iPad Pro 2021 revealed at Apple 'Spring Loaded' event — Apple M1 comes to iPad

Apple iPad Pro 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple announced the iPad Pro 2021 at today's 'Spring Loaded' event. The headlining feature is the introduction of the same Apple M1 chip that is proliferating around Apple's entire lineup, with the new iMac 2021 also announced today joining the Mac Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch. 

There's going to be no question that the iPad Pro is powerful enough to be a laptop replacement at this point, but that wasn't the only update of course, here's a look at everything we know about the new iPad Pro 2021 models.

iPad Pro (2021) pricing and availability

Both tablets will be available to purchase starting April 30, but won't be shipping until late May. Prices will start at $799 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and at $1,099 for the larger 12.9-inch model. 

Apple has managed to hold the line on the pricing for the smaller iPad Pro, but that new display that will talk about in a moment has added another $100 to the starting price of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro which was previously $999.

Apple hasn't yet announced the pricing for the 5G models, but it should likely follow the same $150 premium that we've seen for the cellular-enabled iPads in the past. Like the iPhone 12 the iPad Pro (2021) will feature full support for both sub-6Ghz and mmWave 5G.

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 display

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad Pro (2021) display 

While the rumors of a mini LED display on the iPad Pro have indeed come true, it's only the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that gets the new display that Apple is calling "Liquid Retina XDR." The display uses over 10,000 mini LEDs to deliver 1000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness that Apple claims rivals that of the infamously expensive, but well-regarded Apple Pro Display XDR.

Beyond just being bright, it gives a stunning one million to one contrast ratio. We'll certainly need to see it for ourselves, but it sounds compelling.

iPad Pro 2021 Apple Pencil drawing

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad Pro (2021) performance 

iPad Pro reclaims its massive advantage on the iPad Air (2020) when it comes to performance with the introduction of the Apple M1 chip. The new chip certainly should end the discussion of whether the iPad Pro can serve as a laptop replacement from a power perspective. 

It represents a 50% CPU boost over the previous iPad Pro and will match the M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in RAM configurations as well with either 8GB of RAM for the 128, 256 or 512GB models or 16GB of RAM for the 1TB or 2TB models. This is the first time an iPad line has offered distinct tiers of RAM.

iPad Pro 2021 being used in Magic Keyboard case

(Image credit: Apple)

As many predicted the iPad Pro also now features a true Thunderbolt 4 port rather than simply USB Type-C. Again this furthers the cause that this is a true Pro machine with support for a wide array of accessories that require more bandwidth like external displays including up to 6K output to the Pro Display XDR.

Apple tried to address what is possible with all of this power citing a number of pro-level tools like vector and raster tools in Affinity Designer, 3D rendering in Shapr3D, 4K video effects and rendering with LumaFusion. 

On the GPU side, you see a similar boost of 40% over the previous iPad Pro. This is leveraged for tasks like painting, AR modeling overlayed on the real world and of course gaming. 

Storage speeds are the final performance enhancement found in iPad Pro 2021, with Apple claiming 2x faster speeds than that of the previous iPad Pro.

iPad Pro 2021 cameras

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad Pro (2021) cameras 

The biggest news on the camera front for the iPad Pro (2021) is the introduction of a new front-facing 12MP ultra-wide True Depth camera that adds a new feature called Center Stage. This will track the primary subject during video calls to ensure that they are always at the center of the video. For those that use the iPad Pro as a video conferencing tool that's a huge upgrade.

As for the rear cameras, the iPad Pro (2021) doesn't get any massive hardware updates, but it does benefit considerably from the ISP found in the M1 chip that gives it enhanced computational photography abilities. This includes low-light photography where the ISP combined with the LiDAR scanner you will allow you to get clear images even in near-total darkness.

iPad Pro 2021 features

(Image credit: Apple)

iPad Pro (2021) outlook 

While the iPad Air (2020) was giving it a run for its money, there was still little doubt that the iPad Pro was the most powerful tablet on the market coming in to today's announcement, but the iPad Pro (2021) just slammed the door on any arguments. 

While many users simply won't be able to actually leverage the power of the new iPad Pro, those that are looking for a laptop replacement or graphics professionals are assuredly going to find this hardware more tempting than ever. The iPad Pro (2021) is almost certainly destined to be among the best tablets when it launches next month.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.