New iPad Pro review roundup: impressive performance held back by iPadOS

Posted:
in iPad edited May 13

The initial reviews of Apple's new iPad Pro have arrived, with the impressive Tandem OLED screen and the upgrade to M4 catching the most attention from reviewers.

The 13-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro with M4
The 13-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro with M4



Before the release of many major products, Apple offers select numbers of reviewers some pre-release access. With the release to the public imminent, those hands-on opinion pieces are starting to get published.

The update to the iPad Pro is an important one for Apple. It's been well over a year since there have been any real iPad range updates, making any changes to the iPad Pro crucial to the product line.

As part of the changes, Apple finally answered rumors by shifting to an OLED screen. One that actually uses two panels stacked on each other, which Apple refers to as Tandem OLED.

Then there's the M4 chip, which Apple claims is 1.5 times better than M2 in terms of CPU performance. That chip also benefits from a better GPU and a massively more powerful Neural Engine, among other changes.

Lastly, there's the form of the iPad Pro itself. The footprint of the 11-inch and 13-inch models has changed a tiny bit, but they're both thinner and lighter than before.

Spectacular design with overpowered hardware



YouTuber Brian Tong says the biggest change to the iPad Pro is its thinner design. It is overpowered with the M4 processor with iPadOS holding the hardware back.



Nano Texture mutes the deep blacks a bit and soft can appear softer by comparison. It is worth the upgrade for those that need it, like outdoor work.

The story will always center around what iPad can and cannot do, but it depends on what work you're doing. It is Apple's design at its best and can feel like a MacBook with the new Magic Keyboard.

The best kind of overkill

A review

from The Verge says the new iPad Pro is a genuine achievement in tablet design and is just fun to use. However, the software problem still persists -- calling iPadOS an oversimplified and locked down operating system.

A person using an iPad Pro in a Magic Keyboard connected to an external display
Apple's upgraded iPad Pro still has a software problem



The new OLED display is gorgeous, but it comes at a high price, especially once accessories are added in. Though, moving the selfie camera to the landscape side is a big finally.

The new Magic Keyboard is the star of the show, and the Apple Pencil Pro's features stand out with user-facing additions. But no matter how you slice it, it is still an iPad, and that means this hardware is overkill for most use cases.

So very nice, and so very expensive

Engadget

calls the iPad Pro one of Apple's most divisive devices in years. It is an undeniable feat of engineering with a high cost.

A hand holding Apple Pencil Pro while drawing on an iPad Pro
iPad Pro with Apple Pencil Pro make an excellent combo for artists



Apple managed to push the iPad Pro further without changing the base iPad experience. iPadOS works mostly the same whether you spend $3,000 on the latest iPad Pro or buy one with an M1 processor.

The new iPad Pro may not look very different at first glance, but the updated design feels very different in the hand. It is both thinner and lighter, making it more comfortable to hold -- radically changing the experience of holding it.

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro is the best option compared to competitor's. Apple Pencil Pro is a notable upgrade, though the lack of backward compatibility in both the Pencil and iPad is painful for your wallet.

My Computer



YouTuber Christopher Lawley shares how the new iPad Pro features enhance his workflows. He is a YouTuber that works from iPad, so the upgrades are of particular use to him.



The Nano Texture display allows the iPad to be captured on video without glare issues. It is a noticeable difference when viewed side-by-side with OLED, but negligible and worth the trade off for glare omission.

The separation of features for iPad Pro based on storage tiers makes the 1TB and up tier feel like an even more premium option. It is a weird move by Apple to force binning and RAM to change based on storage, but one they've pulled before.

Of course, no matter what Apple does to the Apple hardware, it doesn't affect iPadOS, at least not by much. The Apple Pencil Pro adds interesting functionality, like the ability to run a Shortcut using a squeeze gesture, but iPadOS is still missing a few features like the ability to record podcasts.

The Magic Keyboard is an excellent upgrade and the larger trackpad makes a big difference. More viewing angles, better materials, and an unchanged typing experience improve the use case overall.

The great Apple laptop trade-off



The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern suggests using the iPad Pro is like driving a Ferrari on a golf course. It has so much power and capability hampered by a mobile operating system.

A render of an iPad Pro shown from the front, side, and back
iPad Pro has a lot of power with M4, but some workflows just aren't possible



Comparing the iPad Pro to a MacBook leads to some interesting results. The iPad Pro has an amazing OLED display and a powerful M4 processor, but it can't run macOS.

Any Mac you choose also has more than just a single USB-C port. Battery life has also remained a consistent 10 hours despite the MacBook Pro reaching 15 hours.

Stern hopes that the iPad will one day be able to run macOS. She asked Apple's vice president of iPad and Mac product marketing, Tom Boger, about it and he remained firm on his previous claims.

Boger says iPadOS is built for touch, macOS isn't. They are different paradigms, though he did say "oh, I can't say we never change our mind."



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,416member
    It's great to see Apple continuing to invest in the high end tablet market. For all intents and purposes they own this market segment and have for quite some time. Despite their overwhelming dominance they keep their foot firmly planted on the accelerator. So many other companies in a similar situation would put it in idle and coast along believing that their dominance was insurmountable by the competition, which is another way of saying "digging their own grave." Not Apple.

    I think we'll soon start to see why Apple feels a need to outfit their best tablets with the best hardware they have in their arsenal. 
    williamlondonretrogusto
  • Reply 2 of 12
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 882member
    Since we know that M-chips are capable of booting into either iPadOS or MacOS, why couldn't an iPad be capable of booting into either one per the choice of the user? If you boot into iPadOS, it behaves like a normal iPad. If you boot into MacOS, you lose touch screen capability, it behaves like normal MacOS and and you use it (with a Magic Keyboard attached) exactly as you would use a Macbook. Of course, we know that Apple doesn't want to sell us just one device, so this will never happen. But it's certainly possible to do.

    In the realm of what Apple at least MIGHT do: will this be the year, finally, that they unveil an iPadOS worthy of iPad hardware? Joanna Stern's "Ferrari on a golf course" description is exactly right, and has been for years. 600 horsepower and nowhere to go. 
    williamlondonentropysmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 12
    mpantonempantone Posts: 2,067member
    charlesn said:
    Since we know that M-chips are capable of booting into either iPadOS or MacOS, why couldn't an iPad be capable of booting into either one per the choice of the user?
    My guess is that Apple has iPads running macOS in the lab. They probably have a Mac running iPadOS. The latter isn't a stretch since they have that mode that lets you use iPhone/iPad apps on a Mac.

    In fact, I assume that Apple has tried macOS on iPads for years. But they choose to keep iPadOS on the iPad. It's probably a marketing decision rather than some sort of engineering roadblock.

    Hopefully the new version of iPadOS coming this fall will better exploit some of these new hardware capabilities of the M4 chip.
    edited May 13 elijahg
  • Reply 4 of 12
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,192member
    Yeah I amusingly thought it is more likely MacOS would be absorbed into iPadOS.

    seriously though, if iPadOS had
    *the MacOS finder,
    *better, easy to use windowing
    *better, easier to use multitasking, and
    *multiple user accounts
    the grief would mostly go away.
    mattinozwilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 12
    If that ran MacOS I would buy one in a heartbeat.

    My MacBook its so heavy. and unnecessary for the office work I do, but iPad OS can't even print properly. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 12
    prolineproline Posts: 223member
    entropys said:
    Yeah I amusingly thought it is more likely MacOS would be absorbed into iPadOS.

    seriously though, if iPadOS had
    *the MacOS finder,
    *better, easy to use windowing
    *better, easier to use multitasking, and
    *multiple user accounts
    the grief would mostly go away.
    Well yeah, if the iPad was just another Mac, then there would be no grief about it not being a Mac. It also wouldn't even exist.
    michelb76
  • Reply 7 of 12
    nubusnubus Posts: 414member
    proline said:
     if the iPad was just another Mac, then there would be no grief about it not being a Mac. It also wouldn't even exist.
    Other vendors are offering laptops with touch. Why wouldn't Apple be able to bring iPadOS and macOS together?
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 12
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,348member
    proline said:
    entropys said:
    Yeah I amusingly thought it is more likely MacOS would be absorbed into iPadOS.

    seriously though, if iPadOS had
    *the MacOS finder,
    *better, easy to use windowing
    *better, easier to use multitasking, and
    *multiple user accounts
    the grief would mostly go away.
    Well yeah, if the iPad was just another Mac, then there would be no grief about it not being a Mac. It also wouldn't even exist.

    To me, that is the point at which Apple should be trying to make a convincing Mac killer rather than just conceding to wedging MacOS on another device. After all, that would look weak at this point, especially as VisionOS wants most of the same upgrades. 

     Would agree with the list above mostly.
    - Better windowing and multitasking go hand-in-hand to me and has steady improvements the last couple of years. 
    - Finderish upgrades to Files are really needed.
    - Multiple accounts, yes, please; indeed, could we go further and have sub-users or workspaces for the same user, both in terms of securing some data but also to allowing demarcation of roles we have in life? (indeed this would be good with a Finder/Files overhaul on all devices)

    Would add-
    - Allow apps to have within their own sandbox user-generated code (complied or script). Plug-ins, mods, automation, whatever it is in various segments it is needed to allow all sorts of Apps to harness the device. 

    Understanding 2 out 3 in one year is probably a big ask, all 3 would be huge. 

    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 12
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 637member
    nubus said:
    proline said:
     if the iPad was just another Mac, then there would be no grief about it not being a Mac. It also wouldn't even exist.
    Other vendors are offering laptops with touch. Why wouldn't Apple be able to bring iPadOS and macOS together?
    Because it sucks. The OS experience on those laptops totally sucks with touch. Exactly why Apple isn't doing this (yet).
    thtwilliamlondonmattinoz
  • Reply 10 of 12
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,966member
    Just a talking point for the tech geeks. The iPad Pro continues to be the best of its kind by far and I look forward to using it as secondary display next to a larger Apple display occasionally.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    dutchlorddutchlord Posts: 223member
    Exactly. Apple has the wrong priorities. They keep producing faster iPad’s, but speed/performance is a non-issue. I never had a slow Apple device, even after using it for years. iPadOS is the blocker and Apple keeps implementing incremental improvements and seems to lack courage to do some radical improvements. 
    Come on Apple, the file system and the multi-tasking is a joke in iPadOS for years. I am really done with iPad with iPadOS and prefer to have a MBP with touch screen running MacOS instead. For the record, I have an iPad Pro and really like it, but I daily experience the limitations and always come back to using my MBP instead. It’s a shame as the iPad has much more potential if, finally, Apple puts off the gloves.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 12
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,753member
    dewme said:
    It's great to see Apple continuing to invest in the high end tablet market. For all intents and purposes they own this market segment and have for quite some time. Despite their overwhelming dominance they keep their foot firmly planted on the accelerator. So many other companies in a similar situation would put it in idle and coast along believing that their dominance was insurmountable by the competition, which is another way of saying "digging their own grave." Not Apple.

    I think we'll soon start to see why Apple feels a need to outfit their best tablets with the best hardware they have in their arsenal. 
    I wouldn't say they kept their foot on the accelerator if they completely skipped an iPad update for an entire year. Prior to this new update, the last iPad refresh was in 2022.

    While Apple has a sizeable chunk of the world's tablet market, it went down to 36% in a recent Canalys YoY report comparing Q1-23 and Q1-24.

    In terms of design, that year without an update really left its mark with competitors pushing ahead on the size, tiny bezels, thin and light side of things. That has been corrected now, but literally right now, while those other machines were on the market last year and will see upgrades this year. 

    The Apple Pencil upgrade is welcome and I'm sure it will be handy to some, but even here, there are other very competitive options that have been on the market for a while already (NearLink, instant connection, zero latency, 10,000 levels of pressure sensitivity).

    The big question is if Apple will wait until 2025 to upgrade these machines. That, IMO, would be a huge error because the competition is (and was) bringing top quality tablets to market (and eating up share) while Apple rested on its laurels. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
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