2021 iPad Pro boasts M1 processor, beautiful mini-LED display

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2021 iPad Pro still comes in a 12.9- and 11-inch versions.
2021 iPad Pro makes huge strides forward in its processor, screen, port, storage and RAM.
Photo: Apple

The 2021 iPad Pro is built around an Apple M1 processor that brings a tremendous speed boost.  And the USB-C has been upgraded with Thunderbolt, leading to faster connections to external drives. Plus, there’s a version with 5G.

But the latest top-tier iPadOS tablet more than fast — it looks great too. The 12.9-inch version includes a mini-LED display that both improves the look and uses less power.

There are also improvements to the camera. And a new, larger storage capacity. Plus more RAM.

Many other features stay the same, though. The smaller iPad Pro uses an 11-inch LCD, not an mini-LED screen, for example.

A big speed boost

The 2020 iPad Pro disappointed some potential buyers because it included a tweaked version of the A12 processor from Apple’s 2018 tablet. The fifth-generation model packs an M1 processor, which Apple says delivers up to 50% faster CPU performance than the A12Z Bionic.

There’s no longer an inherent speed difference between iPad Pro and Mac because they both use the same processor.“The revolutionary M1 chip has been a breakthrough for the Mac, and we’re incredibly excited to bring it to iPad Pro,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

Benchmarks tests to compare the latest iPad to MacBook and iPhones will become available when the tablet reaches users’ hands.

2021 iPad Pro ushers in mini-LED

As speedy as the CPU is, the first thing someone one is likely to notice about the iPad Pro 5 is the mini-LED screen. Apple boasts it offers up to 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, and a 1 million-to-1 contrast ratio.

mini-LED displays have thousands of small LEDs providing the backlight, far more than with a standard LCD. That should give the iPad Pro much greater control over lighting, so some on-screen objects can be bright while others dim. mini-LED isn’t quite as beautiful as the OLED displays used in iPhone, but they cost less.

There’s also a benefit to battery life. Because the backlight LEDs can be finely tuned, they don’t waste power lighting up unwanted sections of the screen.

Be sure to read the Cult of Mac guide to mini-LED screens to learn more.

While iPad Pro is the first Apple device that uses this type of display, the tech is reportedly on the way to MacBooks.

The new iPad Pro works with the Magic Keyboard, which now comes in white.
The new iPad Pro works with the Magic Keyboard, which now comes in white.
Photo: Apple

Thunderbolt strikes iPad Pro

The USB-C ports in Mac desktops and laptops have Thunderbolt, and now this finally made the jump to iPad Pro. Previous Apple tablets use USB 3.2 Gen 2, which tops out at 10Gbps . The newest models max out at 40Gbps.

This is a software change, not a hardware one. The 2021 iPad Pro has a USB-C port, like its predecessors. And the port is backward compatible, so the newest tablet can continue to use USB accessories.

More storage and RAM

The base 2021 iPad Pro unit has 128GB of storage, and the tablets can be configured with 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and — for the first time — 2TB.

Apple changed a long-held policy and announced how much RAM its iPads have. There’s 8GB in versions with less than 1TB of storage, and 16GB in the two with 1TB or more. That’s a serious jump up from 6GB on the previous model.

Apple summarizes all the best features of the 2021 iPad Pro.
The 2021 iPad Pro is loaded with high-end specs.
Photo: Apple

Get them while they’re hot

The 2021 iPad Pro series goes up for preorder on April 30. The 12.9-inch version starts at $1099, which is $100 more than its predecessor. The 11-inch version starts at $799.

Apple is vague about the launch date, only saying its next tablets will be available in the second half of May. Those eager to get ahold of the iPad Pro 5 should plan to place an order quickly. Component suppliers are reportedly struggling to produce enough mini-LED screens to meet their contracts with Apple.