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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Three generations of iPad Pro

A closer analysis on the new iPad Pro (2021) and a comparison between three generations of Apple's best tablet device.

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The new iPad Pro has been announced during Apple Spring Loaded event. While we don’t have our hands yet on the new iPad Pro, we take a look at their specifications on paper to see whether it will be a great time to upgrade your device.

The iPad Pro now spans three generations. The first was released last 2018 and the subsequent update was on 2020 offering major camera upgrade to the pro tablet device. The 12.9 inch iPad Pro has a better display than its 11 inch counterpart this year with the bigger iPad Pro getting mini-LED technology. The 11 inch retains the previous display technology. It is the first time that Apple made use of Mini-LED and it looks very promising (at least on paper for now). We think that the 11-inch version did not get it this year because of supply constraints with the display panel.

The 12.9 inch model features Mini-LED display
The 12.9 inch model features Mini-LED display borrowing technology from its Pro Display XDR.

There are no major changes in the form factor of the iPad Pro. It is a good thing for those who bought Apple’s expensive accessories since they can be still be used across all lineups. Both the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and the Magic Keyboard works across all three generations. You can read more about what was released and the iPad Pro section in our Apple Spring Loaded coverage.

Three generations of iPad Pro

2018 iPad Pro2020 iPad Pro2021 iPad Pro
Base Price$799 / $999$799 / $999$799 / $999
Capacity64GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Screen Size (inches)11 / 12.911 / 12.911 / 12.9
Dimensions (inches)9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23
11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23
9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23
11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23
9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23
11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23
Weight (pounds)1.03 / 1.41.04 / 1.411.04 / 1.5
Display TypeLiquid Retina
Pro Motion
True Tone
P3 Wide Color Gamut
Fully Laminated
Liquid Retina
Pro Motion
True Tone
P3 Wide Color Gamut
Fully Laminated
Liquid Retina
Pro Motion
True Tone
P3 Wide Color Gamut
Fully Laminated
Mini-LED (12.9 inch only)
Resolution2388 x 1668
2732 x 2048
2388 x 1668
2732 x 2048
2388 x 1668
2732 x 2048
Pixel Density 264 DPI264 DPI264 DPI
Brightness 600 Nits600 Nits600 Nits (11 inch)
1,000 Nits (12.9 inch full screen)
1,600 Nits (12.9 inch peak brightness)
ProcessorA12X BionicA12Z BionicApple Silicon M1
Rear Camera12 Mega Pixel (Wide)12 Mega Pixel (Wide)
10 Mega Pixel (Ultra Wide)
LiDAR Sensor
12 Mega Pixel (Wide)
10 Mega Pixel (Ultra Wide)
LiDAR Sensor
Front Camera7 Mega Pixel TrueDepth7 Mega Pixel TrueDepth12 Mega Pixel TrueDepth with Center Stage
Video Recording4K at 30/60 fps4K at 24/30/60 fps (Wide) and 60 fps (Ultra Wide)4K at 24/30/60 fps (Wide) and 60 fps (Ultra Wide)
Speakers4 Speaker Audio4 Speaker Audio4 Speaker Audio
Mic Array33 (Studio Quality)5 (Studio Quality)
BiometricFaceIDFaceIDFaceID
Battery LifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
PortUSB-CUSB-CThunderbolt 4 (USB 4)
Apple Pencil2nd Generation2nd Generation2nd Generation
Magic KeyboardYes (Via Smart Connector)Yes (Via Smart Connector)Yes (Via Smart Connector)

Is it worth the upgrade?

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The difference between the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro was only a processor refresh and the rear camera upgrade. For those not into Augmented Reality, the upgrade was not really worth it. This 2021, those wanting to upgrade can get the 12.9 inch model due to its excellent display technology.

But if you own an 11-inch iPad Pro and is thinking of also getting the smaller one, then we suggest waiting a bit longer as the display technology should trickle down to its smaller sibling in a year or so. As the form factor between three generations were not changed, those looking for a radical design change can get the 12.9 inch model and get amazed with its new screen technology.

iPad Pro 2021
iPad Pro 2021. Image: Apple

In a way, it followed the footsteps of the iPhone 12 Pro release where getting the Max version means having the best camera among the lineup. We are not sure if this trend will continue down the road for Apple.

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The major shift in Thunderbolt is the highlight for the iPad Pro along with the Mini-LED display that offers up to 1,600 Nits of brightness that is perfect for viewing the Dolby Vision videos you recorded using your iPhone 12; or binge watching those HDR Apple TV or Netflix titles. It uses the technology in Pro Display XDR and place it in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Apple might be laying the groundwork for its Pro Apps to have iPad versions this WWDC 2021 with the shift to super fast Thunderbolt technology on this year’s iPad Pro.

The shift to M1 chip has further blurred the line between the iPad and the Mac. The A12Z and the A12X Bionic are still very capable devices that can handle everything you throw at it without any noticeable lag in performance. This could all change if Apple decides to release Pro versions of its apps for the iPad which will dramatically change the need for faster processor that is the M1 Chip.

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We shall continue to update this article as we get a hold of the new iPad Pro.

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