2021 12.9-inch iPad Professional evaluation: Professional {hardware} with out Apple’s professional software program

2021 12.9-inch iPad Professional evaluation: Professional {hardware} with out Apple's professional software program

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The 2021 iPad Professional is a serious step ahead for Apple’s high-end pill. With its M1 processor, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, upgraded cameras, and a shiny new show, the iPad Professional is nearer than ever earlier than to realizing its potential.

Once we reviewed the 2020 iPad Professional final 12 months, we stated it “is extra about future software program than the {hardware} positive factors at the moment.” Twelve months later, that’s nonetheless extra true than ever, however the software program enhancements have, so far, not surfaced.

Apple made low-key updates to iPadOS similar to widgets, Scribble, and a refined search expertise. However none of those felt like they took benefit of the ability within iPad Professional.

With this important replace to the {hardware}, it nonetheless feels just like the software program is falling brief. Once more.

This evaluation can be particularly trying on the 1TB 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021) with the brand new mini LED display screen and 16GB of RAM.

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iPad Professional — now beefier than ever

By no means has iPad Professional felt as highly effective because it does with the introduction of the 2021 mannequin. We sometimes get our excited paws on a brand new iPad Professional and marvel at its newfound velocity, although it slowly wanes over the course of the 12 months as purposes are up to date to make the most of it. These processor jumps are sometimes worthy upgrades, however this 12 months goes to an entire new stage.

Placing the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) on the new Magic Keyboard
Inserting the 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021) on the brand new white Magic Keyboard

Apple moved from the A12Z Bionic processor — a forgettable improve for the 2020 iPad Professional with a mere single-core GPU enhance paired with a LiDAR scanner — to its M1 processor. This M1 is the exact same one which sits within the present MacBook Professional, in addition to the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and new 24-inch iMac.

That makes Apple’s exceptionally skinny and transportable pill actually as highly effective as a MacBook Professional.

uncooked efficiency as measured by the standardized Geekbench 5 benchmarking take a look at reveals an enormous bounce in computational energy. Single-core scores go from 1117 to 1704, whereas the multi-core rating leaps from 4690 to 7014. The Compute benchmark that measures graphics prowess jumps from 9616 to 21240.

these numbers, it’s clear that that is probably the most important improve in efficiency Apple has achieved on iPad Professional in years. The 2018 to 2020 improve solely noticed a 547 level enhance on the Compute take a look at and primarily no enhance for the single-core and multi-core assessments.

Editin in LumaFusion on 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
Modifying in LumaFusion on 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

Moreover, Apple has bumped up the RAM considerably. Apple baked 6GB of RAM into the 2020 iPad Professionals however 8GB into the 256GB and 512GB 2021 fashions and 16GB within the 1TB and 2TB configs. After utilizing the 2020 mannequin for a 12 months, we by no means felt it had any difficulty with RAM shortages. But, right here we’re with 16GB in our new mannequin.

Proper now, we won’t even discern a efficiency enhance that may be attributed to the elevated RAM. We will open a flurry of Safari tabs and bounce between them with out them reloading. The identical with shifting between open purposes with no need to refresh themselves. Like a lot of this iPad, this RAM feels prefer it was designed for what’s to come back.


Apple updated the cameras on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
Apple up to date the cameras on the 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

That M1 processor has extra enhancements than simply velocity. Its 16-core neural engine and next-generation picture sign processor have led to appreciable enhancements to the iPad Professional’s digicam system.

The rear-facing camera shoots great
The rear-facing digicam shoots nice

On the rear-facing digicam, Apple has allowed 2X optical zoom when taking pictures 4K content material. It additionally enabled cinematic stabilization whereas taking pictures 4K, stereo audio recording, and audio zoom. It feels a bit odd to be speaking about cameras on a pill — particularly the 12.9-inch mannequin. The psychological picture of ourselves strolling round snapping pics or taking pictures video holding up a pill versus a cellphone or devoted digicam feels fallacious.

That stated, it’s an precise use case for many individuals. Many depend on iPad Professional as their major gadget and take Zoom calls or different video conferences. There are reporters and journalists who shoot interviews on iPad, then go on to edit that footage on the iPad as properly. If Apple could make that captured footage higher, then we cannot argue.

ulrta-wide shot from TrueDepth camera
12MP ultra-wide shot on TrueDepth digicam system

The front-facing TrueDepth digicam system bought an much more substantial improve of its personal to boast. It proudly boasts an ultra-wide 122-degree area of view to seize vastly extra in case your environment. Sensible HDR 3, time-lapse video, and lens correction had been additionally added. To not point out Apple went from a 7MP to a spiffy new 12MP one.

Whether or not you are in a gathering, giving a presentation, or simply FaceTiming with household, all of it seems a lot better. Whereas we’re all beginning to get again to the norm, these video calls are prone to nonetheless be prevalent in our private {and professional} lives.

Center Stage on 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
Heart Stage on the brand new iPad Professional

Coupled with that up to date TrueDepth digicam is a software program characteristic dubbed Heart Stage. Heart Stage intelligently zooms in in your face whereas making a FaceTime name and follows you as you progress. An apparent instance is making a FaceTime name whereas cooking, a activity that requires you to maneuver about. As a substitute of strolling out of body, its new 122-degree area of view can observe you and at all times make sure you’re in-frame.

Apple thought-about others as properly. If a second particular person walks in entrance of the digicam, it’s going to scope out to make sure everybody may be seen. In follow, this characteristic feels nearly magical. It really works like a dream, and we had been shocked at how far we might traverse with iPad persevering with to search out us. We tried shifting quick and sluggish and a number of folks directly. Heart Stage by no means skipped a beat.

Our solely difficulty with Heart Stage arose after we began to stroll round, holding our iPad, throughout a FaceTime name. Heart Stage made issues look very topsy turvy and complicated. Fortunately, there’s a button to show the characteristic off displayed prominently inside the FaceTime app.

At launch, Heart Stage works with FaceTime, however Apple is opening it up as an API for third events to make the most of in their very own apps. Zoom, Meet, Skype, amongst others.


New to iPad Professional is Thunderbolt. Thanks partially to Apple’s M1 processor, the 2021 iPad Professional has a USB 4/Thunderbolt 3 port. It is very important know that whereas it’s USB 4, it’s not Thunderbolt 4. That is as a result of M1 processor, which is proscribed to solely supporting Thunderbolt 3. Possible as a result of work on the M1 had commenced previous to the Thunderbolt 4 spec being finalized, it feels ever-so-slightly outdated.

New iPad Pros sport Thunderbolt 3
New iPad Professionals sport Thunderbolt 3

Fortuitously, there’s a wealth of Thunderbolt 3 units available on the market as-is, and the advantages coming to Thunderbolt 4 aren’t essential sufficient that we really feel not noted. Thunderbolt 4 has the identical speeds as Thunderbolt 3, so storage and show bandwidth would stay unchanged.

The OWC Thunderbolt dock connected to iPad Pro
The OWC Thunderbolt dock linked to iPad Professional

For years now, we have felt deprived as we have relied on Thunderbolt for our Macs however might by no means make the most of the identical gear on our iPads. Any Thunderbolt monitor, Thunderbolt SSD, or Thunderbolt dock in our package has been of no use to us whereas on our iPad. That’s now not the case. With this easy port replace, an entire new world of equipment has change into accessible.

We have examined a couple of docking stations and Thunderbolt 3 hubs, and all have labored completely. Simply join, and you may plug in onerous drives, SSDs, shows, card readers, and extra.

Personally, with video manufacturing in thoughts, we linked our Sonnet CFExpress II Thunderbolt twin card reader to our new OWC Thunderbolt Dock together with our Glyph Atom Raid SSD and Blue Blackout Yeti. At instances, we linked a further USB-C monitor whereas modifying video. LumaFusion permits us to observe our content material on the show whereas devoting everything of its personal show to our media and timeline.

Many accessories on a Thunderbolt Dock
Many equipment on a Thunderbolt Dock

Thunderbolt is particularly helpful on iPad Professional on account of its sole port. Peripherals may be daisy-chained collectively so a number of may be linked with no need a dock in any respect, feeding again to the one port on the pill. As customers who depend on a number of storage and peripherals, Thunderbolt has been a godsend already.

That new show

Each the 12.9-inch and the 11-inch iPad Professionals are normally in characteristic parity, however Apple did one thing totally different this 12 months. Unique to the 12.9-inch mannequin is a brand new high-end show.

What some have referred to as Apple’s new “Liquid Retina HDR” show is dubbed the “Liquid Retina XDR” show, proudly touting its lineage of the high-end, $5000, professional-oriented Professional Show XDR. XDR is what Apple is referring to as shows that go previous typical HDR. The 2020 iPad Professionals had succesful shows that might deal with HDR content material, however the 2021 mannequin pushes the boundaries.

Regardless that the pill is basically the identical measurement, Apple managed to cram 10,000 mini-LEDs into this panel. The mini-LEDs change the normal LED backlight system that features over 2,500 native dimming zones. Mini-LEDs aren’t simply smaller, they’re extra correct and yield deeper blacks, increased distinction, extra brightness, and fewer blooming.

Beautiful Liquid Retina XDR display on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
Lovely Liquid Retina XDR show on the 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

Apple fortunately advertises the unimaginable 1,000,000:1 distinction ratio, which is the distinction between white and black parts.

Beautiful Liquid Retina XDR display on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
Lovely Liquid Retina XDR show on the 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

In indoor informal consumption-centric use, you’ll not discover a lot — if any — distinction within the show. That does not imply there aren’t some important advantages right here.

The new iPad Pro in bright sunlight is still usable
The brand new iPad Professional in vibrant daylight remains to be usable

For starters, Apple boosted the brightness from a median of 600 nits to a median of 1,000 nits. Which means in vibrant environments — like whereas working outdoors — that show goes to look higher. We sat on the porch scripting this evaluation, and it’s hands-down the perfect show we have used whereas within the solar. It is not excellent, and direct daylight remains to be a problem, however it’s a step up from the final technology.

One other use is for any HDR content material, particularly video. Apple has managed an unimaginable 1,600 nit peak brightness on this show whereas enjoying again HDR content material. Whereas watching a film, TV present, or a house film you shot in your iPhone 12 Professional, you’ll seemingly see how a lot brighter the whites or flashes are and the way deep the blacks are. Aspect by facet, the brand new Liquid Retina XDR show will get nearly fully black within the shadows whereas popping the highlights.

It does not matter in the event you’re watching that content material or creating it in an app similar to LumaFusion, this show lets content material shine.

Editing HDR video on the new Liquid Retina XDR display
Modifying HDR video on the brand new Liquid Retina XDR show

Our solely criticism of stated show is that there’s nonetheless some minor blooming evident when the backlight leaks round on-screen components and creates a “bloom”-like impact round it. That is commonest when you’ve gotten a black background and a white on-screen factor similar to textual content. Even then, it’s only noticeable in low-light environments.

You will not discover this a lot day-to-day, however you may even see some slight blooming nonetheless cropping up if you’re taking a look at your iPad at evening in mattress. It’s higher than earlier than, however not excellent.

In fact, many will evaluate this mini-LED panel to the OLED panels present in latest iPhones and Apple Watches. OLED remains to be the higher of the 2 choices, however after seeing the Liquid Retina XDR show Apple put out right here, we would name it an appropriate different that will get the job executed. OLED should still have even deeper blacks, however the fee would seemingly go up greater than it already has.

Oh the Magic Keyboard

Principally on account of that new show, the 12.9-inch iPad Professional is an almost-imperceptible .5mm thicker. Which will sound negligible, nevertheless it causes complications for accent producers, Apple, and customers alike.

There was hearth and fury about Apple’s preliminary revelation that it had modified the iPad Professional sufficient to make the year-old Magic Keyboard unusable on the brand new 12.9-inch mannequin. Fortuitously, after an about-face from Apple and additional testing by YourNextApp, it’s clear that the first-gen Magic Keyboard will, in actual fact, help the newest iPad Professional.

After that about-face, Apple straight advised us that the brand new 12.9-inch iPad Professional within the first-generation Magic Keyboard would have an imprecise match when closed. We examined this for ourselves and located this to be the case, although it finally labored simply effective. There may be some finger oil switch from the keys to the iPad Professional’s display screen along with the conventional touchscreen switch, however that is not surprising, and MacBook Professional house owners have been coping with this switch for a very long time.

Whereas fit-testing, we noticed that the hinge-side of the Magic Keyboard held the iPad Professional tighter and firmer than its predecessor. Due to that further stress close to the backbone, it shifts the iPad Professional simply barely inflicting the digicam module to butt up towards the facet of the opening milled for the earlier model, forcing it barely off-center. Even with that tight match, there was no lack of performance, and no actual likelihood of injury to the pill itself that we might determine.

12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021) in the 2020 Magic Keyboard
12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021) within the 2020 Magic Keyboard

So though Apple did introduce a second-generation up to date Magic Keyboard for the 12.9-inch mannequin, nothing else was modified. No performance was added, and it’s nonetheless one in every of our favourite, albeit costly, equipment for Apple’s professional pill.

The new white Magic Keyboard
The brand new white Magic Keyboard

If you have not gotten a Magic Keyboard but, what’s new is a white colorway. This new mild choice seems nice with the silver iPad Professional however works with the house grey too.

One minor factor we did discover is that the fabric feels extra slippery than our year-old house grey Magic Keyboard. Unsure there was a change in materials for the white or simply our minds enjoying tips on us, however we felt it slipping from our fingers a couple of instances. It additionally may very well be the tenth of a pound of added weight the brand new mannequin has as properly.

Extra versatile than a Mac?

In some ways, the iPad Professional is no longer solely a comparable alternative however a better option than a Mac — workflow dependent.

Earlier than the 2021 replace, the iPad Professional had the perfect pill processor, an amazing show, some exterior monitor help, cursor help, and a USB-C port. The the 2021 incarnation added the exact same processor as discovered within the Mac, a greater show than all transportable Macs, 5G, and Thunderbolt 3 help.

12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

There are apparent limitations, however the iPad Professional is a extra succesful gadget for a distinct segment group. That may be a assertion we have anticipated to say in some unspecified time in the future however had no concept it could be so quickly.

{Hardware} seeking software program

If there may be one limitation that stops you from shifting to iPad, it’s software program. It is a story you’ve got heard earlier than. We advised it to you final 12 months, and there is no scarcity of reviewers repeating it this 12 months.

However, we won’t conclude an iPad Professional evaluation with out acknowledging the fact.

What’s so irritating right here is that Apple has invested a substantial amount of promoting {dollars} within the message that the iPad Professional is the way forward for computing. With the iPad Professional line, now and earlier than, it has been backing up that sentiment with {hardware}.

However thus far, Apple hasn’t adopted by means of on the software program entrance.

Reading YourNextApp
Studying YourNextApp

We’ll even say it — iPadOS 14 was disappointing. Some new options like widgets do not even have the liberty to be positioned anyplace as they do with iPhone.

Outstanding options like exterior monitor help did not get improved upon. You need to use an exterior show however nonetheless in a restricted capability. It is going to mirror the show or help some apps, nevertheless it does not prolong your show regardless of cursor help.

Moreover, Apple’s bread and butter on the high-end has at all times been creatives and inventive professionals. Execs trot throughout the stage with a lot braggadocio round professionals mastering 4K HDR content material proper on an iPad Professional.

So, following that, the place are Apple’s “professional” apps? The place are Remaining Minimize, Logic, and Xcode? It appears disingenuous for Apple to heap a lot reward on iPad Professional as this content material creation software, but it hasn’t managed to deliver its personal apps to the platform. Apple ought to have been the primary one to take action if it expects others to.

With that stated — we do have our suspicions. These, once more, are simply suspicious combined with maybe slightly hope. However we expect we might even see Apple’s professional apps come to iPadOS sooner fairly than later. There have been rumors for some time pointing to this however seeing the {hardware} of the 2021 iPad Professional, it feels just like the time is true.

That 16GB of RAM we talked about on the inset appears well-suited for video, audio, and software growth. Cursor help improved with iPadOS 14.5, which might be essential for these very tedious duties. And Thunderbolt permits Thunderbolt displays, storage, or docks for use, that are nearly obligatory for these use circumstances.

This 12 months, greater than any 12 months prior to now, we’re holding out hope for WWDC that Apple will lastly come by means of with a serious replace to iPadOS and ship its professional apps and permit iPad Professional to understand its potential.

Must you purchase the brand new 2021 iPad Professional?

Now, greater than ever, the last-generation 2020 iPad Professional feels prefer it was a mere stopgap answer designed to stall whereas Apple readied its extremely spectacular M1-based iPad Professional. We won’t heap sufficient reward on this pill this time round. Apple improved every thing that issues. Show (not less than on the 12.9-inch) is best, it’s far sooner, the port is extra succesful, all cameras had been upgraded, mobile is now 5G, and it has greater than double the final gen’s RAM.

There is not far more Apple might do right here if it wished to aside from by means of software program. We hate, hate, hate saying we’ve to attend for the software program to be up to date to see the iPad’s full potential, however there isn’t a method round it. The {hardware} is already simply outpacing the accessible apps for it, and it comes all the way down to Apple and third-party devs to fill that delta between the 2.

In the event you held off final 12 months on the iPad Professional since you wished to see what Apple had in retailer this time round, you might need lucked out. We really feel that this replace is value it.

12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)
12.9-inch iPad Professional (2021)

Upgrading or shopping for outright makes probably the most sense in the event you’re eying that 12.9-inch mannequin, however the 11-inch nonetheless has many advantages. Apple says it prioritized portability and energy on the 11-inch, and together with the mini-LED show would have pressured additional compromises and raised the value on the entry-level pill as properly.

Apple has breathed new life into the iPad Professional. We’re extra optimistic and hopeful than we have ever been earlier than about what Apple has in retailer for iPadOS in addition to the pill line as an entire. That is the start of a brand new chapter for iPad.


  • Unimaginable velocity and potential with M1 processor
  • Liquid Retina XDR show is an enormous improve for execs and content material lovers
  • Thunderbolt 3 unlocks a much bigger peripheral market and productiveness
  • 5G is wonderful for work on the go
  • We love the brand new white Magic Keyboard
  • Digicam improve is substantial, together with Heart Stage
  • Enormous potential for high-end content material creation


  • Value hike on the 12.9-inch
  • 12.9-inch thickness will not help some circumstances
  • Apple nonetheless will not help with “professional” software program
  • Mini-LED not fairly pretty much as good as OLED, nonetheless slight blooming

Ranking: 4.5 out of 5

The place to purchase the M1 iPad Professional

The 2021 iPad Professional with Apple’s M1 chip is already on sale, with the newest costs and greatest iPad offers at your fingertips within the YourNextApp iPad Value Information.

Up to date each day, the Value Information incorporates unique promo code financial savings and money markdowns on each M1 iPad Professional mannequin.

12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 in Space Gray

12.9-inch iPad Professional Costs (M1 Fashions)

YourNextApp could earn fee on merchandise bought by means of affiliate hyperlinks.

Configurations       Low cost
128GB Wi-Fi House Grey M1$1,099.00 

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256GB Wi-Fi House Grey$1,199.00 

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n/a $299.01
512GB Wi-Fi House Grey$1,399.00 

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n/a $399.01
256GB Wi-Fi + Mobile Silver$1,399.00 

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n/a $100.00
512GB Wi-Fi + Mobile House Grey$1,599.00 

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n/a n/a $99.01

Evaluate costs on each 12.9-inch iPad Professional spec


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