Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) Review: Untapped Potential

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Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch): The iPad Pro series has always featured the most powerful Apple silicon.

This year’s refresh adds Apple’s M1 SoC, which we have seen compete with Intel CPUs in other devices like the MacBook Air, Mac mini and most recently the iMac.

The new iPads have a faster processor, more RAM, Thunderbolt ports, a new Face ID camera and optional 5G connectivity.

These features are available in the iPad Pro’s 11-inch and 12.9-inch models this year. The only difference is the display technology. The 12.9-inch model now features a Liquid RetinaXDR display that uses mini-LED backlighting to increase brightness and contrast.

 iPad Pro 2021
iPad Pro 2021

This makes it perfect for editing HDR content and viewing it. Although I was excited to test it, this is not the iPad Apple sent. I will instead be reviewing the 11-inch model with the standard Liquid Retina LCD panel.

Although iPads weren’t originally designed to replace laptops, the Pro models have hardware that rivals the MacBook Air. You could also use the iPad Pro as a laptop with accessories like the Apple Pencil or Magic Keyboard. But, the big question is: Should you?

India Pricing and Variants of Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11 inch)

The iPad Pro 2021 (11 inches) starts at Rs. The 128GB WiFi-only model costs Rs. 71,900, while the price goes up dramatically with increasing storage. Apple has made it clear that there is a difference in RAM between the variants.

This is the first time Apple has done so. The storage variants with 128GB,256GB, and 512GB storage have 8GB RAM while the 1TB, 2TB, and 2TB versions have 16GB. Additional Rs. is charged for the cellular (5G), models. 14,000 more than the Wi-Fi models across all storage options.

The iPad Pro (11-inch) can be very costly. Apple sent me a 1TB 5G version for a ridiculous Rs. 1,48,900 This Ultrabook, or MacBook Pro, is premium. We have not yet included accessories.

These are essential if you want to fully enjoy the device. The 2021 iPad Pros will still be available in only two colours, Space Grey and Silver.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) design

The 2021 iPad Pro (11 inches) appears identical to the 2020 model at first glance. There are subtle differences. The overall dimensions and thickness of the 11-inch model are the same, but the new model is 5g lighter (468g vs. 473g for 5G versions).

The body is made of matte-finished aluminium and features exposed antenna bands on the flattened sides. A pill-shaped cutout to the right allows for an additional 5G antenna.

There are four speakers in total. A Thunderbolt port (Type C) is at the bottom and a SIM tray is to the right. Indian cellular models (A2459), support one eSIM as well as a physical SIM. However, you cannot use both networks active (dual-SIM model).

The Indian units that are sold have sub-6GHz 5G, while the US-made units only support mmWave 5.G. The iPad Pro’s back features a dual-camera bump at the top-right, an Apple logo in its middle, and three contact pins at its bottom to connect accessories.

It is identical to the iPad Pro’s display last year, which is still among the best tablets available. This tablet is second only to Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The Liquid Retina 11-inch display has an IPS LCD panel that measures 2,388×1,668 pixels.

The display supports features we have seen in previous Pro models, including a 120Hz refresh rate and 600nits brightness. True Tone colour temperature adjustment is also available.

It covers the entire P3 colour gamut. Just like the frame, the corners of this display are rounded. The thick black bezels make a tablet more ergonomic.

The iPad Pro 11 inch has TrueDepth cameras on the front to enable Face ID. However, it also features a 12-megapixel sensor and a new Centre Stage feature. More information will follow.

The usual documentation, a 20W charging cable, and a USB Type C to Type C cable are all included in the box. The new iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) looks very similar from the outside. But it is the inside that makes it unique.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11 inch) specifications and software

Apple’s M1 SoC is the biggest improvement in this generation. It is claimed to be up to 50% faster CPU and 40% faster GPU performance than the A12Z Bionic SoC found in 2020 iPad Pros.

While some people are not complaining about the slow performance of last year’s models, more performance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

All 11-inch iPad Pro models get the full 8-core GPU, unlike some of Apple’s base Mac computers that had M1 chips with 7-core integrated GPUs. As we said earlier, the amount of RAM available varies.

The iPad Pro 2021 supports Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 6. The rear camera cluster also features a LiDAR scanner. Five microphones are available that can record high-quality sound and activate Siri far away.

Thunderbolt 3 & USB 4 protocols are supported by the USB Type-C connector, just like Apple’s Mac computers. This allows you to connect to Apple’s Pro Display XDR at full 6K resolution.

iPad Pro 2021 (11 inch) runs iPad 14 (tested with 14.6), which feels refined and polished. Split View and Slide Over make multitasking possible. They are difficult to use but can be very useful once you get the hang.

The widget bar can be permanently displayed on your home screen when you are in landscape mode, or you can choose to have it accessible with a right swipe.

Although the overall experience is similar to the iPad Air 2020 (2020), which we reviewed earlier in the year, system animations and scrolling are much more fluid due to the high refresh rate.

Unfortunately, basic apps like a calculator or weather forecast are not available on the iPad Air (2020), so you will need to find alternatives.

Apple’s forthcoming iPad 15 update will bring many new features to the iPad, including the ability to place widgets anywhere (like an iPhone), new accessibility controls for Slide Over and Split View, as well as many other new features that are standard to the iOS 15 update.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) performance

Let’s look at this section from two different perspectives: first, using the iPad Pro as a regular tablet, and second, using it as a productivity device with the optional Magic Keyboard & Pencil.

The new iPad Pro 2021 tablet is very light for a tablet. It was easy to hold and use, even for long periods.

The 16GB RAM version had an excellent touch response and felt extremely snappy. The iPad Pro can be blocked by the FaceID sensor in landscape orientation.

However, the UI will alert you to this via a prompt when you unlock the iPad or sign in to apps.

The display is very well calibrated and bright. The colours looked vibrant and vivid without being too bright.

The iPad Pro 2021’s screen was perfect for playing games and watching videos. Asphalt 9: Legends and Call of Duty Mobile both ran well and looked great. The audio quality was excellent from all four speakers.

There were clear vocals and mid-range frequencies. However, the bass felt a little weak. Benchmarks really show the M1 SoC’s brute force. The M1 iPad Pro (11″) scored 10,41 5,19 points in AnTuTu.

This compares to 6,48,660 points for the 2020 iPad Air with A14 Bionic SoC and approximately 7,00,000.00 points for a 2020 iPad Pro (11/inch).

The iPad Pro’s 11-inch camera is among the most powerful you will find on any tablet. While the hardware of the rear camera has not changed from last year’s model to this year, Smart HDR 3 is now available for photos.

The 12-megapixel main camera can record up to 4K 60fps video and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide camera. True Tone flash is also included. Although it would have been nice to be able to shoot Dolby Vision HDR video or Night mode on the Pro model this year, you don’t have that option.

The camera app does not allow you to change the resolution or framerate from the viewfinder in video mode. This forces you to use the main iOS Settings app. The tablet’s image and video quality were excellent. AR apps and games run best on Pro models.

This is due to the LiDAR sensor which creates a more precise virtual map of the area you are in. Angry Birds AR was a fun game, and JigSpace allows you to visualize realistic 3D renderings of objects. Apple Clips also offers AR filters that look great on iPad Pro.

The new 12-megapixel sensor is now available on the front camera. It has a 122-degree field view. The front camera supports Smart HDR 3 and can record video up to 1080p. Centre Stage is a new feature.

It uses AI to recognize your face and ensure it stays in the centre of the frame. It will automatically crop and reframe your shot to ensure you are still in the centre. It can be toggled on and off in Cisco WebEx Meet, FaceTime, Zoom and Cisco WebEx Meet.

The iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) has absolutely no trouble pulling off regular tablet duties, but now with a performance-shattering SoC like the M1 inside, many might be wondering if the iPad Pro can be used as a laptop replacement to do more intensive tasks. This solution is still mixed and it might not work for everyone.

 iPad Pro 2021
iPad Pro 2021

For a few weeks, I have been using the Magic Keyboard (2nd Gen) and Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) with my iPad Pro (11-inch). This time, I was able to use my MacBook Air almost exclusively for work purposes.

That’s in contrast to the experience I had with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7FE (Review). Most of the apps I use for work are optimized for Apple’s tablets. This is not possible for Android. Slack and Pages, Microsoft Word, and others work well in Split View or Slide Over modes.

Zomato and Instagram are exceptions to this rule. They only work in portrait mode, and they are not iOS apps that have been enlarged for large screens. The USB Type-C hub I had was also recognized correctly, so I was able to read SD cards, pen drives, etc. via the Files app.

The Apple Magic Keyboard works well with the iPad Pro (11-inch) and iPad Air (2020). It is great for typing and very well made. We have discussed the issues with its high price in our iPad Air (2020).

If you are into sketching or drawing, the Pencil is an excellent accessory. It wasn’t something I used much during my testing, but that’s just me.

Although I was able to complete my daily tasks on the iPad Pro, I still feel that the M1 SoC is severely under-used. Apple uses the M1 name to refer to the same chip in the latest iPad Pro, Mac Mini and iMac models.

However, Apple doesn’t publish any speeds or other specifications. Each device has different thermal constraints so you won’t see the exact same level of processing power.

Apple claims that many pro apps, such as LumaFusion video editing, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop for photo editing and Procreate for graphic designing, have been optimized for M1, which is fantastic.

However, I would love to have the option of fully-featured desktop apps for the iPad. This is unlikely to happen, even though iPadOS 15 will be out later in the year.

Adobe Premiere Rush is a great app for the iPad Pro. I was able to edit and scan through several high-resolution streams taken from a GoPro Hero9 Black or a GoPro Fusion with no issues.

Imagine being able to use Final Cut Pro on an iPad. Although there are some decent alternatives, you will most likely need to modify your workflow and purchase these apps separately.

iPadOS doesn’t offer full multitasking and file system access like a Mac. External monitor support is another feature that’s missing.

You can mirror your iPad Pro to an external screen, but we need the ability to use an external LCD monitor while the iPad is still on.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 (11 inches) battery life

Apple claims that it can provide up to 10 hours of battery life with web browsing or video viewing. I was pleasantly surprised to find these claims to be true. I was able to get close to 12 hours on one charge.

Although this number was slightly lower if I used many AR or video editing apps on the iPad Pro, the overall battery life was excellent. In our HD video loop test, the iPad Pro (11.1-inch) ran for less than 11 hours.

The battery life was impressive in actual use, especially considering that I kept the iPad Pro (11 inches) connected to the Magic Keyboard almost continuously and also charged the Apple Pencil occasionally.

Apple still includes a 20W charger in its box, unlike the iPhones. I was able to charge my iPad Pro (11-inch), up to 54 per cent in one hour and approximately 97 per cent in just two hours using the charger.

The iPad Pro will charge faster if you use a USB-PD charger with a higher wattage. The OnePlus 65W fast charger was used to charge the iPad Pro (11 inches) up to 63 per cent in one hour. It reached 100 per cent in just two hours.

Verdict

Apple really did it with the M1 SoC. It’s only fair that this chip will be available on multiple devices. It wouldn’t surprise me if future iPhone Pro models receive this SoC.

You might not get the performance or battery life you expected from an M1-based iPad Pro or the 2020 iPad Pro with A12Z Bionic. This is the 11-inch model since I haven’t tried the 12.9-inch version with the mini-LED display.

While the iPad Pro line has always featured best-in-class Apple SoCs, they have always been limited by iPadOS and iPad apps. iPadOS 15 is not expected to make any significant changes in how you use your iPad or what apps you can download.

This means that the new iPad Pros still have plenty of potentials. There might be performance improvements in some M1-optimized apps when compared to 2020 iPad Pros. However, the difference may not be as noticeable if your workloads are able to take advantage of them.

The sad truth is, we might never see desktop-class apps for the iPad, regardless of how powerful it gets. This is because Apple sells both laptops and desktop computers and doesn’t want the iPad to reduce its sales.

You can skip the 2021 model if you have already spent a lot of money on a 2020 iPad Pro (11.5-inch). The M1 11-inch model won’t change your life unless you have performance issues with the apps that you use frequently (which is rare).

You might consider upgrading to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro if your workflow includes editing HDR content on the move. However, you will need to adapt your workflow to the iPad app.

The MacBook Air is the best choice for most people who want to experience Apple’s M1 SoC. This is the best-value Apple computer available and it’s far more flexible in software and use than an iPad.

Although the new 2021 iPad Pro (11.1-inch) is a fantastic device, you should consider the 12.9-inch model if you are going to spend this much money on a tablet. The current-generation iPad Air is the best option if you are looking for a compact tablet with a few key features.

Also Read: Best Samsung Galaxy Tab S7FE Review

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