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iPad Pro 2021 arrives with 5G, powerful M1 chip and XDR Mini-LED display

Apple has finally launched the new iPad Pro 2021 and it’s packed with tech, including a mini-LED display on the 12.9-inch version, 5G connectivity and the use of the firm’s powerhouse M1 chip. This is the most powerful tablet we’ve ever seen and here’s everything you need to know about it.

We’ve been waiting for a big update to Apple’s flagship tablet for a while, with the previous model being a little light on new features. When Apple unveiled the 2020 iPad Pro, the new features mainly revolved around the LiDAR camera sensor and the addition of a new keyboard case.

That really can’t be said about the iPad Pro 2021. This year we’ve got a new screen, laptop-level chipset and plenty more. Could this be the best tablet of the year? Here’s a look at everything we know so far.

  • iPad Pro 2021 official in two sizes
  • Orders start on April 30
  • Price increase for the 12.9-inch model

Apple has announced that the iPad Pro 2021 will be available to order from April 30, with units shipping out in the second half of May.

Pricing for the 11-inch model, which lacks the mini-LED display tech, will start at $799/£749. The more premium 12.9-inch model’s pricing starts at $1099/£999, increasing to £2149 for the 5G 2TB model. See below for full pricing:

Wi-Fi

128GB – £749/$799

256GB – £849/$899

512GB – £1049/$1099

1TB – £1399/$1499

2TB – £1749/$1899

Wi-Fi and Cellular

128GB – £899/$999

256GB – £999/$1099

512GB – £1199/$1299

1TB – £1549/$1699

2TB – £1899/$2099

iPad Pro 12.9-inch prices

Wi-Fi

128GB – £999/$1099

256GB – £1099/$1199

512GB – £1299/$1399

1TB – £1649/$1799

2TB – £1999/$2199

Wi-Fi and Cellular

128GB – £1149/$1299

256GB – £1249/$1399

512GB – £1449/$1599

1TB – £1799/$1999

2TB – £2149/$2399

  • New screen tech could be a big upgrade
  • The updated display restricted to the larger model

The most significant change for the iPad Pro 2021 is a switch to a mini-LED display. This is an alternative to OLED that offers improved contrast, darker blacks and more efficient lighting. 

Apple is restricting this new display tech to the 12.9-inch model, saying it can hit 1000 nits consistent and 1600 nits peak brightness. This should result in the screen generally looking more dynamic, and will really help HDR video pop. Like the iPhone 12 line and the Pro Display, there’s XDR branding for Extreme Dynamic Range.

The new iPad Pros keep many of the perks of previous generations, such as the 120Hz ProMotion tech, True Tone and support for the wide P3 colour gamut.

During the event, Apple said that the pixels here are 120x smaller than found in the previous iPad LCD.

The 11-inch model will retain the Liquid Retina Display of previous models, with a peak brightness of 600 nits, ProMotion, P3 support and True Tone.

  • M1 chip sits inside with 8n or 16GB of RAM
  • 5G option
  • Thunderbolt 4 with the USB-C port

Many had predicted that Apple would launch the iPad Pro 2021 with an M1-like chip – but in reality the company just launched it with an actual M1 chip. This is paired with 8GB or 16GB (1TB and 2TB models) of RAM. You can all models with up to 2TB storage.

Apple has said this chip offers a 75% faster CPU and 40% faster graphics than the previous iPad Pro. This is an 8-core CPU with an 8-core GPU. It still very much runs iPadOS though, so unless apps are specifically ported you won’t simply be able to run any Mac app here. Apple also didn’t announce it was bringing across any of its ‘Pro’ desktop apps to the iPad, so we’re a little in the dark about what exactly will be available to push this tablet to its limit.

This could all change with WWDC coming up, as that’s where Apple is expected to launch iOS 15.

It also boasts the 16-core neural engine, with Apple claiming the graphics are 1500x faster than the first iPad. Again, it’ll be interesting to see what games are ported to really push those graphics. Would we be able to, for example, get the full version of Football Manager 2021 running here as opposed to a ‘Touch’ version specifically built for lower-end devices.

As the rumours had suggested, there’s a 5G option (this comes at a premium and offers mmWave in the USA) and the USB-C port is now Thunderbolt 4-enabled for better connectivity. This port is capable of up to 40Gb/s speeds and can even drive the Pro Display XDR at full 8K resolution. This should really open up the iPad to more accessories, especially faster SSDs.

In terms of cameras, the iPad Pro 2021 features an ultra-wide 12-megapixel front camera with a 122-degree field of view that works alongside a new camera-tracking feature called Center Stage. This follows you around as you move; it appears to be ideal for video calls.

On the back of the device is a 10-megapixel ultra-wide and 12-megapixel wide camera, along with the LiDAR scanner introduced last year. This looks to be very much the same as the camera in the outgoing model, however it does now benefit from Smart HDR 3.

Rumours had suggested the iPad would come alongside an updated Apple Pencil; however, that isn’t the case. The previous model works, though, and there’s a fancy new white version of the Magic Keyboard if you want to turn the iPad into more of a laptop replacement.

This is clearly the most powerful tablet around and should be on par with the MacBook Air M1 in terms of pure speed. However, and this is the big question, will there be the software to really back up this glorious hardware? We’d really hope so.

  • Design looks very much unchanged
  • Grey or silver options

Apple hasn’t changed the design of the iPad Pro, and from initial impression it looks very much the same. The 12.9-inch model is slightly thicker and heavier than the predecessor. likely due to the new display. That’s no bad thing, since this is probably the best tablet around in terms of looks.

You can see the design in the pictures below. It retains the flat edges and back, a full-screen look on the front, and a Smart Connector on the rear for accessories.

Max Parker, Deputy Editor: “I use the iPad Pro every day and I didn’t really think I’d need anything else. But, wow – these upgrades are quite something. The M1 is a fantastic chip, and if we can get apps on here to really take advantage of it then I might finally be able to ditch the laptop for good.

The screen on the 12.9-inch looks astounding, too, although I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t keep parity between both screen sizes. Is the 11-inch Pro really ‘Pro’ if it doesn’t have the mini-LED screen? I’m not so sure.”

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