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.
The re’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
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.
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.
Although iPad Pro isn’t suitable for everyone, the design is functional. At the right edge of the tablet (when held in portrait mode), just below discreet volume controls, is a magnetic strip that holds and charges the optional Apple Pencil (Gen 2) stylus. Double loudspeaker grilles can be found at both the top and bottom edges of the slate.
iPad Pro 2020 Review – Display
Rumor has it that Apple Mini-LED will bring Macs and iPads to the 2021 lineup. It’s exciting screen technology, but I lost all interest the moment I saw the 12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048 resolution iPad Pro display. The exceptionally bright panel radiated stunningly vibrant colors, even from the iOS home screen.
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.
I could see endless color variations, from lime to olive green, during a shot of a forest in the Artemis Fowl trailer. The amount of detail the screen captured in the cave town was terrific. Small yellow lights against the expansive rock face depicted individual houses looking out onto a swampy, misty cauldron underneath. The azure-blue steam circling the stalagmites created an eerie atmosphere in the sci-fi city.
It’s the look of the screen that makes everything pop. I turned the brightness of the screen back to 75% and was still amazed at how easily I could read and play outside on a clear day. Our colorimeter clocked the iPad Pro’s average screen brightness at 559 nits. That’s much higher than the Surface Pro 7’s panel (395 nits), and it even surpassed the 2018 iPad Pro’s display (484 nits). The category average is 442 nits.
The iPad Pro’s display covers 123% of the sRGB color gamut, making it livelier than Surface Pro 7 panels (102%) and the category average (108%).
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 the re’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.
iPad Pro 2020 Review – Keyboard
There will be two official iPad Pro keyboard covers when the Magic Keyboard arrives in May. For now, I’ve used the $199 Smart Keyboard, and I have mixed feelings about it. While the fit and adjustability are great, I’m not a fan of the cheap feel fabric that covers the keyboard, and the keys themselves are shallow. But my biggest problem is the lack of a touchpad. This is a lot to spend on a keyboard that doesn’t offer the full functionality of iPadOS now that cursor support has arrived.
The Magic Keyboard should solve all those problems when it arrives a few months after the iPad Pro. Not only does it have a trackpad, but the backlit keys use the same scissor-like switches found on MacBook Air and MacBook Pro (16-inch). The accessory also features a new “floating” hinge mechanism that uses ribbed, cantilevered hinges to keep the iPad Pro a few inches from the surface for better viewing angles. From the re, you can smoothly adjust the tablet’s angle by moving it up and down.
The Magic keyboard provides 1mm of key displacement and features USB-C pass-through charging for connecting accessories such as external drives or portable monitors. Unfortunately, the price of these features is very high. Apple sells the Magic Keyboard for – that’s what you have to sit for – a dizzying price of $299 for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $349 for the 12.9-inch version.
iPad Pro mouse and trackpad support
The iPad Pro 2020 will be remembered as the first iPad with mouse and trackpad support. The long-awaited feature has finally arrived and works better than I expected with my Magic Trackpad 2 and Razer Basilisk X Hyperspeed game mouse. When you connect a Bluetooth mouse or trackpad to the iPad Pro, a small gray circular cursor automatically appears. Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the iPad was never intended to support the trackpad, but some smart adjustments to iPadOS 13.4 ensure a smooth transition.
I like how the cursor clicks on icons when you get close to them and then disappears when they’re highlighted. This made selecting items with a small cursor pretty easy. The cursor also transforms depending on how you use it. For example, the circle changes into an I-beam when you’re in a document, making it easier to select and mark words and sentences. Similarly, some icons in Safari Browser turn gray to indicate when your cursor is over them. All these small adjustments make the difference between holding your finger on a touchpad and lifting your arm every time you want to act.
Unfortunately, cursor tricks don’t extend to all apps and interfaces. Google Docs, which I am using to write this review, is not optimized for cursor support. Yes, you can still use a trackpad, but the I-shaped cursor doesn’t change when you hover the mouse over text (you have to use the imprecise circle). This is one of many examples, and early users are at the mercy of developers to optimize their trackpad apps.
IPadOS also supports trackpad gestures with Magic Trackpad 2, and they’re a great way to navigate with iPadOS. I’m impressed with the extensive gesture support (Apple has a comprehensive manual for all supported gestures), and when writing the iPad Pro 2020 review, I used them more than just touch controls.
Some of the touch controls I used most often were to open the dock by swiping to the bottom of the screen; three-finger swipe up to open the app switcher; three-finger swipe left or right to switch between apps, and pinch to the zoom. There are two ways to go home: either quickly swipe up to three fingers on the touchpad, or swipe down until the dock appears, then swipe down again.
I got blown away by the quad speakers on the iPad Pro. They sound much better than most laptop speakers I’ve tested – even those on much larger systems. The Killers’ new single “Caution” filled my apartment with a dynamic, pulsating sound. I tapped my foot on the heavy drums and heard the most delicate details in Brandon Flower’s clear, high-pitched vocals.
I turned the volume down to about 60% when playing games like Draw It to protect my ears from these powerful speakers. A warning: something like 80% volume is meant for when you’re not sitting in front of the tablet, but not in front of it. I’ve never thought of listening to music from a tablet, but the iPad Pro is an exception. They are rich, balanced speakers that deliver the sound that can compete with a stand-alone Bluetooth speaker.
iPad Pro 2020 Review – Performance
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.
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.
As always, the iPad Pro crushed our performance benchmarks with a score of 4,720 on the Geekbench 5 overall performance test. That’s only a small improvement over the previous model (4,635), but it’s also the top of the Surface Pro 7 (4,443, Intel Core i5). However, high-end models of the Surface Pro 7, such as those with a Core i7 CPU and 16GB RAM, win in this test. Power users, especially video editors, will appreciate that the iPad Pro only took 34 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution after applying a color filter and transitioning into Adobe Rush. We couldn’t compare that score with Windows 10 systems, but Apple’s tablet outperformed the iPhone 11 Pro, which took 46 seconds.
The graphics also get a modest boost in the new model. In the BaseMark GPU test, the iPad Pro scored 21,009, compared to the 19,588 of the previous model. However, the overall experience of using both the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models was quite identical – opening and editing photos, surfing the web, and generally browsing the tablet was as smooth as can be on both the devices, so the re’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 the re’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.
The iPad Pro lasted 10 hours and 16 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, surfing the web continuously over Wi-Fi with 150 nits of brightness. That strong runtime crushes the Surface Pro 7 (7:20) but lags behind the category average (10:56) and is several hours worse than its predecessor (13:14). I have about 6.5 hours of battery life with the iPad Pro to surf the web and play games with the display at 75% brightness.
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; the re’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 – Conclusion
Apple iPad Pro 2020 is the best tablet in the world. It features a beautiful display, blazing speeds, fantastic speakers, an improved camera, and even a new lid sensor for the next generation of AR apps. Yes, it’s costly, but no other tablet – not even the Surface Pro 7 – offers the same combination of performance and endurance. Do you need to buy the new model if you already own the previous version? Probably not.
The best addition this year is the trackpad support, but that feature will come to older iPads running iOS 13.2. The upcoming Magic Keyboard will do the same, although a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard is a much cheaper solution. Besides, the A12Z Bionic chip in the new iPad Pro is a very modest upgrade, and the battery life is worse than before.
If you don’t have a tablet yet, the iPad Pro 2020 is the best solution. And now that it can act as a suitable replacement for the laptop (with some updates for iPadOS), that sky-high price (plus expensive accessories) is justified. 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 always 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.
The new iPad Pro 2020 is another impressive tablet. Though a small upgrade in power, the trackpad support justifies the high price and makes this the best tablet yet.
- Stellar performance
- Vivid and superbright display
- Awesome cameras
- Now brings mouse support
- Long battery life
- No headphone jack
- Accessories sold separately