From a technical point of view, the iPad, especially the iPad Pro, is Apple’s flagship product. Of course, the iPhone sells much better and the AirPods were definitely a trendsetter, but if you look at these devices from the hardware angle, the iPad Pro is unique in Apple’s ecosystem. Because every Apple device has strong competitors, be it smartphones, smartwatches, headphones or computers. The iPhone is an outstanding smartphone, but it still has to be measured with Samsung, Huawei and co. And this is a close contest.
You can’t speak of a close contest with the iPad Pro. Sure, the tablet market is bursting with choice including Microsoft with its Surface devices, a hybrid of Windows laptop and tablet. Nevertheless, the iPad Pro has enjoyed a special role since its introduction, which results above all from the excellent processing quality and the tremendous performance. Year after year, the iPad sets new speed records, which now also outshine most laptops. The distance from the competition is so large that the iPad Pro has set itself at the top of the benchmarks and is only usurped by the next generation iPad Pro. On the Benchmarks.ul.com site, the first nine places in the tablet ranking are occupied by various models of iPad before the first Android device follows in tenth place.
The last weaknesses are eliminated
This fact will become important later, but let’s jump back to the present at this point. In April this year, Apple presented the fifth generation of the iPad Pro, featuring the mini LED display (in the larger 12.9in model) and the M1 chip, which we already know from the Mac. One innovation is clever and overdue, the other reveals Apple’s comfortable situation, which has a negative impact on us consumers. Let’s start with the display.
Apple retired the outdated LCD – at least in part. The replacement is the mini LED technology, which is initially only installed in the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. This is basically a development of the classic liquid-crystal display, where, instead of a few, several thousand LEDs are used. This can very precisely illuminate the display, improving blacks, preventing ghosting and creating an image that is very close to that seen on OLED screens. The advantage: mini LED is significantly cheaper than OLED.
This is not to say that the classic LCD Apple was using – Apple calls it Liquid Retina Display – is bad. Apple’s iPad Pro has features ProMotion with refresh rates of up to 120Hz since 2017. But it cannot compete with OLED displays used by some of the competition. Samsung in particular is known for the excellent screen quality, after all, Samsung also builds the displays for the iPhone. The display was the last point where Android tablets could still score compared to the iPad Pro, but, with the upgrade to mini LED, Apple catches up with the competition.
So the display of the iPad Pro is state-of-the-art and there is little else that the competition can do to catch up to the iPad Pro. From a price-performance point of view, there are of course better offers, Apple has rarely earned a medal here, but if you want to buy the best tablet on the market, it has to be the iPad Pro. And with the new M1 chip, Apple has also increased performance by another 50 percent compared to its predecessor (which was already the most powerful tablet on the market).
Improvements: Yes. Innovations? No.
So with the iPad Pro we have a tablet that is undisputed in terms of performance. Accessories such as Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard are sinfully expensive, but fit seamlessly into the experience and are also top-quality. And that’s exactly where the problem begins. Because while Apple is in a comfortable position to have a product in its portfolio that leaves the competition far behind, we consumers are ultimately the victims. Because this monopoly position has a direct impact, both on pricing policy and on the lack of innovations in iPad Pro.
If we leave out the annual gigantic performance jumps, the iPad Pro has hardly changed in recent years. In 2020, it gained the LiDAR sensor, which is exciting from a technical point of view, but appeals to a very special target group. Developers of AR applications and Pokemon Go players were certainly happy, but for most users the sensor has no great benefit. The camera module was updated and performance was minimally improved, and that was already the case with innovations in iPad Pro 2020.
We are seeing the same this year: the new display of the iPad Pro is excellent, but Apple is not setting any new standards, just catching up with the competition in a somewhat neglected area.
The performance makes a huge leap, but Apple already undisputedly occupied that throne and I am not the only one who wonders what we as users should do with this computing capacity anyway.
In addition, the innovations are limited. The iPad Pro is now also available with 5G, as are tablets from other manufacturers. The maximum storage has been increased to 2TB – not exactly a technical revolution. Probably the most exciting element is the fact that the USB-C port now also supports Thunderbolt 4 which means even a Pro Display XDR with 6K resolution can be connected (I can’t imagine many doing that though).
More needed from the competition
These are upgrades in the category “Nice to have”, but nothing more. In order to breathe fresh life back into the dusty tablet market, a technical innovation, something unprecedented is necessary. However, such innovations are not to be expected from a manufacturer whose devices are already significantly different from the competition and are technically years ahead.
That’s why Apple can also charge over £1,999/$1,999 for an iPad Pro with top specifications: because it dominates the market in this high-priced segment.
For us users, it is only to be hoped that manufacturers of Android tablets will resume the fight and bring competitive luxury tablets to the market. This creates competition and thus more pressure towards innovation and price war. And in the end, we, the end users, will benefit.
If you want to buy an iPad Pro but don’t want to pay the full price, check out our best iPad deals.
This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by Karen Haslam.