Take a deep dive into the best parts of M4 iPad Pro [Review]

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M4 iPad Pro review★★★★★
I explain why iPad Pro M4 is so brilliant.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

You already know the latest iPad Pro looks pretty and runs fast. Rather than an M4 iPad Pro review that simply goes over those points again, I talked to experts on why the tablet’s new tandem OLED display looks so beautiful. And I also explain why an iPad needs a high-end processor.

Plus, this M4 iPad Pro review serves up the results of my real-world battery life tests, plus my thoughts on The iPadOS Question.

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M4 iPad Pro review (2024 model)

What stands out most about Apple’s new tablet is that it’s noticeably lighter and visibly thinner than its predecessors without compromising any of the other features. The screen looks better, the performance has improved, and battery life is unaffected. It really is amazing.

And it’s good news for those who need (or just want) a high-end tablet. But it doesn’t stop there. Attach the Magic Keyboard and it becomes an excellent convertible laptop. Add Apple Pencil Pro to make a stellar digital drawing tool.

Table of contents: M4 iPad Pro review

Slim and light enough to be a game-changer

Apple keeps harping on how thin and light the M4 iPad Pro is, despite the 13-inch display, and now that I’ve held one I understand why. I’d forgotten that the weight of its predecessors had crept up. The 2018 version weighed 1.39 pounds. The 2022 model was 1.49 pounds. But the 2024 is 1.28 pounds — a 14% decrease.

One of the reasons I prefer a tablet to a MacBook is because, at the end of the work day, I enjoy laying back on the couch and reading graphic novels. The nearly quarter of a pound decrease in the weight of the M4 iPad Pro makes that undeniably more comfortable. That’s a use specific to me, but whatever it is you prefer to do when holding your tablet, it’ll be easier now that the computer weighs less.

It has to be pointed out that the new 13-inch iPad Air is 1.36 pounds. So what’s lighter than Air? iPad Pro.

The change in weight is more slight with the 11-inch version. Still, it’s gone from slightly over a pound to slightly under.

The 2024 iPad Pro is also slimmer. The 13-inch version I reviewed dropped from 0.25 inches to 0.2 inches. The 11-inch version went from 0.23 inches to 0.21 inches. The difference on the 13-inch iPad Pro is … nice, I guess. But the weight difference is what matters in regular use.

Slender, but not overly fragile

M4 iPad Pro makes iPhone 15 Plus look thick
M4 iPad Pro (right) makes my iPhone 15 Plus (left) look thick.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

In fact, the M4 iPad Pro it’s 50% thinner than my iPhone 15 Plus. It’s thinner than an AirPod stem.

But it’s not fragile. Torture tests show that the tablet is stronger than you might think, even when abused. “It holds up surprisingly well, like suspicious-black-magic levels of structural integrity going on,” said JerryRigEverything.

Even so, no one should carry an expensive tablet around naked. Put your iPad in a case. Apple made its newest models slim and light enough that adding a protective case doesn’t make the combo too bulky.

Why the OLED display looks awesome

The 2024 iPad Pro packs a gorgeous OLED display. With an organic light-emitting diode screen, there’s no need for a backlight — each pixel glows on its own.

Why the change? I’ll let an expert explain.

“OLED displays offer perfect black, infinite contrast and weigh much less and are thinner. They’re also comparable to HDR, brightness, color and power performances,” Jacky Qiu, VP of OTI Lumionics, told me. “With the adoption of OLED displays on the 2024 iPad Pro, consumers are now getting the king of performance.”

When I put the OLED display next to the mini-LED one in my 2022 iPad Pro, there’s not much difference in good lighting conditions. Blacks are slightly blacker and whites are somewhat less yellow. But the screens in iPads have been gorgeous in good lighting for many years.

Where the OLED panel shines is in challenging lighting conditions. It’s beautiful in direct sunlight. Even better, it still looks good when the sun is shining on only part of the screen. Traditional LCDs struggle in both situations.

How the M4 iPad Pro display looks outdoors and in total darkness

That said, when using the tablet outdoors, I need to angle the screen to avoid reflections. Those who choose the versions with 1TB and above can opt for nano-texture display glass to deal with that.

On the other side of the coin, the M4 iPad Pro’s display handles complete darkness equally well. In these conditions, the mini-LED screen in the 2022 iPad Pro had difficulties with “bloom” — a glow around light objects set against a dark background. There’s a very, very slight bloom on the new model, but it’s equivalent to what you see on an iPhone’s OLED.

The new screen also benefits from a higher refresh speed than the 2022 model. An X post from Vadim Yuryev shows a dramatic difference, but I’m not seeing much when I compare the two tablets side by side.

A truly revolutionary OLED screen

The screen of the M4 iPad Pro utilizes what Apple calls “tandem OLED” technology that stacks two OLED panels to provide greater full-screen brightness. To explain the advantages, I spoke with Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants.

Young told me:

“Tandem OLED panels significantly boost emitting efficiency, lifetime, brightness and reduce burn-in. One of the suppliers of the tandem OLED panels on the iPad Pro, LG Display, has indicated that tandem panels offer 1.5-2x higher emitting efficiency, 4x higher lifetime, cut power consumption by 40% and boost brightness by 30%.

“Apple is at 1600 nits peak brightness and 1000 nits full screen brightness which is much brighter than competing OLED tablets. The longer lifetime/reduced burn-in enables them to meet the requirements of IT products which are more challenging for OLEDs than smartphones due to the normally white screens used in IT applications like Microsoft Office, etc.”

It’s amazing that Apple fit two OLED panels stacked on top of each other into a computer as thin as the M4 iPad Pro. Young has the explanation:

“It is the first OLED tablet panel with a rigid + thin film encapsulation (TFE) substrate. Rigid + TFE is significantly thinner and lighter than a rigid substrate which has 2 pieces of glass vs. just one for rigid + TFE. In addition, Apple has required the panel suppliers to chemically etch the single substrate from 0.5mm down to 0.2mm, making it even thinner and lighter.”

Apple says the M4 iPad Pro has a 13-inch screen while many previous models had 12.9-inch ones. Just so there’s no confusion, the screen size did not change. Apple is rounding up the size.

Screen resolution got tweaked  — at 2,752-by-2,064 pixels, the 13-inch version is a hair better than the earlier one. And the 11-inch model has a 2,420-by-1,668-pixel resolution, just slightly better than before. But the differences are so minimal the pixel density remains at 264 ppi.

Apple M4 chip is about more than speed

Apple M4 chip components and specs
Apple M4 chip components and specs
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

The 2024 iPad Pros brought the debut of the M4 chip. This is the first time an Apple processor family has launched in a tablet.

I ran Primate Labs Geekbench 6 on my review unit and it got a Multi-Core score of 13,273 and a Single-Core score of 3,735. My unit has less than 1TB of storage, so it comes with three CPU performance cores. Units with 1TB or more of storage come with four performance cores, and score about 14,600 on the Geekbench 6 Multi-Core test.

For comparison, the M2 iPad Pro scored about 9640 on the same test, so the M4 offers a performance increase of either 38% or 51%.

Every chip production run results in some less-than-perfect processors. Apple is taking chips in which one of the four CPU cores is flawed, disabling that core, and putting them in the base model iPad Pro. Note that all current versions of the M4 include six efficiency cores, so the tablet has either nine cores or 10 in total.

How much RAM is included depends on how much storage you pay for. Most versions come with 8GB of RAM, but the 1TB and 2TB models bump that up to 16GB.

What the M4 iPad Pro reviews don’t mention: Why it needs that powerful processor

There are several good reasons why the iPad Pro needs an M4 processor. For one, Apple emphasizes its artificial intelligence capabilities, and iPadOS 18 is expected to bring in a range of new AI features.

Plus, think about the gaming potential. The 10-core GPU in the M4 adds hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing so games look better than ever. And I don’t mean simple games. It’s starting to look like Apple is finally getting serious about gaming. Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, Death Stranding and Assassin’s Creed Mirage are all playable on the iPad Pro, or will be soon.

Also, the Apple M4 emphasizes more than performance. Apple says the tandem OLED screen wouldn’t be possible without the processor. “M4 features an entirely new display engine to enable the precision, color, and brightness of the Ultra Retina XDR display,” said the Mac-maker.

Plus, the chip is also more efficient than its predecessors. It’s made with TSMC’s second-generation 3-nanometer technology, down from the 5nm M2. Shrinking the processor’s components allows it to run faster on less electricity. Apple claims, “Compared to M2, M4 can deliver the same performance using just half the power.” So the chip is a critical part of slimming down the 2024 iPad Pro. Without it, a larger battery would have been necessary.

And thinking long term, you can be confident this 2024 computer will be able to easily handle iPadOS 22 when it’s released in 2028.

All-day battery life. Really.

An M4 iPad Pro teardown shows the two batteries
An M4 iPad Pro teardown showed the two batteries have a total capacity of 38.99 Wh.
Photo: iFixit

iPad has a history of going a long time on a single charge, and the new premiere 2024 model lives up to the tradition. To give you a sense of how long the M4 iPad Pro will last on a single charge, I did real-world testing.

Over a 24-hour stretch of regular use for work and entertainment, I had the screen on at 50% for just over 10 hours. Much of the time, I had the tablet connected to an Apple Magic Keyboard. At the end of the complete day-and-night cycle, the tablet still had a 25% charge.

For an alternative test, I used the M4 iPad Pro continuously for three hours, with the backlight at 50%, and the Magic Keyboard attached with its keyboard backlight on. That used 26% of the battery.

Together, these indicate I could use the tablet for roughly 12 hours straight before needing a recharge. And without compromising to stretch the battery. That’s truly exceptional. And it’s better than Apple’s promise of 10 hours of use.

There’s more to long battery life than just building in a big battery. Apple picked its OLED panel specifically to save power. As Ross Young, head off DSCC, told me, “It is the first LTPO OLED panel in a tablet. So, it has additional efficiency advantages since it can get down to 10Hz refresh rather than 60Hz.”

And the M4 processor has a part to play as well. I already covered how efficient it is, just remember it’s part of the equation.

Don’t overlook these bonus features

The M4 iPad Pro also makes a change tablet users have wanted for years: The front-facing camera moved to the long edge of the screen for better horizontal use. Now, when I’m on a FaceTime call, I’m looking toward the person I’m talking to, not staring off to one side.

And there’s cause for celebration even if you never make video calls. In its new location, the Face ID sensors are more likely to pick up my face. I don’t have to look off to one side to log in anymore.

Plus, the base model offers more storage. 256GB is now the minimum, and you can go all the way up to 2TB.

iPad cameras are easy to overlook — I forget about them for weeks at a time. But the latest model includes an adaptive True Tone flash designed to improve document scanning. With AI, the Camera app recognizes that I’m trying to scan a document, and can remove shadows from documents. It worked brilliantly in my tests, piecing long multi-page documents into a single, highly readable PDF.

The iPadOS Question

Some of the first M4 iPad Pro reviews ragged on iPadOS but I’m not joining in. I used this computer to do my job for most of a week and never ran into anything I needed to do that I couldn’t. That’s no surprise — I’ve used an iPad as my primary computer for work and entertainment for many years. No Mac needed.

It seems to me that nearly all iPadOS criticism comes from MacBook users who want the iPad to work more like a Mac. But putting macOS on iPad Pro wouldn’t make the tablet better, it would just make it more familiar to Mac users. And it would make the computer less suited for the many millions of iPad users.

Why you might want to skip this upgrade

The M4 iPad Pro is brilliant. But while it improves on its predecessors in multiple ways, it doesn’t add new features. It has just one USB-C port, when two are clearly needed. And the latest version actually takes away a couple of minor features.

I don’t see where those who have the 2022 iPad Pro have much justification in upgrading. True, the latest model has a prettier screen and a faster processor, but the changes aren’t enormous.

That said, Apple offered me $580 to trade in my last-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. That’s almost half off the cost of the new one.

The situation is different if you still use the 2020 or 2018 versions. If that’s the case, it may well be time for an upgrade. Especially if your older model is wearing out — check the battery health. If it’s below 80%, you really should think about the new model.

And if you’ve outgrown your budget iPad or iPad Air, jump on board. The new Pro will be a spectacular upgrade.

M4 iPad Pro review: Final thoughts

M4 iPad Pro in hand
This is where M4 iPad Pro belongs: In your hand wherever you need it to go.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The OLED screen is nice, but the light weight of the M4 iPad Pro is the real game-changer. It means I use the 2024 version more than its predecessor. And, honestly, it makes my iPhone seem thick.

The tablet can survive a day of very heavy use on a single charge, and I’m confident the speedy new chip will give it decent performance for many years.

★★★★★

If Apple had added another USB-C port, I’d be even more thrilled.

Pricing

The 11-inch OLED iPad Pro starts at $999, while the 13-inch model starts at $1,299. Both versions come in either silver or space black.

Buy it from: Apple or Amazon:

Apple did not provide Cult of Mac with a M4 iPad Pro review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.

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