When it comes to the smartphone wars, the jury is still out on if Apple or Google is the ultimate winner. But when it comes to tablets, Apple’s iPad is the de facto champion so far ahead of the competition, its challengers have seemingly given up on the race. And this year’s release of the iPad and iPad Pro devices didn’t even help shift the needle – the writing was on the wall several years ago, and sealed last year when the company launched its flagship iPad Pro powered by its then leading M1 processors.
Yes, the same chips that powered some models of its industry-leading MacBook laptops were now responsible for its industry-changing tablets, and let’s be honest here – none of the other mobile device manufacturers even bothered launching anything to compete, especially since Apple has to entire gamut of tablet devices in the bag, from the small iPad mini, normal iPad, to the higher-end 11 and 12.9 inch iPad Pro – there was a device of size and price point for everyone, backed by the company’s rich ecosystem of apps, software creators and content supporters.
It was expected that the company would launch new iPad Pro devices soon, with this year’s release of the upgraded M2 SoC (system on chip), and given the device’s earlier two-year window between refreshed iPad Pro models, Apple could have waited to 2023 to launch a 4th generation iPad Pro 11-inch and 6th generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch model and consumers wouldn’t have minded, especially since last year’s M1 powered iPad Pro devices have no current peer. Instead, the company opted to launch the M2 iPad Pro models roughly a month after this year’s Apple iPhone 14 announcement to little or no fanfare, choosing to do so with a teaser Tweet by current chief executive Tim Cook, before updates were made to the Apple Store, and press releases were sent out within hours.
This is how confident the company is with its new wave of tablets for 2022 – from the 10th generation normal iPad, and the new M2 powered iPad Pro models. Little has changed in design for the iPad Pros and with this year’s launch, all current models of the iPad now share the same design language, of smooth, flat edges on all sides, with the Power and Volume buttons on the top right hand corner of the unit when held in landscape mode.
Visually, there is little to nothing to distinguish this year’s iPad Pro 12.9-inch model with last year’s – last year’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro 12.9-inch fits this year’s model perfectly, from the fitting of the rear camera module into the slot of the keyboard cover, to the curves of the chassis. The one difference you would notice is that instead of just the name iPad etched in the metal rear of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th Generation), the current 2022 model with M2 now says iPad Pro on the rear aluminum chassis, available in Silver or Space Gray, instead.
Unlike the Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max model, which are largely differentiated by screen sizes, there are some key differences between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, available in 128, 256, 512GB, 1 and 2TB capacities, from S$1,249 (11-inch) and S$1,699 (12.9-inch) respectively. Every configuration of an iPad Pro comes with an 8-core CPU, comprising 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, as well as a 10-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine with 100GB/s memory bandwidth but the models with less than 1TB come with 8GB RAM, while the 1TB and 2TB models come with 16GB RAM.
The Liquid Retina display for the 11-inch comes with a LED-backlit multi-touch display with IPS technology, with 2388 x 1668 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi), while the 12.9-inch offers the Liquid Retina XDR display, with mini LED-backlit multi-touch display with IPS technology, with 2732 x 2048 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). This 2D backlighting system comes with 2,596 local dimming zones, offering a sharper and brighter display, for touching up images, editing videos, to playing games and watching video content. Does this warrant you carrying a larger tablet about the size, and price of a laptop, because of the brighter display? It just means that if you opt for a larger tablet, it comes with a sharper screen.
Truth be told, there is little to differentiate the performance of last year’s and this year’s iPad Pro models, unless you’re heavily invested in using the iPad Pro to edit 4K video content, which has always been possible, but is now smoother and less of a burden to the processor. For those using the same Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) pencil, you can still use it on this year’s iPad, which now comes with one upgraded feature, Apple Pencil hover, made possible by the new hardware and some software upgrade.
Hover now allows you to position the Pencil a few millimeters above the screen, so that a cursor appears on your display, where the Pencil is about to make its mark. For artists, it means no more guesswork on where to make that precise mark as needed, which is key for illustrators and designers. Ever tried drawing on the Procreate app and putting down some light pencil scratches to gauge where the markings would land? The artist in you might still do it, but the illustrator within no longer has to depend on it for precision. For regular users, the hover feature appears when you use Scribble – the text field expands before you begin to write. Apple Pencil hover is also applicable to other menu options, from app icons, buttons and menu lists.
Is it a game changer? Like the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14, it’s a great distraction and fun to play with at the start, but after a while, its use fades into the background and becomes an established function. For the iPad Pro, it will only matter if you are an invested user of the Apple Pencil, otherwise its like the LiDAR depth sensing scanner – it’s not a key reason to buy the iPad Pro, though it might eventually prove useful.
What’s useful though is the new iPad OS 16, which offers a slew of new features for this, and older iPad models, including collaborative functions on iMessage, a shared photo library, an updated Mail app that allows you to schedule email sending and recall sent ones, as well as a greater ability to more seamlessly switch between apps. Apple has realised its not the big new feature that convinces users to adopt and adapt, but the ones that users have come to depend on so effectively, like AirDrop, FaceTime, iMessage and Siri.
Despite Apple’s best efforts to park a powerful camera system on their top performing tablets, let it be known that tablets as cameras are an annoyance at events, concerts, weddings and parties. They are huge to whip out and use, even if this year’s models come with Apple’s Pro camera system, of a 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide camera. With 2X optical zoom out and up to 5x digital zoom, and a True Tone flash, the camera is now as powerful as that of a smartphone, but just because you can use an iMac in a coffee shop doesn’t mean you should. That said, having a tablet meant to edit 4K videos be able to record 4K video at 24, 25, 30 or 60 (Wide) frames per second (fps), including ProRes 4K at 30fps, and 1080p high definition video at 25, 30 fps or 60 fps is a boon, but just make sure you get the higher capacity storage device.
Will the new iPad Pro impress us enough to make a device upgrade one year later? Actually, it already does and while there are no obvious reasons to switch to an M2 iPad Pro this year, you can do so confidently knowing that it works great as a tablet, with software support that makes it a powerful laptop replacement, especially if you’re intending to pick one up for educational use, either as a primary device, or a one-size fits all tool that great for work and play.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
In many ways, the world and users barely pushed the boundaries of the M1 iPad Pro and now, we’re getting a more powerful M2 version. Everything you love about the iPad Pro remains unchanged, because it’s already powerful enough, and has removed the lines between tablet and laptop device.
Aesthetics - 9/10
Build Quality - 10/10
Performance - 9/10
Value - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 10/10