There are some changes in the 2021 iPad Pro that shouldn’t be overlooked, even as most of the attention has gone to the speedy M1 processor and gorgeous mini-LED display. Some of the differences are good, but not all.
Here are five things you shouldn’t miss about Apple’s new top-tier tablet.
1. There’s up to 16GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage
A major improvement to the 2021 iPad Pro went almost unmentioned by Apple. The base model comes with 8GB of RAM. That’s up from the 6GB available in every version of the 2020 model. And it doesn’t stop there. Those who configure the newest iPadOS computer with 1TB or more storage get 16GB of RAM as a bonus.
That’s far, far more RAM than any iPad has ever boasted. But it’s a typical amount for a Mac — which set off speculation that Apple plans to let iPads run Mac software.
Plus, Apple expanded the storage options all the way up to 2 terabytes. While the base configuration still has 128GB of storage, the tablet can also be configured with 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.
2. Center Stage lets the camera move without moving
The prevalence of video conferencing means the iPad camera that gets the most use is the front-facing one. That’s why Apple put in a 12 megapixel camera with a 122 degree field of view on the front of its latest model. It also came up with a trick called Center Stage.
This keeps the user centered during video calls without moving the tablet. The camera is recording a wide-angle view and shows the portion with the user in the middle. This allows the user to move around and the camera will follow… within limits, of course. If a second person gets in front of the camera, the view will widen to include them both. Again, automatically.
For reference, the 2020 and 2018 models have a 7MP front-facing camera.
3. Thunderbolt port speeds up your workflow
The 2021 iPad Pro’s USB-C port got a significant speed boost, just like the processor did. The port now supports Thunderbolt and USB 4. That gives it a maximum data transfer speed of 40Gbps, up from the previous 10Gbps.
Beyond faster transfers to external drives, the change means the iPad can drive high-res external displays, including the Pro Display XDR at the full 6K.
Beyond that, tablet users now have access to powerful accessories originally designed for Mac, like the OWC Thunderbolt Dock.
4. The $100 extra is all about the mini-LED screen
In the excitement about the model, some people might have overlooked that the 12.9-inch version of the 2021 iPad Pro costs $100 more than its predecessor. It starts at $1099. But at least there’s justification for the extra expense. It’s primarily because of the the mini-LED screen, according to analysts at TrendForce. This feature alone accounts for $85 of the addition.
It costs more because there are over 10,000 LEDs to backlight the display. The result is a screen that offers 1,000 nits of max full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits peak brightness and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. For comparison, the 2020 and 2018 versions offer a contrast ratio of about 1700:1.
Notice that the 11-inch version of the 2021 iPad Pro doesn’t get the mini-LED screen and it’s price didn’t increase over its predecessor.
For more, read Cult of Mac’s guide to what you need to know about 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s swanky new mini-LED display.
5. A Magic Keyboard controversy swirls
The 12.9-inch version of the 2021 iPad Pro is 0.5 mm thicker than the 2020/2018 models. That tiny change makes a big difference with tight-fitting cases. Most notably, the Apple Magic Keyboard released last year does not work with the new tablet. There’s an updated, slightly thicker version coming in May.
And it’s not alone. Otterbox had to redesign its rugged cases to fit around the 12.9-inch version of Apple’s latest tablet, for example.
Miss anything else about the 2021 iPad Pro?
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 (as noted previously). The 11-inch version starts at $799. That’s the same price as the 2020 model in this size.
Apple is vague about the launch date, only saying its next tablets will be available in the second half of May.