Hands-on with Apple’s New 12.9-Inch M1 iPad Pro

Incredible speed matched with a fantastic display

Key Takeaways

  • Apple’s M1 iPad Pro 12.9-inch is the best tablet I’ve ever used.
  • The new iPad offers incredible picture quality and speed. 
  • At $1,099, the iPad is not an impulse buy, but it’s a delight to use and can be a real boost to productivity.
2021 M1 iPad Pro

Apple

Apple’s new M1 iPad Pro 12.9-inch is a sleek beast that further narrows the gap between laptop and tablet. 

I’ve owned nearly every iteration of the iPad, but this is the first time I felt like I could get real work done on one of Apple’s tablets. The new M1 processor makes apps snap into place without lag, and the screen is incredibly sharp thanks to its Mini LED technology. 

Paired with the new Magic Keyboard for iPad specific to this model, I quickly composed this article on the M1 iPad. The M1 iPad is meant to do everything a computer can handle, even if I’m not quite ready to replace my MacBook Pro. 

"The combination of the incredible display, fast processor, and terrific keyboard makes the M1 iPad a viable candidate to replace a laptop."

Incredible Display

The new display that Apple’s put in the 12.9-inch model is so mesmerizing that when I took it out of the box, I spent half an hour just gazing at the pictures it can produce. While earlier iPad Pros had 72 LEDs behind the screen to illuminate the display, the latest model increases that number to more than 10,000. This array allows the iPad to better control the overall screen contrast and the deepness of blacks in any part of the screen.

In practice, the new display made the iPad a delight to use. Everything was easier to read when scrolling through websites. Movies were noticeably clearer. I rewatched the movie Gladiator and was stunned at the picture quality. For comparison’s sake, I watched the same movie on my MacBook Pro and found the picture quality to be noticeably better on the iPad. 

The sound quality on the new iPad was by far the best of any tablet I’ve ever used. It was so good that I didn’t bother connecting my AirPods Max, unless I didn’t want to disturb people nearby. 

The design will be familiar to anyone who’s bought an iPad in the past couple of years. The new 12.9-inch model is slightly thicker than its predecessor to accommodate its new screen technology, Apple says. I couldn’t tell the difference in real-life use. 

Faster Than Ever

The iPad Pro is powered by the same new M1 processor inside the recent MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac.

In practice, the iPad M1 is ridiculously fast. I found that apps popped open seemingly the instant that I touched their icons. I didn’t do any sophisticated tests, but as I used it, everyday tasks felt snappy. 

I noticed a real slowdown when I switched back to my recent MacBook Pro model that lacks an M1, compared to the iPad. It’s so easy to get spoiled quickly by fast computing power. 

I also picked up a Magic Keyboard for iPad, and the combination with the M1 made this a true productivity machine. I’ll save my review of the keyboard for another day, but suffice to say that it’s a better typing experience than most other keyboards on the market.

The M1 iPad Pro (12.9-Inch) on a Magic Keyboard

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

Laptop Killer?

The combination of the incredible display, fast processor, and terrific keyboard makes the M1 iPad a viable candidate to replace a laptop. I typed this review on the iPad without any issues, but the experience made me realize that I wasn’t ready to give up my MacBook anytime soon. 

As great as the hardware the iPad offers, iPadOS just can’t handle the same multitasking experience that the Mac OS can. Switching back and forth between tabs and apps was a slower, more cumbersome experience on the iPad.

On the other hand, the fact that I had to wait a moment before switching between apps meant that I could focus on my work rather than constantly checking emails or browsing the news. 

The new iPad M1 12.9 inch is by far the best tablet I’ve ever used. At $1,099, it’s not an impulse buy, but it’s a delight to use and can be a real boost to productivity.

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