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A new iPad Pro is coming to take the tablet crown (and your money)

Wednesday May 1, 2024. 01:54 PM , from MacOsxHints

The iPad, remember that? It’s been a minute since Apple unveiled a new tablet–about 807,690 minutes, to be a bit more precise–but all indications point to brand new models being rolled out as part of an Apple keynote next week, on May 7.

A lot has happened in the intervening time. Apple released iPadOS 17, the Apple Vision Pro was announced and shipped, and the M2 processors have given way to the M3–with the promise of more soon. Throughout all of that, the iPad Pro and 10th-generation iPad have remained static and unchanging—and the iPad Air and iPad mini lines date back even further, to March 2022 and September 2021 respectively.

So what do we expect from some brand-new iPads? Can Apple move the needle significantly, or is the iPad hardware still so far out ahead of its software that we’ll end up with a lot more horsepower but without too much to use it on?

Get the OLED out

The biggest improvement is likely to come in the form of new display technology for the iPad Pro line, which is expected to adopt organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) for all its models. That’s a big difference from the previous two generations, which used different screens for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models: the smaller used typical LCD technology, but the big model’s Liquid Retina XDR used the more advanced mini LED, which provides much finer control over backlighting, thus improving the deepness of blacks and the max brightness (up to 1600 nits when viewing HDR content, as opposed to 600 nits for LCD displays).

An OLED display will prove even more significant there. The company has long used OLED tech in its smartphones, starting with the iPhone X, and it’s also been in the Apple Watch since its debut. Because each individual pixel provides its own backlighting and can be turned off, this allows for even deeper blacks. Given the iPad’s use as a popular device for video playback, this stands to make your TV shows and movies look even better.

Of course, that will come with a hefty price tag. OLED displays still command a significant premium over traditional LCD and mini LED displays, so don’t be surprised if the new iPad Pros go up a hundred dollars or more over the current prices. And here’s hoping that Apple finally springs for that last tenth of an inch on the larger model’s display, simplifying all of our lives by offering 11-inch and 13-inch models.

No anxiety about performance

Rumors this past week have suggested that the new iPad Pro might skip right past the M3 and go to an M4 processor. I don’t find myself particularly convinced, given that Apple hasn’t even finished rolling out its M3 Macs yet, but some devices have missed processor generations before (the iMac sat out the M2, for example).

Still, what isn’t up for dispute is that Apple will bring even more performance to the iPad line with a speed boost between around 20 and 40 percent, depending on what chips it ends up using. While that certainly might feel like a nice improvement for those using their iPads for heavy lifting like video and audio editing, it’s unlikely to make a big difference for those using the tablets as content-consuming devices; the OLED displays will make far more of a difference for your streaming shows.

Whether the chip in the new iPad Pro is an M3 or M4, the more impressive upgrade will be an OLED display.

Whether the chip in the new iPad Pro is an M3 or M4, the more impressive upgrade will be an OLED display.Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Whether the chip in the new iPad Pro is an M3 or M4, the more impressive upgrade will be an OLED display.Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Those M4 rumors also suggest that the new iPad Pro might be positioned as a powerhouse for generative AI because it’s all generative AI nowadays. What that means is anyone’s guess: Apple’s chips have long built in a Neural Engine accelerator specifically designed for machine learning tasks, but given that the company has even pushed the latest MacBook Air as “the world’s best consumer laptop for AI“, there’s little doubt that Apple will at least market the new iPad Pro as such, even if there’s no substantial changes to its silicon designs.

Don’t forget to accessorize

Of course, with every new iPad comes new accessories, and this time doesn’t seem like any exception. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has already tipped a new Apple Pencil with haptic feedback (making it potentially the fourth Apple Pencil the company sells), and there’ve been indications that Apple will revamp its Magic Keyboard for the iPad as well.

The latter seems a near certainty, especially since the iPad Pro appears poised for a design refresh after six years. If the speculation proves true, it’ll shave almost a millimeter off its thickness, which is pretty considerable for a device that already measures in at a svelte 5.9mm and 6.4mm for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models respectively. A redesigned keyboard could also fix some shortcomings with the previous model, such as adding function keys and maybe even providing a larger trackpad—but to do so, Apple would likely have to toss its cantilevered design for something more reminiscent of a traditional laptop clamshell.

On the Pencil side, the big question will be whether or not a new design will still offer not only magnetic attachment but also magnetic charging. That’s because the expectation is Apple will finally move the iPad Pro’s front-facing camera to the long edge, à la the tenth-generation iPad, which does not support magnetic charging. Having to plug in the Pencil via USB-C feels like too much of a regression for the Pro models, and it seems likely Apple will find a way to deal with the challenge, whether it means clipping the Pencil to the short edge or squeezing the charging hardware in around the camera somehow.

A new Apple Pencil seems to be coming on May 7.

A new Apple Pencil seems to be coming on May 7.Foundry

A new Apple Pencil seems to be coming on May 7.Foundry


All in, though, replacing your entire iPad Pro setup will be on the pricey side, likely more than a comparable MacBook Air. But for those who appreciate the versatility of Apple’s tablet and wonder “What’s a computer?”, these updates have been a long time coming and can’t arrive a moment too soon.


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