Apple iPad Pro 13-inch review: Powerful device and a rival to laptops for many tasks

Thinner and with extra screen technology, Apple’s new model may seem expensive but it comes with beefed-up memory and great performance

Apple iPad Pro 13 inch 2024
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Price: €1579
Where To Buy: Apple.com

Last week Apple unveiled four new iPads, the first update for the tablet line since 2022. And while the accompanying advertisement doesn’t seem to have won many fans, the iPad Pro itself has some new technology that makes it worth looking at.

This is an early take on the new iPad Pro 13-inch tablet, after almost a week of use. The new device may look similar to its predecessor but there are few good changes.

It’s thinner for a start, which raised some questions about its durability, but Apple is confident that we won’t have another “bendgate” on our hands. Apple has also improved the thermal performance of the device by adding in graphite and the 13-inch version has copper in the Apple logo to help dissipate heat.

But more useful than shaving some heft off the device is the change in screen technology. The new iPad Pro uses OLED, which has been something that Apple’s rivals such as Samsung have been using for some time. But Apple has held back until now, waiting instead for Tandem OLED to be ready for its new Ultra Retina XDR display uses.

Why the delay? OLED technology has its drawbacks, namely around the displaying of colours and brightness. While the technology is great for displaying contrasts and deep blacks on screen, it falls down a bit on brightness, and that was something that Apple wasn’t willing to compromise on. The solution? Two displays, combined, to get the best out of the technology and tackle the brightness issue at the same time.

How does it fare? It depends on what you are comparing it to. The previous version of the iPad Pro used mini LED in the larger model, so you are less likely to notice a startling difference in quality of the image. But if you are comparing it to the previous generation of technology, which is used in the iPad Air for example, you will see a huge difference. Side by side, the Pro was noticeably brighter and sharper, with darker scenes more easily viewed. Outdoors, the Pro performed well, even in brighter sunlight than usual − not in Ireland, mind you. That 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness make a difference.

There was one other notable change for the iPad Pro. For the first time since Apple started making its own silicon, the tablet got a newer chip than its MacBook siblings. Hot on the heels of the M3 chip for the MacBook, Apple announced the iPad Pro would use the M4, promising better performance in the CPU and graphics, and a more powerful neural engine that underpins all Apple’s artificial intelligence. For example, more powerful graphics techniques such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing for realistic shadows and reflections are now on iPad Pro.

It also enables more advanced editing features in Final Cut Pro, such as cutting a subject out from a background in 4K video rather than refilming it. Apple is also pitching the Apple Pencil Pro as the perfect accompaniment for the device, with haptic feedback and a gyroscope that recognises the orientation of the pencil for more intricate artwork.

And crucially it is more efficient, so you get more power but the same battery life.

The iPad Pro also makes the same change that Apple introduced for the standard iPad, moving the camera from the portrait edge of the display to the landscape, meaning there are no more awkward angles for video calls. It’s a small change but a welcome one; the 12MP ultra wide camera keeps Centre Stage, which follows your movement within the wide frame of the camera.

With all that power under the hood, it seems more feasible now that the iPad could replace a laptop for many tasks.

Which is where we come to the price. The iPad Pro isn’t cheap, but as Apple’s premium tablet you wouldn’t expect it to be. Still, with €1,229 for the 11-inch version and €1,579 for the 13-inch, it is certainly on a par with a more-than-decent laptop.

You might look at the price and think that things have gone up since the last release in 2022. On the face of it, they have − you will pay more to get the entry-level iPad Pro than you would have two years ago, but look a bit deeper and you’ll notice that the storage has been doubled, so the base model starts at 256GB instead of 2022′s 128GB. When you compare prices for those models, they come out largely even, or a little cheaper in some cases.

Still, it is something to take into account before you make the leap. And that price, by the way, doesn’t include the keyboard or Apple Pencil Pro.

Which brings us to another thing to be aware of. The new iPad Pro is only compatible with the newest Magic Keyboard, so it means older accessories will not work with it. Ditto for the original second-generation Apple Pencil; the new iPad works with the Pencil Pro or the USB C Pencil that Apple introduced last year.

Good

The tandem OLED screen is bright, detailed and displays excellent contrast. The higher brightness means that even in strong sunlight, the screen stays visible, compared to other versions of the iPad.

It is powerful too. The M4 may only be in its early days but it is quite impressive. Trying out apps such as Logic Pro, Apple’s music editing suite, show just how far the iPad Pro has come since its launch. The iPad Pro is a creative studio in a small tablet

Bad

The iPad Pro is not cheap. And with the decision to ditch the 128GB version, the cost of getting even the entry-level iPad Pro has climbed, even if you do get more storage for that price.

The change also means the older accessories, such as covers and the Magic Keyboard, won’t fit. If you are upgrading from an older iPad Pro, this means more expense.

Everything else

You can pay extra to get textured nano glass to further reduce the glare – the version tested here came with the standard glass, but having seen the nano glass up close, it does make a difference to the reflections on the screen.

The verdict

The iPad Pro is pricey, but if you are looking for a premium tablet that has enough power for the most demanding tasks, the new iPad Pro fits the bill.

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