Sat. May 18th, 2024

Lay witness to the biggest iPad upgrade of all time—Apple’s new seventh-generation iPad Pro is equipped with an OLED display, a thinner chassis, and an all-new M4 processor that puts all Mac computers to shame.

Apple revealed the new iPad Pro during its “Let Loose” hardware event. The upgraded tablet was joined by mini-LED M2 iPad Air, an Apple Pencil Pro with Find My and “squeeze” technology, plus an aluminum-laden iPad Magic Keyboard.

Meet the M4: Apple’s “AI” Processor

Apple presenting the M4 chipset at its Let Loose hardware event.

Instead of debuting the M4 processor in a Mac computer, Apple decided to stick it in a tablet. Both the 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Pro (yes, Apple added an extra 0.1 inches to the 12.9-inch model) are equipped with the M4, which Apple calls an “AI” processor.

The M4 is built using an improved version of the 3nm process. Apple claims that the new iPad Pro will deliver a 50% greater CPU performance and four-times greater GPU performance than the two-year-old 2022 iPad Pro, which uses an M2 chipset. Additionally, the M4 offers dynamic caching and hardware-accelerated ray tracing support for enhanced gaming and lightning-fast 3D rendering.

This is, in Apple’s words, the most powerful AI chipset in any consumer-grade device. The neural engine (or neural processing unit) in M4 is capable of performing 38 trillion AI operations per second. Very few apps take advantage of this capability, though Apple is introducing some new AI features for Logic Pro and other iPad apps, so I guess we’re getting there.

Launching the M4 chipset in an iPad is a bizarre, ballsy move. This is the most powerful ARM desktop chipset on the market, it belongs in a “real” computer, yet here it is in a tablet. If I had to guess, this is Apple’s way of wedging itself into the AI market bubble, building hype for the upcoming M4 Macs, and flexing on the competition (specifically the Qualcomm Snapdragon X). Though I should note that Apple constrains iPadOS to such an extent that it’s impossible to take full advantage of the iPad Pro’s power. This was true even before the M4 chipset.

As a quick side note, the launch of the M4 chipset suggests that Apple will not release an M3 Ultra processor. High-end devices that require an “Ultra” processor, specifically the Mac Studio and Mac Pro, will probably be equipped with M4 Ultra, assuming that Apple refreshes the Mac Studio and Mac Pro before the M5’s arrival.

An OLED Screen, Thinner Design, and Landscape Webcam

The iPad Pro viewed from the side with a weight of 0.98 pounds for the 11-inch model and 1.28 pounds for the 13-inch model.

The iPad Pro’s new M4 chipset will be featured in thousands of headlines. People will argue whether the M4 is “overkill” or if it turns the iPad into a proper “laptop replacement.” Like most people, I use the iPad for lightweight tasks. I’ll never be able to push this tablet to its limit. And that’s why the most exciting 2024 iPad Pro upgrade, at least for me, is the new OLED “Ultra Retina XDR” display.

Apple is using an OLED panel in both the 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Pro. This panel, which replaces the mini-LED display of previous models, provides a substantial boost in screen quality. OLED offers the best contrast ratio of any current display technology, and because the contrast is so rich, users will perceive increased sharpness and color vibrancy. While manufacturers like Samsung have been quick to adopt OLED, Apple has been relatively slow. The MacBook is expected to get an OLED upgrade later this year, but for now, the iPad Pro has a better screen than any MacBook.

Unlike mini-LED, OLED does not require a backlight. So, we get two bonus benefits—the iPad Pro is thinner than ever before, and its display will have a reduced impact on battery life (whether this leads to an increased battery life is yet to be seen). Per Apple, the new 13-inch iPad Pro measures just 5.1mm thick (down from 6.4mm) and weighs just 1.28 pounds. The 11-inch flavor is 5.3mm thick (down from 5.9mm) and weighs 0.98 pounds.

Apple’s is also boasting an interesting “tandem OLED” technology that uses a pair of OLED panels to achieve LCD-like brightness. The new iPad Pro can reach a peak HDR brightness of 1,600 nits and an SDR brightness of 1,000 nits. These figures are impressive for an OLED tablet, though I should note that this is the same peak brightness we got with the 2022 iPad Pro.

Finally, the new iPad Pro’s selfie camera is placed in a landscape orientation. Most people set the iPad in landscape mode during video calls, so this makes sense—the camera is now at a more flattering angle and won’t be obstructed by your thumb when you carry the iPad Pro. Rival tablet brands, such as Amazon Fire, have already shown that the landscape-oriented camera is a good idea.

Note that the iPad Pro’s redesigned chassis may be incompatible with old cases, keyboard attachments, and other accessories. We’re waiting for clarification from Apple.

Pricing and Availability

Using Logic Pro on the 2024 iPad Pro.

Customers can order the new seventh-gen iPad Pro today. The 11-inch model starts at $999, while the 13-inch monster is $1,299. Customers can choose between Wi-Fi and cellular models, though the cellular versions cost a few hundred dollars extra. Note that Apple has also launched an all-new Apple Pencil Pro and a thinner, lighter iPad Pro Magic Keyboard.

For reference, the 2022 iPad Pro lineup started at just $799. Apple has increased the starting price for the seventh-gen model by $200, though the new iPad Pro also ships with a minimum 256GB of storage instead of 128GB, so at least there’s that. If you want to save money, I suggest looking into the new iPad Air, which is more Pro-like than ever before.

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By John P.

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