How powerful is the new iPad OS

iPad Pro (2020) in the test: A moderate improvement on a great tablet

Leif Johnson, Kris Wallburg

Apple has expanded some important technical features for this model, but its LiDAR scanner for better AR applications seems to be of limited suitability for the iPad. Our American colleague Leif Johnson has extensively tested the new iPad Pro.

EnlargeThe appearance of the new iPad Pro hardly differs from its predecessor.

In 2018, the new iPad Pro was daring and elegant, and exactly what Apple needed to shake up a line of products that was getting on in years. Unlike its predecessors, it featured Face ID, a new and improved Apple Pencil, a USB-C port, thin bezels, and a lightning-fast processor.

The 2020 model looks similar and does the same, but now the initial excitement has largely subsided. Rather than opting for a new design, Apple used this updated model to test some technology that might become more important to other Apple products in the future, even though they're not particularly exciting or even well suited for that particular device. This is hands down the best iPad ever made, but the real question is whether all of its impressive features make it the best iPad for you.

iPad Pro (2020) 11 inch 128 GB for 879 euros at Otto
iPad Pro (2020) 11 inch 128 GB for 879 euros at Saturn
iPad Pro (2020) 12.9 inch 128 GB for 1,099 euros from Otto
iPad Pro (2020) 12.9 inch 128 GB for 1,059 euros at Saturn

Improved specifications

This test is based on the 12.9-inch model, which is virtually identical to the 11-inch model in almost every way except for screen size and weight. (The 12.9-inch model with Cellular weighs 643 grams; its 11-inch counterpart weighs 473 grams).

Viewed from the front, the 2020 iPad Pro could pass as a clone of the 2018 model. The dimensions of 28 × 21.5 centimeters for the 12.9-inch model are the same, it still has a USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 port, and it still charges the second-generation Apple Pencil through one Magnetic stripe on the side. Without the new, square camera bulge that accommodates the additional lenses of this model, even the back would look identical. Unfortunately, because of this bulge, you can't reuse a 2018 Smart Keyboard Folio unless you don't mind the back sticking out awkwardly because of the poor fit.

It gets a little more interesting from the inside. Some functions remain the same, such as B. the TrueTone display from Apple and the ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate. They do operations such as B. the scrolling process is noticeably smoother than with other iPads. The display still has an upper brightness limit of 600 nits, the resolution for the 12.9-inch model remains at 2732 × 2048 pixels at 264 ppi, and the battery life is still around 10 hours with active use.

The technical improvements you would expect after more than a year without a new version can be found elsewhere. All configurations now have 6GB of RAM - in 2018 only the 1TB model had that much RAM. The storage capacity has also been gratifyingly increased for such an expensive product, so that the entry-level devices start with a more generous 128 GB instead of 64 GB, while the next three options remain the same with 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB. There's also a "new" chip called the A12Z that Apple likes to say makes the iPad Pro "faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops," as was said in connection with the previous A12X chip . As you can see in the benchmarks below, it's barely an increase in terms of CPU performance, but the A12Z chip pulls a bit forward in graphics performance because its graphics processor has eight cores instead of seven. Both are powerful tablets. In other words, if you already have an iPad Pro 2018, you have little reason to upgrade.

EnlargeBenchmarks hardly show any differences in performance between the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros

These are the types of upgrades one would expect from a device that is specifically tailored for users who want to use an iPad rather than a traditional laptop. Apple has underlined this combination with the release of the optional new Magic Keyboard case. Finally, we have an Apple-made keyboard case with an adjustable display, backlit buttons, and - miraculously - a built-in trackpad. As a result, the iPad works much like a laptop, in fact. Using the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is actually more difficult in comparison. That's great, provided the price is right - the 399 euro 12.9-inch model of the keyboard costs more than a 10.2-inch iPad. You can read what the reviews say about the Magic Keyboard here.

EnlargeThe Magic Keyboard is designed to make the iPad Pro a full-fledged laptop replacement.

When you consider how much the Magic Keyboard is aimed at users who don't take their iPad out of its case very often, it's a little shocking that nothing differs this iPad Pro from its predecessor as much as its camera. The new square camera lockout is reminiscent of the one we see on the iPhone 11 Pro, but it offers a few tricks of its own.

EnlargeThe new camera looks like the iPhone 11 Pro.

The iPad Pro now has a 12-megapixel camera (ƒ / 1.8) and a 7-megapixel front camera (ƒ / 2.2), and in addition to 4K video, which you can film at 60 frames per second, you can now Record in 1080p at 240 frames per second, compared to 720p in 2018. Also included is a 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, ƒ / 2.4, which takes photos with a field of view of 125 degrees. (Unfortunately there is no night mode.) You can get an idea of ​​what to expect from the photo below. It's a nice feature, especially if your into landscape photography, but it's a little bizarre to find on a tablet.

EnlargeThe new ultra-wide-angle lens captures more of the image - but is only necessary to a limited extent in an iPad.

Augmented Reality 2.0

But wait! It gets even stranger. Apple has equipped this model with a LiDAR "time-of-flight" sensor, which is intended to increase the effectiveness and accuracy (and, as Apple undoubtedly hopes, also the popularity) of augmented reality. Previously, augmented reality in the iPad and iPhone was mainly based on machine learning, which interpreted the data supplied by the camera and made as much sense as possible from it. The process was slow, drained of the battery, and prone to inaccuracies, especially if the camera was used with similarly colored surfaces or low lighting.

With LiDAR, the device specifically "maps" the room by emitting low-power lasers and calculating the time it takes for them to return to the sensor. Compared to the old method, immersing yourself in AR feels lightning fast.

It doesn't work too well in the dark (like Apple's true depth sensors on the front camera), but it represents a phenomenal improvement in quality and accuracy even in low light. This was most evident in a series of tests I did with Apple's have carried out my own AR-based tape measure application. When I tried to test the accuracy of the tape measure, the 2018 iPad Pro had difficulty starting the measurement at the correct point at all, and as I moved away the measurement line I created easily lost its anchor. It also took a few seconds to determine what actually a surface was.

The iPad 2020 immediately recognized the surfaces. And with the 2020 iPad Pro, the measurement was not only absolutely accurate, but the measurement also remained precise and largely anchored when I moved a few meters away from the tape measure. And when I went back, the AR measurement line stayed anchored to the top of the surface as if it had been painted on there.

EnlargeThe adjusted line stayed firmly in place on the iPad Pro 2020

That is impressive and makes Apple's efforts in augmented reality quite remarkable. But I don't see it as suitable for the iPad, especially for the 1 TB 12.9-inch model with Wi-Fi and cellular, which costs 1,819 euros. The whole time I was experimenting with it, I was afraid that I would drop the thing. It is certainly not convincing enough to be a main selling point for buying this device because of the tiny collection of worthwhile AR apps, too, and I can guarantee you that the novelty will fade again quickly. Best to think of it as a sneak peek of what Apple has in mind for its long-rumored AR glasses or headset.

Rather, consider AR a bonus if you need a new iPad Pro and didn't purchase one in 2018. You'll be glad you waited. The prices are better now, because with the starting price of 879 euros for the 11-inch model with Wi-Fi, you get 128 GB of storage, up from 64 GB in 2018. It may be a little terrifying that a 1 TB 12.9 -Inch iPad with Wi-Fi costs 1,649 euros, but its 2018 counterpart would have cost you 1,929 euros.

EnlargeThe speakers on the new iPad Pro still sound fantastic.

There are other features that should also be considered, although strictly speaking they have very little to do with this specific model. With iPadOS 13, Apple recently improved the user experience over many other modern tablets, be it by integrating long-awaited functions such as support for a real mouse or trackpad or the ability to use USB sticks with the tablet. Apple's new Magic Keyboard brings these new features and will enrich your daily experience in ways that the new LiDAR scanner probably won't.

EnlargeThe iPad Pro's display is still extremely susceptible to fingerprints.

But that leads to an important point. The iPad is now a decent, if not perfect, device for some types of work. In my 2018 review, a few months before the iPadOS was launched, I said the new iPad Pro was "a fantastic tablet, if not a fantastic laptop." With mouse and trackpad support, improved multitasking in iPadOS, and a wider range of external devices supported, those lines are now even more blurry. If your main occupation is writing, this tablet could be your thing.

But on the other hand, you should keep in mind that you can get a perfectly functioning Macbook Air with 256 GB and 13 inches for only 1,199 euros. When you buy the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you'll pay € 1,219 for the same storage space - but then you'll have to spend € 399 on the Magic Keyboard, resulting in a price of € 1,608. Sure, the screen will be smoother and brighter than the MacBook Air, but you'll still have to work with a device that has fewer features overall.

Conclusion

This is the best iPad Apple has ever made, and peripherals like the new Magic Keyboard make the Apple tablet even more attractive as a work tool. However, the fact remains that most people will be well served with the $ 549 iPad Air, even though it doesn't currently come with this fancier keyboard. Unless you're into video editing or professional graphics, you'll appreciate the extra power. However, if you need the power of a pro, the 2018 model is still worth considering. At least in the lower price segment, you will almost certainly find a cheaper model, and Apple's new Magic Keyboard is even compatible with it.

As for the AR capabilities of this iPad Pro? Maybe Apple will surprise us with some dazzling new software at WWDC, but right now it's just an expensive taste of what Apple may have in mind for future products.

In case you skipped the 2018 iPad Pro, this year's model should be more attractive - and in this case, the new camera features are a nice side benefit. But don't make them the main reason to buy an iPad.

This test was translated from Macworld.com.