Apple’s new iPad Pro has an M1 chip, Thunderbolt and 5G support

Apple just revealed its new iPad Pro today, and as expected, it’s shaping up to be the most powerful tablet you’ll find out there. 

If you were looking for sweeping design changes, sorry — these models look basically identical to the redesigned Pro models we first saw in 2018, just with a few tweaks here and there. Of note, the bump around back that houses the iPad Pro’s cameras and LiDAR array appears to be a little flatter than before. Earlier reports also suggested some minor changes in thickness, particularly in Apple’s larger Pro model, but we haven’t been able to confirm that yet. 

Apple Liquid Retina XDR display


Perhaps the biggest change here, though, is Apple’s choice of display. This year, the company went with that it calls a Liquid Retina XDR panel, complete with a new mini-LED backlighting system. Because each lighting element is much smaller than what you’d find in a typical LCD panel, Apple could pack more of them behind each square inch of the display — think about 10,000 LEDs total. That means (among other things) more tightly controlled lighting for specific parts of the screen for improved contrast and higher brightness overall. Unfortunately, the rumors appear to be true: this new screen tech seems to be exclusive to Apple’s biggest iPad, at least for now. (That said, we may see Apple adopt a similar lighting system for future versions of the MacBook.) 

More than ever, though, Apple is arguing that it’s what’s inside that counts. The Apple Silicon M1 chip found in the company’s more recent MacBook Air and Pro models, plus the newly announced iMac. The company’s pro-level iPads have always been the most powerful tablets in its stable, but the release of the 2020 iPad Air — which packs the same A14 chipset found in Apple’s popular iPhone 12 series — gave that more affordable slate a slight edge in single-core performance. With the addition of this new (and unexpected) silicon, the iPad Pro should sit comfortably atop Apple’s lineup once more. 

The 2021 iPad Pros will also be the first Apple tablets to ship with support for 5G networks. We expect cellular models of these iPads to play nice with easy-to-find sub-6 deployments, and to our surprise, it seems as though all cellular versions of the iPad Pro in the US will support mmWave 5G networks out of the box.

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