Surprise iPad Pro refresh brings LiDAR Scanner, Ultra Wide camera, trackpad support

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2020-iPad-Pro-trackpad
It's powered by a new A12Z Bionic chip.
Photo: Apple

Apple surprised the world Wednesday with a brand-new iPad Pro that packs a LiDAR Scanner, Ultra Wide camera and studio-quality microphones. The tablet is powered by an improved A12Z Bionic chip that makes it faster than many laptops.

Consumers can order it beginning today from the Apple Online Store, with prices starting at $799.

Apple’s new iPad Pro is everything we hoped it would be. Aside from 5G connectivity — which we expect later — it packs all the features and improvements we wanted to see. Apple calls it another huge leap forward for the iPad.

“The new iPad Pro introduces advanced technologies never before available in mobile computing,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, in a prepared statement.

“Combining the most advanced mobile display with powerful performance, pro cameras, pro audio, the breakthrough LiDAR Scanner and new Magic Keyboard with Trackpad, this is another huge leap forward for iPad. There’s no other device in the world like the new iPad Pro and we think our customers are going to love it.”

Meet the 2020 iPad Pro

The new iPad Pro looks a lot like its predecessor at first glance. It’s available in 11- and 12.9-inch options, both of which feature gorgeous, edge-to-edge Super Retina (LCD) displays. They feature True Tone technology and P3 wide color support.

The new 2020 iPad Pro: The best iPad yet?
The best iPad yet?
Photo: Apple

ProMotion returns, giving you a variable refresh rate that maxes out at a super-smooth 120Hz. The same high brightness and anti-reflective coating iPad Pro owners have become accustomed to are also available from the newest model.

If you already have a recent iPad Pro, however, you won’t be buying this one for the display. It’s all the other improvements — and there are a lot of them — that make this a worthwhile upgrade for many iPad users.

Pro everything

Powered by an even faster A12Z Bionic chip, the new iPad Pro makes light of even the most demanding tasks, such as 4K video editing and 3D modeling. It packs eight processing cores with an advanced thermal architecture for the best performance yet.

Apple says there’s no other chip on the market today that can compete with the A12Z in a package as thin and light as the new iPad Pro. It comes with the same 10-hour battery life in between charges, faster Wi-Fi and optional gigabit-class LTE that supports even more bands.

Like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the iPad Pro packs a huge improvement in audio, too. It features five studio-quality microphones that capture “super clean audio and the quietest details,” according to Apple. The tablet’s four-speaker audio adjusts to any orientation.

Big improvements come to the iPad Pro cameras, too. The new model features an Ultra Wide sensor for the first time — like the iPhone 11 lineup — allowing you to zoom out and capture up to twice as much in each snap. And it doesn’t stop there.

A ‘breakthrough’ LiDAR Scanner

That 10-megapixel Ultra Wide sensor is combined with a 12-megapixel Wide camera that captures stunning 4K video. Alongside them on the back of iPad Pro, there’s a “breakthrough” LiDAR Scanner that promises to take augmented reality to a new level.

2020 iPad Pro: Better augmented reality than ever before
Better augmented reality than ever before.
Photo: Apple

The LiDAR Scanner allows iPad Pro to measure the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away. It operates at the photon level at nano-second speeds, Apple says, and it provides a significantly more detailed understanding of a scene.

In simple terms, the LiDAR Scanner makes AR applications faster and more accurate than ever before. It lets iPad Pro place virtual objects in the real world in an instant, and provides improved motion capture and people occlusion.

The scanner works alongside an update to ARKit, which adds a new Scene Geometry API. Developers can use it to “unleash scenarios never before possible,” Apple said.

LiDAR also improves Apple’s Measure app. It’s now faster and easier to calculate someone’s height, while helpful vertical and edge guides automatically appear to let you more quickly and accurately measure objects.

True trackpad support

Perhaps even more exciting for those who use their iPad Pro as a laptop replacement is the new Magic Keyboard and proper trackpad support. The Magic Keyboard works just like the Smart Keyboard Folio via iPad’s Smart Connector, but it’s even better.

You now get real backlit keys like on the newest MacBooks — they’re not covered in fabric this time. We still don’t get a row of function keys, but there’s a good reason for that. Apple needed the space to add a trackpad.

 Order the new 2020 iPad Pro today from $799
Order the new iPad Pro today from $799.
Photo: Apple

It’s a Multi-Touch trackpad, just like the Mac’s, that promises greater accuracy for precise adjustments. It works with an improved cursor in iPadOS that highlights user interface elements, text fields and more for easier selection.

iPad Pro now supports gestures, too. You can use them to quickly access features like the app switcher and Dock, Control Center and Slide Over. Apple is making improvements to a number of apps, including the iWork suite, that will add greater trackpad integration.

An amazing Magic Keyboard

The Magic Keyboard unique cantilevered hinges allow users to adjust the viewing angle of their device up to 130 degrees. Apple says it’s ideal for using at a desk or on your lap, where the Smart Keyboard Folio isn’t so useful.

If the Magic Keyboard doesn’t do it for you, you will be pleased to know the same trackpad functionality extends to Apple’s standalone Magic Trackpad 2. Mouse improvements will also be available with Magic Mouse 2 and third-party mice.

These improvements will also be available to existing iPad Pro owners via the iPadOS 13.4 update that rolls out on March 24. The new Magic Keyboard is compatible with 2018 iPad Pro units, too.

Wi-Fi 6 ready

Buried in the fine print of the 2020 iPad Pro technical specs is news that the new tablet is the first of Apple’s to have Wi-Fi 6 support. Until now, the only Apple devices with Wi-Fi 6 chipsets were the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. The news is further evidence that Apple will more than likely incorporate this support in future iMacs, Mac minis and laptops.

Order the 2020 iPad Pro today

The new iPad Pro is available to order today from the Apple Online Store. Apple’s retail stores outside of Greater China are still out of action after closing their doors on March 14 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are scheduled to reopen on March 28.

It remains unclear if that will actually happen, though. The situation shows no signs of improving, and recent updates to Apple’s website suggest the closures could be extended. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for Apple’s newest products.

The new iPad Pro currently delivers as early as March 25. Prices start at $799 for the 11-inch model, and $999 for the 12.9-inch model. The new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, which goes on sale in May, starts at $299. The new Smart Keyboard Folio starts at $179.