iPad Pro 11-inch review: This iPad feels more like a personal computer than ever before

The iPad Pro 11-inch price starts at Rs 71,900 and brings a package that’s powerful enough to replace your Mac, but there are certain limitations that you should be okay with. Here’s why you should or should not put your money on the new iPad Pro with an M1 chip.

Ketan Pratap

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

HIGHLIGHTS

Apple has always pushed the iPad Pro line-up as a computer or laptop killer in all these years. With the launch of the new iPad Pro tablets, the company isn’t dropping that thought. In fact, the new tagline has changed from “iPad Pro can be your next computer” in 2018 to “Your next computer is not a computer” in 2021. Well, that’s Apple for you.

I have been using the new iPad Pro 11-inch for more than a week as my default device for all work-related operations as well as my default gaming device. And, during the past week, I have understood that the iPad Pro now feels more like a personal computer than it has ever before, all thanks to the M1 chipset.

During one of the keynotes around the iPad in 2019, CEO Tim Cook said that the iPad is the company’s future of computing, and that’s what I could experience while using the new iPad Pro.

Offering a complete package, the iPad Pro 11-inch packs a gorgeous display and feels lighter than the 12.9-inch model, making the 11-inch the perfect on-the-go device to work from anywhere.

But, what changes from the 2018 and 2020 models? Well, you get a more capable M1 chipset, the same size as before, which is convenient as ever for various tasks, be it for doing scans, putting something quickly on the notepad, editing videos or images, reading books, watching shows or movies, and most importantly, using it as your default device, replacing laptop entirely.

But, then comes the most crucial question: Is it worth spending Rs 71,900 (for the base model), and of course, if you want to experience it truly, you need Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which will cost an additional Rs 27,900 and if you have stylus-use, then an Apple Pencil that will cost Rs 10,900. So, the overall package comes out as almost around the price of the MacBook Pro M1 and more than the MacBook Air M1. Let’s find out.

iPad Pro 11-inch review: Wrapped in metal and glass

One of the first things I noticed on the 2021 iPad Pro 11-inch is that it looks exactly the same as the 2020 iPad Pro. Right from dimensions to weight, the glass front, aluminium rear panel, and aluminium frame. If someone placed the 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 and the 2021 version on a table, then not many people will actually be able to differentiate between the two.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

If there’s something that could have added some more appeal to the new iPad Pro models, then it has to be colour. The new iPad Pro 11-inch comes in Silver and Space Grey colours. I wish Apple brought more colour options, same as the iPad Air 2020 model, which is available in Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue, apart from the standard colour options of Silver and Space Grey. But, I also understand that Apple wants to give colour options to cheaper iPad models to woo customers that do not want to pay a premium price.

What is worth mentioning is that the new iPad Pro has also been designed, keeping the company’s goal to become carbon neutral for some years. The iPad Pro models feature an enclosure made with 100 per cent recycled aluminium and 100 per cent recycled rare earth elements in the magnets of the speakers and enclosure.

One issue about the front camera I faced was that it is somehow placed awkwardly where you unintentionally put your fingers in front of the camera. That will happen again and again.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Talking about ports and buttons, the new iPad Pro 2021 features four speaker grills on the sides, a USB Type-C charging port, a power key on the top panel when holding the tablet vertical and volume controls on the right panel. As before, the tactile feel is decent, and the multiple speakers’ placement makes sure that the volume doesn’t dip because of how you hold it or use it. In addition, Apple has released a new Magic Keyboard for the 2021 iPad Pro models, which is as useful as ever.

Overall, the design is excellent, and Apple has found the best one that suits its iPad line-up and continues to use it across different models. The front is dominated by the 11-inch display with black bezels around it. The display sides are squared off, giving it more raw design elements, and it may remind you of the iPhone 4 design. The curved edges sit comfortably on the palms while you use it in vertical mode. I got the Silver colour variant for the review alongside the new black-coloured Magic Keyboard, which, in my opinion, is better than white in the long run. Nothing in this design language feels unnecessary while it feels familiar, but it’s something I can live with rather than an awkward-looking tablet.

iPad Pro 11-inch review: Among the best displays on a tablet

The iPad Pro 11-inch features a Liquid Retina LCD display which offers 600 nits of peak brightness, Apple’s familiar True Tone for comfortable viewing, ProMotion 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, and a wide colour gamut. The 11-inch display comes with a 2388×1668 pixels screen resolution and 264 PPI pixel density.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Specs aside, the iPad Pro 11-inch display is a gorgeous one and offers vivid colours, fantastic sharpness, and decent black levels while watching multimedia content. I have been using True Tone mode that almost every Apple device now ships with, and I love it that way. But, if you really want to enjoy real-life colours, then turn the True Tone setting off, and you will notice the difference on the iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro 11-inch can offer great viewing angles and sunlight legibility. Thanks to this stunning display, the iPad Pro became our default device for all videos, streaming shows, and other multimedia use cases.

In everyday use, the iPad Pro 11-inch packs a bright screen that produces accurate colours. It packs a display that’s better than the majority of budget Windows laptops pack. However, it is not as impressive as the 12.9-inch model, which packs mini-LED tech, though that’s also about Rs 30,000 costly.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

iPad Pro 11-inch review: Unmatchable Performance

If there’s one department that needs the least validation, then it has to be the performance of the iPad Pro. The new iPad Pro packs the same Apple M1 chip that has powered the MacBook Air which I have been using since last year, and a bunch of other Apple products. The chipset is considered one of the best processors available globally, and the iPad Pro is the latest to join the elite club.

In fact, the April Spring keynote had the Tom Cruise scene where CEO Cook in a different avatar stole the M1 from the MacBook department and put it on the iPad. So I have to give it to Apple to pick the right type of example to explain why it’s a big deal.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Our review unit was the 1TB storage, and the top storage trims get a 16GB RAM option. During everyday use, the iPad Pro performed smoothly, and I faced no issues while multitasking.

This is also the first time Apple has put out the RAM values for iPad Pro, something that the company has always kept secret on its various devices, including the iPhones. The iPad Pro packs 8GB and 16GB of RAM, where the lower RAM is for 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models, while the 16 gig is for the 1TB and 2TB models. This somehow tips that Apple also thinks that the new iPad Pro is finally ready enough to take on laptops and if RAM is something that’s important for users, then here it is.

I used the iPad as my default machine, which meant lots of multitasking on the iPad Pro. Now, before someone thinks that the iPad Pro is perfect and can replace the laptop right away, you must understand that this device is still a tablet at the end of the day. What it gets is the Magic Keyboard, which makes it laptop-like. During my review, I worked on Microsoft Word, Trello, Lightroom, Outlook, Gmail, Twitter, Zoom, Meet, Teams, Photoshop, and other apps. Now, if I want to create a new article, then I need to start writing on whatever app I want, but when I want to push this article to my CMS, and that’s where I feel the laptop is still the best device for handling that sort of work. The iPad Pro needs more enhancement to be flexible enough that it can allow me to copy and paste from one place to another quickly or open apps like Word and other collaborative apps sideways.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Yes, it now feels like a more personal computer than ever before, but still, it needs some more improvements to become the laptop killer Apple always wanted it to be. Until then, it could be the default portable device you are comfortable moving around with.

One great move to give the iPad Pro more laptop-like appeal is the introduction of Centre Stage, which is possible thanks to the new ultra-wide camera. The Centre Stage feature fully utilises the ultra-wide TrueDepth front camera and gets a bump to 12-megapixel. The feature works across different video calling apps like Meet, Teams, FaceTime or Zoom. The Centre Stage is one feature that may make you feel why laptop manufacturers never thought about this. During the video call, Centre Stage automatically adjusts the frame and keeps you in all the highlights, following you in the frame while you’re on a call. I tried the feature for various video calls, and it is impressive.

The iPad Pro is a killer in gaming, and you can actually beat some of the best gaming devices with this one. I tried out games like Need for Speed No Limits and other popular titles and loved how the iPad Pro handled the graphics. Right from 4K videos to using the Photoshop app, the iPad Pro manages to sail through everything without any hiccups. In addition, the Wi-Fi performance of the iPad Pro 11-inch is fantastic, and it was able to latch on to Wi-Fi signals at spots that are usually dark network spots.

On the camera front, the new iPad Pro packs a 12-megapixel wide-camera sensor alongside a 10-megapixel ultra-wide camera as well as a LiDAR sensor at the back. Since this is a tablet, I didn’t use the camera on this extensively because it is highly unlikely that you will use the iPad Pro to click photos. However, because of LiDAR, I had so much fun trying out various AR experiences like Night Sky and Monster Park.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Another new feature is the addition of 5G, which I couldn’t test out for obvious reasons, but the cellular functionality is incredible. Overall, the 11-inch iPad Pro is incredible in the performance department.

iPad Pro 11-inch review: Lasts more than most Windows laptops

iPads have always impressed with their battery performance, but the M1 iPad Pro breaks all previous records. Apple claims up to 10 hours of web browsing or watching videos over Wi-Fi when fully charged, which drops to 9 when using a cellular network. During our internal video loop test, the iPad Pro 11-inch lasted for nearly 11 hours, where I set the brightness to 40 per cent and kept playing the same video in a loop until the iPad died. That’s more than what Apple claims.

When using the iPad Pro 11-inch as a primary device for my work, which includes lots of writing, editing articles, browsing the Internet, reading, and attending at least one 30-minute video meeting every day, it lasted for around 8 hours, which is incredible. In my opinion, the iPad Pro 11-inch lasts longer than some of the Windows laptops featuring 13-inch or 14-inch displays.

If you’re using the iPad Pro as your secondary device, you can expect it to last for around two days. Apple has nailed the standby power management system on its iPads, and the new Pro isn’t any different.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Considering the iPad Pro is a powerful device, and you are likely to use it for gaming, expect some tremendous battery drains when playing games like Divinity Original Sin, which has incredible graphics. I also noticed a good amount of battery drain when using AR apps like JigSpace and Monster Park for some time. Again, I tried a mix of both gaming and AR apps, which caused the battery to reach 100 to 20 per cent in about 6 hours, which is still acceptable and, again, more than what most Windows laptops can ever offer.

That said, I was blown away by the battery performance of the iPad Pro 11-inch.

iPad Pro 11-inch review: Verdict

The iPad Pro 11-inch is a great combination of hardware, design, and features. This model is also the best example of why bigger isn’t always better. Compared to the 12.9-inch display, you save some money by going for a smaller screen and get almost the same enough experience hardware and software wise at a lower price. Unfortunately, the software still needs some improvements.

I intentionally dodged the iPadOS 15 update for the review because I wanted to experience the new iPad Pro with iPadOS 14.6, and trust me on this, the overall experience is very close to replacing your laptop. For our readers, I will soon be doing a long-term review of the iPad Pro with iPadOS 15 after experiencing it for a few weeks.

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

I tried to push the iPad Pro to various limits, be it for multitasking, editing photos or editing articles with a Magic Keyboard plugged in, using the camera, gaming, and more. Mainly during the review, I was doing all of my personal as well as work-related tasks on the iPad except a few that required a proper laptop or a computer. Yes, the iPadOS needs more in terms of software improvements that make me wish to ditch my laptop forever, but till then, I will stick to using it as my most portable device for all things apart from my phone.

The iPad Pro 11-inch is yet another example of why Apple is leading the tablet game globally, and it is also constantly improving with enhancements (for example, the iPadOS 15).

If you’re a power user and love to be on top of your game, then the M1-based iPad Pro makes total sense. Otherwise, the 2020 iPad Pro (2nd gen) isn’t a bad option, packing the A12Z Bionic chipset.

If you’re someone who hasn’t experienced the iPad and wants to start fresh, then my recommendation would be to go for the iPad Air (4th gen) powered by iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic chipset and starting at Rs 54,900.

For the prices, the iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd gen) starts in India at Rs 71,900 for the 128GB Wi-Fi model, while the Wi-Fi + Cellular retails at Rs 85,900. Apple has introduced up to a 2TB storage option, which means if you’re someone who wants to move around with all your work, then that could be something that should excite you.

iPad Pro 11-inch review 8.5/10

iPad Pro (11-inch) 2021

Pros

Cons

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