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iPad Pro M1 12.9 (2021) Review: The Best Display Ever

The iPad Pro M1 12.9″ (2021) benefits from a new screen, an M1 processor, and a 5G connection.

For a few months, rumors about a new iPad Pro were going well, then Apple finally announced it during a keynote in which it had the secret. As usual, Tim Cook, the big boss of Apple, used all the superlatives he knew to present the newcomer (and he knows a lot).

Therefore, the iPad Pro vintage 2021 would benefit from an amazing screen and would be the most powerful iPad ever marketed (until the next one, of course). Not to mention a fantastic front camera and lots of other cool stuff. 

While we were there, we also looked at the aspects that were a little less highlighted. And the least we can say is that the new iPad Pro is amazing in more ways than one!

The iPad Pro M1 2021 started selling in May for 1000 USD(128 GB Wifi version) or 1500 USD if you add a 5G connection. It is also available in 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB versions, with and without a 5G connection. Apple’s configuration for 1 TB of storage and a 5G connection. It is available for 1700 USD.

See detailed review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

Design

It’s virtually impossible to tell the new iPad Pro M1 from the previous model at a glance. If we except for a thickness increased by 0.5 mm and an overweight of 42 grams due to using a micro-LED screen (685 grams against 643 grams for the 2020 version), the newcomer is strictly identical to its predecessor.

However, this slight thickening may make certain accessories designed for the previous generation incompatible.

Display

Rather than opting for OLED and its derivatives, Apple has been faithful since the first iPad to LCD technology. The manufacturer is changing the definition and the technologies fitted to the panels of its tablets, but always in LCD. A priori, this might seem surprising since the iPhone family is slowly but surely switching to OLED.

None of that on the iPad, then. Apple concocts more and more powerful technologies over the generations. The latest is called “Liquid Retina XDR” and looks like a sister to the one fitted to the Pro Display XDR designed to accompany the latest generation Mac Pro. Before going any further, note that only the 12.9″ iPad Pro benefits from this technology, the 11″ iPad being satisfied with a more classic LCD panel.

According to Apple, the screen of the iPad Pro 12.9″ would have nothing to envy to an OLED panel: contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, the brightness of 1000 nits (1600 nits peak on HDR images) and deep blacks are included. The manufacturer does not exaggerate. The mini-LED type backlighting incorporates more than 10,000 LEDs grouped into 2,500 zones, each controlled independently of the others.

The blacks are much deeper and, above all, completely black, where there was a slight halo on the previous model. The colorimetry is excellent from the first use, the iPad being calibrated at the factory. We will not forget to mention the refresh rate of 120 Hz, which ensures great fluidity in animated images.

We compared the iPad’s image to that produced by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 Plus. This is our absolute reference in tablet display, its Super AMOLED panel being breathtaking. It isn’t easy to detect a noticeable difference in the rendering, except for a slightly fairer colorimetry on the iPad than on the Samsung tablet. The device’s colors are by default boosted to make them more flattering to the eye.

Undoubtedly, the Liquid Retina XDR screen of the iPad Pro largely lives up to the promises made by Apple.

Performance

The 12.9” iPad Pro features an Apple-designed Silicon M1 SoC. This one is not exactly unknown since we have already seen it on the MacBook Pro 13” M1 and the MacBook Air M1. Based on ARM architecture, it has a main processor and a graphics chip, each with 8 cores and a 16-core neural engine.

Everything is served by 16 GB of unified memory and has internal storage ranging from 128 GB to 2 TB depending on the model (not expandable). The Silicon M1 with MacBook sauce is impressively fast. Logically, there is such a high level of performance on the iPad Pro.

The 2020 version of the tablet included the already very powerful SoC A12X Bionic. According to Apple, the Silicon M1 is 50% faster in pure computing power, the graphics processor being 40% faster. Note in passing that with a score of 1,107,425 points, the iPad Pro M1 is the first mobile device whose Antutu score easily exceeds the million mark. By comparison, the 2020 12.9-inch iPad Pro scored 743,121 points, making it the most powerful tablet available.

The iPad Pro M1 is indeed a powerhouse when it comes to computing capacity. Suppose Apple was not exaggerating in asserting it. In that case, we are still waiting for applications that fully exploit these resources to see the real gains made by the Silicon M1 processor.

Camera

At first glance, the iPad Pro 2021 does not stand out from its predecessor. We always find the same square design with straight edges and slightly rounded corners, with borders a little thick to surround the flat screen.

On the back is the same photo module with its two 12 Mpx wide-angle (f / 1.8) and ultra-wide-angle 10 Mpx (f / 2.4 – 125 °) photosensors and its LiDAR for better appreciation of the distances between the photographed subject and you. The photo quality is always optimal – even if it is not the most practical to photograph with an iPad Pro of this size – thanks to the presence of Smart HDR 3 technology, an optical zoom x2 (digital up to x5 ), or improved autofocus.

The change in front for a new 12 MP ultra-wide-angle sensor with the Center Frame function (which follows you when you are on a video call) is a very interesting addition when video conferences have become commonplace. All without compromising on the ever-present TrueDepth facial recognition.

Battery life

Apple announces that the iPad Pro M1 has a battery that can provide it with up to 10 hours of continuous use. Of course, the battery life varies greatly depending on the use made of the machine.

In our case, we lasted more than a day and a half, making the tablet our main work tool. We added the very efficient and expensive Magic Keyboard ($399) and the very expensive second-generation Apple Pencil ($135). Thus equipped, we entered text, consulted emails and websites, did a lot of photo editing, watched videos, and played games.

Apple provides the machine with a 20 Watt mains unit. We quickly abandoned it, its power not allowing very fast charging. Instead, we used the one from a 16” MacBook Pro, which fully replenished the battery in less than 90 minutes. It is time for the manufacturer to be less stingy about a product of this price.

Multimedia

The iPad Pro M1 has 4 speakers. Whether it’s video chatting, listening to music, or watching movies, the sound produced is very creditable. Even if they will not vibrate the machine, the bass is correctly represented despite its small thickness.

There is good spatialization, regardless of the position of use (portrait or landscape). The bass comes from all the speakers, while the mids and highs are automatically diffused by the pair located in the high position. Finally, audio capture is provided by five microphones that produce good quality stereophonic sound.

This may not be the most visible point, but the connector at the iPad base is now Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C 4 type, which gives it a maximum theoretical throughput of 40 Gb / sec. It does not change much if we are content to connect a USB key or a traditional SSD.

On the other hand, Thunderbolt 3 allows the use of a screen like the Pro Display XDR, whose resolution reaches 6K. You can also use ultra-fast Thunderbolt 3 compatible storage or possibly a 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

Accessories

Depending on the use made of the tablet, it is almost essential to opt for some accessories that Apple is happy to sell at a high price. But are they worth it?

The Apple Pencil 2 is undoubtedly the most popular. Able to handle 4096 levels of pressure and incline, it offers near-zero latency. A double press on its touch zone allows you to change tools depending on the application used.

If it is undeniably expensive (135 USD anyway), it must be recognized that it is surely the most pleasant stylus to use. We adopted it to take notes, doodle, and precisely retouch photos.

Fans of text input choose between the Smart Keyboard Folio or the Magic Keyboard. If the first is very expensive, the second has a price that we do not hesitate to describe as indecent: you will have to pay the modest sum of 219 USD to acquire it! We are entitled to expect for this price irreproachable performances. They are very satisfactory for the less expensive of the two and excellent for the other.

The Smart Keyboard Folio has limited but pleasant stroke keys. A magnetic mechanism ensures contact with the tablet, which automatically recognizes its presence. It acts as a protective and transport case for the tablet when folded. Having taken it in hand for many months on the iPad Pro 2020, we can recommend this keyboard for semi-intensive use. Besides its price, its main drawback is the lack of backlighting of the keys.

The Magic Keyboard is close to perfect. Its comfortable keyboard has backlit keys and a trackpad. A magnetic mechanism associated with the tilting support allows you to adjust its angle of use. It then gives the impression of floating in the air while remaining very stable.

It also has a trackpad, avoiding touching the screen to validate the dialog boxes. It folds over the screen like its little brother to protect it during transport.

The designers of the Magic Keyboard had a good idea of ​​equipping it with a USB-C socket. This only allows the connection of a charger, which leaves the Thunderbolt port free to connect, for example, a storage medium.

Conclusion!

The new iPad Pro M1 12.9” has some interesting advantages if it is not revolutionary. Certainly, its design does not move one iota, but why would we complain? Slim and functional, it offers everything needed to make the user’s life easier.

We were won over by almost every aspect of the machine. Based on a mini-LED LCD panel, its screen is marvelous if you pay attention to image quality. The Silicon M1 SoC, identical to that fitted to the new MacBook Pro and Air, is a monster of power. We, of course, appreciate the presence of a 5G connection, the very good battery, and the presence of a Thunderbolt 3 connector allowing the machine to be integrated into a professional workflow.

However, we regret that Apple does not consider it useful to provide a more powerful AC adapter to provide faster charging. In the same vein, we would have liked to find in the box the excellent Appel Pencil 2, which quickly becomes essential for creative professionals.

Finally, it’s a shame that its price puts the iPad Pro M1 out of reach for many potential users. The entry ticket for the basic model is still 1000 USD (128 GB of storage, Wifi connection), or 90 USD more expensive than a MacBook Air M1. Our test configuration (1 TB Wifi + 5G) is worth 1700 USD. Something to seriously think about before making a purchase.

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