Portal.
“I’d love it even more if the front-facing cameras on the iPad Pro weren’t still in the wrong spot when attached to a keyboard — off to the side instead of centered on top. It’s great that the camera can keep my face centered in frame, it’s not so great that I am literally giving my coworkers the side-eye because I’m looking off to the right of where the cameras are to see their faces.
He also made the comparison between iPad and Mac, saying,
“Just to be realistic: most people can get more done on the Mac than on the iPad. Taken strictly as a work machine, the Mac wins out on both price and functionality.That includes battery life, by the way.
Last and certainly not least, Apple’s refusal to offer multi-user support on the iPad has gone from being mystifying to obstinate. The company clearly intends this to be a single-user device, despite the fact that it would theoretically make for an even more compelling family computer than the pastel-colored iMacs that share the same processor.”
C.Velazco at Engadget began like this:
“For the last week, I’ve been living with Apple’s new iPad Pro, and there are two thoughts I haven’t been able to shake. The first is that this might be the best portable computer Apple has ever made. I mean, think about it: This iPad uses the exact same chipset you’ll find in the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, and even the new iMac. That’s unheard of for a tablet, especially one with 5G and a screen that puts Apple’s laptops to shame. Tim Cook once said the iPad was the company’s vision of the future of computing, and it’s actually starting to feel like it’s coming to fruition.
“Which leads me to my second unshakeable thought: Because this thing is so powerful, it’s begging for more robust software. The new iPad Pro very much feels a portent of dramatic changes to come, but in this moment, it’s — for better or worse — just an obscenely powerful tablet.
So, there’s that familiar strain again.
As for the screen: “I wasn’t expecting a big difference in screen quality, and I was right at least some of the time — when you’re writing in Google Docs or browsing in Safari, the screen’s max brightness is 600 nits, and it refreshes at 120Hz, just like the last iPad Pro. But when you’re watching movies and videos, maximum full-screen brightness shoots up to 1,000 nits, and especially bright elements in HDR content like explosions or flashy visual effects can hit 1,600 nits. In other words, Apple’s backlighting system means dark things are darker and bright bits are even brighter. The difference isn’t just noticeable — it’s visceral. Videos just look better, and that might make this iPad worth the splurge for people who really need that sort of thing.”
He goes on to say that the display on previous iPads Pro and Air are “pretty damned good.”
Rhiannon Williams at the i is one of the most gifted writers in tech and her two-word summary was neat: “Stupidly powerful.” She asked if you need so much power in a tablet.
“If last year’s device was designed to pose a serious threat to cheaper Windows-running laptops, this year’s model builds on those strong foundations with some new features designed to make the tablet even more of a one-stop-shop for all feasible work and entertainment needs.”
Back to the stupid, Williams describes the effectiveness of the M1 chip: “Comparing an AnTuTu Benchmark test between the 2020 and 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pros, the newer device is significantly faster across all categories. While this is great news on paper, the majority of users are unlikely to witness a dramatic difference while actually using it as the previous model was already extremely fast and capable. Rest assured, it’s stupidly powerful.”
Among her conclusions are the comparison to a laptop: “The slight niggles that stop it from being a complete no-brainer laptop replacement (you still can’t right-click on links in Chrome, though Apple does let you run two Chrome windows in Split View now, smaller trackpad, battery life not quite as long) are still there. The iPad Pro is an insanely powerful tablet, but it’s still a tablet.”
Jason Snell says the iPad Pro is pushing the envelope in terms of hardware.
“There’s no denying that the iPad Pro is the most capable iPad ever created—and by a long shot. But while Apple keeps admirably pushing the envelope, I’m not sure the iPad Pro user base feels all that desperate for the improvement. Is that an endorsement of how good the iPad Pro has been for the last few years? Sure, but it’s also an indictment of the iPad’s software, which has hindered the device’s growth as a professional tool.
“We’re less than three weeks away from Apple’s annual developer conference. I remain hopeful that Apple will lay out a roadmap of new apps and iPadOS features that will allow iPad users to push the limits of iPad hardware in ways that we haven’t been able to up until now.”
In the end, it’s not quite there yet, he feels: “And yet it all feels incomplete. Processor power, fast storage, copious RAM, and fast networking are all great specs—but they’re valueless unless they can be put to use. I love the iPad, but Apple’s hardware continues to move at a pace that its software can’t keep up with. The iPad Pro is ready. So now what?”
Please check back for my review on Forbes, shortly.