The iPad Pro 2024 dazzles today, but will it impress tomorrow?

A spectacular screen and a blazing fast processor are still waiting for Apple’s software to catch up – here’s why


The new iPad Pro is almost unbelievably thin while also being the most powerful tablet Apple has ever put together. Not a small feat, that. (Image: Apple)


Well, that’s the thing with controlled information leaks, isn’t it? They work, until they don’t. In what could have been an Apple iPad presentation with a number of genuinely pleasant surprises – after a very long time too – everyone watching it ended up just checking off items from a list of “rumored” specs and upgrades. The result: a decidedly less exciting experience for the company’s fans and the media alike. It’s a pity, really, because these new iPad Pro models really are almost as impressive as Apple’s signature marketing language makes them out to be. They deserved the enthusiasm… but what they got was some mildly interested nod instead. Cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

In any case, just as “rumored”, the iPad Pro 2024 comes in 11-inch and 13-inch variants, it gets a much faster processor, a far better screen and a higher price tag. Let’s break it all down.

The M4 makes a lot of AI promises

People following Apple’s processor development timeline already know that the barely-six-months-old M3 was actually late in arriving this past November, but it’s still wild to watch the company introduce the M4 today – in an iPad first, too, rather than a Mac. The new processor is based on what Apple calls “second-gen 3nm process” and, compared to the M3, this most probably translates to higher efficiency rather than increased raw power. The processing core configuration appears to be quite similar, after all: three (or four…) performance cores, six efficiency cores (two more than the M3) and 10 graphics cores supporting advanced features such as dynamic cashing, mesh shading and raytracing.

These may not sound like much in laptop or desktop terms, but they are pretty impressive in tablet terms (especially of models of such a thin profile) and definitely noteworthy when increased power efficiency is taken into account. Apple may prefer to compare the new iPad Pro to the previous, M2-based model in order to make the former look that much better – “50% faster CPU, 4x faster GPU” – but there’s little doubt that this thing will fly in every use case imaginable, professional or otherwise. The 2022 iPad Pro still does, after all.

The M4 is a desktop- or laptop-class processor that somehow fits inside a very thin tablet. What’s more, it promises to push the boundaries of on-device AI functionality to greater heights later in the year. (Image: Apple)


What no previous iPad Pro model did is assist with specific AI-related workloads: many featured a Neural Engine machine-learning block, but the company’s ambitions in this field seem to be far greater in 2024. As a result, the new iPad Pros feature a seriously upgraded, 16-core Neural Engine capable of delivering 38 TOPS of performance (the M3 equivalent barely exceeded 18 TOPS), which Apple is expected to make use of in many different ways, on a system level, later this year.

The advanced OLED screen makes everything look amazing

While how – or whether – Apple plans to truly take advantage of the M4’s power on a system level remains to be seen, every owner of the new iPad Pro will definitely appreciate the device’s advanced, vastly upgraded screen. Not only is this based on OLED tech, resulting in perfect blacks and superior contrast compared to the previous Mini-LED one, but it’s the first one making use of a two-stack structure: simply put, it features not one, but two emission layers, offering considerably higher brightness and long-term durability at the same time.

Apple calls it “Tandem OLED3” and, marketing terms aside, it promises to deliver a maximum of 1000 nits full-screen (in HDR as well as in SDR) and more than 1600 nits in peak highlights of HDR content. It’s no wonder than the company is so proud of this screen, as it really is one of the most advanced available in any device of any kind right now. Perfect blacks and excellent viewing angles, working with this level of brightness, should deliver spectacular results in demanding HDR content as well as amazing performance in certain professional-oriented use cases (e.g. color grading).

The new iPad Pro’s exquisite, advanced OLED screen will actually tempt many consumers to get one much more than the M4 processor ever could. Who can blame them, really? (Image: Apple)


This screen obviously retains every other feature found in past iPad Pro models, such as ProMotion adaptive refresh rate (10Hz-120Hz), True Tone color temperature control and an antireflective coating. New for this year: the option to choose a nano-texture display glass – reminiscent of the one available for Apple’s Studio Display monitors – that further reduces glare. It’s only available for the 1TB/2TB models for an additional $100, but hey: people who like the matte screen of the Studio Display can now enjoy that on an iPad too.

The elephant in the room? The iPadOS, again.

There are a few other changes and improvements the new iPad Pro offers that are worth noting. The front-facing camera has been, as expected, moved to the landscape side of the device to facilitate video calls (it’s a 12-Megapixel Ultra Wide one that also supports Face ID and Center Stage). The Ultra Wide camera on the back has been removed, though, and the main one is still of 12-Megapixel resolution (it wouldn’t be much to ask to have the iPhone’s 48-Megapixel one on a Pro device). There’s Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, as well as improved speakers and microphones, but charging speed remains at 30W while wireless charging and reverse wireless charging (rumored for some time now) are not supported after all.

The 11-inch and 13-inch new iPad Pro is also more expensive this time around: prices start at $999 and $1999 respectively, but they also start with 256GB of storage (which should honestly be a given for a high-end tablet in 2024 terms). Higher storage capacities are available (512GB/1TB/2TB) which, if combined with 5G connectivity, can push the price of Apple’s latest to almost $2500.

As Apple’s promo video impressively demonstrated, the new iPad Pro can wirelessly control four iPhone cameras at once. What the video did not demonstrate, is how most of us have to wrestle with iPadOS while trying to be productive with it. (Image: Apple)

That is a lot of money for any kind of tech product – let alone a tablet – especially considering that the new Magic Keyboard or Apple Pencil Pro, which many people would need in order to make the most of an iPad Pro, must be purchased separately. But given these models’ shockingly thin profile, the absolutely amazing screen and the cutting-edge M4 processor, they were always going to be expensive. And they are.

The obvious problem? All that power and potential could – once again – remain untapped if Apple does not make a lot of changes on the software front: specifically, changes to how the iPadOS itself works in a wide range of use cases. Granted, the company did show off functionality making use of the M4, but that was limited to certain advanced features of cherry-picked apps. There will always be impressive examples of this kind, but these do not actually illustrate how the iPadOS limits what these devices can and cannot do, affecting the workflows of professionals and demanding users in the process.

In short: based on iPadOS 17.5, these new ultra-powerful iPad Pros would not do much more than what we are already able to do with the M2-based or even the M1-based models. Such hardware power simply calls for a different software approach, especially if AI functionality is to be included in the mix.

Here’s hope that Tim Cook inviting everyone to check out what Apple will be unveiling in about a month, during WWDC 2024, is a good sign: it’s high time the company let these extremely capable tablets truly stretch their legs, driven by a modern operating system that’s not holding them back. If Apple doesn’t do that, it may find out the hard way that consumers are not inclined to buy expensive “Pro” devices with no actual Pro credentials anymore. No matter how amazingly thin these devices might be.

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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