2021 iPad Pro review roundup: Beautifully fast

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2021 iPad Pro with m1 processor
Reviewers shared their real-world experiences with the M1 processor and the mini-LED screen in the 2021 iPad Pro.
Photo: Cult of Mac

The 2021 iPad Pro successfully combines a gorgeous display with a blazing-fast M1 processor, according to the first wave of reviews published Wednesday.

Chris Velazco from Engadget said, “this might be the best portable computer Apple has ever made.”

An iPad Pro with an M1 processor

All previous iPads use A-series processors, like the iPhone. But the 2021 iPad Pro is built around the same M1 processor in the new iMac, as well as the late 2020 MacBooks and Mac mini. And it delivers.

Nearly all the reviewers benchmarked Apple’s latest tablet. And these confirmed that an M1 chip in a tablet is as fast as an M1 chip in a Mac.

“We edited 4K video, worked with 3D models, and handled mammoth Photoshop files during our time with the device,” said Samuel Axon from Ars Technica. “The M1 is not always as fast as an ultrahigh-end desktop or laptop workstation, but it usually is. We’re not exaggerating when we say that this device has no rival at all among tablets with regard to performance.”

But reviewers also pointed out that iPadOS doesn’t do much to take advantage of all that speed. Scott Stein from Cnet said called the latest iPad, “an impressive luxury tablet that’s begging for more software to push it to the next level.” He called for Apple to add “more multitasking and monitor support, more Pro apps, and maybe even some sort of Mac compatibility mode.”

mini-LED lives up to its promise

The 2021 iPad Pro is the first computer of any type from Apple with a mini-LED display. This employs 10,000 small LEDs to provide the backlight — far more than the handful used in a standard LCD. The reviewers love it.

Dieter Bohn from The Verge called it “the best thing for watching movies that isn’t a high-end television.” Getting more specific, he said, “On the 12.9-inch version, Mini LED lets blacks be truly black, offers a high contrast ratio, and can also get very bright.”

The new screen is best viewed playing video. “When you’re writing in Google Docs or browsing in Safari, the screen’s max brightness is 600 nits, and it refreshes at 120Hz, just like the last iPad Pro,” said the Engadget reviewer. “But when you’re watching movies and videos, maximum full-screen brightness shoots up to 1,000 nits, and especially bright elements in HDR content like explosions or flashy visual effects can hit 1,600 nits.”

iPad takers Center Stage

An eye-popping feature of the 2021 iPad Pro is Center Stage, which uses the 12MP ultra-wide front-facing camera to simulate the camera moving to follow someone making a video call.

MacStories’ Federico Viticci was impressed. “The effect is both eerie and charming: at first, it’ll look like the camera inside the iPad is physically moving, or like there’s a remote camera operator secretly controlling the ultra-wide camera to keep you properly framed,” he said.

2021 iPad Pro is almost here

There are other “bells and whistles” brought up by reviewers. This is the first iPad with 5G, for example. And it can be configured with 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM.

The 2021 iPad Pro hits Apple Store retail locations on Friday, May 21. But pre-orders started in April. And wait times are long — orders placed now might not arrive until July.

The tablet starts at $799 for the 11-inch model without the mini-LED screen, or $1,099 for 12.9-inch model. No matter the size, the base model has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.