Apple iPad Professional 12.9-inch (2021) evaluation: Greater than you want, precisely what you need

“The iPad Professional takes the previous-generation iPad, and offers it significant updates that can make what was already the very best pill even higher.”


  • Unbelievable efficiency
  • Stunning show on 12.9-inch mannequin
  • Beautiful design
  • Heart Stage works nice
  • USB 4/Thunderbolt 3 port


  • Practically MacBook priced
  • No Mini-LED on 11-inch mannequin

For the previous yr or so, the iPad Professional has been in a transition interval. Previous to that, it was a comparatively clear alternative for individuals who needed a contemporary, highly effective iPad. Then got here the brand new iPad Air, an almost-as-good possibility at a a lot cheaper price. Now, Apple needs to boost the iPad Professional bar — and to that finish, has given it the identical extremely praised and extremely highly effective chip discovered within the new Mac Mini and MacBook Air.

There are different upgrades within the new iPad Professional, although none maybe as headline-grabbing. Notably, the 12.9-inch iPad Professional lastly will get the long-rumored Mini-LED “Liquid Retina XDR” show. Then there’s 5G help, and the USB 4 port.

However does all of this add as much as an iPad Professional that’s actually price spending the additional cash for over the iPad Air?

{Hardware} and design

At first look, the iPad Professional is similar to the previous-generation pill. That’s not a nasty factor — it’s nonetheless the best-looking, most trendy pill on the market. You gained’t get the enjoyable colours of the iPad Air, however Apple’s “professional” units normally don’t anyway. As an alternative, the gadget is available in house grey or silver, and we’re reviewing the latter.

For the uninitiated, the iPad Professional has an edge-to-edge show, with bezels which might be simply large enough to have the ability to maintain the pill with out by chance touching the show. It’s additionally obtained flat edges, like the brand new iPhone 12 sequence, and a twin digital camera module on the again. It’s an amazing look.

It is available in two sizes — an 11-inch mannequin, and a 12.9-inch mannequin. This yr, sadly, there are some variations in options between the 2 sizes, which we’ll get into somewhat later.

There are some methods wherein Apple might have modified the design. For starters, the front-facing digital camera continues to be on the highest edge. I recurrently used the iPad in portrait orientation, however I by no means video-chatted that method — and because of this, I positively would have most well-liked the front-facing digital camera to be situated in the appropriate edge. Frankly, I don’t see why Apple can’t embody a digital camera on each edges. That might additionally assist make Face ID somewhat extra seamless, because it’s not unusual to by chance cowl up Face ID sensors when utilizing the gadget horizontally.

As somebody who’s used to the 11-inch dimension, the 12.9-inch gadget that we’re reviewing positively felt outsized initially, however I obtained used to it — and for some duties, most well-liked it.

For probably the most half, nonetheless, the iPad Professional continues to be a shocking pill, and it feels nice within the hand. As somebody who’s used to the 11-inch dimension, the 12.9-inch gadget that we’re reviewing positively felt outsized initially, however I obtained used to it — and for some duties, most well-liked it. Finally, I’ll in all probability follow the smaller gadget for private use, however I get the attraction of the large one, particularly for those who have a tendency to make use of your gadget for watching films and taking part in video games quite a bit.

New for 2021 is the truth that the iPad Professional now has a USB 4 port, which incorporates help for Thunderbolt 3. That opens up its utilization to a a lot wider vary of equipment, and will assist the gadget be higher built-in into inventive workflows, like with audio interfaces.

I’ll briefly go over Apple’s Magic Keyboard right here. For 2021, you may get it in white — and Apple recommends shopping for a brand new one for those who’re going for the 12.9-inch mannequin. Based on the corporate, the additional 0.5mm thickness can impression the Magic Keyboard correctly closing. That’s tremendous annoying, particularly contemplating how costly the Magic Keyboard is within the first place. However this accent continues to be superior — it makes it straightforward to take away and place the iPad, the keys and trackpad really feel nice, and so forth.

I’m barely involved in regards to the white shade, although. After solely utilizing the gadget for every week, there’s no actual discoloration or scuff-marks on the white keyboard, but it surely’s fairly straightforward to think about these showing over time. Name me boring, however I nonetheless favor the black possibility.

Specs and efficiency

Whereas the design stays unchanged, below the hood the iPad Professional is an all-new pill. Gone is the mobile-focused A-series processor, in favor of a laptop-class M1 chip — the identical chip discovered within the new MacBook Air, Mac Mini, iMac, and 13-inch MacBook Professional. That’s coupled with both 8GB or 16GB of RAM, relying in your configuration — and that’s probably the most RAM ever present in an iPad.

The outcomes aren’t shocking, although. The 2021 iPad Professional performs like a beast. It’s capable of deal with much more intense cellular gaming with ease, and it’s greater than able to modifying a video in iMovie — thought I’m not a lot of a video editor, so some could beg to vary.

The truth that the iPad Professional is such a performer is an effective factor, after all. However the previous-generation iPad Professional was already an extremely high-performing pill, and the elevated efficiency of the M1 doesn’t actually allow extra options — a minimum of not but. My previous-generation iPad Professional nonetheless performs in addition to the day I obtained it, even below heavy multitasking and cellular gaming.

After all, this might change sooner or later — and I hope it does. I might love to actually put the M1 chip within the iPad Professional by means of its paces. Some shall be ready to take action, utilizing apps like Adobe Premiere Rush, which might be able to leverage extra of the facility below the hood. However it will be good if a bigger variety of folks might accomplish that, and that can require a way more desktop-like method to iPadOS. Hopefully, we’ll get some updates to iPadOS at Apple’s Worldwide Builders Convention (WWDC) in June.

The previous-generation iPad Professional was already an extremely high-performing pill, and the elevated efficiency of the M1 doesn’t actually allow extra options — a minimum of not but.

Within the meantime, even for those who don’t want all of the processing energy on supply by the iPad Professional, it’s simply the way in which to go in order for you probably the most highly effective iPad you may get. And the truth that it’s so highly effective will hopefully additionally have an effect on longevity, permitting the gadget to carry out properly for longer than different iPad fashions already carry out.

The 2021 iPad Professional additionally helps 5G, which is sweet to see. For the appropriate folks, it is going to assist quite a bit, and briefly testing, it labored properly.

Liquid Retina XDR Mini-LED show

Processing energy within the iPad Professional is one factor that will not have an effect on day-to-day use for most individuals, contemplating how properly the iPad Professional already carried out. However the different main replace to the iPad Professional is within the show — and that has the potential to impression everybody who makes use of it.

The 2021 iPad Professional affords a Liquid Retina XDR show, with a 264 pixel-per-inch density and a 120Hz refresh price. However what does Liquid Retina XDR imply? Properly, for the primary time on an iPad, you’ll get a Mini-LED show. Now, to grasp why that’s vital, it helps to grasp some fundamentals about show know-how. OLED shows are capable of illuminate particular person pixels, which means that they will flip off pixels when there’s black in a picture on the show — making for a lot deeper black ranges. LED shows can’t do that, since LED shows require a backlight. However as an alternative of a single backlight, or a couple of dozen “zones” (the previous-generation iPad Professional supplied 72), Mini-LED shows supply hundreds. Within the iPad Professional, the ten,000 miniaturized LEDs are grouped into 2,500 native dimming zones, which Apple claims ought to enable the iPad Professional to indicate deep blacks proper subsequent to shiny colours.

There’s a catch, although — this tech is just obtainable on the bigger 12.9-inch iPad Professional, and never the 11-inch mannequin. That’s somewhat irritating, particularly as somebody who prefers the smaller iPad dimension within the first place.

If you happen to don’t thoughts shopping for the bigger iPad Professional, although, you’ll discover a distinction — the show on the 12.9-inch iPad Professional is gorgeous. Black ranges are certainly deeper and extra pure, and colours are capable of get rather more vibrant and shiny, particularly on the subject of HDR content material. Talking of HDR content material, the brand new gadget is ready to ship a peak brightness of an enormous 1,600 nits throughout HDR viewing — and you may inform. Subsequent to the previous-generation show, there’s a clear distinction.

Now, that doesn’t essentially imply that it’s best to care in regards to the higher show — particularly for the worth. Most individuals will certainly have the ability to inform the distinction between this show and a previous-generation one, however except you depend on an correct, shiny show in your job, it’s price ready till the tech bleeds all the way down to cheaper iPad fashions. The earlier iPad Professional, in addition to the brand new 11-inch iPad Professional, nonetheless have an superior show, and one which’s greater than able to displaying films and your images in gorgeous element.


Digicam know-how has been upgraded on the brand new iPad Professional too, and in ways in which could possibly be legitimately useful. The rear-facing cameras on the iPad Professional haven’t modified — you’ll get the identical 12-megapixel foremost digital camera and 10-megapixel ultrawide digital camera, they usually’re capable of take stable images with sufficient element for many conditions.

On the entrance, nonetheless, there are some updates. Notably, the front-facing digital camera has been up to date from the 7-megapixel sensor on the final era to a brand new 12-megapixel ultrawide digital camera. That’s not so your colleagues or household can see extra of your messy residence, although — it’s for Heart Stage.

Heart Stage primarily makes use of the front-facing digital camera on the iPad Professional to comply with you round a room. It does this by cropping the picture in to you, after which utilizing face recognition to maneuver that crop round what the sensor sees as you progress. After all, there are limits to how far you possibly can transfer earlier than the digital camera isn’t able to seeing you any extra, however in my expertise, the 120-degree discipline of view makes for a system that’s really fairly useful.

Even higher is the truth that the tech works for any utility utilizing the front-facing digital camera — with out builders having to tweak something. That signifies that whether or not you utilize first-party apps, like FaceTime, or third-party choices like Zoom or Microsoft Groups, Heart Stage will work by default. If you happen to don’t need Heart Stage in a selected app, you possibly can disable it in Settings on an app-by-app foundation.

Software program

On the iPad Professional, you’ll get Apple’s iPadOS, which has up to now caught fairly near iOS. There have been some updates, like improved multitasking, however normally, for those who’ve used an iPhone, you’ve just about used an iPad.

That hasn’t been an enormous deal up to now — in any case, iPadOS continues to be a much better expertise than utilizing Android on a pill. However given the addition of the M1 chip, and the truth that Apple has lengthy tried to place the iPad as a laptop computer substitute, it could be time for an improve to the working system. I might like to see updates like choices for app windowing, higher exterior show help, and maybe even help for Mac apps, given the truth that these apps can now run on the ARM structure anyway.

It will be good if Apple itself lastly launched professional apps to the iPad, too. Apps like Remaining Lower Professional and Logic Professional on the iPad would really enable customers to make the most of that processing energy. There are third-party options, like Luma Fusion, however Apple’s personal apps are fashionable for a purpose.

It’s potential that we’ll hear extra about iPadOS on the upcoming WWDC, and if we don’t, relaxation assured that iPadOS nonetheless affords the very best pill software program expertise on the market. However I can’t assist however suppose it might do extra.

Our take

The iPad Professional takes the previous-generation iPad, and offers it significant updates that can make what was already the very best pill even higher. The M1 chip makes the brand new iPad Professional simply probably the most highly effective pill on the market, the Liquid Retina XDR tech creates a stunningly stunning dispaly, and tweaks just like the addition of Heart Stage aren’t simply gimmicks — they’re really fairly useful.

Is there a greater different?

There isn’t a pill higher than the 2021 iPad Professional, however there definitely may be one which’s extra applicable for you. This isn’t the pill for most individuals — it’s the pill for people who both have loads of money to burn, or need one thing for his or her precise job. If you happen to’re searching for one thing for multimedia consumption, gaming, and simply basic use, the 2020 iPad Air is the way in which to go. You’ll nonetheless get the trendy design, glorious efficiency, and extra. Alternatively, the entry-level 10.2-inch iPad continues to be obtainable, and whereas it doesn’t supply the identical trendy design, it’s greater than sufficient iPad for watching movies, searching the net, and utilizing social media.

There are Android pill choices, however except you’re actually set on sticking inside Google’s ecosystem, it’s price avoiding them and going for an iPad as an alternative. If you’d like the Android equal of the iPad Professional, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ might be the gadget for you. Alternatively, it could be price taking a look at a Floor Professional in order for you a full desktop working system and like Home windows.

How lengthy will it final?

The 2021 iPad Professional ought to final quite a lot of years, so long as you deal with it. The gadget is just not water resistant, and as you’d count on, the entrance of the gadget is glass — so it is going to seemingly break for those who drop it.

However so long as the gadget isn’t bodily harmed, I believe it ought to final 5 years or extra, relying on how processor-intensive iPadOS will get. The M1 chip ensures that the gadget is kind of future-proof for a minimum of a couple of years, plus Apple’s stellar track-record on the subject of software program updates signifies that it’s best to proceed getting iPadOS updates for fairly a while.

Must you purchase it?

Sure, however provided that you really need or want the most important and finest pill. The 2021 iPad Professional is greater than sufficient iPad for most individuals. Much more. But when spending greater than $800 on a pill isn’t actually a giant deal for you, you’ll completely love the 2021 iPad Professional.

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