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iPad Pro (2024) review: So very nice, and so very expensive

Apple spared no expense with the new iPad Pro, and you’ll pay dearly for it.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

It hasn’t even been released yet, but Apple’s new iPad Pro is probably one of the most divisive devices the company has made in years. On the one hand, it’s an undeniable feat of engineering. Apple squeezed a new M4 chip and “tandem” OLED panel into a tablet that’s somehow thinner and lighter than the one it replaces. And the prior iPad Pro was no slouch either, garnering loads of praise for its combo of power and portability since it was first introduced in 2018.

On the other hand, this tech comes at a cost: the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999, while the 13-inch model costs $1,299. That’s $200 more than before, and that’s without a $299 or $349 Magic Keyboard and a $129 Pencil Pro. (The unit I’m testing is a 13-inch system with 1TB of storage and 5G, which costs $2,099) The iPad Pro has always felt like Apple flexing its muscles, showing off an absurdly powerful and portable vision of tablet computing that’s overkill for almost everyone, and that’s more true than ever. Furious debate has ensued over the value of an iPad Pro and why in the world anyone would buy one instead of a MacBook. This isn’t a new conversation, but it feels particularly heated this time.

The iPad Pro is an engineering marvel with a dual-layer OLED screen and a brand-new M4 chip. But its improvements make it more expensive than ever, putting it out of reach of most.

Pros
  • Possibly the best screen I’ve ever seen
  • M4 chip is extremely powerful
  • Thinner and lighter than before, making it easier to hold
  • Front camera is now on the landscape edge
  • Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro include significant new features
Cons
  • Prohibitively expensive
  • Not backwards compatible with old accessories, and new ones are still pricey
$1,249 at Amazon
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Before getting into the details, it’s worth noting that I haven’t even had a week to use the iPad Pro M4. So I can’t assess things like long-term durability, which I can’t help but wonder about given just how thin it is. But in the short time I’ve had the iPad Pro, I can say that it’s somehow a major leap forward that doesn’t significantly change the iPad experience. As such, you’ll have to really ask yourself if it’s worth the price.

If you stare at the iPad Pro M4 head-on, you won’t notice any difference between it and the previous model. The display still makes up the vast majority of the front, with thin, equally sized bezels surrounding it. The Face ID camera is now on the landscape edge (a great change that Apple first brought to the basic iPad in late 2022), but it’s basically invisible to the eye — no notch for the Pro.

However, picking up the iPad Pro tells another story altogether. While the new 13-inch model is fractionally taller and wider than the 12.9-inch version it replaces, the iPad Pro M4 is 20 percent thinner and about a quarter-pound lighter. I cannot stress enough how radically this changes the experience of holding the iPad Pro, especially the larger of the two.

Before, the big iPad Pro was just a bit too big and heavy to be comfortable as a hand-held tablet. I used to prefer using the 11-inch iPad Pro or Air when I’m relaxing on the couch browsing the web, playing some games, messaging friends and doing other light tasks. Now, however, it feels entirely reasonable to use the 13-inch model in that fashion. I still think smaller tablets are better for hand-held tasks, but the reduced thickness and weight make the new iPad Pro much easier to handle.

I want to talk a little more about how ridiculously thin this iPad is. Apple has rightly gotten its share of flack for relentlessly trying to make its products thinner, to the point where it affects durability and usability. Perhaps the best examples are the Touch Bar MacBook Pro models that Apple first introduced in 2016. Those laptops were indeed thinner and lighter than their predecessors, but at the expense of things like battery life, proper thermal cooling and a reliable keyboard. Apple reversed course by 2020 when it brought its own chips to the MacBook Pro; those laptops were heavier and chunkier than the disastrous Touch Bar models, but they had more ports and better keyboards and no issues staying cool under a heavy workload.

This is all to say that, for those computers, the pursuit of “thin and light” hampered their primary purpose, especially since they aren’t devices you hold in your hands all day. But with something like an iPad, where you’re meant to pick it up, hold it and touch it, shaving off a quarter of a pound and 20 percent of its thickness actually makes a huge difference in the experience of using the product. It’s more comfortable and easier to use — and, provided that there are no durability concerns here, this is a major improvement. I’ve only had the iPad Pro for less than a week, so I can’t say how it’ll hold up over time, but so far it seems sturdy and not prone to bending.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
The iPad Pro on the left, next to the iPad Air on the right. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

Beyond that significant change, the new iPad Pro retains the same basic elements: There’s a power button in one corner, volume up and down buttons on another, and a USB-C Thunderbolt port on the bottom. There’s a camera bump on the back, in the same position as always, and a connector for the Magic Keyboard. Finally, there are four speakers, one in each corner, just as before. They sound much better than speakers from such a thin device should sound, a feat Apple has consistently pulled off across all its devices lately. Aside from the size and weight reduction, Apple hasn’t radically changed things here, and that’s mostly OK — though I could imagine some people wanting a second Thunderbolt port just for power when a peripheral is plugged in.

The specs of both the front- and back-facing cameras are unchanged; both are 12-megapixel sensors. Somewhat surprisingly, Apple removed the ultra-wide camera from the back, leaving it with a single standard camera alongside the LiDAR sensor and redesigned True Tone flash. That’s fine by me, as the standard lens is just fine for most things you’ll want out of an iPad camera. Its video capabilities are still robust, with support for ProRes video recording and 4K at a variety of frame rates.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera on the landscape edge of the tablet means you can actually do video calls when the iPad is in its keyboard dock and not look ridiculous. I generally avoided doing video calls with my iPad before, but I’ve done a handful on the iPad Pro and all the feedback I’ve received is that the video quality is solid if not spectacular. Regardless, I won’t think twice about jumping onto FaceTime or Google Meet with the iPad Pro now that the camera position is no longer an issue.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

The next thing you’ll notice about the new iPad Pro is its OLED display. Specifically, Apple calls it a “tandem OLED” display, which means that you’re actually looking at two OLED panels layered on top of each other. The screen resolution is essentially the same as the old iPad Pro (2,752 x 2,064, 264 pixels per inch), but a number of other key specs have improved. It now features a 2,000,000-to-1 contrast ratio, one of the things OLED is best known for — blacks are literal darkness, as the pixels don’t emit any light.

The OLED enables more brightness and improved HDR performance compared to the old iPad Pro — standard screen brightness is up to 1,000 nits, compared to 600 nits for the last model. As before, though, HDR content maxes out at 1,600 nits. This is a nice upgrade over the Mini-LED screen on the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it’s a massive improvement for the 11-inch iPad Pro. That model was stuck with a standard LCD with no HDR capabilities; the disparity between the screens Apple offered on the two iPad Pros was significant, but now both tablets have the same caliber display, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

Everything is incredibly bright, sharp and vibrant, whether I’m browsing the web, editing photos, watching movies or playing games. I cannot stress enough how delightful this screen is — I have a flight this week, and I can’t wait to spend it watching movies. Watching a selection of scenes from Interstellar shows off the HDR capabilities as well as the contrast between the blackness of space and the brightness of surrounding stars and galaxies, while more vibrant scenes like the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring had deep and gorgeous colors without feeling overly saturated or unrealistic. Given how the screen is the most crucial experience of using a tablet, I can say Apple has taken a major leap forward here. If you’re upgrading from the Mini-LED display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it won’t be quite as massive a difference, but anyone who prefers the 11-inch model will be thrilled with this improvement.

As usual, these screens have all the usual high-end features from prior models, including the ProMotion variable refresh rate (up to 120hz), fingerprint-resistant and antireflective coatings, True Tone color temperature adjustment, support for the P3 wide color gamut and full lamination. Other iPads have some, but not all of these features; specifically, ProMotion is saved for the Pro line. And this year, Apple added a $100 nano-texture glass option for the 1TB and 2TB models to further reduce glare, a good option if you often work in bright sunlight. (My review iPad did not have this feature.) Between that and the improved brightness, these tablets are well-suited to working in difficult lighting conditions.

Choosing to debut the M4 chip in the iPad Pro rather than a Mac is a major flex by Apple. Prior M-series silicon hit Macs first, iPads later. But as Apple tells it, the tandem OLED displays needed the new display engine on the M4 to hit the performance goals it wanted, so rather than engineer it into an existing processor, it just went forward with a whole new processor. The 1TB and 2TB iPad Pros have an M4 with four performance cores, six efficiency cores, a 10-core GPU and 16GB of RAM, while the less-expensive models have to make do with three performance cores and 8GB of RAM.

Either way, that’s more power than almost anyone buying an iPad will know what to do with. Interestingly, even Apple’s own apps don’t quite know what to do with it, either. When the company briefed the press last week, it showed off new versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad, both of which had some impressive additions. Final Cut Pro is getting a live multicam feature that lets you wirelessly sync multiple iPhones or iPads to one master device and record and direct all of them simultaneously. Logic Pro, meanwhile, has some new AI-generated “session players” that can create realistic backing tracks for you to play or sing over.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

Both features were very impressive in the demos I saw — but neither of them requires the M4 iPad Pro. Final Cut Pro will still work on any iPad with an M-series processor, and Logic Pro works on M-series iPads as well as the iPad Pro models with the A12Z chip (first released in 2020).

Of course, when you’re spending in excess of $1,000, it’s good to know you’ll get performance that’ll last you years into the future, and that’s definitely the case here. As apps get even more complex, the iPad Pro should be able to make short work of them. That includes AI, of course — the M4’s neural engine is capable of 38 trillion operations per second, a massive upgrade over the 18 trillion number quoted for the M3.

Unsurprisingly, the iPad Pro M4’s Geekbench CPU scores of 3,709 (single-core), 14,680 (multi-core) and 53,510 (GPU) significantly eclipse those of the M2 iPad Air (2,621 / 10,058 / 41,950). In reality, though, both of these tablets will churn through basically anything you throw at them. If your time is money and having faster video rendering or editing matters, or you work with a lot of apps that rely heavily on machine learning, the M4 should shave precious seconds or minutes out of your workflow, which will add up significantly over time.

Fortunately, the new chip remains as power efficient as ever. I haven’t done deep battery testing yet given I’ve only had the iPad Pro for a few days at this point. But I did use it as my main computer for several days and got through almost 10 hours of work before needing the charger. My workload is comparatively modest though, as I’m not pushing the iPad through heavy video or AI workloads, so your mileage may vary. As it has for more than a decade now, Apple quotes 10 hours of web browsing or watching video. But given what the M4 is capable of, chances are people doing more process-intensive tasks will run through the battery a lot faster.

As rumored, Apple has two new accessories for the iPad Pro: a new keyboard and the Pencil Pro. Both are still just as pricey as before. $350 for a keyboard case still feels like highway robbery, no matter how nice it is. But at least they’re not more expensive.

The good news is that the new Magic Keyboard is definitively better than the old one in a number of ways. First off, it’s thinner and lighter than before, which makes a huge difference in how the whole package feels. The last iPad Pro and its keyboard were actually rather thick and heavy, weighing in around three pounds — more than a MacBook Air. Now, both the iPad and keyboard case are thinner and lighter on their own, making the whole package feel much more compact.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

The base of the Magic Keyboard is now made of aluminum, which makes the typing experience more like what you’ll find on a MacBook. The keys are all about the same size as before, and typing on it remains extremely comfortable. If you’re familiar with the keyboards on Apple’s laptops, you’ll feel right at home here. Apple also made the trackpad bigger and added a function row of keys, both of which make the overall experience of navigating and using iPadOS much better.

The trackpad also now has no moving parts and instead relies on haptic feedback, similar to the MacBook trackpads. Every click is accompanied by a haptic that truly tricks me into thinking the trackpad moves, and small vibrations accompany other actions as well. For example, when I swipe up and hold to enter multitasking, there’s a haptic that confirms the gesture is recognized. Third-party developers will be able to add haptic trackpad feedback to their apps, as well.

Between the improved layout and thinner design, the Magic Keyboard is essential gear if, like me, you make your living while typing. It’s wildly expensive, yes, but it’s also extremely well-made and thoughtfully designed in a way that I just haven’t seen anyone else match yet. Yes, there are plenty of cheaper third-party options, but the Magic Keyboard is the best option I’ve tried.

Photos of Apple’s 13-inch iPad Air, released in 2024
Photos of Apple’s 13-inch iPad Air, released in 2024 (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

Whenever I review an iPad, I can’t help but lament my complete lack of visual art skill. But even I can tell that the new Pencil Pro is a notable upgrade over the model it replaces, which was already excellent. As before, it magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad Pro for charging and storage, something that remains an elegant solution.

The Pencil Pro does everything the second-gen Apple Pencil does and has some new tricks to boot. One is Squeeze, which by default brings up the brush picker interface in apps like Notes and Freeform. It’s a quick and smart way to scrub through your different options, and it’s open to third-party developers to use as they wish in their own apps. The Pencil Pro isn’t too sensitive to the Squeeze gesture; I didn’t find myself accidentally popping open the menu while doodling away. The new Pencil also has a gyroscope, which lets it recognize rotation gestures — this means you can “turn” your virtual brush as you paint, giving it another layer of realism. Between tilt, pressure and now rotation sensitivity, the Pencil Pro is even better at capturing how you are using it.

Apple also added haptic feedback, so when you squeeze the Pencil you’ll get a vibration to confirm the action. It’s also used in a great new “undo” menu: if you squeeze the Pencil and then tap and hold on the back button, you can then quickly scrub through and undo everything you’ve written, step-by-step. This history makes it easy to take some risks while working on something and then quickly rewind if you’re not happy with the results. And each step of the log is accompanied by a haptic buzz as you scroll forwards and backwards.

Finally, the Apple Pencil Pro has Find My integration, which will make it easier to find when you inevitably lose it in the couch cushions (or leave it at a coffee shop). Given that Apple threw in a lot of new features and kept the price the same, I can’t complain too much about the Pencil Pro. The only bummer is that the new iPad Pro doesn’t work with the second-generation Pencil, presumably due to a different battery charging and pairing setup necessitated by moving the front camera to the same edge as the charging area. So if you’re upgrading, a Pencil Pro (or the less capable $79 USB-C Pencil) will be a requirement.

I think it’s worth a quick mention that Apple has not made any changes to iPadOS to go along with this release, and it’s one of the things that has made the internet very angry. There’s been a lot of chatter from some people who think the iPad Pro should run macOS or similar software; the vibe is that the iPad’s hardware is wasted on iPadOS.

I can only speak for myself and note that I was able to do everything my job asks of me on the iPad Pro while I was testing it, but that doesn’t mean it would be my choice over a Mac for certain situations. If I was at an event like CES, I’d want my MacBook Pro to facilitate things like transferring and editing photos as well as working in Google Docs. I can do those things on an iPad, but not as easily, mostly because the Google Docs app doesn’t handle going through comments and suggestions well. I did, however, find it easy and fast to import RAW photos from my SD card to the Lightroom app. For the first time, I felt comfortable doing my entire review photo workflow on an iPad. Even things like tearing through my email are better in the Gmail web app than the Gmail app for iPad. Overall, though, I was perfectly happy using the iPad Pro as my main computer; some things are a little tougher and some are easier. The whole experience doesn’t feel significantly better or worse, it’s just different. And at this point, I enjoy seeing what I can do on platforms that aren’t Windows and macOS.

Ultimately, Apple has shown no indication it’s going to make iPadOS more like a Mac. By the same coin, it still shows no indication of making a Mac with a touchscreen. For better or worse, those two worlds are distinct. And with no rumors pointing to a big iPadOS redesign at WWDC next month, you shouldn’t expect the software experience to radically change in the near future. As such, don’t buy an iPad Pro unless you’re content with the OS as it is right now.

Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024.
Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro, first released in 2024. (Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget)

The iPad Pro M4 is a fascinating device. I can’t help but want to use it. All the time. For everything. It’s truly wild to me that Apple is putting its absolute best tech into not a Mac but an iPad. That’s been a trend for a while, as the iPad Pro lineup has always been about showing off just how good of a tablet Apple can make, but this one truly is without compromise. It doesn’t just have a nice screen, it has the best screen Apple has ever made. It doesn’t have the same processor as some Macs, it has a newer and better one.

To get all of that technology into a device this thin and light truly feels, well, magical. That’s how Steve Jobs described the first iPad; significantly, he also said it contained “our most advanced technology.” In 2010, it was debatable whether the first iPad really had Apple’s most advanced tech, but it’s absolutely true now. And that’s what makes the iPad Pro such a delight to use: it’s a bit of an otherworldly experience, something hard to come by at this point when so much of technology has been commoditized.

But when I think realistically about what I need and what I can reasonably justify spending, I realize that the iPad Pro is just too much for me. Too expensive, too powerful, maybe a little too large (I truly love the 11-inch model, however). If you’re in the same boat, then fortunately, there’s an iPad that offers nearly everything the iPad Pro does for significantly less cash. The iPad Air may not be nearly as exciting as the Pro, but it offers the same core experience for a lot less cash. But if you aren’t put off by the price, the new iPad Pro is sure to delight.