Apple iPad Pro 2021: M1 chip, 5G, Mini LED XDR display, and Everything else you need to know


The Apple iPad is unquestionably one of the best tablets you can buy. In fact, there are very few Android tablets that even come close to the iPad Pro. Despite the global decline in demand for tablets, different varieties of the iPad have been in high demand thanks to their unique proposition of powerful processing capabilities and portability. The iPad Pro takes it a step further with a massive display, multiple cameras on the back, pro-grade performance, and the Apple Magic keyboard that will make you want to replace your laptop with it.

Apple announced the iPad Pro 2021 at its Spring Loaded event on April 20th 2021, with a suite of improvements including an all-new Apple M1 chip, a new mini LED display, up to a whopping 2TB of storage, and 5G connectivity. At this event, Apple also announced a new and highly improved iMac, a new purple iPhone 12, AirTags, as well as new features making their way to iOS 14.5 and iOS 15.

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The new iPad Pro gets the same chipset as the MacBook Air, some 13″ MacBook Pro variants, the Mac Mini from 2020, and the new 2021 iMac. The Apple M1 is the company’s in-house ARM-based SoC that’s designed to replace the x64 chips from Intel and AMD on computers. By using the same chip on the iPad Pro 2021, Apple further fills up the performance gap between the iPad Pro and the MacBook and other devices. Other than offering a performance that’s comparable to Apple’s M1 MacBook laptops, the iPad Pro 2021’s USB-C port has been updated with Thunderbolt support.


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In this article, we’ll list all details about the all-new iPad Pro 2021, starting with the specifications of the 11-inch as well as the 12.9-inch models.

Apple iPad Pro 2021: Specifications

The iPad Pro 2021 variants are visually identical to the previous year’s models. The new 11-inch model even has the same dimensions as the last time while the new 12.9-inch model gets an added thickness of 0.5mm with the new Mini LED display. Despite this, the new 12.9 iPad Pro is only 6.4mm thick, which is commendable for a machine of this vigor.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 variants

The iPad Pro 2021 comes in two display sizes — 11-inch and 12.9-inch. As noted previously, there are no major changes when it comes to the appearance of the new tablets. There are, however, major changes under the hood. Other than the changes over the previous generations, the two variants of the new iPad Pro also differ in terms of display technology. The bigger iPad Pro features a 12.9-inch Mini LED display while the smaller one comes with an 11-inch LED display. Other than this difference between the types of displays — and the dimensions of the two models, the two variants are identical.

The new Mini LED display is a significant leap from the traditional LED display. The next section talks about the display technology in detail and how Apple employs it to make the iPad Pro experience better.

Mini LED display on iPad Pro 2021

The iPad Pro 2021 features several enhancements, and the display is among the first ones you will notice. As reported by multiple sources ahead of the launch, the iPad Pro is equipped with a Liquid Retina XDR display, which is the moniker used by Apple to denote the new Mini LED display. As remarked by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors) and later corroborated a Bloomberg report, only the larger model out of the two — i.e. the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 — gets the new display while the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro retains the older Liquid Retina display.

Mini LED is a variety of LCD panels in which — yes, you guessed it right — miniature LEDs (with size in the range of 100-200μm) are used as the backlight source. These miniature LEDs are nearly 120X smaller in volume than the ones usually used to power regular LED-backlit LCDs. Owing to their smaller size, a Mini LED panel utilizes thousands of these Mini LEDs. Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR display employs over 10,000 Mini LEDs.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021’s display has a resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels, with a 1000-nits brightness. The display on the smaller 11-inch variant, on the other hand, has a resolution of 2388 x 1688 pixels with a 600-nits brightness.

As you would expect, the large number and small size of these Mini LEDs allow for better contrast and more accurate local dimming than the traditional LED-backlit panels. Apple says these Mini LEDs combine to form up to 2,500 local dimming zones across the 12.9-inch display. This translates to a richer contrast than the previous technologies, and Apple announced the new display has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. It is probably the best you can expect from an LCD — much closer to an OLED but still not as good. One potential downside of this display, however, is that makes the iPad Pro marginally thicker than previous models but we still can’t complain because Apple manages to keep it just at 6.4mm thick.

Even though TVs with Mini LED display technology were first introduced at CES 2020, it is still fairly new. Its novelty means Apple — and consequently users — have to pay a higher price for the new iPad Pro’s displays. Apple currently has only two suppliers — Epistar and Sanan Optoelectronics — for Mini LED displays. We can expect more manufacturers to embrace this technology for smaller screens, including those used for smartphones.

There couldn’t be a better industry player than Apple to lead the way for this display technology. Besides the iPad Pro, Apple is also slated to use Mini LED for future MacBooks expected to arrive later this year. Over the following years, we might also see it on other iPad models and iPhones.

Both the variants of the iPad Pro feature Adaptive refresh rate, or “ProMotion,” as Apple likes to call it. This means that the iPad Pro’s display can support a refresh rate of up to 120Hz based on the app in use. The displays also support DCI-P3 color gamut, True Tone, and support for Dolby Vision. Lastly, both the 11-inch and the 12.9-inch variants support the Apple Pencil (2nd gen).

Apple M1 processor on iPad Pro 2021

Ahead of the launch, had spotted references to Apple’s A14X Bionic chip — a souped-up version of the A14 Bionic that powers the iPhone 12 series and the iPad Air 2020 — in the source code of iOS 14.5 beta. This purported chip was believed to be based on Apple’s custom ARM-based M1 chipset that powers the 2020 MacBook Air Mac Mini and some of last year’s 13” MacBook Pro models. The A14X Bionic was believed to be as powerful as the M1 chip, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has substantiated the same.

These leaks were, however, proved partially wrong when Apple announced the iPad Pro 2021. The new iPad Pro runs on Apple’s M1 chipset instead of the rumored A14X Bionic, and this news comes as a pleasant surprise. The M1 SoC system-on-chip is designed on the same principle as the A-series Bionic chips that have powered the iPhones and iPad for some years and its system-on-chip design instead of separate chips for CPU, GPU, RAM, flash storage, etc.

The Apple M1 chip promises significant performance gains over the A12Z Bionic chip used in last year’s iPad Pro. Apple claims a 50% improvement in CPU performance as well as a 40% gain in GPU performance. The M1 chip features an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, and a 16-core NPU. There is a choice between 8GB and 16GB of RAM with the option to choose up to 2TB of flash storage.

Last year, Apple had announced its plan to replace the x64 chips from Intel and AMD on the Mac lineup with its own M1 SoC. By announcing the iPad Pro with the same chipset as its computers, Apple is further solidifying the idea that an iPad Pro is no less than a Mac, unlike Android tablets which still miserably lag behind PCs in terms of performance. The utilization of an Apple M1 chip on the iPad Pro means that apps that can run on the Macs with ARM chips will also be available to work on the iPad Pro (given support from developers). With this, the iPad Pro becomes a great alternative for anyone who wants a MacBook Air but with the convenience of a touch screen and Apple Pencil input.

The new iPad Pro also borrows one feature from the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic chip and that’s 5G connectivity.

5G cellular connectivity on iPad Pro

The iPad Pro 2021 is the first iPad to get 5G connectivity. The new iPad Pro supports mmWave bands for 5G connectivity in the US, and Apple claims download speeds of up to 4Gbps. Apple also claims the iPad Pro has support for the widest range of 5G bands. Along with 5G connectivity, the new models also support eSIM alongside a physical nano SIM, but you will not be able to use this cellular connection for calling.

Note that you will have to pick a Wi-Fi+Cellular model to enjoy 5G on the iPad Pro and will be required to pay your carrier for active 5G services.

New Camera with “Center Stage”

The TrueDepth camera system on the front of the iPad Pro 2021 now features a 12MP selfie camera with an ultra-wide field of view spanning 122°. This enables a new feature called “Center Stage” which keeps the users in the center of the frame by zooming in and panning the viewfinder as they move. All of this happens with the help of M1’s machine learning abilities and without any physical movement in the camera. When more than one user enters the scene (or is already present), the camera automatically zooms out to accommodate a large group of people.

While the rear cameras on the iPad Pro remain unchanged, the improved ISP on the Apple M1 chip allows for better image processing and brings Smart HDR 3, which was previously exclusive to the iPhone 12 lineup. The feature uses machine learning to tune your images to ensure the best possible picture quality. Additionally, the LiDAR sensor on the iPad Pro helps in improving focus when capturing images in low light.

New Features

Alongside the improved display and the better processor, Apple has also replaced the standard USB Type-C port on the iPad Pro with one that supports Thunderbolt, a technology that has been available on Apple’s Mac computers, including MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, iMac, and the Mac Pro since 2016.

Thunderbolt is an open and multipurpose data and power transfer standard developed by Intel. It allows storage devices such SSDs, DisplayPort-supported external monitors, and PCIe peripherals such as external graphics cards or network connectors over a USB Type-C port. Thunderbolt 3 supports transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, i.e. four times the transfer speeds of a USB 3.1 port.

The new iPad Pro models Thunderbolt 3 rather than newer the Thunderbolt 4 standard. Along with Thunderbolt, the new iPad Pro also supports USB4.

With this technology, the iPad Pro can now support Ethernet at up to 10Gbps and can be connected to run with Apple’s Pro Display XDR at 6K resolution — or other high-resolution displays — seamlessly even with a daisy chain setup.

Design

While no explicit leaks exposed the iPad Pro 2021 models in press renders or other conspicuous forms, a set of 3D CAD renders shared by 91Mobiles had revealed there would not be any major changes to the design. The same has been confirmed with the official launch with the new iPad Pro barely changed from the last generation.

Apple also claims the new iPad Pro is designed with 100% recycled aluminum as well as 100% recycled rare earth elements used to make the magnets on the iPad Pro. This is in line with the tech giant’s commitment to helping the environment. Apple claims that its global corporate operations are carbon neutral and it envisions to have “net zero climate impact across the entire business” by 2030.

iPadOS 14.5

Apple also announced that iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 will start rolling out starting next week with support for AirTags, more gaming controllers, new languages in Apple Pencil features such as Smart Selection and Scribble, additional emojis, and the option to share lyrics as well as sort top songs by cities in Apple Music. The device will also get iPadOS 15.


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Accessories for iPad Pro 2021

While the rumored Apple Pencil with a longer tip and color sampling support did not see the light of the day, the company did release its Magic Keyboard in white color to complement the already existing black one. The new white color complements the Apple Pencil, which only comes with white color and could be a good choice for anyone who does not fancy black.

The new Magic Keyboard is the same as the older version and not the upgraded one spotted in a patent by Patently Apple. The white Magic Keyboard also lacks the rumored touch-sensitive strips on the left and right sides.

Note that the Magic Keyboard has to be bought separately for prices starting at $299.

Apple iPad Pro: Pricing

Despite the improvement in performance, the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 comes at the same price as the previous year’s models. It costs $799 for the Wi-Fi-only model, while the Wi-Fi + Cellular model has a starting price of $999. It goes all the way up to $2,099 for 2TB of storage and support for 5G connectivity alongside Wi-Fi.

Meanwhile, the 12.9-inch model is available at a starting price of $1099 for 128GB storage and only Wi-Fi. You will have to pay $200 additionally for the cellular variant with 5G support. The most amped-up variant of the larger iPad Pro is priced at $2,399.


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The Magic Keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro is priced at $299 while the one for the 12.9-inch variant is priced at $349 in the US. The second-generation Apple Pencil will be available for $129 in the US.

The prices of the iPad Pro 2021 may vary as per market, accounting for different taxes. We have listed the prices applicable to the Indian market for all the products launched at the Spring Loaded event.

iPad Pro 2021: Availability

Even though some early rumors pointed to a launch on March 23rd, the official launch actually happened a month later i.e. on April 20th. The delay may or may not be related to the shortage of Mini LED panels pointed out by and Bloomberg. Both of the news outlets had reported that although Apple would launch the new iPad Pro later in April, the actual units will start shipping next month or later.

This stands true as the iPad Pro 2021 is available to purchase via Apple’s online and offline stores.



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