The Best Tablet Gets Even Better

Apple iPad Pro 2020

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Apple recently announced a new iPad Pro. But unless you look closely, you might not be able to tell the difference. On the outside, the only giveaway sign is the larger camera bump. Otherwise, the rest of the tablet is mostly identical to the tablet it replaces. Overall dimensions are unchanged and weight has gone up a couple of grams to accommodate the larger camera module. In other words, the new iPad Pro remains very slim and light.

The biggest change with this new iPad Pro is in the cameras. It now has lidar scanner as well a 10-megapixel ultra wide camera to go along with its 12-megapixel wide camera. The lidar scanner, which stands for light detection and ranging, uses the Time-of-Flight principle to scan its surroundings. It emits lasers at a range of up to 5 metres and then analyses the light that is reflected to map its surroundings. With the lidar scanner, this new iPad Pro has a greater and more accurate understanding of its environment than any iPhone or iPad before it. And together with ARKit, Apple’s framework for AR applications, it allows developers to create more realistic and immersive AR experiences.

Unfortunately, the apps out there right now aren’t optimised for the lidar scanner so I’m unable to ascertain if the lidar scanner really makes a big difference. The only app that does make use of the lidar scanner right now is the Measure app, and I can confirm that the app launches much quicker with new iPad Pro. It’s also more accurate in determining edges and more accurate in measurements.

The wide and ultra wide cameras are no match for Apple’s own iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro or any other flagship-class smartphone, but the photos it takes very still respectable and usable. Compared to Apple’s newest phones, the photos, even on the regular wide camera, don’t appear to be quite as sharp and detailed and images from the ultra wide appear even softer.

The other big change is the processor. The processor in the new iPad Pro is called the A12Z Bionic and it’s the first time Apple has even used a “Z” suffix on the processor. Based on the information out there and results from my testing, it’s safe to say the A12Z Bionic is based heavily on the A12X Bionic in the last-generation iPad Pro. According to Apple, the A12X Bionic has an 8-core CPU as well as an 8-core GPU. In other words, it has the same number of CPU cores but one – just one – more GPU core than the A12X Bionic.

On Geekbench, a CPU-intensive benchmark, scores of the new iPad Pro and the last iPad Pro were nearly identical. However, on benchmarks with graphics workloads, the new iPad Pro managed scores that were about 5% better. In other words, the iPad Pro isn’t that much faster. And while that may be slightly disappointing to hear, the fact is that it’s still a beast of a processor. Fact is, it is still the most powerful processor in any phone or tablet by quite some margin.

One thing that I really love about the iPad Pro is the display and I’m happy to report that the display of the new iPad Pro is just as great. It is still Liquid Retina and there are two sizes to choose from: 11 and 12.9 inches. The Liquid Retina display is stunning. On the 12.9-inch model that I’m testing, it looks expansive, sharp, and crisp. Crucially, it also gets really bright and has superb colours. It may not be an OLED display but it’s easily one of the best displays I have seen on any mobile device. It also supports ProMotion technology, so it can crank up the refresh rate up to 120Hz if required; and it has TrueTone technology too, so it calibrates colours automatically depending on the lighting in your environment.

What’s not so great, however, is that the iPad Pro remains pricey. Prices start at $1,199 for the 11-inch model and $1,499 for the 12.9-inch model. The unit I’m testing with all the bells and whistles – 1TB storage and cellular connectivity – is a sobering $2,469. And these prices exclude accessories, which, are equally pricey. The new iPad Pro works with the second-generation Apple Pencil and that’s $189. The Smart Folio Keyboard? That’s $299 if you have a 12.9-inch iPad Pro and $269 if you have the smaller 11-inch model.

Speaking of which, there’s also a new Magic Keyboard accessory for the iPad Pro that isn’t coming until later this year in May. It has a floating design so the iPad Pro is lifted off the keyboard and can be adjusted to an angle that’s right for you, and it has a passthrough USB-C port for charging. It also has a trackpad and that’s because, from iPadOS 13.4 onwards, all iPads will add cursor support for mice and trackpads. It’s a much-welcomed new feature. Because as great as Apple’s touchscreen displays are, the precision of a mouse is unrivalled, and the familiarity of using a trackpad makes certain tasks easier.

There’s no question that the iPad Pro is a stunning piece of hardware. The display is marvellous, it is slim, it is light, and it is crazy powerful. Anyone shopping for a new mobile computing device would be looking at the specs of this new iPad Pro with lust in their eyes.

But having said that, this new model is only a minor update to the one it replaces. Because other than the lidar scanner and ultra wide camera, the two are mostly identical. If you already own the iPad Pro from late 2018, I’ll advise you to sit this one out unless you think the lidar scanner will be a gamechanger for you. So to end, not much has changed. This new iPad Pro is still the best tablet you can buy today, but it’s going to cost you.

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Coming later this year, the Magic Keyboard is a new keyboard accessory for the iPad Pro that features a trackpad.
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A12Z Bionic


12.9-inch Liquid Retina



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Not much has changed, the new iPad Pro is still the best tablet money can buy today.
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The Liquid Retina display is one of the best on any mobile device.
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The larger camera bump houses a new ultra wide camera and a lidar scanner.

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