It’s a weird year for the iPad Pro. Apple’s top-of-the-line tablet computer has gotten one of its smallest upgrades in recent memory, while the new 10th-gen iPad received things Pro owners have been longing for on their devices for years. And the midtier iPad Air continues to get better with each generation, which just encroaches more on the Pro’s territory. Owners of existing iPad Pro models can happily hang on to what they have and not miss much; if you’re considering buying a Pro this year, I encourage you to look for a sale on last year’s models before committing to the cost of a brand new one.
Still, the $799-and-up iPad Pro remains The Best iPad in Apple’s lineup, the iPad for those who want the best screen, the best performance, and the latest hardware and are willing to pay for it. This year’s update doesn’t change that. It has the same external hardware and design as the 2021 model, but inside, it gets the latest M2 silicon from Apple and upgraded Wi-Fi capabilities. And if you’re an artist that likes using an iPad, there’s a new feature exclusive to the new Pro that makes working with the Pencil easier.
In terms of hardware and design, there’s really nothing to say that wasn’t covered in our review of the 2021 model, so I encourage you to read that for the full rundown. This new iPad Pro has the same general design we’ve seen since 2018 — it does feel overdue for a refresh, but we didn’t get it this year.
The Mini LED display on the 12.9-inch model remains tremendous and a joy to look at, whether you’re watching movies or just doing day-to-day productivity work. Sadly, it’s still limited to the largest iPad — the 11-inch Pro has the same standard ProMotion LCD that it’s had since 2018. (With the 10th-gen iPad and iPad Air basically offering the same size screen and design as the 11-inch Pro, it’s really starting to feel like a forgotten stepchild in Apple’s iPad lineup, which bums me out personally as an 11-inch owner.)
All of the accessories for the iPad Pro carry over to this year’s model, including the same Magic Keyboard case and second-gen Apple Pencil. The 10th-gen iPad got a new Magic Keyboard Folio that’s more flexible than the Pro’s keyboard option and includes a full function row, but it’s not compatible with either version of the Pro, sadly.
Inside, the iPad Pro gets the latest M2 silicon, matching what you can get in the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro released earlier this year. It’s faster, at least in benchmark tests, and includes M2-specific capabilities like a stronger media encoding engine. It also enables recording ProRes video with the iPad Pro’s cameras, which is very useful if you’re pretending to shoot a movie with an iPad in an Apple commercial.
But the vast majority of iPad users will not perceive any difference in performance between the M1 and M2 models (and really, any iPad Pro from 2018 or later). Still, the Pro is very fast and responsive, and I had no issue using it for my daily productivity work, at least until I ran into the limitations of iPadOS. Also, battery life on the 12.9-inch model I’ve been testing is basically identical to my experience with the M1 iPad Pro, so the added horsepower isn’t costing us anything there.
The M2 does bring a new feature to the Apple Pencil, which allows you to “hover” the Pencil over the screen from about 12mm away and see different actions happen. This works with the existing second-gen Pencil, so you don’t need to buy a new Pencil to use it. But Apple is limiting it to M2 iPads — it’s not available on the M1 or older models.
The hover feature is mainly aimed at artists — apps like Procreate (once it releases an update) will let you see where the Pencil will make a mark on the screen before you put it down for better accuracy. It also allows apps to program different actions to the double-tap gesture when the Pencil is in hover mode versus touching the screen directly.
There’s lots of room to expand what the hover feature does with the Apple Pencil
Apple’s Notes app supports the new hover mode, too, and I was able to demo mixing watercolor paints and seeing what the resulting look would be before committing it to my digital canvas. But I am not an artist, so that’s about as far as I can take it.
For those of us who use the Pencil for notetaking and navigating the iPad’s interface, however, and I wish the hover feature did more. Outside of art creation, the hover feature lets you use the Pencil as a cursor to highlight things on screen before you touch them — just like you might mouse over a button or link with the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard. It also speeds up Apple’s Scribble feature, which lets you handwrite in a text box and have that converted to typed text. That’s nice.
But other than that, the hover mode doesn’t have much to offer. I’d love to use it for previewing full webpages à la how 3D touch used to work (and long presses currently work) on the iPhone. Or maybe I could hover it over an album of images in the Photos app or a folder in the Files app and get a scrollable preview of what’s inside without having to open it. Perhaps I could hover over a date in an email message and get a glimpse at my calendar to see if I have room for an appointment on that day. Samsung’s been doing these kinds of things with its S Pen on its phones and tablets for years, and they are truly helpful. I wish Apple took this further.
Lastly, the iPad Pro now supports Wi-Fi 6E, up from Wi-Fi 6 last year, which is mostly a future-proofing thing. It is something you expect on the latest, top-of-the-line model, so I’m glad to see it.
That’s really all there is to say about the new iPad Pro’s hardware. It’s the same design we’ve known for four years and the same display as last year’s model. If you own a 2018 or newer Pro and it’s still working well, I’m hard-pressed to convince you to upgrade to this year’s model.
The rest of the story is its software, and for that, you should read David Pierce’s review of iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager. The fundamental story hasn’t changed much — iPadOS still doesn’t feel like it’s making the most use of the extremely capable hardware on tap here.
Since there isn’t much else to say about what we got with the iPad Pro refresh this year, I’m taking the rest of this article to list things I would like to see whenever Apple does redesign its highest-end iPad:
- Camera on the long side. This one’s obvious, and the 10th-gen iPad already has it, so it makes sense to put it on the iPad Pro, too. The Pro is still saddled by the front camera on the short side (or left of the screen when in a landscape orientation), and despite the best efforts from Apple’s Center Stage self-centering feature, it’s still awkward to use in video calls.
- MagSafe charging. Just put the MagSafe charging connector from the MacBook Air next to the USB-C port.
- More USB-C ports. While we’re on the topic, more ports, please. Maybe put one on each side or, again borrowing from the MacBook Air, right next to each other if necessary. I’d like to be able to charge AND use USB-C accessories without having to run everything through a hub.
- A function row on the Magic Keyboard. Another obvious one cribbed from the 10th-gen iPad. Apple would have to do some work redesigning the Magic Keyboard to make it fit, but it would be a boon for productivity. I’m tired of reaching up to the Control Center or top edge of the iPad when I need to adjust brightness or volume.
- More flexibility with the Magic Keyboard. The current Magic Keyboard is quite limited in the range of angles it can hold the iPad Pro. Most of the time, these work fine, but when they don’t work because of whatever position you need to use the iPad in (hello, cramped airplane or train seat), it’s frustrating.
- A button on the side of the Pencil. After four years of double-tapping the side of the Pencil to switch between writing and erasing, please just give me a button, Apple. The double-tap gesture is still too unreliable and frustrating. Also, let me configure the gesture (or button) to just immediately undo whatever my previous stroke was, which is what I use the eraser for 99 percent of the time anyways.
- Mini LED screen on the 11-inch model. If Apple is going to keep the 11-inch Pro around, let’s have it act more like a Pro. That can start with giving it the same excellent screen that’s limited to the 12.9-inch version.
- OLED screens. Or, even better, let’s see OLED screens on all iPads with Pro qualifiers. The rumor mill is saying Apple plans to bring this tech to the iPad in 2024, and as good as the Mini LED screen is, I welcome OLED for its even better contrast and punchiness.
- More fun colors. The iPad Pro comes in silver or dark grey. One might call those the same color at different levels of brightness. Either way, for whatever reason, Apple’s Pro iPad doesn’t get the fun colors you see on the less expensive models. I would like a blue iPad Pro, please.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge