iPad Pro 2020 Review: Hands-on

Apple’s significant changes to the iPad Pro came in 2018: the design, technology, and accessories all received significant upgrades. They redesigned the iPad Pro, and while some felt that the move to a more industrial design wasn’t the most attractive, it felt like Apple was bringing some innovation to the range. But two years later, and the new upgrade, in the form of the iPad Pro 2020, doesn’t add a considerable amount. This is our iPad Pro 2020 Review – Hands-on.

There’s a new camera with improved depth sensitivity, more power under the hood, and better studio-quality microphones, but that’s as far as the changes are concerned. Apple has expanded the primary storage space inside to 128GB for the base model without increasing the price. Still, the other major upgrade – the Magic Keyboard with a built-in trackpad – won’t come until May, and will also be rolled out to older iPad Pro models.

iPad Pro 2020 Review – Design and Display

As you can guess, the new iPad Pro 2020 is visually almost identical to the iPad Pro 2018 – it has the same industrial design and a wider screen, with narrower edges. It’s still not a design we fall in love with, because of the harder edges that miss the sleeker lines of the standard iPad 10.2, but it does have the same reassuring weight and aluminum chassis that makes you feel like you’re getting a tablet that’s worth the money.

iPad Pro 2020 Review

The four speakers on the outside offer loud sound and good bass – they’re not industrial class, but as a tablet for watching movies or playing music at home, we feel it can compete with a dedicated portable speaker. The screen, which we tested at 12.9 inches, is identical to Apple’s iPad Pro in 2018 – that means the same TrueTone technology, a 120Hz smooth scrolling display, and high-resolution pixel sharpness.

This TrueTone display can reproduce the color quality of the light around you, making it more comfortable for your eyes. In contrast, smooth scrolling makes navigating the tablet and surfing websites, and social media feeds feel so much better. However, it still lacks HDR display, a feature that would make the tablet sing when it comes to watching movies – it would be a significant upgrade, but it’s a feature that Apple hasn’t yet deemed suitable to bring in.

iPad Pro 2020 Review – iPad vs. Laptop

As mentioned before, one of the significant upgrades is the Magic Keyboard. This ‘right’ typing experience brings the iPad Pro even closer to a MacBook and questions the extent to which Apple sees the iPad Pro as something different from the MacBook range. However, that keyboard comes with a trackpad, won’t be available for a few months, and that limits the appeal of the new iPad Pro. But, the iPad Pro 2020 is a much better tablet for a straightforward reason: iPadOS 13.4, which comes with support for trackpads and mouse (as you might guess since the Magic Keyboard now has one).

Whereas previously, you had to use the workaround to connect a mouse that came with the launch of iPad OS 12 in 2019 and could be enabled in the Accessibility section, the functionality is now fully built-in. The cursor is a small circle bumping across the screen under your input, instead of a finger poke that can overload the tablet, and it doesn’t feel intuitive when you’re trying to type.

Apple also claims that this cursor is not the same as a MacOS pointer, because it’s a circle that will change dynamically into a regular text cursor when you hover your mouse over text. We used a Magic Trackpad to navigate, a separate device that has similar 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, and so on.

If you’ve ever used a MacBook’s trackpad, you’ll feel right at home; if you’re not used to it yet, but there’s something new and useful about mouse support in the iPad Pro. But the biggest problem, in addition to the ones mentioned earlier, is that many applications still don’t seamlessly connect to the mouse pointer. They are still touch-sensitive programs, and the mouse pointer just feels like a different way of dealing with them, rather than improving the experience.

Processor: A12Z Bionic chipset

Before the launch of the iPad Pro 2020, there were already some suspicions that it would only be ‘1% faster’ than the previous Apple iPad Pro 2018. The tricky thing for most users, who want the iPad Pro to be a device that can do ‘anything’ rather than a specific device for professionals who wish to edit photos or music on the go, is knowing what that speed delivers.

iPad Pro 2020 Review

The 2018 iPad Pro was powerful, and the new model doesn’t add much more. We tested it in our benchmark applications, and we found that in GeekBench 5, only the multi-core score showed a slight improvement.

In the 3DMark Sling Shot app, which pushes the graphic intensity of the tablet a little more, we saw that the new A12Z Bionic chipset is a perfect engine. It was better able to display 3D graphics, and in fact, the iPad Pro 11 failed twice in completing the benchmark before reaching it, albeit with a lower score.

However, the overall experience of using both the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models was identical – opening and editing photos, surfing the web, and generally browsing the tablet was as smooth as can be on both the devices, so there’s no considerable power increase offered unless you’re a supreme power user.

iPad Pro 2020 Review – Camera

Given that the power upgrade to the latest iPad Pro is quite limited, that the camera is the only other unique feature worth talking about – but again, we’re not sure it’s such a significant upgrade. There are now two cameras on the back, and while you’re now able to zoom out thanks to the new ultra-wide-angle mode, and take photos in ‘standard’ mode – the setup is 10-megapixels (f/2.4) and 12-megapixels (f/1.8) respectively – none of the cameras will compete with a phone for pure image quality.

Picture quality in bright light is excellent, although there is no question of the low-light processing you get with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, which means that darker pictures, while bright enough, show a lot of grain and processing. We’re not a fan of using an iPad as a camera because it’s cumbersome and you can get in the way of what other people are trying to film when you’re in a busy environment, but there’s something beautiful about having a big viewfinder to help you make a decent movie move.

We can see how this would be to the advantage of professionals – in construction and engineering, for example, or doctors and other health professionals – because you can get a more definite sense of what you’re breaking. However, the 12.9-inch model we tested was a little too big for us even to get a cut like that – and the new LiDAR sensor on the back was of limited use at this point, also. We could only use the ‘Measure’ app, which uses augmented reality to feel the distances of the 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 can do.

We hope more apps will come out soon that uses the new LiDAR sensor and give us a better idea of what the new iPad Pro 2020 can do, but right now, you’re getting a camera that can zoom out, take ultra-wide-angle photos, and not much more.

Price and Availability

The new iPad Pro models were announced on March 18, and you can order them from Apple’s online store today; Apple has closed its physical stores for the foreseeable future due 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 U.S. – 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 depends on whether you choose the 11-inch or 12.9-inch model, and which storage device you’re using; there’s also the option to include LTE cellular connectivity, which will drive up the price. The price starts from $799 and stretches up to $1,499.

iPad Pro 2020 Review – Early Verdict

While we haven’t been able to complete our thorough testing of the new iPad Pro 2020, we don’t see much in the way of significant upgrades to Apple’s excellent tablet range. The power inside has improved, but not massively, and the screen and tablet design, although of high quality, are the same as on the 2018 model. We are big fans of the fact that the mouse support has landed on the new iPad, but there needs to be more optimization from the developers to allow users to make the best of it.

The rear camera, which uses LiDAR technology on every Apple device for the first time, is still able to take pretty good photos but lacks the night mode we wanted so badly from the iPhone 11.

This is still a beautiful tablet from Apple compared to many on the market, and it’s a reliable option for those who need a more professionally-oriented device.

PROS
  • Powerful innards
  • Now brings mouse support
CONS
  • New LiDAR functionality is limited
  • Still can't rival a laptop in many ways

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