New iPad Pro review: First Apple 5G tablet is so good it’s hard to believe it really exists

APPLE’S new iPad Pro is finally here to blur the lines between tablet, computer and even phone.

I’ve been testing the thin-and-light workhorse for a week – and I’m bloody well sold.

Apple’s iPads have come a long way since they first launched in 2010, and the iPad Pro is the stunning culmination of all that hard work.

Even compared to 2020’s iPad Pro, the new model is lightyears ahead.

The exterior hasn’t really changed, which is no bad thing.

It’s still a giant slab of metal and glass that will draw the envy of geeks and casual onlookers alike…probably.

I’ll be honest, it was hard to imagine how the iPad Pro could get much better.

But Apple has pulled a bunch of tricks out of its bottomless bag that make the 2021 iPad Pro an absolute treat to use.

In many ways, it’s the same iPad we’ve always known.

You’ve got a big screen for watching Netflix in a way that an iPhone simply can’t deliver.

And you can whack a keyboard on it to get a bit of work done.

Of course, this is a Pro model so it’s got real computing chops seemingly designed for shock and awe.

Appropriate then that this is the weapon that could kill the laptop.

For a start, it’s running on the same Apple-built M1 chip powering the new MacBooks and iMac.

This phenomenal processor has been out for less than a year, but has attracted rave reviews across the board.

It chews through anything you chuck at it – and then asks for more.

I can blast open 20 Safari tabs first thing in the morning, and it’ll launch them without a hitch. My WiFi can hardly keep up.

Photoshopping huge files with dozens of layers is a breeze.

And with my trusty Apple Pencil, I’ve been able to conjure up fairly detailed (but ultimately poor) digital art using the excellent Procreate without a hitch.

The way the iPad can process huge amounts of data is truly astonishing.

I was able to edit 4K videos (a native format to the iPad, which records 4K at 60fps) with minimal fuss, and absolutely zero performance issues.

And although GarageBand is hardly taxing, I’ve been impressed by the microphone audio quality and ability to handle endless layers of a new genre I’m inventing called psychedelic-spooky-rockfunk. You heard it here first.

Next up is the screen, which is new and vastly improved.

That’s because Apple has fitted the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with what it’s calling a Liquid Retina XDR display.

It’s an absolute treat.

The technology involved is called Mini LED, which (in this case) means there are 10,000 tiny illuminating diodes split into 2,500 ‘dimming zones’ powering the visuals.

You get brilliant lights and deep blacks, a mammoth brightness of 1,000 nits – rising to 1,600 nits while playing HDR content.

For contrast, even the iPhone 12 Pro’s brilliant OLED panel only gets up to 1,200 nits.

And it’s got a generous resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels, which works out at around 264 pixels-per-inch.

Colours are beautiful, images are pin-sharp, and the iPad Pro remains bright even outside on a rare British sunny day.

There’s a very good chance this display is better than your TV – even an expensive one.

One of the most important upgrades is support for 5G internet.

Nippy next-gen mobile networks are spreading across the UK, US and many countries around the world with increasing speed.

And with download rates as much as 10 times higher than Britain’s 4K average, it’s a welcome boon.

I’ve been using the iPad Pro as my main work machine for a week.

And it’s astonishing how we’re now at a time where you can be just as productive on an iPad with 5G as you can on a MacBook running on WiFi.

It certainly takes some adjustment to get used to snapping windows, and different ways of working on iPad apps like Photoshop.

But it’s unarguable that many people could simply forgo a laptop entirely and use an iPad Pro instead.

Some power users, people who need very specialist desktop-only software, or PC gamers will potentially struggle with an iPad Pro.

However, it’s hard to see why most people couldn’t now use an iPad instead. It’s phenomenal.

Of course, it’s got some of Apple’s best tricks too.

You get Face ID facial recognition unlocking, and a True Tone display that colour-adjusts based on ambient light.

There’s a cool video-calling feature called Centre Stage that will automatically pan and zoom to keep subjects centred in the frame.

And it runs on the latest version of iPadOS 14, giving you enhanced online privacy, redesigned apps for better productivity, and a shedload of emoji to chuck at your pals.

So how much will it cost you? You’re looking at paying at least £749 for the 11-inch model, or £999 for the 12.9-inch version.

Of course, it can be specced to the nines, with the larger 5G model and 2TB storage costing just shy of £2,150.

Chuck in an Apple Pencil (£119) and the truly wizard Magic Keyboard (£329) and you’re potentially looking at a mammoth bill.

That said, most of the good stuff is available in the base version of the iPad, so many buyers won’t need to tread far north of that.

A keyboard is more important than an Apple Pencil in my opinion, but I write words to pay the bills.

Artists will find great use from the brilliant Apple Pencil.

And many buyers will get along fine with neither accessory.

Importantly, don’t think of this as just a tablet, because it’s much more capable than an entry-level iPad.

This is a powerful machine that realistically now stands against the best laptops and hybrids on the market.

If you’ve got an iPhone or another Mac device, your productivity will be boosted even further – because you get cross-device features like a shared clipboard and AirDrop file transfers.

Battery life has been so far: Apple claims up to 10 hours of web-browsing, and that feels about right.

I can get through a day of work without running it down, and it’ll do a weekend away with leisurely use on a single charge too.

iPad Pro 2021 – the final verdict

Ultimately, iPad Pro is a brilliant machine – but it certainly isn’t for everyone.

Buyers on a budget will find better joy from a standard iPad or the impressive new iPad Air.

After all, this is a pro machine aimed at people looking to get loads done – and are willing to splash the cash.

For others, the long-refined power of a MacBook will be the only way to go.

But in 2021, you can buy an iPad Pro and get more done than you probably ever imagined.

The Sun says: The iPad Pro lives up to its name, offering up laptop-grade performance without losing the joy and versatility of a tablet. An incredible and impossibly slim machine that I’d struggle to believe exists, had I not seen it with my own eyes. 5/5

The new iPad Pro is available to order right now from £749, and is currently shipping in June.

  • New iPad Pro at Apple for £749 – buy here

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All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed. Always do your own research before making any purchase.

What do you make of the new iPad Pro? Let us know in the comments!

In other news, check out our new iMac review.

You can get a free Apple Music upgrade very soon.

And take a look at some of the best hidden iOS 14.5 features on your iPhone.

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