Apple iPad Pro (2024) review: the best type of overkill

    The new iPad Pro is a stunning success in tablet design. It’s the closest I’ve yet seen to the idea that a tablet should feel more like a piece of glass in your hand than like a computer. I’m not sure how you’d shrink it more; the USB-C plug I use to charge the 13-inch Pro I’ve been testing is already thicker than the iPad. It’s a lightweight, swift, and fantastic machine.

    But is that really worth much anymore? For years, the iPad has been a hardware triumph, plenty quick, light, and long-lasting for nearly anything you can do with it. The issue has always been software: by requiring the gadget to run a locked-down, oversimplified operating system, Apple has stopped this ultraportable and ultrapowerful machine from becoming the full-fledged computer that so many consumers desire.

    Apple appears to believe that the iPad’s appeal outweighs its individual components. No, you won’t be able to do all you could on a MacBook. However, you can keep it in your hands in bed. You can doodle on the screen. You can play mobile games. Everyone at Apple talks about the iPad’s “versatility” as its key selling point; being a jack-of-all-trades is a feature, not a flaw. The problem with trying to accomplish everything is that it is extremely difficult to do everything well.

    Apple’s pitch for the iPad Pro appears to be that it is the tablet of the future. It includes the processor, screen, and accessories you’ll need for the next ten years of computing. Because AI will soon revolutionize everything, and you’ll be glad you had the power to run it effectively. That might be true! However, none of this is real yet. Furthermore, the most essential aspects of that future will occur on the screen, not behind it.

    In many respects, the new iPad Pro feels like the culmination of the iPad’s 14-year history, with all of the pieces finally falling into place. It also feels, as always, like a futuristic hardware with software trapped in the past, and I’m not sure I’d suggest it to most people.

    I do enjoy it, though.

    A magic pane of glass

    Almost all of my testing was done on one of the iPad Pro’s most powerful models: a 13-inch space black model with 1TB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and a built-in cellular connection. That is a $2,099 iPad right there. Add in the $129 Pencil Pro and the new $349 Magic Keyboard, and I’m reviewing an iPad worth $2,577, which is equivalent to the cost of a high-end laptop. You can purchase it cheaper, of course, but the Pro is never cheap: the 11-inch model starts at $999 and includes 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. (That entry-level storage option is now double its previous price, which is a welcome change but still expensive.)

    No matter which Pro you purchase, you will gain access to the three most crucial new features of this new model: the chip, the screen, and the design.

    Apple iPad Pro (2024)
    The 13-inch iPad Pro is enormous. But it’s much lighter now.

    Let’s start with the chip, which is both crucial and little complicated. The Pro runs on Apple’s M4 CPU, a brand-new chip created expressly for the Pro’s new screen and design, and it’s as quick as you’d expect. In my benchmark tests, the M4-powered Pro performed roughly 50% better than the previous M2-powered model. In practice, it certainly does not feel 50% faster, but it does feel quicker.

    Apps load and close a half-beat faster on the M4, and sophisticated games run flawlessly (I still can’t believe how gorgeous Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile looks on this device), and iMovie produces video substantially faster than on the 11-inch M2 Pro I’ve been using for a couple of years. Individually, these aren’t earth-shattering changes, but if you do a lot of heavy photo and video work or enjoy a long Warzone session, it’s a significant performance boost. And, throughout my testing, I never observed the device becoming hot in my hands. Occasionally very slightly warm, perhaps, but that’s all.

    The top-tier Pro versions, with 1TB or 2TB of storage, receive the finest M4, which includes one extra performance core in the CPU. Yay for additional power, I think, but I’d be surprised if there was any discernible difference in everyday use. In most circumstances, the iPad’s raw performance has been stable for a long period.

    The M4’s primary practical purpose is to power the new OLED display. Apple’s new “Tandem OLED” configuration essentially combines two OLEDs to provide a crisper, brighter panel. Apple calls it Ultra Retina XDR, which is a stupid name, but it works great. All of the conventional advantages of OLED are immediately apparent: because OLEDs manage each pixel independently, you get considerably richer blacks, so letterboxes above and below a video just dissolve into the bezel, and photographs appear much more lively. Colors are really vibrant, to the point where they appear excessively contrasty and HDR-y to my eyes. The Pro has a substantially higher peak brightness than the new Air, which is difficult to achieve with an OLED.

    The Pro’s OLED display is a big step up from anything on an iPad before.

    The only drawback I’ve observed with the display thus far is that the OLED appears to pick up a little more glare and reflection than the Air’s LCD panel. When I use it outside, I have to turn up the brightness a little higher than I would want in order to see everything on screen. But that’s a minor criticism; this screen looks wonderful, and I haven’t observed the battery draining faster at maximum brightness than previously.

    On the design standpoint, the new Pro is more of a tweak than a makeover, but the difference is still significant. The thinness is one thing—at 5.1mm thick for the 13-inch model and 5.3mm for the 11-inch, they’re the thinnest iPads yet—but the weight is what truly appeals to me. The 13-inch Pro I’ve been testing weighs approximately a quarter of a pound less than last year’s model, which may not seem like much, but it’s obvious when I’m holding this large slab of glass in my hands on the couch. I’ve always believed that larger-sized iPads were far too enormous to operate, but I’ve been holding and using this one frequently. It’s so tiny and light that I’m frightened about its fragility. So far, it’s been durable.

    The only other significant design change is that Apple has finally positioned the front-facing camera in the proper location: in the center of the iPad’s long side. This device is now primarily designed for landscape mode, which is a wonderful thing! In general, the iPad is designed to be used in landscape mode. I’m not especially delighted with the front-facing camera’s quality, but it works OK and is much more useful now.

    Apple does not appear to have made any sacrifices in the cause of being thin and light. It’s an excellent design and engineering exercise.

    Feature creep

    There are two main sorts of iPad users. (This is an oversimplification, but follow me.) The first kind wants an easy way to send emails, read news, perform crossword puzzles, view photos, and surf the internet. For those people, the new iPad Pro is completely excessive. Everything about it is somewhat better than the new Air or even the newly cheaper base iPad, but not by much, so I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money unless you really want that OLED screen. (If you do, let me know; I understand. I am with you.

    As ever, the biggest problem with the iPad is iPadOS.

    The third type of iPad user accomplishes all of the above, but they also value one or two iPad-specific features. Musicians use it to flip sheet music, students to handwrite notes, filmmakers to fast evaluate video, and designers to demonstrate interactive renderings to clients. When Apple talks about how “versatile” the iPad is, I believe this is what they mean. The iPad cannot be everything to everyone, but it should provide something for everyone. By putting more power into the gadget, Apple hopes to increase the number of functions that may appeal to you.

    This year’s new features are mostly focused on the Pencil Pro. It includes a handy new squeeze gesture that makes it easier to access menus and frequently used tools. Apple is also allowing developers to personalize what occurs when you squeeze in their apps, so expect some great and bizarre connections shortly. The new Barrel Roll feature will also be a great gain for artists of all kinds, since it allows you to turn your virtual brush or pen simply by twisting the Pencil while drawing. (It works great, but I’m utterly unqualified to critique anything from an artist’s standpoint. We’ll have more on that shortly.)

    The same goes for the new Magic Keyboard, which is my personal favorite improvement of the year. When you dock the iPad in the attachment, it adds a full keyboard and trackpad while floating the iPad above it—it’s the most laptop-like way to use an iPad. The new model is sturdier than the previous one, although it still wobbles somewhat when you contact the iPad screen. The keyboard feels amazing, similar to the keys on a MacBook or the original Magic Keyboard. Now that there’s a row of function keys and a larger trackpad, I can use the gadget for hours without ever lifting my hands. Best of all, it’s roughly 50 grams lighter than before (658g on the new model, according to my kitchen scale, vs. 710g on the previous model), contributing to the new Pro’s overall lower footprint.

    In my own use, my iPad rarely leaves the keyboard case. I use the Magic Keyboard to journal, email, and as a stand while cooking and watching TV. Having a better keyboard in a smaller compact is really important to me. However, for $299, it will not appeal to many individuals. With both of its accessories, Apple is making the Pro more desirable to those who already own one but doing little to attract those who do not.

    It is worth noting that AI has the potential to transform the entire equation. Maybe generative AI can improve photos so much that everyone will want a large, gorgeous screen. Perhaps Siri will improve so much that the iPad will become a smart home controller. Perhaps the camera software will be so impressive that you will always use a tablet for video calls. Maybe, just maybe. WWDC comes in a few weeks, and I expect Apple to make a strong case that developments in AI make the iPad Pro more than just an iPad. If it can make the point that a super-powerful, super-portable, jack-of-all-trades device is what you need in the future, I’ll probably be running to buy an iPad Pro.

    Apple iPad Pro (2024)


    • Great screen
    • Thinner, lighter, easier to hold
    • Camera’s in the right place
    • Super-fast performance


    • Full setup is really expensive
    • iPadOS just can’t keep up with the hardware

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