Apple’s new iPad Pro improves upon last year’s with a faster processor and 5G support – but the upgrade is really for power users

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Apple Event April 2021
iPad Pro

  • The 2021 Apple iPad Pro features improved specs while keeping the 2020 model‘s $799 starting price.
  • You can preorder the new tablet starting April 30, and units are expected to ship in mid-May.
  • The M1 processor and 5G option are nice features, but 2020 iPad owners should wait for a bigger upgrade.

On April 20, Apple announced the fifth-generation of its iPad Pro line. The new tablet has a lot of the same features as the 2020 edition, but adds an upgraded display, 5G connectivity support, Apple’s M1 processor (CPU), and bigger storage capacity.

You can order the 2021 Apple iPad Pro from Apple and other retailers starting April 30, and tablets will be available in mid-May, according to Apple.

Prices for the 11-inch tablet start at $799, and the new 12.9-inch version starts at $1,099. Here’s how the new iPad Pro models stacks up to their predecessors.

The 2021 iPad Pro has the same resolution as the 2020 iPad Pro, but the new 12.9-inch edition uses a mini-LED design versus the standard LED backlight found on the 2020 model. Mini-LED can provide better contrast and higher peak brightness to create a more realistic image with better high dynamic range (HDR) performance.

2021 iPad Pro models also incorporate a faster CPU and better graphics performance thank to the addition of Apple’s M1 chip. We’ve been impressed with the performance improvements this chip makes in other recent Apple products, like the MacBook Air.

Other upgrades include new support for 5G on cellular models, as well as a new option for up to 2TB of storage versus last year’s max of 1TB. The front camera has been upgraded as well, making the jump from 7MP to 12MP.

These improvements make the new iPad Pro a better buy for power users over the previous version, especially the 12.9-inch model thanks to its advanced display. That said, we view this as more of a mid-cycle upgrade rather than a full overhaul.

Apple iPad Pro (2021) versus Apple iPad Pro (2020)

Specifications 2021 iPad Pro 2020 iPad Pro
Starting price $799 for 11-inch, $1,099 for $12.9-inch $799 for 11-inch, $999 for $12.9-inch
Display Up to 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display Up to 12.9-inch Liquid Retina display
Processor Apple M1 Apple 12Z Bionic
Rear Camera 12-megapixel wide-angle, 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle 12-megapixel wide-angle, 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle
Front Camera 12 megapixels 7 megapixels
Ports USB-C, Thunderbolt/USB 4 support USB-C
Battery Life Up to 10 hours Up to 10 hours
Biometrics Face ID Face ID
Storage Options Up to 2TB Up to 1TB
Cellular connectivity 5G, 4G LTE 4G LTE

2021 iPad Pro (small)

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Apple’s new iPad Pro is the best explanation for why we’ll never see a touchscreen MacBook

Apple event april iPad pro
  • The iPad Pro feels more like an answer to 2-in-1 Windows devices than Apple’s MacBook line.
  • It’s following the same evolution as hybrid Windows devices, especially when it comes to camera upgrades.
  • The iPad Pro is where we’re seeing forward-looking new tech from Apple, not the MacBook.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Apple’s iPad Pro has always seemed like an alternative to the laptop. After all, it has a laptop-sized screen, it’s designed to work best with a keyboard, and it now supports trackpad input.

But the company took that idea a step further on Tuesday with the introduction of its newest iPad Pro. The updated model comes with Apple’s powerful M1 chip – the same processor that drives its latest MacBook laptops – new mini-LED display technology with improved brightness and contrast on the larger model, 5G support, and Thunderbolt connectivity.

The announcement served as yet another sign that the iPad Pro is indeed Apple’s answer to the 2-in-1 Windows laptops that have dominated the PC industry over the last decade. It reinforces the idea that we’ll probably never see a touchscreen Mac, because that’s exactly what the iPad Pro has become.

The iPad Pro is following a similar path as new Windows laptops

Many of the upgrades we’ve been seeing on Windows laptops in recent months are also present on the new iPad Pro. These include better microphones and cameras for conference calls, thinner and lighter designs that run on processors based on the same basic architecture as those in our phones, and 5G integration.

Just look back to some of the most interesting laptop announcements from this year’s CES conference for evidence. Lenovo’s new IdeaPad 5G laptop, for example, comes with 5G and runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx processor. That chip is built on the ARM architecture that’s commonly found in the processors that power smartphones and tablets, similar to Apple’s M1 chip.

HP’s Elite Dragonfly Max, meanwhile, comes with a 5-megapixel camera and four wide-range microphones that use artificial intelligence to optimize audio – an upgrade that was clearly intended for the work-from-home era.

Apple now has its own take on how to improve video conferencing as it relates to the iPad Pro. The tablet comes with a new feature called Center Stage, which leverages the iPad Pro’s new wide-angle front camera and machine learning to automatically keep you in the shot as you move. Since it runs on M1, it also uses Apple’s image signal processor, which greatly improves color and brightness as I found when reviewing the MacBook Air.

Of course, some of the additions on the newest model address the iPad Pro’s shortcomings when compared to laptops. The 2021 model comes with Thunderbolt support, for example, which enables support for more powerful accessories like faster storage devices.

And now that the iPad Pro runs on M1, there’s a chance that app compatibility between Mac and iPad will become easier to manage since they’re powered by the same chip architecture.

The iPad Pro is Apple’s vision for the future of computing

It’s unclear whether the iPad Pro has been a hit for Apple in terms of sales because the company doesn’t specify those details in its earnings reports. But what has become clear is that the iPad Pro is Apple’s vision for the future of the personal computer, despite the fact that it’s not technically a laptop.

It’s the iPad Pro, not the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, that includes new sensors like Apple’s Lidar scanner, a new 12.9-inch display that’s brighter and packs in more pixels per inch, and features such as Center Stage. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro were among the first computers to launch with Apple’s M1 chip, but the iPad Pro feels like the first computer that was really designed to take advantage of it.

The MacBook Air and Pro are excellent laptops, but they feel antiquated in some respects. Unlike modern Windows machines, they lack qualities like flexibility, touchscreens, nearly borderless displays, and facial recognition technology, just to name a few. The iPad Pro, however, has all of those features and more.

I don’t know that most people will be willing to give up their MacBooks for an iPad Pro just yet. And Apple doesn’t want you to; it’s clearly very invested in its Mac lineup. But I do think the iPad Pro is the device to keep an eye on if you really want to understand Apple’s perspective as it relates to the future of computing.

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Colorful new iMacs stole the show at Apple’s spring event. Here’s everything the company announced, including AirTags and a new iPad Pro.

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Apple new iMac keyboard
Apple’s latest iMac.

The next generation iMac comes in six bright colors

Apple Event April 2021

Like so many things these days, Apple’s new iMac comes tinged with late ’90s nostalgia: It’ll be the first Apple desktop in years to come in a rainbow of colors options.

The color options are a direct nod to the iMac G3 — the curvy computer from the late ’90s that helped distinguish Apple computers from its competition.

Beyond coming in a variety of colors, the new iMac is stunningly thin and looks almost like a large iPad mounted to a display arm. It has a 24-inch screen with a 4.5K resolution, powered by far beefier internals.

The latest iMac starts at $1,299 and can be preordered starting on April 30, with shipments set to begin in the second half of May.

iMac (small, Preferred: Apple)
The new iPad Pro has a more advanced chip, 5G connectivity, and a better display than ever

Apple event april iPad pro

In terms of form and features, the new iPad Pro isn’t a huge upgrade from the previous model — more of a mid-cycle upgrade that brings it in line with other main Apple products, from the iPhone to the MacBook.

There are two key updates to 2021’s iPad Pro: Its processor is getting upgraded to Apple’s in-house M1 chips, and its wireless connectivity is getting upgraded with 5G functionality. 

The new iPad Pro also comes with up to 2 TB of storage, and there’s a new white color option.

Like the previous version, it comes in two form factors: 11 and 12.9 inches, which start at $799 and $1099. The larger, more expensive model gets another upgrade with a “Liquid Retina XDR display,” which Apple says is its best iPad display yet.

2021 iPad Pro (small, Preferred: Apple)
The new AirTag can attach to items like keys or luggage so you can easily find them

Apple Event April 2021
Apple AirTags

After years of rumors, Apple’s AirTags were officially announced on Tuesday. They will be available to preorder this Friday, April 23, for $29, and are expected to start shipping on April 30.

The tracking accessory helps users find whatever the AirTag is attached to, similar to how Tile works.

The small device is designed to be attached to everyday items, like keys, purses, and wallets. Once attached, you can use your iPhone to find your item by seeking out its corresponding AirTag

The tiny accessory takes the form of a circular tag with the signature Apple logo, though Apple says it will engrave custom designs into them at no cost. The AirTags integrate with Apple’s “Find My” app, and the app uses augmented reality to show visual markers leading you toward your lost item.

AirTags (small)
The new Apple TV 4K will feature Apple’s A12 Bionic chip – and has a redesigned remote

Apple TV 4K 2021

Apple is refreshing the Apple TV 4K, swapping in its latest A12 Bionic chip 

Apple promises smoother video and improved picture thanks to a new feature that relies on your iPhone’s sensors to calibrate your TV, providing more natural colors and improved contrast. 

Apple also unveiled a redesigned remote that nixes the previous touchpad design that’s been unpopular with users for years. 

The new set-top streaming box starts at $179 — which is the same price as the current version — and will be available for preorder beginning on April 30. The remote, which is compatible with some previous Apple TVs, costs $59. 

TV 4K (2021) (small)
The latest iPhone now comes in a new color: purple

iPhone purple

Apple is launching a purple version of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini. 

The new color will be available to preorder on Friday, April 23 and will be available to buy starting on April 30. 

iPhone 12 (small)
Apple is redesigning its Podcasts app and adding subscriptions

Apple podcasts app

With Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, users will be able to sign up for premium podcast subscriptions that will unlock features like ad-free listening and bonus content. 

Apple is also revamping the Podcast app to create channels for individual creators and add a Smart Play button, which will automatically start episodic shows from the newest episode.

The new features will be available starting next month in 170 regions and countries.

A new Apple Card feature will allow couples to co-own an Apple card and build credit together

Apple Card

Apple Card Family, which launches in the US in May, will allow couples to merge their credit lines and build their credit equally.

With the new feature, parents can also add their kids to Apple Card and set spending limits for them. 

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