Sat. May 18th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The M4 iPad Pro features tandem OLED technology, which provides better colors and contrast than the LCDs on the M2 iPad Pro.
  • The new M4 chip delivers a 50% faster CPU and a four times faster GPU, enabling advanced features like ray tracking.
  • Apple has removed the ultrawide camera from the M4 iPad Pro, giving the M2 iPad Pro an edge in terms of photography options.

With a new OLED screen and the thinnest profile of any Apple product, the M4 iPad Pro arrived with a bang at Apple’s May 2024 event. So are the upgrades enough for an M2 iPad Pro user to shell out and upgrade? Let’s find out.

The Thinnest Apple Product Ever

Looking at the two models, you might not be able to see many differences. That is because both the M4 iPad Pro and the M2 iPad Pro look the same until you look at a lot closer. Changes include the presence of a front camera on the longer side, a different camera module, and an extremely thin chassis on the newer model.

Like the M2 iPad Pro, the M4 iPad Pro comes in two variants. The smaller one has an 11-inch screen and measures 9.83 x 6.99 x 0.21 inches, which is marginally different from the 11-inch M2 iPad Pro, which measures 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches. On the other hand, the 13-inch M4 iPad Pro measures 11.09 x 8.48 x 0.20 inches, similar to the 12.9-inch M2 iPad Pro, except for the thickness.

Image of the M4 iPad Pro's on the left and the M2 iPad Pro on the right, comparing their thickness.

Apple claims that the M4 iPad Pro is the thinnest device the company has ever made. To be precise, the 11-inch model is 0.21 inches (5.3mm) thin, while the 13-inch model is even thinner, at just 0.2 inches (5.1mm). The devices weigh 0.85oz (24g) and 3.53oz (100g) less than their predecessors (respectively), making them significantly lighter.

In 2022, Apple shipped the M2 iPad Pro in Silver and Space Gray. While the company has retained the Silver finish this year, it has replaced the Space Gray finish with Space Black for the M4 iPad Pro. Other functional elements, such as the placement of the volume rockers, power button, USB-C port, and quad-speaker setup, remain unchanged.

M4 iPad Pro Gets a Tandem OLED Screen

With the M2 iPad Pro, Apple offered an LCD screen on the 11-inch model and a slightly improved mini-LED screen on the 12.9-inch model. In comparison, the M4 iPad Pro features OLED display technology, and not just the regular OLED panels you’d find on a smartphone or tablet. The 2024 iPad Pro features a Tandem OLED display that stacks two panels on top of each other. As a result, the latest iPad Pro offers 1000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness for HDR.

Visualization of the two layers of OLED screens stacked on each other in a tandem OLED display.

Tandem OLED technology also unlocks better contrast, richer colors, higher dynamic range, and a longer display lifespan. Further, the Ultra Retina XDR display on the M4 iPad Pro sports sub-millisecond control over the luminance of the pixels, making them more sensitive to motion. Hence, issues like trailing and stuttering shouldn’t exist. To improve visibility and reduce glare, users can go with the optional nano-texture glass variant (available only with the 1TB and 2TB trims).

OLED display technology aside, the M4 iPad Pro borrows several features from its predecessor, like ProMotion display, P3 wide color, and True Tone. The screens on the M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Pro are fully laminated and have an anti-reflective coating for a better viewing experience. OLED screens on the latest iPad are a big deal and might convince many buyers who have been waiting for Apple to make the change.

Apple’s New M4 Silicon Has a 50% Faster CPU

After skipping the iPad lineup in 2023, Apple has refreshed the top-tier models with an entirely new M4 Apple Silicon chip. If you get the 256GB or 512GB storage variants, you’ll get a nine-core CPU with three performance and six efficiency cores. The 1TB and 2TB storage options feature a 10-core CPU with four performance and six efficiency cores. Based on the second generation 3-nanometer fabrication technology, the M4 chip can deliver the same performance as the M2 using half the power.

Screengrab of the Apple Let Loose launch event showcasing all the features of the new M4 Silicon chip.

The newer model has a 50% faster CPU, 200% faster GPU (with hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing), and a Neural Engine that can perform more than twice the number of operations per second than the predecessor. Even the memory bandwidth has been improved from 100GB/s to 120GB/s.

Together, these improvements make for a massive upgrade, which means that the M4 iPad Pro is ideal for professionals or creators who use their iPads for graphic design, 3D modeling and rendering, video editing, or playing demanding video games.

In the official press release, Apple describes the new iPad Pro as an “outrageously powerful” device for running generative AI tasks. With the M4 chip (and the right software optimizations), the iPad Pro users can perform AI-enabled tasks faster like isolating a subject from its background in a 4K video with just a tap in Final Cut Pro using the Scene Removal Mask. Further, the chipset can also run powerful diffusion and generative AI models locally.

2024’s iPad Pro Comes With 256GB of Base Storage

In 2022, the M2 iPad Pro debuted with 128GB storage in the base configuration. Users also got the option of 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. While it made sense to include the higher storage trims in the mix, 128GB on the base variant always fell short.

This year, Apple has bumped up the storage on the M4 iPad Pro’s baseline variant to 256GB, a welcome change for anyone tired of juggling a paltry 128GB of storage. Those who require even more space for storing larger files can look at the 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options.

Screengrab of the Apple's tech specifications page, showcasing the M4 iPad Pro colors and storage models.

Be aware that the newer iPads cost $100 more than the older models, so this is something to consider when choosing between the devices. For instance, the 11-inch M4 iPad Pro with 256GB of storage costs $999, while the 11-inch M2 iPad with 256GB of storage costs $899 (or less with deals and offers). While the 256GB and 512GB models of the M4 iPad Pro feature 8GB of RAM, the 1TB and 2TB configurations come with 16GB of RAM.

M4 iPad Pro Gets a Landscape Camera, But No Ultrawide Sensor

While most buyers would expect Apple to upgrade the camera system, the company has taken a step in the opposite direction. The 2022 iPad Pro came with a dual rear-camera system, including a 12MP (f/1.8) primary sensor and a 10MP (f/2.4) ultrawide. For some reason, Apple has removed the ultrawide camera from the M4 iPad Pro. The primary camera, LiDAR scanner, and the Retina Flash are still there; it’s just the ultrawide camera that’s missing.

Image of the space black and silver M4 iPad Pro models on a plain white background.

On the brighter side, the 2024 iPad Pro comes with a landscape TrueDepth camera, like the iPad (10th Generation). Instead of being on the shorter side, the front camera (along with the Face ID sensors) is on the longer edge, providing a more natural orientation for video calls when using the device in landscape mode.

All the sensors can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and 1080p slow-motion video at 240 frames per second. Recording 4K ProRes video isn’t possible on the lowest M4 iPad Pro trim.

Apple Didn’t Upgrade the Battery Life Either

Even though the new iPad Pro is thinner, features an OLED panel, and flaunts the new M4 chip, Apple didn’t provide an upgrade in one of the most crucial areas. The battery life on the new iPad Pro models remains similar to its predecessor. For instance, the 11-inch model packs a 31.29-watt-hour battery, while the 13-inch variant ships with a 38.99-watt-hour cell.

Both models are rated to last up to 10 hours of web surfing or watching videos over a wireless network. The absence of an improved battery seems like a huge miss, especially for power users.

M4 iPad Pro’s Connectivity Issue

Apple’s M2 iPad Pro shipped with support for 5G connectivity via sub-6 GHz and mmWave, which made it a no-brainer for users who require cellular connectivity. In 2024, however, the company has decided to stick with sub-6 GHz 5G networks. Similarly, you can’t use physical nano-SIM cards with the latest models.

Just in case you were wondering, the M4 and M2 iPad Pro models both support Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth v5.3.

Support for Apple Pencil Pro and a New Magic Keyboard

The latest iPad Pro supports two new accessories: Apple Pencil Pro and a new Magic Keyboard. The Apple Pencil Pro is a solid choice, primarily because of the additional features it offers over the second-generation Apple Pencil. These include the new squeeze gesture, barrel roll, custom haptic engine, and Apple’s Find My network support.

Image of the M2 iPad Air with Apple Pencil Pro attached to its side.

Designed for the new iPad Pro, the 2024 Magic Keyboard offers a larger trackpad and an aluminum palm rest. The accessory is thinner and lighter than ever, making it easier for iPad users to carry their devices. Like the iPad, the new Magic Keyboard comes in black and white finishes. Together, these accessories can help users get MacBook-like productivity (or better) from a tablet.

Should You Upgrade?

If you already own the M2 iPad Pro and you aren’t too concerned about the LCD screen or the performance of the M2 chip, there’s little need to upgrade to the latest model. On the flip side, if you use your iPad for creative or professional purposes, you could benefit from the OLED screen and M4 processor on the latest model.

If you’re looking for a tablet but can’t make up your mind between these two devices, go for the one that fits your budget. The M2 iPad Pro (Wi-Fi, 256GB) is currently available for $849 at Best Buy, making it an excellent deal. You might be able to snag the M2 model for even less over the coming months, as discounts are applied by various retailers. Conversely, the M4 iPad Pro (Wi-Fi, 256GB) costs $999, which might be too steep for some users.

Yes, the M2 iPad Pro offers a better value proposition, but if you’re an enthusiast with cash to burn and you want a taste of the new tandem OLED screen and M4 Silicon chip, you can’t go wrong with an M4 iPad Pro.

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By John P.

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