iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Pro 2020: should I upgrade?

iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Pro 2020: should I upgrade?

The iPad Pro 2021 brings major improvements over the iPad Pro 2020. These include the powerful Apple M1 processor and a high-contrast mini LED display on the 12.9-inch model. Nevertheless, the change is not worthwhile for everyone. Here we clarify who should get the new iPad Pro 2021.

Performance: will the iPad Pro 2021 be too powerful for a tablet?

Both the iPad Pro 11 2021 and the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 rely on the Apple M1 as the processor. It is the same energy-saving high-performance chip that is found in the current MacBooks. In these it has proven an extremely high level of performance that can compete with that of Intel's mobile Core i7 and even Core i9 processors . Tests have to show whether the chip in the iPad Pro 2021 develops the same performance. That is likely, because even in the MacBook Air it achieves a powerful power without active cooling.

apple m1 chip

The Apple M1 is the most powerful chip that ever found its way into a tablet. Image: © Apple 2020

According to Apple, the processor performance of the iPad Pro 2021 should surpass that of the iPad Pro 2020 with its Apple A12Z by 50 percent. The graphics performance should be 40 percent higher. So the question arises whether the iPad Pro 2021 might even be unnecessarily powerful for a tablet. In other words, it is still unclear why such a high level of performance is needed.

As Preslav Kateliev writes on Phonearena , the iPadOS operating system is still designed for tablet use rather than laptop-style productivity. Perhaps Apple will equip the iPad Pro 2021 better for working with multiple windows like on Mac or Windows with a future iPadOS update. There is no announcement yet.

In any case, the iPad Pro 2021 should be more than fast enough for the most demanding iPad apps of the coming years.

Display: iPad Pro 12.9 2021 with mini LED display


Mini LEDs improve the brightness and contrast of the iPad Pro 12.9 2021. Image: © Apple 2021

Revolution number 2 is reserved for the larger iPad Pro 12.9 2021. The new iPad 11 is still content with an IPS display with a flexible refresh rate of up to 120 Hertz ("Liquid Retina"). The iPad Pro 12.9 comes with a mini LED display called "Liquid Retina XDR". This can shine on the entire display with a brightness of 1,000 nits in HDR mode and the maximum brightness of HDR highlights in parts of the display is 1,600 nits . This corresponds roughly to the level of the new Samsung Neo QLED TV called Samsung QN90A, the 4K flagship TV in the series.

For comparison: the iPad Pro 2020 in 12.9 inches only managed up to around 600 nits. The practical advantage of the Liquid Retina XDR is limited to the production and viewing of HDR content . However, it should be particularly well suited for this. The iPad Pros of 2020 cannot keep up with regular IPS displays, although they already rely on "Liquid Retina" technology with up to 120 Hertz.

The mini-LED technology of the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 relies on small LED lamps for the backlight. So it's not a self-luminous technology like OLED, so the lighting is less precise. In practice, however, the difference to OLED with a 12.9 inch screen with 10,000 mini LEDs and 2,596 dimming zones should be small. The advantage of mini-LED technology over OLED probably predominates here, specifically the higher brightness.

The display of the 12.9-inch model has a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, has a flexible refresh rate of up to 120 Hertz, covers the HDR color space DCI-P3 and can be operated with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil . The display of the 11-inch model has a resolution of 2,388 x 1,668 pixels and also covers the P3 color space. The brightness is a maximum of 600 nits and the Apple Pencil 2 is also supported.

iPad Pro 12.9 inches

Externally, the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 looks practically the same as its predecessor (pictured). Image: © Apple 2020

Technical equipment: Up to 16 GB of RAM, 5G and a new webcam

While the iPad Pro 2020 had to get by with 6 GB of RAM, the iPad Pro 2021 is available with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, depending on the model. This comes in handy for demanding apps for image processing such as Photoshop and for video editing programs.

While the iPad Pro 2020 is also available as an LTE model, the iPad Pros of the year 2021 are optionally equipped with a 5G modem for nano-SIM and eSIM cards. These models cost around 170 euros more. The USB-C port is now compatible with Thunderbolt 3. External displays with a resolution of up to 6K can also be connected thanks to DisplayPort 1.4a functionality.


The previous accessories are also compatible with the new models. Image: © Apple 2021

While the iPad Pro 2020 can be purchased with up to 1 TB of storage, the iPad Pro 2021 has up to 2 TB . For some of those users who want to use it for video editing, surely welcome. The cameras on the back are still the same: a 12-megapixel main camera, a 10-megapixel camera for ultra-wide-angle shots and a LIDAR sensor.

The selfie camera now has a resolution of 12 megapixels instead of 7 megapixels. And it has a 120 degree wide angle lens . This is useful if you want more users to appear on the video call. The "Center Stage" feature tracks the user and keeps the focus on him. The four speakers have been retained in the new iPad Pro.

Prices in comparison

As powerful as the new iPad Pros are, they also cost a lot. These are prices for which you could buy a good Windows laptop or sometimes a MacBook. The prices of the 2020 models have now fallen , which is why a comparison might be useful for some. The iPad Pro 11 2020 is currently available for starting prices in the range from 750 to 800 euros, the iPad Pro 12.9 2020 is available from around 1,000 euros.

The new tablets cost a lot more. The iPad Pro 11 2021 is available from 880 euros, the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 from 1,200 euros.

Conclusion: who should upgrade to the iPad Pro 2021?


The 2021 models are a new acquisition. Image: © Apple 2021

If you don't have an iPad Pro yet, you should usually choose one of the new models. The technical upgrade has it all this year. The processor calculates much faster, the "Liquid Retina XDR" display of the 12.9-inch model is probably much better. It is arguably the most significant upgrade from an iPad generation to the next. Only those who really want to save money and are interested in the 11-inch model could be satisfied with the 2020 tablet at a good price.

iPad Pro 12.9 2020 iPad Pro 12.9 2021
Chip: A12Z Bionic Chip: M1
RAM: 6 GB RAM: 8 or 16 GB
Cellular: 4G Cellular: 5G
Port: USB-C Port: Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4
Maximum storage: 1 TB Maximum storage: 2 TB
Front camera: 7 MP Front camera: 12 MP with ultra wide angle
Display: IPS, 120 Hertz, up to 600 nits Display: Mini-LED-IPS, 120 Hertz, up to 1,600 nits

However, not everyone needs an upgrade. If you can work well with your iPad Pro, you don't need a new one. However, the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 should be particularly tempting for those who want to use it for video editing with HDR content. For this purpose, the upgrade is likely to be clearly felt. The new iPads can be pre-ordered from April 30th.

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