Apple's big changes to the iPad Pro came in 2018: the design, the tech and the accessories all got big upgrades.
They thrust the iPad Pro into new territory, and while some felt like the change to a more industrial design wasn't the most attractive, it really felt like Apple was bringing some innovation to the range.
However, two years later and the new upgrade, in the form of the iPad Pro 2020, doesn't really add a huge amount. There's a new camera with improved depth-sensing functionality, more power under the hood, and better studio-quality microphones... but that's really as far as the changes go.
Apple has increased the base storage inside, to 128GB for the base model without raising the price, but the other key upgrade – the Magic Keyboard with a trackpad built in – won’t be here until May, and will also be rolled out to the older iPad Pro models.
We've been working on our iPad Pro review, using the 12.9-inch model, for a few days now, but we're still in the process of testing a few features. Below you can read our in-depth first impressions of the device, but until we can fully test the battery and camera we're holding off giving the device a definitive score.
New iPad Pro 2020 release date and price
The new iPad Pro models were announced on March 18, and you're able to order them from today at Apple's online store; Apple has closed its physical stores for the foreseeable future owing to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The actual iPad Pro 2020 release date is March 24, according to Apple, although the online store says the first delivery date is March 25 in the US – so you may have to wait an extra day to play with your new iPad.
How much will the new iPad Pro 2020 cost? It really depends on whether you go for the 11-inch version or opt for the 12.9-inch model, and which storage size you go with; there's also the option to include LTE cellular connectivity, which bumps up the price.
Below we've put together a chart of the prices for the standard Wi-Fi only models:
|iPad Pro 11 128GB||$799||£769||AU$1,329|
|iPad Pro 11 256GB||$899||£869||AU$1,499.00|
|iPad Pro 11 512B||$1,099||£1,069||AU$1,839.00|
|iPad Pro 11 1TB||$1,299||£1,269||AU$2,179.00|
|iPad Pro 12.9 128GB||$999||£969||AU$1,649.00|
|iPad Pro 12.9 256GB||$1,099||£1,069||AU$1,819.00|
|iPad Pro 12.9 512GB||$1,299||£1,269||AU$2,159.00|
|iPad Pro 12.9 1TB||$1,499||£1,469||AU$2,499.00|
How does the iPad Pro compare to a laptop?
As mentioned above, one of the big upgrades is the Magic Keyboard, a ‘proper’ typing experience that brings the iPad Pro even closer to a MacBook, and calls into question the degree to which Apple sees the iPad Pro as being distinct from the MacBook range.
However, that keyboard, which comes with a trackpad, won’t be available for a few months, and that rather limits the upgrade appeal of the new iPad Pro.
However, the iPad Pro 2020 is a much-improved tablet for one simple reason: iPadOS 13.4, which comes with support for trackpads and mice (as you might have guessed, given the Magic Keyboard now comes with one).
Where previously you had to use the workaround for hooking up a mouse that came with 2019’s launch of iPad OS 12, which you could enable in the Accessibility section, now the functionality is fully built in. The cursor is a small round circle that bops about the screen under your input, rather than requiring a prod from a finger that could overbalance the tablet, and which feels unintuitive when you’re trying to type.
Apple is also claiming this cursor isn’t the same as a MacOS pointer, as it’s a circle that will dynamically change to a regular text cursor when you hover over text.
First, it doesn’t always switch in the right way (even on Pages, Apple’s own word document processor, or Google Docs); and second, we don’t see how this is that much different to a standard mouse pointer on a normal laptop.
There are some nice touches though – for example when the cursor is over an option that you can select it’ll highlight the option, rather than displaying a pointer that gets in the way – but Apple hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here.
We used a Magic Trackpad to navigate around, a separate device that has the same functionality as the Magic Keyboard, and the gestures are intuitive: swipe up to move the cursor, two fingers to scroll, three fingers to go back home etc.
If you’ve ever used a Mac trackpad, you’ll feel instantly at home; if you haven’t it takes some getting used to, but there’s definitely something novel and useful about having mouse support in the iPad Pro.
However, the biggest issue, in addition to those we've already mentioned, is that so many apps don’t work seamlessly with the mouse pointer yet – they’re still touch-first experiences, and the mouse pointer just feels like another way to interact with them, rather than enhancing the experience.
They’re just that: apps. They’re not fully-fledged desktop experiences, and even certain websites on Safari (which supports a desktop-class experience) aren’t as easy to interact with on the new iPad Pro as they are on a standard laptop.
The mouse support is welcome, for sure, but we didn’t feel like it was as smooth or intuitive an experience as on a traditional, wider-screen laptop. It’s partly to do with the fact that apps aren’t yet set up properly to take advantage of the functionality, but overall it feels like a cut-down desktop experience.
We still found ourselves reaching for our laptop while trying to do more intensive tasks like opening large spreadsheets, or when using some websites that wouldn't display properly even in Safari. It's a good typing companion, and the mouse upgrades are useful, but it's not going to be a full laptop replacement.
There's still the same support for the new Apple Pencil, as well as the Smart Keyboard Folio. The latter, which many users will be replacing with the more expensive Magic Keyboard in a couple of months, is still fine for typing, but each time we try to tap away for extended periods we still yearn for the greater travel of a standard keyboard.
Power: the new A12Z Bionic chipset
There were some suspicions before the iPad Pro 2020 launched that it would only be ‘1% faster’ than the previous iPad Pro from 2018.
The tricky thing for most people, who want the iPad Pro to be a device that can just ‘do anything’, rather than a specific device for professionals wanting to edit photos or music on the go, is knowing what that speed really brings.
2018’s iPad Pro was powerful, and the new model doesn't add much more at all. We tested it in our benchmarking apps, and we found that in GeekBench 5 only the multi-core score showed a slight improvement.
In the powerful 3DMark Sling Shot app, which pushes the graphical intensity of the tablet a little more, we found that the new A12Z Bionic chipset is a more accomplished engine.
It was better capable of displaying 3D-rendered graphics, and in fact the iPad Pro 11 failed at completing the benchmark twice before managing to make it through, albeit with a lower score.
The overall experience using both the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models was identical though – opening and editing photos, browsing the web and generally scooting through the tablet was as slick as can be on both devices, so there's not going to be a huge power boost on offer than many will note, unless you're a supreme power user.
iPad Pro 2020 camera: ultra-wide and LiDAR land
You could argue, given that the power upgrade to the new iPad Pro 2020 is quite limited, that the camera is the only other new feature worth talking about – but again, we're not sure it's that much of an upgrade.
There are now two sensors on the rear, and while you're now able to zoom out thanks to the new ultra-wide mode, as well as taking pictures in 'standard' mode – the sensors are 10MP (f/2.4) and 12MP (f/1.8) respectively – neither of the cameras are going to rival a phone for pure image quality.
The quality of the pictures in bright light is just fine, although there's none of the low-light processing that you're getting with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, which means that darker snaps, while bright enough, show a lot of grain and processing.
We're not fans of using any iPad as a camera, as it's cumbersome and you can get in the way of what other people are trying to snap if you're in a busy area, but there's something nice about having a large viewfinder to help you grab a decent snap.
We can see how this would be of benefit to professionals – for example those in the construction and engineering fields, or doctors and other health workers – as you can get a clearer sense of what you're snapping.
However, the 12.9-inch model that we tested was a little too large for us even to get such a snap easily – and the new depth-sensing LiDAR sensor on the back was also of limited use at this point.
In fact, we could only use the 'Measure' app, which uses augmented reality to sense the distances of things it can see. While this was much faster than on older models, and didn't require the same calibration process, it was hardly the most impressive showpiece for what the new iPad Pro 2020 can do.
We're hopeful that more apps will soon come out that make use the new LiDAR sensor, and give us a better idea of what the new iPad Pro 2020 is really capable of… but right now you're getting a camera that can take zoomed-out, ultra-wide shots and not much more.
Design, display and speakers
As you can probably guess, the new iPad Pro 2020 is almost identical, visually, to the iPad Pro 2018 – it shares the same industrial design and wider screen, with narrower bezels.
It's still not a design we're in love with, on account of the harder edges lacking the sleek lines of the standard iPad 10.2, but there's the same comforting weight and aluminum chassis that make you feel like you're getting a tablet worth the money.
The four speakers around the outside offer strong sound and good bass – they're not industrial class, but as a tablet to watch movies on, or play music around the house, we really feel it can rival a dedicated portable speaker.
The display, which we tested at 12.9 inches, is identical to that of the iPad Pro in 2018 – that means the same TrueTone technology, 120Hz fluid-scrolling display, and high-resolution pixel sharpness.
Cutting through the tech specs, this TrueTone display is able to reproduce the color quality of the light around you to make viewing more comfortable on the eyes, while the fluid scrolling makes navigating the tablet, and browsing websites and social media feeds, feel that much slicker.
However, it's still lacking HDR playback, a feature that would really make the tablet sing in terms of movie watching – it would be a key upgrade, but it's one that Apple hasn't seen fit to bring in just yet.
While we haven't been able to complete our in-depth testing of the new iPad Pro 2020 just yet, we're not really seeing much in the way of key upgrades to Apple's high-power tablet range.
The power inside is improved, but not massively, and the screen and design of the tablet, while high quality, are the same as on 2018's model.
We're big fans of the fact that mouse support has landed on the new iPad, but there needs to be more optimization from developers to enable users to make the most of this. The camera on the back, which uses depth-sensing LiDAR technology for the first time on any Apple device, is still capable of taking fairly good snaps, but lacks the night mode that we loved from the iPhone 11.
This is still a stunning tablet from Apple compared to much that's on the market, and it's a strong option for those who need a more professionally-orientated device.
However, you can still get the older 2018 iPad Pro for less money at the moment, and given that that slate will be getting both mouse support and the new Magic Keyboard, it's hard to see what the new iPad Pro 2020 offers that would convince you to buy the very latest model.