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Apple iPad Pro (M4) review: For better or worse, it's the ultimate expression of the iPad

By Kenny Yeo - 18 May 2024

What's new

Note: This review was first published on 14 May 2024.

The latest iPad Pros get meaningful upgrades in the form a new display, a faster chip, and a slimmer and more compact form factor.

The final boss iPad

To say that the new iPad Pro is a spec bump would be a mistake. It may look similar to the model it replaces and the updates may sound trivial on paper, but it brings Apple’s most advanced tablet closer to the company’s dream of building “a magical sheet of glass” that can be anything that its users want. There’s no question that this is now the best iPad the company makes and that it is the iPad to have for hardcore iPad users. But does it change anything for everyone else? 

The TL;DR version:

The absolute best of Apple engineering in a 5+mm-thick sheet of glass and metal. This is unquestionably the iPad to have for hardcore iPad users. 

Note: You can find it on Lazada, Shopee, Amazon, and the Apple Online Store.

@hwztech A closer look at the new iPad Pro with Ultra Retina XDR display. The display is gorgeous. #hwz #hwzsg #ipadpro2024 #ultraretinaxdr ♬ original sound - HardwareZone

Unbelievably thin

The new iPad Pros are just a smidge over 5mm thick. You need to feel them in person to know just how wild that is.

We have to start with just how thin the new iPad Pros are. They are the thinnest devices that Apple has ever made, the company proclaims. The 13-inch model is just 5.1mm thick, while the 11-inch model is a tad thicker at 5.3mm. Even if you stack two of these iPads together, they will still be thinner than a MacBook Air. I mentioned in my hands-on that I was concerned about durability. It feels sturdy enough, but it's so incredibly thin. However, I was assured by executives at Apple that it'll hold up with no issues in normal use.

Although both models are noticeably thinner than their predecessors, the 13-inch model is surely the more impressive of the two because it shaves 1.3mm off in thickness – a whopping 20%. The 13-inch model is considerably lighter too, weighing just 582g against the old model’s 684g – nearly 15% less. The 11-inch model is 10% thinner and about 5% lighter. Keep these numbers in mind because they become even more impressive when you consider the other upgrades they have. 

The new iPad Pro is available in two sizes: 11 and 13-inch.

The long and short of all this is that these new iPad Pros are more portable than their predecessors. The 13-inch model, in particular, is almost unbelievably thin and is a big improvement in terms of portability compared to the last-generation model. That said, if portability is a crucial consideration, go with the 11-inch – it’s still the easier of the two to carry around and will slip into bags more effortlessly. 

Other physical differences worth mentioning is that the front-facing camera has been moved to the long side or landscape side. This means the camera is perfectly centred when you put the iPad Pro in landscape mode for video calls. Apple has also very quietly removed the ultra-wide camera. When asked, they said it was because most users didn't use it, which seems reasonable to me because why would you if have an iPhone, or any other phone for that matter. Finally, there's no physical SIM tray, which means you'll need an eSIM if you want cellular connectivity on these iPads.

A breathtakingly gorgeous display

This is a very beautiful display. Watching movies on it was a joy.

These are also the first iPads to get an OLED display. Apple calls it an Ultra Retina XDR display and it's actually made up of two stacked OLED panels – a technology Apple calls tandem OLED – which combine to deliver eye-searing brightness levels of up to 1,600 nits when viewing HDR content.

Like any high-end Apple display, it features the usual suite of display technologies including ProMotion (now from 10Hz to 120Hz), TrueTone, and P3 colour. But unlike the last generation iPad Pro where only the larger 12.9-inch model had the fancy high-tech Liquid Retina XDR display, this new Ultra Retina XDR display is present on both the 11 and 13-inch models

No surprises here, this is a gorgeous display. Sharpness is outstanding and colours are incredibly vivid and punchy. Where this new Ultra Retina XDR stands out in its rendering of blacks. The phrase “inky black” has been bandied about whenever we talk about OLED displays but it’s really true here. It’s almost like staring into an abyss. And when you juxtapose it with something bright, like in HDR photos, that’s when this display truly shines. 

It's a fantastic display, but I wonder how many people will actually notice it in most day-to-day tasks given that the last generation iPad Pro's display was already pretty good.

With the right content and in the right light, there’s no doubt that it’s a step up from the Liquid Retina XDR display of the last generation iPad Pro. But I wonder how many people can tell the difference unless they are real display nerds. In most everyday scenarios like browsing the web, checking emails, and just enjoying shows, the two displays look just as good as each other. The new Ultra Retina XDR display exhibits less blooming in dark mode and in extreme high contrast scenes, but you really have to be paying attention to tell.

For the first time on an iPad, there will also be the option of ordering one with a nano-texture glass, which helps reduce reflections and glare on the display. One thing to note is that this finish is only available on the 1TB and 2TB models because I was told that this is a feature that usually only power users with professional workflows might need. My test unit didn’t have this finish, but I managed to experience one at the event. Even though it’s effective at reducing reflection and glare, it does come at the cost of some sharpness and contrast. Certainly, the units that had this specially treated glass didn’t look quite as vibrant as the ones that didn’t. I’d recommend going to stores and seeing it for yourselves to see if you really want it. For most users, I recommend going with the standard glass.

M4 Power

This is the first time a new Apple chip is debuting on an iPad.

We have a new chip called M4 and it’s unusual because this is the first time Apple is debuting a new chip in an iPad. As per tradition, Apple is coy about the specifics of its chip and would only say that it is built on a second-generation 3nm process and that it delivers better performance and efficiency than the chips before it. Amongst all the slightly vague claims that they made, the one that stood out to me most was that the new M4 chip delivers the same performance as the M2 chip while consuming just half the power. This level of progress is staggering when you consider the M2 chip was announced only about two years ago.

Apple states that the new iPad Pro would not be possible if not for the performance and power efficiency of the M4 chip. If not for these two attributes, Apple would not have been able to get the iPad Pros down to the sizes that it did. Furthermore, the M4 chip also contains a new display engine, one that was specially designed to drive the tandem OLED displays in the new iPad Pros. Without this display engine, the Ultra Retina XDR display would not have been possible.

The M4 chip debuts with 10 CPU cores. In the past, Apple's entry-level chips tended to have 8-core CPU designs.

Unlike earlier M-series chips, the M4 chip debuts with a 10-core CPU design that consists of four performance cores and six efficiency cores. This is paired with a 10-core GPU that is based heavily on the GPU in the M3 chip. That means support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading, and Dynamic Caching which intelligently allocates system memory to the GPU in real-time based on demands. Taken as a whole, it can be said that the M4 chip is an evolution of the M3 chip.

One thing to note is that, for the first time, there will be variants of the M4 chip in the new iPad Pro. The base model 256GB and 512GB models will have M4 chips that have nine CPU cores, whereas the pricier 1TB and 2TB models will have M4 chips that have 10 CPU cores. It's unlikely you'll lose much in terms of performance but it's still something you should keep in mind, especially if you want the absolute best iPad money can buy.

The 256GB and 512GB models have 8GB of memory, whereas the 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB of memory. Unlike Macs, it's unlikely you will notice the difference.

What stood out most to me was the Neural Engine, the part of the chip that handles machine learning (AI) tasks. Apple has been including such engines in their chips for years (since A11 Bionic in 2017) but the M4’s Neural Engine marks a big leap in performance. Even though it still has a 16-core design, it’s now capable of up to 38 trillion operations per second – that’s over twice as much as the M3’s Neural Engine. It’s difficult to say if this faster Neural Engine has any impact on day-to-day use just yet (I'm not sure I'm creating stickers out of photos any faster), but I’m sure WWDC 2024 will bring about announcements that will put it to more work.

The performance of the M4 chip is great and it’s demonstrably faster than the M2 chip in the last generation iPad Pro. How much of it is because of the extra two CPU cores or the improved architecture is hard to say, but as you’ll see from the charts on the last page of this review, the M4 chip posted CPU gains of around 40% and graphics gains of as much as 60%. Its scores were even higher than the M3-powered 14-inch MacBook Pro. In summary, it’s the most powerful tablet you can buy now.

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8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 10
  • Value 7
The Good
Insane performance
Beautiful OLED display
Incredibly thin and light
Repositioned front-facing camera
Very powerful
Good battery life
The Bad
Pricey
Accessories sold separately
Accessories are expensive
iPadOS limitations and quirks
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