The iPad Pro 13: thirteen days later, thirteen things to know

Is Apple’s latest and greatest tablet worth purchasing, all things considered?


The new iPad Pro does not look all that different from previous models but there’s a number of changes consumers should be aware of. Not all of those changes are for the better. (Image: Roberto Nickson, Pexels)


So it’s been about two weeks since the new, M4-based iPad Pro was released and yours truly has been spending a lot of time – definitely more than usual – with its 13-inch version so as to get a sense of the direction Apple is planning to take with its most powerful, yet most controversial, tablets. While answers about a number of questions all are not exactly clear (yet?), the M4 iPad Pro is such a good product that it just deserves an honest, down-to-earth assessment regardless of what the future may hold for it.

Instead of a typical review, then, this: thirteen things yours truly deems worth sharing about the M4 iPad Pro 13 after thirteen days of non-stop use. Without further ado…

First impression: almost magical

Say what you want about Apple, but there’s no denying that some of its devices make such a spectacular first impression, that Steve Jobs would not be wrong to call them… yes, magical. The new iPad Pro is one of those devices. Samsung’s latest top Galaxy Tab models are impressive too, for instance, but they do not possess that ineffable quality: they are well-designed and well-built, but that’s about it. Just another expensive piece of electronics. The M4 iPad Pro feels so carefully, so intentionally, so meticulously crafted, that one can’t help but feel that this is as close to a work of art as a mass-produced tablet is ever going to get. Well, if one chooses to ignore the main camera bump, that is.

Unbelievably thin… until it isn’t

During the first couple of days it’s almost too hard to believe that the most powerful tablet in existence right now can actually be that thin. It defies logic. As soon as one puts the new iPad Pro in a protective case, though – and you will do that, eventually, out of that irrational fear that it might just slip through your fingers as you’re holding it – the magic is gone. It becomes just that little bit thicker and, suddenly, it’s just another iPad Pro. It’s still lighter, but it feels pretty much the same as the three previous models – and now you know why you never see promotional videos of tablets or smartphones in protective cases… ever.

So close, yet so far, to a laptop

With that in mind, it’s almost painfully clear that what the thinness of the new iPad Pro actually strives to achieve is this: when put into the new Apple Magic keyboard, the combination of the two is not thicker or heavier than a MacBook Air. This obviously reinforces the impression that this tablet/keyboard combination could someday replace your laptop, but… we all know that’s not probably not happening. Oh, Apple. You’re such a tease.

The M4 iPad Pro offers the best display available in the consumer electronics market right now, period. For some it will be the only actual reason to upgrade from an M1/M2 iPad Pro. Yes, it’s that good. (Image: Apple)

A display that has no equal

People were not exaggerating about that Tandem OLED screen: it is the most beautiful display yours truly has ever used, period. Perfect blacks and high brightness at the same time simply don’t get better than this for watching video or playing games: breathtaking contrast alone makes all the difference, while gorgeous colors still impress after days of non-stop use. Pro Motion works as smoothly as ever, but the Tandem OLED display makes scrolling through long Web pages feel even more effortless. Text is even more easily readable. It’s just so close to perfection that it’s hard to imagine how Apple – or anyone else for that matter – will be able to offer a better screen than this in the foreseeable future. Yes. It is that good.

Bright enough for comfortable outdoors use

Display enthusiasts like yours truly will bore you all day long by showing you how good the colors of this or that movie look on this screen or how convincing the graphics of this or that game are because of the exceptionally high contrast. Sure. Most people, though, will enjoy the M4 iPad Pro’s screen for an altogether different reason: proper, comfortable, real outdoor use of an iPad is now possible with this display. A thousand nits of sustained brightness – in HDR as well as in SDR – combined with perfect blacks on such a portable form factor just change the game when it comes to using this particular iPad practically everywhere. Yours truly is already saving money for the first MacBook Pro model that will sport a Tandem OLED screen, currently expected in 2025-2026 (you can bet it will cost a pretty penny).

OLED vs MiniLED not a slam dunk

Having said all that about the Tandem OLED screen, one has to literally put it side by side with the MiniLED one offered by the M1/M2 iPad Pro in order to fully understand what a big step forward the former is. It’s not easy to “get” how much better the OLED screen is otherwise, because the MiniLED one is very good too (it only exhibits blooming or haloing under specific circumstances). For practically everyone else the M4 iPad Pro screen will be a fantastic upgrade, but M1/M2 iPad Pro owners would do well to check it out for themselves before pulling the trigger: depending on their most common use cases, they may not be as impressed with Tandem OLED as Apple clearly hopes they will be.

Killer performance in search of purpose

Talking about the M1/M2 iPad Pro, telling the difference between those and the M4 iPad Pro in terms of performance is hard. We’re not talking about benchmarks here – the M4 model is clearly faster in that regard – but about the overall feel of using the new model, which is exactly the same in the majority of use cases. Yours truly has been using the M1 iPad Pro since its launch back in 2021 and not once has he felt it struggle with anything other than highly demanding games. After doing some testing with DaVinci Resolve, Affinity Photo, Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft 365 and Apple’s own iWork suite, he spotted a few occasions where the new model felt faster, but only just. Nothing to rave about, nothing worth spending $1500 for. That may not be the case for professional video editors or 3D animators – but would they rely on an iPad, any iPad, for tasks requiring as much processing power and screen real estate as possible, day in, day out?

Inky blacks and bright colors mean that games on the new iPad Pro’s Tandem OLED display look their absolute best. The M4 processor will be powerful enough to handle any iPad game for the foreseeable future. (Image: Apple)

Mobile games on a whole new level

Gaming on the M4 iPad Pro is a blast. No, not because of fancy features such as raytracing, which may look nice on occasion but do not improve the overall experience of any game currently available. No, it’s all about that beautiful screen that makes any game running on the new iPad Pro more enjoyable – playing titles like Hades or Diablo Immortal with bright colors and absolute blacks is a revelation – and also about the processing power that’s finally enough for maxing everything out. Games like Genshin Impact or Call of Duty Mobile can be enjoyed at full graphics quality and a rock-solid 120 FPS, matching the refresh rate of the new iPad’s screen flawlessly. This has been a long time coming, but the M4 is so powerful that it will be enough for any iPad game for the foreseeable future. This is the one use case that Apple’s latest and greatest can be easily recommended for (to people intending to play lots of games on it). Paired with a joypad and connected to a big screen, the new iPad Pro works amazingly well as a games console too.

All-day battery life… unless games are involved

Practically all iPad models offer more than 10 hours of use on a single charge, so it was no surprise to find out that the M4 iPad Pro does too, despite the extra-bright Tandem OLED display (the M4’s power management features and Apple’s great hardware/software integration are obviously at work here). What’s more, that was in the context of yours truly testing this model non-stop in every use case imaginable, pushing it beyond what one would consider “typical use” for an iPad (at full screen brightness too). The 13-inch M4 iPad Pro was able to provide around 12 hours of battery life in “typical use” – i.e. Web browsing, social media, e-mail, Netflix or Disney Plus watching, light gaming – which is, realistically, more than the amount of time the vast majority of people would spend on a tablet during any given day. The one exception: demanding games. Those did push the M4 iPad Pro 13 harder, reducing battery life to less than 8 or even 7 hours depending on the title. That’s still more than twice the play time e.g. a Steam Deck OLED can provide, but also something to keep in mind.

Slow charging still a problem

Given the fact that the battery life offered by the M4 iPad Pro is great for absolutely everything – you won’t be gaming on a tablet for more than 8 hours a day all that often, will you? – one could choose to give Apple a pass for the device’s slow charging capabilities. Well, not yours truly. This is one of the most expensive tablets available today – and a “Pro” one to boot – so charging at an absolute maximum of 35 Watts just doesn’t cut it in 2024 terms. It just doesn’t. Even a number of budget smartphones offer faster wired charging than that nowadays. What’s more, that nice braided cable included with the product is yet again a USB 2.0 one, so it will barely reach 15 Watts (let alone 35). In real-world terms the iPad Pro 13 needs almost 4 hours to go from 0% to 100% when Apple’s own charger (not provided) and cable are used, while it needs about 2.5 hours with a proper USB-C PD cable and a 60-watt third-party charger. It’s stuff like this that’s a slap in the face of consumers who routinely put down a lot of money for Apple products.

The camera on the front is just OK

We all knew from various leaks that the selfie camera on the new iPad Pro would move to the side in order to allow for comfortable – as in, not weird – video calls… but some of us were hoping for a better camera too, since this change took Apple so long to implement. The new camera does work with FaceID, it does support Center Stage – so the user’s face is always correctly framed… more or less – but it’s not much better than the one found in the M2 iPad Pro. It works well enough for video calls and it does perform better in low light (because of its ƒ/2.0 aperture instead of ƒ/2.4) but that’s about it. What’s more, video or photos captured with this camera are mediocre at best: material in both cases always seems overprocessed for some reason and definitely not what one should expect from a “Pro” device. Many would argue that most people won’t be using a tablet’s selfie camera to capture anything and they’d obviously be right… but that’s not the point. Cutting corners on a very expensive device is.

Both the main and the selfie camera found on the M4 iPad Pro are a disappointment for various reasons. It’s true that not a lot of people care much for that, but for an expensive “Pro” device it’s corner cutting at its worst. (Image: Apple)

The camera on the back is just not OK – at all

For the very same reason – cutting corners on a device that can cost a lot of money if fully specced or even modestly upgraded – the M4 iPad Pro’s main camera is just as bad. Apple, in its infinite wisdom, actually removed the ultra-wide camera present on the M2 iPad Pro models, so owners of the company’s latest and greatest tablet cannot capture spatial video for the Apple Vision Pro (a pair of cameras are needed). Again, yes, commenters will note that not a lot of people used the ultra-side camera of an iPad anyway – but making the new iPad Pro more expensive while stripping away existing features just reeks of arrogance on Apple’s part. What’s more, the main camera is still the same 12-Megapixel one that iPhones have moved on from since autumn 2022. It produces somewhat better results compared to the one present on the M1/M2 models (probably because of the M4’s processing), but a decidedly better camera on a Pro-class mid-2024 device was not too much to ask. Those improved results are not all that impressive anyway, to be honest, looking rather artificial when not properly color-corrected on a computer.

Verdict time: buy or nay?

So, with all of the above are taken into account, is the M4 iPad Pro worth purchasing? Well, it does depend on whether one already owns an iPad, on what use cases he/she is most interested in and whether one considers an expensive tech product such as this an investment or a luxury.

Generally speaking, though, unless one intends to play a lot of games and watch a lot of films or shows on it… no, the M4 iPad Pro is not worth purchasing. For every other use case that comes to mind it’s hilariously overpowered and iPadOS is clearly holding Apple’s potent hardware back when it comes to true professional use of any iPad, let alone this one. There’s hardly anything the M4-based iPad Pro can do that the M1-based and M2-base can’t, so both models are a better option now that their prices are much lower. For all the typical, everyday stuff Apple’s tablets were always great… well, the Air or even the standard iPad will do. They don’t sport that gorgeous screen, but is that reason enough to put down more than a grand? For the vast majority of people, also no.

Yours truly is still of the opinion that anyone thinking of getting the new iPad Pro should probably hold off for now and wait for Apple’s WWDC 2024 on June 10th. That’s when we’ll find out more about the company’s plans regarding the next iPadOS and whether there is a chance – however slim – that macOS will finally be allowed to run on an iPad Pro. If that did happen, then the M4 iPad Pro would be a different proposition in the eyes of many people. Not long, now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

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