Well, tablets have just got exciting again. Apple’s new iPad Pro 2021 marks a huge step forward for tablet computing, including a desktop-class processor, new display tech and the ability to run even the most heavyweight apps.
That must be causing some consternation at Samsung HQ, because the successor to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus - a remarkably good Android tablet - is already in development, and we expect it's close to launch.
Numerous rumors suggest that the launch date for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is this summer, by which point the new iPad Pro 2021 will be shipping. Has Apple changed the game and left Samsung on the sidelines? Let’s find out.
- New iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: what are Apple's biggest tablet upgrades?
iPad Pro vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus release date hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re expecting to see it in late summer 2021. It’s likely to come with a similar price tag to the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which was $849.99 / £799 / AU$1,549.
We’re saying ‘similar’ rather than ‘identical’ because Galaxy Tab prices have increased slightly with each new generation.
Prices for the new iPad Pro 2021 start at $799 / £749 / AU$1,129 for the 11-inch model and $1,099 / £999 / AU$1,649 for the 12.9-inch model. If you opt for the maximum storage, which is now up to 2TB, the 12.9-inch price goes up to $2,199 / £1,999 / AU$3,299 for the Wi-Fi model or $2,399 / £2,149 / AU$3,549 for the WiFi+Cellular.
While Samsung’s Tab S8 Plus isn’t on sale yet, Apple is accepting iPad Pro orders from 30 April and will start to deliver the tablet in the second half of May 2021.
New iPad Pro 2021 vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: design
The iPad Pro 2021 doesn’t actually look different from the 2020 model, but there are some crucial changes. The USB-C port is now also a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, and that means the iPad Pro 2021 can connect to all kinds of high-performance external devices that previously required a desktop or laptop Mac.
In addition, the 12.9-inch model comes with a new kind of display: a mini-LED. More about that in the section below.
We don’t yet have any details about the Samsung Tab S8 Plus’s design, but we’d expect it to bear a resemblance to the rest of the Samsung family of products, developing in much the same way as the Samsung Galaxy S20 has evolved into the Samsung Galaxy S21; it’s a more refined version of the existing design.
New iPad Pro 2021 vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: display
According to the leaks we’ve seen so far, the Samsung Tab S8 Plus is expected to have a 12.4-inch, 2,800 x 1,752-pixel, 120Hz AMOLED panel with a fingerprint sensor located in the top edge and an 11-inch 120Hz LCD in the smaller model.
The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 is also LCD, retaining the 2,388 x 1,668 resolution IPS panel of the 2020 model. But the 12.9-inch introduces a new mini-LED display that delivers 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, rising to 1,600 nits peak brightness, and a contrast ratio of 1 million to 1.
It sounds like an amazing display, especially for creative pros such as photographers, filmmakers and videographers. It’s likely to be pretty great for gaming, too.
New iPad Pro 2021 vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: camera and battery
The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is expected to feature the same 10,090mAh battery as the S7 Plus. The current Tab supports fast-charging to 45W, but the S8 is expected to reduce that to 25W. As ever, Apple won’t be drawn on specifics, but the company does state the iPad Pro 2021 will deliver all-day battery life of around 10 hours. Charging is wired only.
It’s unclear whether the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus will get a camera upgrade; if it sticks with the same assembly as the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, you can expect 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel ultra-wide cameras on the rear, and an 8-megapixel selfie shooter on the front.
The iPad Pro 2021 has a new 12-megapixel ultra-wide front camera with lidar depth-sensing and a 122-degree field of view. It can automatically pan and zoom during video calls to keep you and others in the shot. Round the back is the same assembly as the 2020 model, with two rear cameras: a 12-megapixel f/1.8 and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide with f/2.4.
New iPad Pro 2021 vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: specs and features
The Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is expected to feature a Snapdragon 888 chipset with 8GB or 12GB of RAM, depending on the model and storage options ranging from 128GB to 512GB. Leaks indicate that the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus will also have a microSD slot supporting cards up to 1TB, and a nanoSIM slot with a 5G cellular radio.
The big surprise in the new iPad Pro 2021 is that it no longer uses an Apple A-series mobile processor. Instead, it includes the same M1 processor as the MacBook Pro, which has 8 CPU cores, 8 graphics cores and 8GB or 16GB of integrated memory.
It’s an astonishingly fast system, and if it works well here we expect it to propel the iPad Pro into a different league. The Snapdragon 888 in the Samsung tablet is still an excellent chipset, but its focus is on efficiency rather than sheer power. The M1 is a screamer that massively outperforms the Snapdragon in Geekbench benchmarks for both single-core and multi-core processing.
New iPad Pro 2021 vs Samsung Tab S8 Plus: takeaway
We imagine the new iPad Pro 2021 launch was greeted with a few curse words over at Samsung HQ; Apple hasn’t so much raised the bar for pro-level tablets as taken the bar and blasted it into orbit.
Where the Galaxy Tab is an alternative to an ordinary laptop, the 2021 iPad Pro looks to be a good alternative to Apple’s best laptop – and that’s an important difference. We've yet to properly try out the new iPad Pro for our review so we can't be certain of this, but on paper it works to be a far stronger product than previous tablets.
The iPad Pro is effectively an M1 MacBook Pro that runs a mobile OS, and while some of that power is currently untapped (iPadOS is still odd in many respects, such as in its approach to multitasking), this is a tablet that already runs heavyweight apps such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop just as well as a desktop or laptop.
In addition, it works with external keyboards, mice, trackpads and Apple Pencils, as well as high-performance peripherals and Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR. That means, on paper, there isn’t just clear blue water between the new iPad Pro 2021 and every other tablet. There’s an entire ocean.
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.