2020 iPad Pro review roundup: Still stellar, but little reason to upgrade

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Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2020 iPad Pro
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Apple’s newest iPad Pro will begin landing on customers’ doorsteps Wednesday, March 25. Will it be worth their hard-earned cash? Let’s find out from reviewers who already have their hands on one.

Unsurprisingly, the 2020 iPad Pro is already being dubbed Apple’s best tablet yet. It improves upon an already winning formula with a LiDAR Scanner, Ultra Wide camera, and faster connectivity.

Some still bemoan missing features in iPadOS. When it comes to the hardware, however, there’s very little to complain about.

2020 iPad Pro review roundup

iPad is the best tablet on the market. iPad Pro is — and always has been — the best version of it. It’s the model Apple most often pushes as a “real computer” replacement, and it only gets better at being that.

The newest iPad Pro is insanely fast, just like its predecessor. It boasts a gorgeous Liquid Retina display and excellent battery life. It takes great photos and pushes augmented reality even further.

There’s no doubt, then, that the 2020 iPad Pro is a winner. If you don’t already own a 2018 model, this is the one to get. But it’s those 2018 iPad Pro owners who will be wondering whether they really need to upgrade, and for the majority, it’s probably not necessary.

Impeccable performance

One area where there’s no significant difference is in performance. That’s not to say the 2020 iPad Pro doesn’t do everything in lightning speed — it’s just not noticeably faster than its predecessor.

“I’m not so sure the majority of iPad Pro owners will ever notice a speed difference,” writes Dieter Bohn for The Verge. “This iPad feels very, very fast but so does my 2018 iPad Pro. There’s potentially an argument to be made about processor headroom and future-proofing here, but not an especially strong one.”

“It’s interesting, of course, that this processor is so close in performance (at least at a CPU level) to the A12X Bionic chip,” adds Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch. “Even at a GPU level Apple says nothing more than that it is faster than the A12X with none of the normal multipliers it typically touts.”

“The overall experience using both the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models was identical,” writes Gareth Beavis for TechRadar. “Opening and editing photos, browsing the web and generally scooting through the tablet was as slick as can be – so there’s not going to be a huge power boost on offer than many will note, unless you’re a supreme power user.”

“I’m just guessing here, but I haven’t found much if anything that can really peg an A12X yet,” explains Rene Ritchie for iMore, “so instead of further ramping up peak CPU performance, Apple is spending silicon budget on increasing GPU cores and sustained performance, while keeping the same-as-always 10 hours of battery life in this very thin-as-thin-can-be chassis.”

LiDAR Scanner nice but not necessary

Perhaps a big reason to upgrade to a 2020 iPad Pro is for its LiDAR Scanner. It’s a first for iPad — and any Apple device — and it promises to enable more accurate, more impressive AR experiences.

Early testing suggests the LiDAR Scanner is likely to deliver on that promise, but nothing really takes advantage of it yet, and it’s unlikely that the majority of iPad fans will see it as a necessity.

“Even with the iPad Pro, aside from a new, much more powerful Measure app, there’s not much built-in that really shows it [the LiDAR Scanner] off,” adds Ritchie. “Developers are making all sorts of really cool looking apps, and everything from Ikea to Hot Lava is going to be wicked cool, but it’s going to take time for the technology to really mature.”

“Unfortunately, I was unable to test [the LiDAR Scanner], as applications that take advantage of it are not yet available,” explains Panzarino. “My guess is that we’ll see those doors open over the next couple of years rather than all at once.”

The LiDAR Scanner “really works,” Bohn writes, “but it’s only the foundation for great AR experiences, not a guarantee they’ll come. It improves some current apps for free, but there aren’t any third-party apps that take full advantage of it yet.”

This won’t be a huge surprise to most, but it’s worth noting if you were planning to purchase a 2020 iPad Pro primarily for better AR.

Ultra Wide a useful addition

Few of us use an iPad to take photos on a regular basis, but for those who do, the 2020 iPad Pro brings big improvements in photography and video capture. Not least because it’s the first with Ultra Wide.

It still can’t match iPhone 11, however, and there is one glaring ommission from the Camera app: Despite the additional sensors, the new iPad Pro can’t shoot Portrait photos with its rear-facing cameras.

“The quality of the pictures in bright light is just fine,” explains Beavis. “There’s no low-light processing that you’re getting with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro range, which means that darker snaps, while bright enough, show a lot of grain and processing.”

“Photos of flowers that I captured on the 2020 iPad Pro looked slightly more vibrant than the photos I snapped on the older iPad,” describes Lauren Goode for Wired. “The ultra-wide option is a nice touch.”

“One thing I am surprised but not totally shocked at is that the iPad Pro rear-facing camera does not do Portrait photos,” writes Panzarino. “Only the front-facing True Depth camera does Portrait mode here.”

2020 iPad Pro: The verdict

Many things in iPad Pro remain unchanged this year. It offers the same Liquid Retina display with ProMotion, the same USB-C connector (just the one), and largely the same design.

Studio-quality microphones have been added — and they’re a nice touch — and there’s better trackpad support now, too. However, trackpad support is also available on previous models with iOS 13.4.

Apple’s awesome new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro isn’t out until May, and that will be compatible with 2018 models, too.

So, with all that in mind, what’s the verdict on the 2020 iPad Pro?

“While we haven’t been able to completely finish our thorough testing of the new iPad Pro 2020 just yet, we’re not really seeing much in the way of key upgrades to Apple’s high-power tablet range,” says Beavis. “You can still get the older 2018 iPad Pro for less money at the moment, and given that’s getting both mouse support and the new Magic Keyboard, it’s hard to see what the new iPad Pro 2020 offers to convince you to buy the absolute newest model.”

“I must note that there is little reason so far to upgrade to this from the 2018 iPad Pro. And given that the Magic Keyboard is backward compatible, it won’t change that, concludes Panzarino. “If you don’t currently own an iPad Pro, however, and you’re wondering whether you can work on it or not, well, I can and I did and I do.”

“The 2020 iteration of the iPad Pro is essentially a minor spec bump over the 2018 models,” writes Bohn. “There are really only three things that are new here: the processor, the camera array, and the microphones.”