A Review of the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

It is odd to think that the iPad has been around just over 11 years now. In the intervening time, the capabilities of the iPad have significantly improved. Not every iteration of the iPad hardware has been a giant leap, but they have all had some sort of improvement. It is now well known that Apple began working on the iPad before the iPhone. However, that project was put on hold because the technology was not yet ready. Once ready, Apple decided to show it to the world. 

Unlike the iPhone, I have not personally owned every new model of the iPad. I have owned seven iPads. Here are  models that I have owned:

  • 32GB Original iPad – Wi-Fi Only
  • 32GB iPad 2nd Generation – Wi-Fi Only
  • 32GB iPad 3rd Generation – Wi-Fi Only
  • 64GB iPad Air 2 – Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • 128GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1st Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • 256GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2nd Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • 256GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) – Wi-Fi + Cellular

As you can see, as time has gone on I have increased the amount of storage that I have purchased as well as including cellular on the later models. Some of this comes with the amount of storage increasing over time. Apple has not always provided the ideal amount of storage for the base models. This is, of course, by design. Apple tries to generate additional revenue by using the “good, better, best” approach to pricing, where you provide a variety of price points. For some, the base model is sufficient, while most will buy the “better” model, and those who want the most will go for the “best” model. The way that Apple typically does this is by providing different storage sizes. 

The storage is not the only way that can provide choices for users. A second way is by providing options for cellular. Cellular models always have an additional cost to them, but being able to use your iPad anywhere, can be a major benefit for some users. While I do not use cellular that often, it is a nice to be able to use cellular in those cases when internet goes out at home or if I am out and about and want to use the iPad for something.

As you may have also noticed, while I have owned a fair number of iPads, I have not purchased one for each generation. In particular, I did not buy a 4th Generation iPad Pro. The reason for this is because the upgrade was not enough of an upgrade to justify buying one. I also did not upgrade to the 4th generation iPad when Apple released the that in September of 2011. In that instance, while it would’ve been a bigger upgrade, I had just purchased the 3rd generation in March of 2011, and I could not justify spending the money to purchase another iPad so soon.

With Apple releasing a new iPad Pro, I have decided to upgrade my iPad to a 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. As mentioned earlier, I do not go with the base model. The same continues this time around as well. The last two iPads that I have purchased have had 256GB of storage. On my 3rd generation iPad, I have about 78 GB free, so I am not really in need of a larger iPad. 

However, I did buy a 512GB 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro to replace my 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The reason I went for the larger size was for future proofing. While I may not need additional storage now, I might need it in the future and I would rather spend a bit more on the extra storage now instead of replacing the iPad or having to manage the storage. Before we dive into my thoughts and information about the latest iPad Pro, we need to look at a short history of the iPad.

Brief History of iPad

The first iPad was announced in January of 2010 and released three months later in 2010. Prior to the release of the iPad, there was speculation on the price of the iPad. At the time, many suspected it would cost $999. However, Apple shocked everyone with a price of $499. By today’s standards the original iPad was woefully underpowered, yet at the time, the iPad worked quite well and did exactly what it said. 

The second generation iPad, released in March of 2011, improved a bit on the original, mostly in design. Gone was the hump in the back. In its place, a flat back and a faster processor. The first significant change was the 3rd generation iPad. Besides being slightly faster, it had a significant improvement, a Retina screen. The Retina screen allowed for higher fidelity of video as well as better graphics for the system and apps.

A mere six months after the release of the 3rd generation iPad, Apple released the 4th generation iPad. The changes were better graphics processor, because many complained about the jittery scrolling when using graphics heavy apps and games. The bigger change was the connector. Gone was the 30-pin connector and in its place was the new connector. A smaller and reversible connector that Apple called Lightning. 

For the first three versions of the iPad, they all had the same screen size of 9.7 inches. At the same event where Apple announced the 4th generation iPad, they also made another change, a new device, the iPad mini. The iPad mini used the same internals as the 4th generation iPad, but in a smaller size of 7.9 inches, and it was still a retina screen.

In 2013, Apple decided to append a suffix to the name of the regular 9.7-inch iPad. They called it the iPad Air. The iPad Air was named such because the weight of the device was significantly reduced, by 25%. This made it the lightest and easiest iPad to hold and use. 

The iPad Air’s successor, the iPad Air 2, was released in October of 2014. The device maintained the same light design, but was even thinner than its predecessor. The original iPad Air was 7.5 mm, or 0.3 inches, thick whereas the iPad Air 2 was 12% thinner at 6.1 mm or 0.24 inches thick. Despite being introduced in 2014, the iPad Air 2 is still supported by the latest version of iOS, as of this writing, iOS 14. 

Apple unveils the newest version of the operating systems at their World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC. At the WWDC following the release of the iPad Air 2, Apple unveiled iOS 9. The biggest change with iOS 9 was two new way of interacting, called SplitView and Slide-over. These two interactions allowed you to run multiple applications at a single time. 

Throughout its 4 year life, the iPad was primarily a consumption device. However, the additional of Slide-over and SplitView allowed the iPad to be used for even more of a creation device. As much as the iPad Air 2 was capable of being a creation device, the device for which iOS 9 was created was released in November of 2015. That device, was a whole new iPad, called the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro (1st Generation)

1st Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

The iPad Pro was a significant improvement over the iPad Air 2. The first of these was the size of the screen. The iPad Pro has a 33% larger screen at 12.9-inch. This sized screen allowed for two full-size iPad apps to run side-by-side, and a third with SlideOver. Being able to use multiple applications at a single time is great, you can definitely be more productive. However, there is one addition to the iPad Pro that allowed you to be even more productive and create even more on the iPad Pro. That item was a new iPad Pro accessory called the Apple Pencil.

The Apple Pencil is a Bluetooth device that allows for precision drawing including pressure sensitivity and it can even sense which angle the pencil is being held at and adjust accordingly. Six months after the release of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple released another iPad Pro, this one was the same size as the original iPad, at 9.7-inches. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro had the same internals as the 12.9-inch version, and supported the Apple Pencil. The main difference is that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro could support two full-size iPad apps, but only in landscape.

iPad Pro (2nd Generation)

The iPad Pro was followed up by the 2nd Generation iPad Pro. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro was released approximately 18 months after the first iPad Pro, specifically June 2017. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro improved on the original iPad Pro, just like the 2nd generation iPad improved on the original. The 2nd Generation iPad Pro kept the same screen size, but the device was thinner. The 2nd generation iPad Pro also came with another iPad Pro, but not with a 9.7-inch screen. In order to differentiate the iPad Pro from other iPads, it had a 10.5-inch screen. Along with the different size, there was a new screen technology called Pro Motion. Pro Motion is a 120 Hz screen that provides even smoother motion and allowed for improved Apple Pencil support. 

iPad Pro (3rd Generation)

3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

The 3rd Generation iPad Pro was been the biggest change to the iPad Pro line. Apple unveiled the 3rd Generation iPad Pro in November of 2018, approximately 18 months after the 2nd Generation model. The 3rd Generation iPad Pro was not a small update. The first change with the 3rd Generation iPad Pro was that it has a much smaller bezel. The screen used a new edge-to-edge display. 

The smaller bezel allowed a consistent edge around all of the edges. With the bezels being smaller, and consistent, the home button was removed. In its place is the Face ID sensor. The Face ID sensor was first introduced with the iPhone X in 2017. 

The new bezels also supported a new shape. The 3rd Generation iPad Pro took its design cues from the iPhone 5. By this, the sides of the device are square, as opposed to tapered as the previous models had. This allowed for a few other changes. 

The chief amongst these is a revision to the Apple Pencil, the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). This version of the Apple Pencil still connects via Bluetooth, but there is no connector on the Apple Pencil. Instead, it charges via magnets that are on one of the edges of the iPad Pro. Placing the Apple Pencil on the top of the iPad would perform two things. First is that it would pair the Apple Pencil to the iPad Pro, and it would begin charging of the Apple Pencil.

The next change is the type of connector. With the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad Pro, the lightning connector was removed and replaced with a USB-C connector. This connector allows for faster connectivity and also allows for additional devices to be connected directly to the iPad. 

The last change was that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro was no more. In its place was an 11-inch model. This had the same exact features as the 12.9-inch model, just smaller. 

iPad Pro (4th Generation)

The 4th Generation iPad Pro, as well as the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro, were more minor upgrades. These were introduced in March of 2020. There were only two changes with this model. The first is that the processor was slightly upgraded from an A12X in the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro to an A12Z in the 4th Generation model. The difference with the processor was that there was one additional graphical processing unit core, 8 in the A12Z as opposed to the 7 in the A12X.

The second change was a bit more of a change. This one is around the camera. There is a whole new camera system. This one includes a LiDAR Scanner. Over the last few years Apple has been pushing augmented reality, and the LiDAR scanner allows for faster calculations and object detection. The LiDAR camera system appeared in the iPad Pro before coming to the iPhone 12 line.

Now that we have covered the history of the iPad Pro line, it is time to discuss the latest in the line, the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro

The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro was introduced at Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event. Many suspected that Apple would introduce a new iPad Pro, and they most certainly did. The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro has made a significant set of improvements to the iPad. Some of these include, the internals, the screen, and connectivity changes. It is difficult to decide which upgrade is the biggest change to the iPad Pro, but let us start with the screen.

Screen

5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro Liquid Retina XDR Display

There are a variety of different ways to interact with an iPad. You can use the Apple Pencil, a Magic Keyboard, or even Siri. Each of these has its own positives and negatives. The primary interaction surface for almost any iPad is the screen. The screen on the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a whole new display technology. Apple calls this display the “Liquid Retina XDR display”. 

The Liquid Retina XDR display is currently exclusive to the 12.9-inch iPad and uses a newer technology called Mini-LED. mini-LED. Mini-LED is a newer technology that takes standard LEDs and shrinks them. On the 12.9-inch iPad there are 120x smaller than previous LEDs. The iPad Pro has 10,384 individual LEDs that are grouped into 2,596 local dimming zones. 

These dimming zones allow the iPad to provide even more precise color control. In fact, the screen has a standard brightness of 600 nits, which is the same as the previous models. However, the full brightness is 1000 nits when the screen is at full brightness. If you add in the High Dynamic Range capabilities, the maximum brightness of 1600 nits. This is the exact same specs as Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR monitor. 

What this results in is that people can have the same XDR experience across all of their devices. No longer will you need to use an XDR device only at the end, in order to fix any color differences. Instead, you can use the iPad Pro to get the proper coloring throughout your entire workflow. The Liquid Retina XDR display will still support Pro Motion and run at 120Hz, as well as True Tone and the P3 Color gamut. 

It is not easy to articular in words the differences between the new screen and the old screen. It is much easier to show in pictures. So, here is a picture of the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro as compared to the 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

3rd Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 5th Gen iPad Pro Screen comparison
Comparison of the screens between the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Left) and the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (right)
3rd Gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 5th Gen iPad Pro Screen comparison
Comparison of the screens between the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Left) and the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro (right)

The screen is a significant improvement over the previous models. There is another item that is an improvement, but may not be as noticeable to many users, and that is changes to the connectivity.

Connectivity

There are a few different types of connectivity on the iPad Pro. This includes a physical connector, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and if you opt to get it, Cellular. Let us start with Wi-Fi and Cellular.

Wi-Fi and Cellular

Each model since the first iPad back in 2010 has had the option of either purchasing an iPad with Wi-Fi only or with Wi-Fi + Cellular. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Generations of iPad all had 802.11 a/b/g/n and optional 3G connectivity in either CDMA or GSM models.

Starting in 2013, with the iPad mini 2, the cellular models came with support for LTE, which provided even faster cellular connectivity over the 4G connectivity.

The original 12.9-inch iPad Pro brought 802.11AC connectivity, which would allow for faster connections over Wi-Fi. Each subsequent iPad has has the same, until the 4th Generation iPad Pro. The Wi-Fi connectivity was upgraded to Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11AX. The benefit of Wi-Fi 6 is that you can connect wireless connectivity speeds up to 3.5Gbps, in ideal conditions. This is accomplished by aggregating multiple connections to the same base station. 

The 5th generation iPad Pro has improved the cellular connectivity beyond LTE. The cellular models now support 5G connectivity, just like the iPhone 12 line. The 5G connectivity can, again in ideal conditions, provide a maximum speed of up to 1Gbps. If you connect to a millimeter wave, or mmWave, service then you are more likely to get faster speeds.

While you may not see much difference in speeds between LTE and 5G in many places, it is likely over the next few years that 5G will become even faster and more ubiquitous. Given that iPads generally last longer and are kept longer, investing in 5G now could pay off down the road.

Physical Connectivity

No iOS or iPadOS device has ever had more than two physical ports. These have been a headphone jack and the power connector. Starting with the 3rd Generation iPad Pro, the headphone jack was removed and the lightning connector was replaced with a USB-C connection.

Even though there is as physical connection on the iPad Pro, a vast majority of users will almost never physically connect anything to their iPad. However, the iPad Pro, as the name implies, is aimed at professional users. Professional users are one group who might actually connect items to their iPad Pro. The 3rd and 4th Generation iPad Pros had USB-C connectors. 

On the 3rd and 4th Generation iPad Pros you were able to connect a variety of items via the USB-C connection. This could include thumb drives, card readers, and cameras. Furthermore, you could also connect a powered, or non-powered, USB Hub that has a USB-C connection, so that you could connect multiple drives at the same time. 

The USB-C connection on the 3rd and 4th generation iPad Pro utilizes USB 3.1 Gen 2. This protocol has a maximum speed up to 10 Gbps. In most cases, this is sufficient in terms of speed. However, if you are working on 4K video and want to be able to do work on a large video directly from a drive, it may not be sufficient. 

The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad changes this arrangement up a bit. The device still has a USB-C connection, however it is no longer strictly USB. Instead, it is a combination Thunderbolt/USB4 connection. The connector is till the same USB-C type of connector and you can still connect the same USB devices as before. 

The speed that these will be able to connect at depends on the connection type. Most current devices are USB 3.1 Gen 2, or earlier, so these devices will have a maximum speed of 10Gbps. If they are USB4 devices, then you will be able to connect at speeds up to 40 Gbps. 

The fact that the port supports Thunderbolt means that you can connect any thunderbolt device, provided it can connect using a USB-C connector.  When you do connect a Thunderbolt device, you ill be able to have connectivity of up to 40 Gbps. This is a significant speed increase over most USB devices.

You might think it is a bit odd to have an iPad with Thunderbolt, because why would Apple want to include Thunderbolt on the iPad. It is possible that Apple wanted to further differentiate the iPad Pro from the iPad Air, but Apple was able to provide it because of the bigger change to the iPad, the processor.

Processor

Each of the previous iPads has had an A-Series processor. The original iPad had an A4, and the 4th generation iPad Pro had an A12Z. You could not be faulted if you were to suspect that the iPad Pro would use the slight variant of the processor as the latest iPhones. The iPhone 12 uses the A14, so it would make sense that Apple would include an A14X. However, Apple did not do that. Apple decided to go a different direction.

At their World Wide Developer Conference in 2020 Apple announced that were creating their own processors for the Mac. Apple was able to take what they learned from developing the iPhone and iPad to be able to tailor the processor to provide an overall experience. In November of 2020, Apple announced the first devices to use their new Apple Silicon processor. Apple called the processor the M1. The M1 is a faster processor compared to almost anything else on the market, and significantly faster than the Intel processors that were used in the Macs. 

The M1 is not just a processor. Instead it is a System on a Chip, or SoC. The M1 is not Apple’s first custom SoC. In fact all iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices that have been equipped with an Apple A-series chip have been an SoC. This is also the case for the Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePods.

For the M1, the SoC consists of more than just the central processor. In fact it includes the processor, graphics, and a 16-core Neural Engine. Along with this, comes the Unified Memory Architecture, or UMA. In traditional computer configurations, you have memory that is a separated from the rest of the system and on their own dedicated chips that connect to the system on the motherboard. A Unified Memory Architecture is one where the the processor, graphics, and in Apple’s case, neural engine, all share the same memory. 

In a traditional computer, each subsystem would have its own memory. For instance, there is the main system memory, which is accessed by the central processing unit, or CPU. The graphical processing unit, or GPU, has its own dedicated memory. There are some tasks that are better suited for a graphics chip while others that are better suited for the CPU. In order to be the most efficient and process things most efficiently, different segments of the memory need to be transferred between the two processors. This transfer, while it takes very little time in reality, it can still take some time.

With the M1, this processor, graphics processor, and neural engine all share the same memory pool. What this means is that there is no delay in switching between using the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. This results in the system processing items significantly faster.

The M1 chip is an 8-core chip, with four performance cores and four high efficiency cores. When you do not need top performance the efficiency cores will be utilized. However, when you need speed those processors will be used. This is beneficial for all Macs running the M1, but there is a specific benefit for portable systems. While this is not the case with the iPad, it still has the same “all day” battery life, which is approximately 10 hours, it is absolutely the case for the Macs running an M1 processor.

As of right now, I have not really noticed any significant difference in the overall speed of the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as compared to the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, in every day usage, at least how I use the iPad Pro. That may change as time goes on, depending on the advances in iPadOS.

Physical Size

The physical measurements of the iPad Pro are almost the same as the 3rd and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro models. The have the same height of 11.04 inches, or 280.6mm, and a width of 8.46 inches, or 214.9mm. There is a slight difference in the depth. The older iPad Pro models had a depth of 0.23 inches or 5.9mm; whereas the 5th Generation iPad Pro is 0.25 inches or 6.4mm. 

The 0.5mm difference is needed to accommodate the new Mini-LED screen and the 2596 local dimming zones. It is likely that future models will possibly be thinner again, but it cannot be guaranteed.

This is a slight difference, which most users will not notice in day to day usage. However, for certain accessories this will become a problem. For example take the Kensington StudioDock that was just released in January of 2021. This device allows you to connect your iPad and also charge your other devices, like the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods using the base of the device. Due to the thickness change the new 5th Generation iPad Pro is not compatible with the StudioDock.

The Kensington dock is not the only accessory that might have this issue. Apple’s own Magic Keyboard, which was just released a year go, in May of 2020, also has the same issue. If you try to put the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro into the 2020 Magic Keyboard, it will fit. However, the Magic Keyboard will not close all the way. Trying to force the Magic Keyboard to close will likely cause either the Magic Keyboard to break, or it will cause damage to the iPad Pro.

2nd Generation 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard

Neither of these devices is cheap. The Magic Keyboard is $349 and spending an additional $349 when you just bought one last year might be a bit much for some people to spend. The StudioDock is is not an inexpensive accessory either.. For the 12.9-inch Model, the Kensington StudioDock is $399. 

I am a bit irritated by this. I understand that the increased thickness is a limit of the current technology, but with Apple knowing that this might have happened, the first generation Magic Keyboard could have been a bit thicker to accommodate future products, but that is not the way of Apple.

Storage

Apple offers the iPad at various price points. There could be a variety of ways to differentiate prices for an iPad. Unlike the Mac, the iPad only has one processor option. Apple uses storage size as a differentiation in their pricing. Over time Apple has added additional size options. Each generation of iPad Pro Apple seems to make a change to the storage options available. 

The 1st Generation iPad Pro had three storage options, 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB. The 2nd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro kept the same number of storage options, but they were doubled to 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. The 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro  added a fourth option, a 1TB option. 

The 1TB option in the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro came with more RAM than the other models. It had 6GB instead of the standard 4GB. The additional RAM was needed to accommodate the larger file system tables needed by the 1TB SSD. 

The 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro doubled the base storage again to 128GB. The options were 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. One additional change was that all of the 12.9-inch models came with 6GB of RAM. This additional memory was needed to accommodate the LiDAR sensor and its processing.

Staying with the previous trends, the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has added yet another storage tier bringing the total to five. These options are:

  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB

There is one thing that Apple does not generally do when announcing iPhones, iPod touches, or iPads and that is provide the amount of RAM within the devices. The reason provided is that the amount of RAM does not need to be known to end-users. For the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro Apple did not specify the RAM, instead users went looking and found out it had 6GB of RAM. 

While this has not been the case in the past, this actually changes with the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple has actually provided the amount of memory in each iPad. The 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models each have 8GB of RAM, while the 1TB and 2TB options each have 16GB.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the difference. My guess is that the additional memory is needed on the larger sizes. My speculation is that additional memory is needed for the same reason to accommodate the additional file system table for 1TB and 2TB models. The reason that it is 16GB instead of say 12GB is because Apple is already manufacturing M1 processors with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, so instead of created a wholly separate processor just for the iPad, it is probably cheaper, and simpler, to use the existing processors that they are already making.

Pricing

When the original iPad was released, it was widely rumored that the cost would be $999. Apple surprised the world by having the base model cost $499. Since then, there have been various price points for various models. 

The original iPad Pro, introduced in 2015, had a price of $799 and would have a maximum price of $1299. While the base price has remained the same, this is for the 11-inch iPad Pro, and not the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Over the years, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro has increased to a starting price of $1099.

One thing that has remained consistent is that the Wi-Fi + Cellular models have cost more. This is because there is a cost for the cellular modem. While this has typically been $130, that has changed with this latest iPad. Instead, the cellular models now cost $200 more.

Here is the breakdown for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro based on storage size, and Wi-Fi only compared to Wi-Fi + Cellular:

Size Wi-Fi Only Wi-Fi + Cellular
128GB $1099 $1299
256GB $1199 $1399
512GB $1399 $1599
1TB $1799 $1999
2TB $2199 $2399

As you can see, there is a wide range of pricing. Once you get above 256GB there is a $200 additional cost to go to the next tier of storage. 

These are the most expensive iPad Pros that Apple has ever produced. However, it may be justifiable due to the inclusion of the M1 and the new and  improved screen, yet it might be a lot for someone to spend on an iPad. 

This is particularly noticeable if you were to compare it to the MacBook Air. A MacBook Air with the same specs of 16GB of memory and 2TB of storage is $2049. This means that the largest iPad Pro with 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory is $150 more expensive. 

Issues

I did run into some small issues, specifically with one of Apple’s Arcade games, Sping. The graphics for this game seems to stutter a bit. The problem with this is that the game requires precise tapping in order to gather the gems and bounce the collection gems. I presume that the game isn’t optimized for the M1 iPad and that is the cause of the stuttering. I presume that there will be additional games that are in the same state. Beyond Sping, I also noticed the same issue with MobilityWare’s Solitaire app with the animations.

The second issue that I experienced had to with the backlight on the iPad Pro. Specifically, at some points the screen would dim, but once I touched a key, or tapped the screen, the screen would not come back to the expected brightness. Even adjusting the actual brightness would not return. 

It should be noted that this did not happen all the time, nor even consistently enough to be able to say what was the cause. There was a simple enough to fix though. Once I put the iPad to sleep and then woke it up again, it went back to normal. I am sure that I am not the only one experiencing this, and it will likely be fixed in an update.

Next, let us look at the software that runs the iPad Pro, iPadOS.

iPadOS

The iPad needs an operating system to power the iPad. Throughout the life of the iPad, there have been instances when it seemed like Apple knew which direction to take the iPad. this was particularly true in 2010 when the iPad was first released, and then again in 2015 with the release of the iPad Pro. However, it does seem as though the iPad has not always received the attention that it deserves.

The hardware for the iPad Pro has outstripped the software since 2018, with the release of the 3rd generation iPad Pro. Apple hinted at big changes at their WWDC 2015 with Split Screen and Slide Over. These features were supported on the iPad Air 2, which was the latest iPad at the time, but were designed for the iPad Pro, released in 2015.

I am writing this review just a couple weeks before Apple unveils iOS 15, and iPadOS 15. While I am hopeful that Apple has a lot in store the M1 iPad Pro in iPadOS 15, I cannot guarantee that it will provide any meaningful improvements. Because of this, it is not a good idea to buy a product based upon its future usage, but what it is capable of, at the current moment. 

Benchmarks

No review is complete without a bunch of obligatory benchmarks. For previous reviews, it was straight forward to compare the current model with the previous model. However, in this case it is not so simple. The reason it is not simple is because there is a significant processor change. Even with this significant processor change, the benchmarks below will still show comparisons to as many different machines, and devices, that I have access to.

Device Single Core Multi-Core
12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 1718 7272
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1104 4619
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1299 2295
iPhone 7 Plus 778 1408
iPod touch (7th Gen) 559 1016
Mac Mini (M1 Late 2020) 8GB 1748 7696
27-inch iMac (Mid-2017) 4.2GHz Quad-Core Core i7 24GB 1124 4703
16-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2019) 2.6GHz 6-Core Core i7 1059 5442
13.3-inch MacBook Pro (Mid-2015) 661 1420
Mac mini (Late 2018) 8GB 3GHz 6-Core Intel Core i5 973 4469
iPod touch (6th Gen) 661 1420

The best comparison is the 5th Generation iPad Pro and the Mac mini that I have. The reason this is best is because they are both an M1 with 8GB of RAM. The only difference is that the 5th Generation iPad has more storage. Outside of that, all of the other specifications are the same between the two devices.

It is quite interesting to see how the Intel Macs compare to the M1. As I said in my review of the M1 Mac mini “In Single Core performance, the M1 mac mini is 8.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max, 54% faster than my iPad Pro, and a whopping 62.8% faster than my 2017 iMac.  Even crazier though, is the multi-core benchmarks. The M1 Mac mini is 57.4% faster than my iPad Pro, 68.2% faster than my 2017 iMac, and 71.4% faster than my iPhone 12 Pro Max. This difference is absolutely noticeable.” This is still accurate. Every time I use my Mac mini I notice the difference with the iMac.

While the scores that were recorded on the 5th generation iPad Pro are a bit lower, therefore the percentages are a bit lower, there is still a significant performance difference between the two devices.

CoreML Scores

Geekbench has a newer app strictly testing machine learning. The settings used for the results below are TensorFlow Lite and using Core ML.

Device CoreML CPU GPU
12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th Gen) 2609 1018 2841
iPhone 12 Pro Max 1939 719 1389
12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd Gen) 1349 692 1906
iPhone 7 Plus 411 407 707
iPod touch (7th Gen) 295 337 555

Geekbench ML is only available for iOS and not yet available on macOS, so the results are strictly for those supported iOS devices.

Closing Thoughts

If you have 3rd generation, and particularly a 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the upgrade may not be worthwhile, depending on your needs. The biggest reason to upgrade to the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, at least at this time, would be for the screen. However, if you have a 2nd generation iPad Pro, or even the original iPad Pro, this would be a fantastic upgrade, even just for the speed increases alone.

The fact that the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro now an M1 processor is a huge step because this is the same processor that is in latest Macs. The iPad is an ideal device to use the processor, given that the iM1 is a power efficient processor that is capable of handling much more than the previous iPad Pro.

While the M1 processor may be the biggest change, it is not the only change to the 5th generation iPad Pro. There is an entirely new screen system. The new screen is a mini-LED. Mini-LED technology provides a lot more dimmable zones, 2,596 as compared to the 72 on the previous model. This means that the 12.9-inch iPad can more accurately make certain areas of the screen brighter than others. This results in darker areas being darker and lighter areas being lighter. The screen makes watching High Dynamic Range movies a better experience. 

Beyond the screen, there are some additional hardware changes including an updated Thunderbolt/USB 4 connector, so you can connect thunderbolt devices directly to your iPad Pro. For many, this will not be all that useful, but for those who do need it, it can be a lifesaver.

While most may not use thunderbolt, it is possible that they will need to connect while on the go. If you need to connect while out and about, you can use cellular data, if you purchase a cellular model of the iPad. If you do opt for the iPad Pro Wi-Fi + Cellular model, it will have 5G connectivity.

As mentioned above, it not necessarily wise to purchase a device for its possible future uses, however, it is more prudent to buy a device for what it can do today. As I write this, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 21 is just over a week away, and it is likely that there will be some improvement to iPadOS, even if it is not exclusive to the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there will likely be something that the next version of iPadOS will bring to the iPad. 

If you are looking to get a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there will be a bit of a wait. As of this writing there is a six to eight week wait to receive a 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. If you really need one sooner, you can try looking at a local Apple Store, or even a an Apple authorized third-party reseller. If you opt for one, I doubt you will be disappointed regardless of which model you purchase.

Additional info from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” Event

I thought I would add a few additional tidbits that have been made known after the Spring Loaded event. The topics will include some new information about iOS 14.5, AirTag, Apple TV, and Macs.

iOS 14.5

One tidbit that was made known is that iOS 14.5 is out today. iOS 14.5 supports AirTag, additional Siri voices, and the Xbox Series X|S and Playstation 5 controllers.

The second thing with iOS 14.5 is that there is a new feature, that may be very helpful for developers. If there are multiple beta versions available, both versions will be shown to the user, so they can decide which beta version they want to install. This will be a nice feature for developers.

The question that remains is whether or not you can downgrade a device to a previous version or not. I would suspect the answer is no.

Apple TV

While there is a lot of information about the new Apple TV 4K, one thing that was not mentioned before is that you can now get AppleCare+ on the Apple TV. You could purchase AppleCare previously, but this only covered two years of support.

Now with AppleCare+, you get up to 3 years of coverage for $29. This includes accidental damage coverage as well.

Macs

Similar to the change in AppleCare on the Apple TV, there are some AppleCare+ changes on the Mac now as well. You can now get AppleCare+ on a monthly basis. This means that you can get support beyond three years, which makes a lot of sense given that many people keep their Macs far beyond the previous two years of AppleCare support.

iMac 24-inch Tidbits

There is another tidbit specifically with the new 24-inch iMac. The power cord that goes into the iMac is a magnetic one. The magnets are quite strong because you do not want the power cord to accidentally come out of a running iMac, even if it has solid-state storage.

M1 Mac mini

Another update that Apple made is the additional option on the M1 Mac mini. now you can optionally choose a 10 gigabit Ethernet connection. This will cost an additional $100, but if you need the extra speed, it is an option. This was an option that was available on the previous generation Mac mini and it is good to see it make its way back to the current M1 Mac mini.

Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

One of the new features of 24-inch iMac is the option for a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. While these will be available for the 24-inch iMac, the keyboards will actually work with other M1 Macs. This is most particularly useful with the M1 Mac mini.

As of now the keyboards are not available for purchase separately from the 24-inch iMac, but it is quite likely that they will be available for purchase separately at some point in the future. As an owner of an M1 Mac mini, I know I would like to use Touch ID with that Mac, so I cannot wait until these are available.

AirTag

When Apple announced the AirTag it was not known how the they would be powered. It turns out that the battery in each AirTag is replaceable. These batteries are not proprietary in anyway, in fact, they are ones that you can buy almost anywhere. The specific battery is a CR2032 batteries, so you can get them just about anywhere.

The next question is how long with the battery last. Apple says the batteries should last “over a year”.

iPad Accessories

Apple added a whole new accessory for the iPad, the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard allows you to have a full keyboard with a trackpad. The new 5th Generation 11-inch iPad Pro does not have any change in its dimensions. However, that is not the case with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a bit thicker than the 3rd and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. What this means is that the original Magic Keyboard will not work on the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Therefore, if you are upgrading to a 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and you want to use the Magic Keyboard, you will need to purchase a new one, which is not cheap at $349.

Closing Thoughts

There are just a few of the other tidbits from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event that could not be fit into the event itself. Well, they could have, if Apple wanted to have the event go longer than an hour.

Apple “Spring Loaded” Event Recap

Today Apple held their “Spring Loaded” event, and it was a packed event. There were a bunch of new products announced an update to Apple Card, a new podcast service, a new iPhone 12 Color, AirTags, a new iMac, a new Apple TV 4K, and a new iPad Pro. Let us look at each of these in turn.

Apple Card Family

Apple Card was introduced in August of 2019. Since its introduction each person has to apply for their own card and it cannot be shared. This arrangement means that there is discrimination in that the primary card holder is the one who builds credit, while a spouse or partner may not build up credit. This all changes with Apple Card Family. According to Apple:

Apple Card Family allows two people to co-own an Apple Card, and share and merge their credit lines while building credit together equally. Apple Card Family also enables parents to share Apple Card with their children, while offering optional spending limits and controls to help teach smart and safe financial habits. 

This is a great addition and will be available in May, but this will be U.S. only. It may expand to additional countries in the future, but there is no information on future expansion.

Apple Card Family with multiple users.

Apple Podcast

Audio content has always been a big draw for many users. People listen to audio in a variety of situations. This could be music, radio, audiobooks, or even podcasts. Apple has maintained a directory of podcasts since they first added podcast support to iTunes in June of 2005. Today Apple announced a big shift to podcasts, including Podcast subscriptions.

Starting in May, listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can sign up for premium subscriptions that include a variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series. Listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent voices and premier studios…

All of this coincides with a redesigned Podcasts app which will allow users to discover shows similar to the ones they enjoy through the new Top Charts, Categories, and Advanced Search options. The new Podcasts app will be available with iOS 14.5 and the new Podcast Subscriptions will be available in May.

Apple Podcast Subscription service image.

Purple iPhone 12

While it has not been every year, Apple has consistently added a new color to its latest iPhone lineup in the spring. Typically it has been the PRODUCT(Red) phone, but there is already a PRODUCT(Red) the iPhone 12. Instead of red, Apple has introduced a new purple color. This is a similar shade of purple as the purple iPhone 11.

The purple iPhone 12 will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd with delivery beginning on April 30th. The prices remain the same as the regular iPhone 12. You can also get an iPhone 12 mini in purple, if that is your preference.

iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 in Purple

AirTag

Air Tag back and front view

No matter how much we may try, we all end up losing things from time to time. Sometimes we can quickly find the items. However, in some cases it is not that easy. There have been accessories that allow you to find your missing items, and when Apple introduced their “Find My” network, many speculated when Apple would release their own trackers. Well, today Apple announced their tracking device, called AirTag.

AirTags are little devices that utilize the U1 chip in your iPhone 12 to be able to help locate items. AirTag utilizes the “Find My” network to allow anybody to locate your missing device anonymously without giving anyone your location.

Apple has some accessories for the AirTag, including leather key rings, loops, leather loops, and even third-party accessories from Belkin, like the secure holder and secure holder with key ring. Apple has partnered with Hermes to provide a Bag Charm, Luggage Tag, and Key Ring.

You can customize your AirTags by engraving them with up to 4 characters including emoji. This is done when you order them. Speaking of ordering, AirTag will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd and they will begin arriving April 30th. You can purchase a single AirTag for $29, or a 4-pack for $99.

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K (2021) and new Siri Remote

Apple is doubling down on their original TV content with shows like “The Morning Show”, “Wolfwalkers”, and “Ted Lasso”. One way to enjoy all of the content that you want is through the Apple TV, and in particular the Apple TV 4K. The last update to the Apple TV was in September of 2017. Today Apple announced a new Apple TV 4K.

The new Apple TV 4K includes an A12 Bionic chip, which provides even better graphics and processing. There are three other features with the Apple TV 4K. The first is a feature called high frame rate HDR.

High frame rate HDR

With A12 Bionic, Apple TV 4K now supports high frame rate HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision video, enabling fast-moving action at 60 frames per second (fps) to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike than ever before.

This should make any video that you watch even better. Beyond fast-moving video, this should also help with things like gaming. The Apple TV 4K supports the Playstation 5 controller as well as the Xbox Series X|S controller. However, controllers are not the only way to control items on the new Apple TV 4K. There is another way, and that is the next big feature, a redesigned Siri Remote.

When the Apple TV was originally introduced many did not like the Siri Remote. Some of the big issues with the Siri Remote were that the touch surface was a bit too sensitive and it was hard to orient the remote in low light situations. Apple has taken these, and additional issues into account with the new Siri Remote.

Siri Remote

Siri Remote (2021)

The new Siri Remote is an all aluminum design with a five-way directional pad, home button, back button, play/pause button, volume up and down buttons, and a mute button. Along with this, in the upper right corner, you will find a power button. The power button and mute button are designed to allow you to control your TV’s power and mute functionality without needing a separate remote. The other buttons are designed to provide you quick access to these functions.

The five-way directional pad will allow you to control the content even easier than before. Along with this, there is a circle around the five-way directional pad that will allow you to more easily jog through content to find the exact scene you are looking for.

The Siri Remote, as the name implies, still has Siri, but this is now a button on the right side of the remote. You can hold down the button and ask Siri your question and you will get a response just as in the past.

There is one last feature, and this one is a software feature called Color Balance.

Color Balancing

Each television set has its own characteristics. Some televisions can more accurately represent colors better than others. With the new Apple TV 4K you will be able to use your iPhone to provide the Apple TV with a better color balance so that it can compensate for any discrepancies in the color representation in your television. This is done by holding your iPhone up to your television when the Apple TV 4K is in Color Calibration mode. Once finished, the Apple TV 4K should be able to provide you with better colors while watching content.

The new Apple TV 4K is $179 for the 32GB model or $199 for the 64GB model. You can purchase a Siri Remote separately for $59 and it will work with previous versions of the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. Lastly, there is an update Apple TV HD with the new Siri Remote. This is $149 for 32GB of storage.

All of these Apple TV-related products are available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. Next, let us turn to a slightly different device, the iMac.

iMac

Last June at WWDC 20, Apple announced that they would be transitioning all of the Macs to their own Apple Silicon chips and this transition would take approximately two years. The first batch of devices, the MacBook Air, the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac min were all released with the M1.

Today Apple unveiled another new Mac with the M1, the smaller iMac. I use the term “smaller”, because the first change is that it is no longer a 21.5-inch device, instead it is a 24-inch model. This is possible through the reduction in bezels, which now are just a thin border around the edges, similar to the iPad Pro. In the bezel is a whole new camera system. More on that in a moment.

Screen

The higher 21.5-inch iMac models had a 4K screen. With the 24-inch screen the new resolution of 4480-by-2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch, creates a 4.5K resolution for the screen.

There is a now a 1080p camera system, that will allow better FaceTime and other video calls. This is all handled through the M1 image signal processor. This will provide better low-light performance. To go along with the video, is a better microphone system, which Apple calls “studio-quality mics”, similar to the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The microphones will allow better sound due to cancelling out room noise and the like.

The new 24-inch iMac is powered by the M1. This design allows for a much thinner profile. The thinner profile is not just a bit thinner, but massively thinner. The screen is flat, like the iPad Pros and comes in at 11.5mm thick. This is made possible through a redesign of the cooling system, which allows air to be pushed through the system as well as a redesigned logic board, which is much smaller thanks to the M1 powering the entire system.

The screen is not the only new feature, the biggest, and likely most requested feature, is one that users like to customize and that is the color.

Colors

24-inch iMac Colors (2021)

There is another big change to the 24-inch iMac. When the original G3 iMac was introduced, it came in a bunch of colors. Since the Intel transition beginning in 2005, the iMac has only been available in three colors, White, Silver, and Space Gray. With the latter being on the iMac Pro only. The 24-inch iMac now comes in a variety of colors, up to seven different color options, depending on the model. The full list of color options are:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Silver
  • Yellow (Higher end only)
  • Orange (Higher end only)
  • Purple (Higher end only)

The base and front of each iMac is a light shade of the color, whereas the back if a vibrant color. There are two different model types, just like the MacBook Air. There is an 8-core CPU, 7-Core GPU model, and an 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU model.

Internals

All models include an M1, a 24-inch screen, 256GB of storage, 8GB of unified memory, and two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. The higher-end model includes two USB-3 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet (configurable on the lower end model).

For options, on the 8-CPU/7GPU model you can configure a 512GB or 1TB storage option, and the aforementioned Gigabit Ethernet. On the 8-CPU/8-GPU model you can configure 512GB, 1TB or 2TB or storage.

The 24-inch iMac includes a 143 watt power brick, with a 2 meter/6 foot cable. This cable is a woven nylon cable, that is also color matched to the system. This is not the first time that Apple has used a woven nylon cable. In fact, Apple used one on the original HomePod as well as the HomePod mini. That is not the only feature of the power brick.

If you look at the back of the iMac you will notice that there is no Ethernet port, even on the higher-end model. That is because the ethernet port is in the power brick. The power port on the iMac can handle both power and data, and the Ethernet connection is handled over this cable. Apple indicated in the event that this will allow you to reduce the number of cables running to the computer, which was one of the goals of the original G3 iMac.

Next, let us look at the keyboard and mouse, there have been a couple changes there as well.

Magic Accessories

With the addition of colors, Apple is also including a color-matched accessories. These include the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. The bottom portion of the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are color matched, and white on the top. As is the case with the current Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard, you need to power it with an included USB-C to lightning cable. Just like the power cable, this is color matched with the iMac.

Magic Trackpad colors

The Magic Keyboard is not to be left out of being of being color matched, because it is also color-matched with the iMac. However, there is a big change with the Magic Keyboard, beyond the color. There are new icons on the keys; well there are but that is not the big change. The big change is that the Magic Keyboard now has a Touch ID button, that replaces the eject button.

This is the same Touch ID that you see with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pros. For the first time you can use Touch ID on your iMac just like you can on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. This is a big advancement.

The lower-end iMac does not get the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, however you can configure the iMac with that keyboard. The higher-end 24-inch iMac has the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID included in the box. There is also a Magic Keyboard with Number Pad and Touch ID that is can be configured on either 24-inch iMac model, should you need that model.

The 24-inch iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299 for the 8-Core CPU/7-Core CPU model, and $1499 for the 8-Core CPU/8-Core GPU model. Next, let us look at one last new product, the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

2021 iPad Pros

Last year Apple upgraded the iPad Pro with a couple of new features, an A12Z processor and a new camera system. The new camera system allowed developers to use LiDAR used within Augmented reality applications. This was a minor update over the 2018 iPad Pro. Today Apple released a new set of iPad Pros, however these are not small updates.

Processor

There are still two iPad Pro models, the 11-inch and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, the processor within the two devices is radically different. In fact, it is not longer an A-series processor. It is now an M1 processor, the same one that is iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. According to Apple this means:

The 8-core CPU design features the world’s fastest CPU cores in low-power silicon – delivering up to 50 percent faster CPU performance than A12Z Bionic. The 8-core GPU is in a class of its own, delivering up to 40 percent faster GPU performance. 

M1 Processor Image

With the iPad Pro running the M1, that means that it can support Thunderbolt/USB 4. The iPad Pro does just that. The USB port has been replaced with a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port. This means that you can use accessories like Thunderbolt storage as well as being able to power the Apple Pro Display XDR at its native resolution with the iPad Pro.

Since the original iPad in 2010, the iPad has had an option of cellular connectivity. The latest iPad Pros are no exception. The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models now have 5G connectivity as an option.

Camera

Along with the M1, there is also an improved Face ID camera. There is now a 12 Megapixel camera with a 122 degree field of view. This means that video calls will be even better than before. However, that is not the only feature with the camera. The camera will now automatically try to keep you in the center of the frame, so if you move to the side, the camera will move as well; up to its 122 degree limit. Similarly, if another person enters into the view, the camera will try to zoom out to include everyone in the shot. This is a nice feature which will make things a bit nicer overall.

The M1, Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, as well as the improved camera is included on both the 11-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, there is one feature that is specific to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a Liquid Retina XDR display.

Display

The Liquid Retina XDR display uses a new technology called Mini Light Emitting Diode, or Mini LED. Mini LED, as the name implies, these are very small LEDs. For comparison, in the previous iPad Pro models there were 72 LEDs. In the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there are over 10,000. These are broken down into dimmable regions so the color can be reproduced even more accurately than before. This also allows certain areas to be individually dimmed, again allowing even better color options.

The Liquid Retina XDR display has a standard brightness of 600 nits. However, at max brightness it is 1000 nits, and its peak is 1600 nits of brightness. It is not likely that the max brightness will occur very often.

Accessories

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models support the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. Along with this, there is a new Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard is a slight change from the previous generation. There is a new color as well, White.

The 11-inch iPad Pro supports the existing Black Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Magic Keyboard, which will be $349.

Both the Magic Keyboard for the 5th Generation iPad Pro, as well as the White version of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard will be available for pre-order on April 30th.

Price

Both iPad Pro models came in a variety of storage sizes, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options. The 2TB option is new this year. The 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, models all have 8GB of memory, while the 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB of memory. This is the first time that Apple has indicated the amount of memory in an iPad.

The 11-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $799 / $999
  • 256GB – $899 / $1099
  • 512GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 1TB – $1499 / $1699
  • 2TB – $1899 / $2099

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 256GB – $1199 / $1399
  • 512GB – $1399 / $1599
  • 1TB – $1799 / $1999
  • 2TB – $2199 / $2399

The 12.9-inch model is more expensive this year, as is cellular. Cellular costs an addition $200, whereas last year it was $149. You can pre-order an 11-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro on April 30th, with availability being the second half of May.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, what Apple announced definitely lived up to the name of the event being “Spring Loaded”.

The event was full of new products including Apple Card family, which allows two co-owners of a card to build credit equally as well as providing limits for children. This will be available in May. Apple also introduced a new Podcast subscription service, that will allow listeners to support their favorite podcasters. This feature will be available in May. Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 color, purple. This will be available for pre-order on Friday with delivery beginning on April 30th.

Along with the iPhone, Podcast, and Apple Card, Apple unveiled a new product, AirTag. The AirTag is a way of being able to locate missing items. AirTag will cost $29 each or $99 for a 4-pack. These will be available for pre-order this Friday for delivery beginning April 30th.

The new AirTag is not the only new product, there is a new Apple TV 4K replete with a new Siri Remote. The new Apple TV 4K has an A12 Bionic processor. The A12 Bionic also allows for the new Color Calibration feature and high frame rate HDR to allow the best television watching experience. The new Siri Remote is aluminum with a new button layout and the dedicated Siri button is now on the side. There are new power and mute buttons that will operate your existing television. The Apple TV, and Siri Remote, will be available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May.

Possibly the biggest product release is the new 24-inch iMac. The iMac has an improved Face Time camera and thinner bezels. The new 24-inch iMac is significantly thinner, 11.5mm thin. The speakers have been improved as well. The 24-inch iMac can come in 7 different colors and there are three configurations. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299, can be configured up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. The iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability beginning in the second half of May.

The last new item that Apple released was a new set of iPad Pro. Both models include an M1, providing even more performance over the previous generation. The iPad Pro models can come in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. There is a Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models cost $200 more than the Wi-Fi models, but the cellular is now 5G. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Liquid Retina XDR Display that uses Mini LED technology. The iPad Pro models will be available for pre-order on April 30th, and will be available in the second half of May.

All of the new products today are great upgrade, or addition, to Apple’s product line up. While there is nothing available to purchase today, there are a couple of items available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd, while the remainder are available for pre-order on April 30th.

Source: Podcasts, Apple TV 4K, iMac, iPad Pro

Magic Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro: A Review

The iPad has changed significantly since its initial introduction in 2010. There have been new features like multitasking, multiple windows, and split view. There have also been changes in the way that iOS looks, from the skeuomorphic design to a more refined one. There has even been changes in the size of the devices from a single 9.7-inch iPad to multiple sizes, 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.2-inch, 10.5-inch, 11-inch, and 12.9-inch models. One of the things that has been true since the original iPad, with iPhone OS 3.2, is that some users want to use the iPad as a productivity tool. One way to be productive is by using a keyboard. The purpose for using a keyboard can be to write, like I do, but a keyboard can also be used for programming with applications like Swift Playgrounds, or even just to use keyboard shortcuts within apps like Photoshop for iPad. While it is possible to use the on-screen keyboard to accomplish some of these tasks, there are instances when using a physical keyboard is just a better overall experience.

You may think that Apple has only recently made a keyboard specifically for the iPad, but Apple has had keyboards available that you could pair with the iPad since 2010. Let us look at some of those now.

Apple’s iPad Keyboard History

Apple has been making iPad keyboards since the original iPad was introduced in 2010. They started with a forgotten device called the “iPad Keyboard Dock”. It is so forgotten that it is not even listed on the Wikipedia page for Apple keyboards, nor on the iPad page. This was a product that had an Apple keyboard attached to an iPad 30-pin dock that was specifically designed to work with the original iPad in portrait mode.

original iPad Keyboard Dock

If you did not want to purchase the iPad Keyboard Dock, you could pick up an Apple wireless keyboard for $69. The difference is that the Apple Wireless keyboard was bluetooth and could work with any bluetooth device, which makes using an external keyboard more versatile.

When I first got an iPad back in 2010, I did not get an iPad Keyboard Dock. Instead, I paired my iPad with an Apple Wireless keyboard. The ones that required 3 AA batteries to power. Once Apple introduced the updated version of the Wireless Keyboard that only required 2 AA batteries, I switched to using that model.

The fact that the keyboards required batteries did make it a bit difficult sometimes, particularly if you need to use the keyboard but the batteries are dead. Additionally, it was likely that you needed to carry extra batteries with you in order to be able to make sure you could use the keyboard when necessary.

In 2015, Apple introduced a completely redesigned keyboard, they called it the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard changed almost every aspect of the keyboard. Instead of requiring batteries, it switched to being rechargeable, using the included lightning cable.

Due to the rechargeable battery the Magic Keyboard was able to have a new lower profile, which makes it much easier to carry and allowed for smaller bags and carrying cases as a result. Even though this is a much better result, it is still not ideal for some because you had to carry multiple items with you. Instead of having to carry multiple devices, it would be easier to only encompass everything into a single item. There are two different lines, depending on which iPad you own. These are called the iPad Smart Keyboard or the iPad Keyboard Folio.

iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio

Apple has not focused solely on external keyboards for the iPad. They have also introduced keyboards that are embedded in cases. Apple has called these the Smart Keyboard Folio.

These are a combination of the Smart Folio, which is a case that covers both the front and back of the iPad, as well as a keyboard. The Keyboard Folio allows you to snap the Keyboard Folio onto the back of the iPad and the edge of the iPad sits on the Keyboard Folio right above the top of the keyboard. There are two positions for the iPad Smart Keyboard and iPad Smart Keyboard Folio. The iPad Smart Keyboard allows two different angles with the keyboard in front of the iPad. The iPad Smart Keyboard has one position for the iPad on the keyboard or the keyboard can be hidden behind the iPad for when you are viewing media on your iPad.

There is another additional difference between iPad Smart Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio. The Smart Keyboard Folio has a fabric cover on top of the keyboard. This has two functions. The first is that it protects the keyboard from any debris getting into the keyboard. The second function is to protect the iPad screen.

The second difference is that the keys have less travel for the keys. The travel is how far you have to press down on a key in order for the key to appear on the screen and the Smart Keyboard Folio has a very short amount of travel, similar to the butterfly keyboards on the late-2015 to 2018 MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

All of this changes with the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Before we delve into that, let us look at the design.

Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is three devices in one. These devices are a case, a keyboard, and a trackpad. The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro covers the entire back of the iPad and attaches to the iPad using magnets.The magnets allow the iPad Pro to be positioned properly for a few reasons. The first is so that the cutout for the camera will be positioned properly on the 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro as well as the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro.

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro works with the last two generations of the iPad Pro. These are the 3rd and 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 1st and 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro. The latter of the two sizes has a new camera sensor that has a square design and the Magic Keyboards are designed with these iPads in mind. Therefore, on the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 1st generation 11-inch iPad Pro, you will see more of the back of the iPad. In practice, this is not a problem.

The second reason for the magnets is so that Smart Connector will be aligned properly. The Smart connector is how the Magic Keyboard actually gets its power from the iPad Pro and does not have any battery contained within the keyboard itself.

With the Magic Keyboard attached, the iPad Pro floats over the keyboard so that you can still hit the keys in the number row, if you need them. When you type on the keyboard, you will notice that the keyboard is backlit. This can come in handy if you are using the Magic Keyboard while in the dark. You are able to adjust the brightness of the Magic Keyboard through settings. You can go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Hardware Keyboard and you can adjust the brightness of the keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has a cantilevered design. This means that you can adjust the iPad Pro’s angle to the most comfortable for you. This angle is limited though. This is due to the next item to discuss, the weight of the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

Weight

As you might expect, the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro does have some heft to it. In fact, it weighs 1.51 pounds, or 684 grams. When you combine this with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the entire package, including an Apple Pencil, coms to 2.95 pounds, or 1,337 grams. I wonder if this weight is purely accidental, or is this was the target weight for the entire pack. When you first hear that the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Magic Keyboard comes to almost 3 pounds, it might sound like a lot. But the question is, how does this compare to other portable Apple devices.

I only have a few devices to compare this to. These are an Early 2015 MacBook Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, and a Mid-2007 MacBook.

The Early-2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro comes in at 3.48 pounds, or 1578.5 grams. This is approximately 20 percent heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. So this is a bit heavier. Even heavier still is a 16-inch MacBook Pro, which comes in at 4.3 pounds, or 1,950.45 grams. This makes the 16-inch MacBook Pro 45.8% heavier than the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard. Lastly, the Mid-2007 Black MacBook is a hefty 5.2 pounds, or 3.45 times heavier than the MacBook.

While the Magic Keyboard does make the iPad heavier, it is not as heavy as other portable Apple devices, even somewhat recent ones.

Keyboard

The big draw for purchasing the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, for me anyway, is the keyboard. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro honors its name, it is the Magic Keyboard. It has the same layout, the same key sizes, and even the same key mechanism. This means that it is a Magic Keyboard through and through. There are some differences between the standard Magic Keyboard and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro.

The biggest change is that the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has one fewer rows of keys. The entire top row is not present on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This means that there is no physical escape key, nor any function keys. The lack of function keys does mean that some changes need to be made, if you are used to using another keyboard with the iPad Pro. Because of the changes, there are some things that you may have to get used to.

The first change, and for me it is the biggest, is the lack of an escape key. There may not be that many things that I can do well, but using a computer keyboard is one of them. Since I tend to use the keyboard as much as possible, the lack of an escape key makes it super difficult for me to adjust. I use the escape key for various tasks, particularly with a terminal. It is possible to re-map keys on iOS. These keys are:

  • Caps Lock
  • Control
  • Option
  • Command
  • Globe

So you can re-map one of these if you would like. Since I go between many devices, re-mapping one of the keys will not work for me. I really hope the second revision has a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs made with the keyboard, and I agree with them, but it makes it more difficult for me. There is another way to simulate the escape key. The key combination of command and period will perform the same function as escape, for the most part anyway.

Next, let us look at the other item on the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, the trackpad.

Trackpad

iOS 13.4 was specifically designed for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. This is due to the addition of trackpad support within iOS. The first thing you will notice is the physical size of the trackpad. The trackpad is 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Let us see how this compares to other devices.

  • My Early 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 4.375 inches by 3.125 inches tall.
  • Apple stand-alone Magic Trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.5625 inches tall.
  • The Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro’s trackpad is 6.750 inches wide by 4.00 inches tall.

When you look at these the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro might seem small. However, there is one last item to compare the trackpad to, the Mid-2007 MacBook. If you measure the trackpad for the 2007 MacBook you come up with 4 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Hmm…this is the same size as the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Therefore, while the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may seem small, in comparison to more recent trackpads on devices, the trackpads on past devices have been the same size and we used those for years.

Here is an life-size comparison of the various trackpads. As you can see, the sizes really do differ quite a bit depending on the device being used.

Even though the physical size between the 2007 MacBook and the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro may be the same, they do not function the same, outside of moving the cursor. The trackpad on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro supports many of the same gestures as the standard trackpads. This includes three finger swipes, pinch to zoom, and even four finger gestures, although the latter are a bit more difficult to accomplish with one hand.

The trackpad is a great addition and combined with iOS 13.4, it is will allow some to be even more productive than before.

Possible Drawbacks

To use the tag line of John Siracusa’s Hypercritical podcast, “Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.” That means there are a few things that could be possible drawbacks to be aware of regarding the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. Most of these have been covered, but let us recap.

The first issue I mentioned earlier, the lack of a physical escape key. I completely understand the trade-offs being made. On a standard Magic Keyboard there is an additional row that has the Escape key as well as 12 function keys and an “eject” key; at least on the US English keyboard layout.

Also mentioned earlier is the fact that command + period will replicate the escape key, and for those who use the app “vim” for terminal editing, this does work well for the escape key. Despite this, a physical escape key would be nice, even if the other top row keys where reduced to accommodate the key.

The second possible drawback is the weight. As outlined above if you are accustomed to using the iPad on its own, the weight difference will be quite noticeable. However, if you compare it to a traditional laptop, it will be lighter and therefore more portable.

The third possible drawback is the possible angles. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is limited in the angles that it can be tilted towards. Just as with the lack of a physical escape key, the reasons for this make sense. In the case of the limited angles is due to making sure that the keyboard is balanced.

In fact, the keyboard is so balanced that you can perch the keyboard, complete with iPad, on the edge of a desk and it will not fall. Which cannot be said for other keyboards that are on the market. I would not recommend always living on the edge, but the keyboard is quite balanced.

The last possible drawback, is the price, which is outlined below.

Price

At first glance when you look at it, the Magic Keyboard for the iPad is not an inexpensive product. The keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro is $299, and the keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $349. At first glance this may seem like a lot, and there is no denying that it is expensive. Yet, it may not be as expensive as you think. If you were to add up the cost of the three items in the Magic Keyboard for iPad, a cover, the magic keyboard, and a magic trackpad, it would be $99, $99, and $129 respectively, or a total of $327.

Therefore, this does make the overall price for the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro a bit more than buying each item separately, but for that price, you get allof them in a single package. Therefore, you do not need to worry about having three separate items. It is entirely true that you cold purchase less expensive solutions for the iPad Pro and you can be satisfied with those, but if you are looking at Apple-only solutions, then this really is comparable.

Closing Thoughts

I have used my 3rd Generation iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard for just about a week now. I used to use my iPad on a somewhat regular basis, but I feel as though I will be using my iPad a bit more than before. This is because I now have a device that can fill in most of the functions of my 2015 MacBook Pro. I am not sure whether or not I will end up replacing the MacBook Pro when it comes time. This is because the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard may be able to fulfill the role that my MacBook Pro has done so far, for the most part.

There are some items that I cannot do on my iPad, as easily, even with the Magic Keyboard and trackpad. The biggest of these is web development. I use the Safari Inspector quite a bit, and it is not available at all on iPadOS. Additionally, I use BBEdit for all of my web development. The built-in SFTP and browsing has become an absolute essential for me, and without this I am not able to be as productive with my web development. If you happen to know of another tool that is comparable, definitely let me know.

However, there are other tasks that I can do with the new setup. Chiefly among these is writing. It is my hope to be able to use the iPad to write most of the books I plan to write this summer, but time will tell. It is possible that significantly more of the books will be written using the iPad, now that there is a keyboard that makes it much easier to type on when sitting in various places.

The combination of iPadOS 13.4 and the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has capability of fundamentally changing the way that you use the iPad Pro. While it was possible to use an iPad with a keyboard, the addition of a trackpad makes the iPad like a laptop. For those who really enjoy using iPadOS as their primary operating system, but would really benefit from using a TrackPad, then you cannot go wrong with the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, even with the starting price of $299.

Apple Releases new iPad Pro

Today Apple unveiled a pair of new iPad Pro models, the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro and the 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. These two models are the same with the exception of the physical size. Both models still support the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil.

Processor

The new iPad Pro models have A12Z Bionic Chip. This is a slightly modified version of the A12X, which was in the previous generation iPad Pros. The new processor has 8 graphics and CPU cores, instead of the 7 GPU, and 8 CPU cores that were present in the previous models. This means that graphics and processing should be even faster. To quote from the press release

The eight-core GPU in the A12Z Bionic, along with an enhanced thermal architecture and tuned performance controllers, gives iPad Pro the highest performance ever in an iPad. Combined with the eight-core CPU and the powerful Neural Engine, which enables next-generation apps

Until we get our hands on the new iPad Pro and put it through its paces, it will be hard to see the real world improvement. One area where there will definitely be improvement is with the cameras.

Cameras

The new iPad Pros have an all new redesigned cameras. They now include two cameras, as 12MP wide camera and 10MP ultra-wide camera, similar to the cameras on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. This means that you can now take wider pictures. This also means that there is a new physical capability, optical zoom out with the Ultra-wide camera. The new cameras also include 240fps recording on both cameras. The Ultra-wide camera is capable of recording at 60fps. There is one last new feature to the cameras and is new to iOS entirely, it is called a “LiDAR Sensor”.

LiDAR Sensor

Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, “is used to determine distance by measuring how long it takes light to reach an object and reflect back…and opens up tremendous possibilities for augmented reality and beyond.” The LiDAR Sensor will be able to measure depth, which is absolutely necessary for Augmented Reality apps.

It will be interesting to see what App developers are able to accomplish with the new LiDAR Sensor.

Sound

The 1st Generation 11-inch iPad Pro and the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro had four speakers for audio and would automatically adjust depending on the orientation. The new iPad Pros have that as well. However, the change with the new models is in the number of microphones. There were five microphones on the previous models, and there are on the new models but they are now “Studio Quality”, similar to the speakers in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. This should improve sound quality for your videos.

Magic Keyboard

The iPad is great with touch, however sometimes you need a physical keyboard to be able to handle the input. Previously, this can be accomplished using any Bluetooth keyboard or the Smart Keyboard Folio. There is a new option called the “Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro”. The Magic Keyboard is more than just a simple keyboard, but it is also an iPad Stand that can be adjusted to whatever viewing angle you need for your iPad Pro.

The Magic Keyboard for each model is significantly more than a regular case or stand. The 11-inch model is $299 and the 12.9-inch model is $349. Both will be available in May and will be available in over 30 languages, so you will be able to get the keyboard that is right for you.

One thing that should also be mentioned is that the Magic Keyboard will be compatible with the 1st Generation 11-inch iPad Pro as well as the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

iOS 13.4

The new iPads come with iOS 13.4. iOS 13.4 brings a new feature that some might expect to never arrive, trackpad support. This is not the same as the accessibility pointer support that has been in iOS 13, up until now. You can now use a connected mouse or trackpad and a cursor will appear on the screen. It will only show up on screen when you are using the mouse or trackpad. Some developers will need to improve their applications in order to fully utilize the new cursor support.

Pricing

The iPad Pro models are available in the same size, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB. models, and are available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. What has changed is the price of all of the models, except for the base price.

The 11-inch iPad Pro is $799, $899, $1099, and $1299 respectively. For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the prices are $999, $1099, $1299, and $1499. You can order the models today and they will be delivered starting on March 25th.

Source: Apple