iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) test and review

Written By David Harison

Passionate about home technologies and digital content creator.

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The iPad Pro (M1) is such an amazing creative tool that it can be hard to get the most out of it (yet).

Our verdict on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021)

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1) offers one of the best displays ever made, and as much power as a desktop PC. It’s the most flexible creative tool on the planet, but the package may be overkill for some, and iPadOS needs to evolve with it.(5th Generation)

  • Apple M1 chip for jaw-dropping performance
  • Spectacular 12.9-inch¹ Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone and wide P3 color
  • gamut TrueDepth camera featuring an ultra-wide-angle lens with Center-centered frame Wide-angle
  • cameras 12MP angle and 10MP ultra wide-angle, and LiDAR scanner for immersive augmented reality
  • 5G connectivity for super-fast downloads and high-quality streaming


  • Amazing mini-LED display
  • Incredible M1 performance
  • Fantastic features overall


  • The screen brightness remains the same
  • iPadOS remains limiting
  • Single port could limit flexibility

iPad Pro (M1) review: Specifications

  • Size: 280.6×214.9×6.4mm
  • Weight: 682g
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • Resolution : 2732×2048
  • Screen: 12.9-inch mini-LED LCD
  • Storage: From 256 GB
  • Battery: 40.88Wh, up to 10 hours of battery life

With the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1), Apple a ride of honor. The iPad totally dominates the consumer tablet market as well as the more specialized professional market, and yet the company is not resting on its laurels. With this new iPad Pro (M1), it unveils two big leaps forward that give it an even bigger lead in a race it has long won.

The first is the use of its M1 chip, which has so far only appeared in Macs, and has absolutely blown the competition away when it comes to performance. And now all that power is coming to the iPad too, potentially allowing apps to get really ridiculous.

The second element is the new XDR display powered by mini-LEDs. It is exclusive to the 12.9-inch model and offers HDR display performance in line with Apple’s Pro XDR display. In terms of color accuracy, contrast, and brightness, this screen should be one of the best on the planet. And it fits in a purse.

So there’s no doubt that the iPad Pro remains dominant as a powerful creative tablet…but does the M1 chip solve the app and workflow issues that hold the iPad back against devices like the Surface? Professional? And do you really need that power and screen, compared to what the iPad Air gives you? Read on for our full verdict.

Looking for one of the best iPad Pro deals or the best iPad mini prices? We have everything you need. And if you want more than one daily deal, check out our list of the best Apple deals. And if you’re evaluating this tablet for your art work, check out our best drawing tablets as well.

iPad Pro M1: Price

The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1) starts at £999/$1,099/AU$1,649 with 128GB of storage, but you can upgrade to 256GB, 512GB, 1 TB or 2TB of built-in storage, with a corresponding increase in price each time, of course.

The 1TB and 2TB versions also include 16GB of RAM in the M1 processor, while the three smaller versions use the M1 with 8GB of RAM – you can’t choose to change the amount of RAM in any other way .

That price entitles you to the Wi-Fi-only version – you can add 5G connectivity to any of these models for an extra £150.

iPad Pro M1: Display and speakers

The iPad Pro (M1)’s HDR display is obviously one of the main draws of this device, and it doesn’t disappoint when you feed it a quality HDR source. The mini-LED backlight makes for a marked improvement in brilliance over the previous model, but it’s not just the 1,600 nits of peak brightness and 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness that stand out – the best control of local dimming means dark areas have a lot more nuance and depth, with clear, precise shadows that harbor detail, rather than the weak mantle of darkness that edge-lit LCDs suffer from.

We were a bit disappointed to find that this new higher brightness only applies to HDR videos and photos. So when it comes to using HDR in video production, you’ll have to rely in part on your app, the format of your video, and whether the iPad is convinced it’s worth viewing in HDR. iPhone Dolby Vision video in iMovie won’t be a problem, but will your 10-bit video display in HDR in LumaFusion? Or in Adobe Rush? It’s too early to answer all these questions, but in principle, if you use well-updated software, you should be able to take advantage of it.

For general use, the new iPad Pro (M1) sticks to the same 600 nit brightness as the previous model, which helps preserve battery life. It would have been nice to be able to draw or write outside and have the 1,000 nits brightness cut out sunlight to keep everything clear, but it’s not like 600 nits isn’t respectable.

And, in fact, even with the brightness limited to the same levels as the previous model, the new screen is still a clearly visible advantage. In SDR video, for example, the darker areas of the screen still benefit from better contrast control, even without the information boost of HDR. Likewise, the colors in the brighter parts of the video look a bit more vivid and realistic.

The effect is also felt on the user interface of applications. It’s most noticeable if you have white text or an icon on a dark background. Thanks to the added precision of the backlight, white can be brighter and crisper than on the previous model, and darkness can be deeper, with truer black tones. And the shape of the text or icon appears clearer and crisper due to the contrast enhancement.

As always, the precision is impeccable, and the colors seem to be boosted in the quality of their reproduction only by the direct application of a very homogeneous backlight. The resolution is more than enough to allow you to work in detail, of course.

Apple equips the iPad Pro (M1) with a truly impressive speaker array, with four-corner speakers that adjust their output based on the position you’re holding it in, so you get the best sound. balance and produce a solid stereo effect. Obviously, most video or audio pros will have their choice of headphones, but it’s nice to know that if you want to show someone else your work quickly, they’ll hear it in good quality. . And it’s perfect for watching videos while doing the dishes, of course.

iPad Pro M1: Performance

The iPad Pro M1 is, unsurprisingly, incredibly powerful. It doesn’t just lift the other tablets out of the water, it puts them into a slightly soggy orbit. It’s an eight-core processor, and we tested the version with 16GB of RAM.

In the Geekbench 5 benchmarks, it scores 1710 for single-core, and 6869 for multi-core. It’s much faster in single-core than the Intel Core i9 in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and significantly better in multi-core. The multi-core is just a tad lower than the M1 we got in the 24-inch iMac, which may be due to the thermal constraints of the fanless iPad versus the cooled desktop.

The GPU is also on par with a lightweight laptop GPU – better than almost any integrated GPU, but not on par with a discrete option. But you’ll never see a discrete GPU in a 6.4mm package unless you’ve had an accident with a hydraulic press.

There’s no doubt there’s a ridiculous amount of power here, but for most iPad tasks the M1 doesn’t add anything extra noticeable. The previous iPad Pro was extremely fast for general use, and able to multitask. The iPad Air performs just as well and scores close to the iPad Pro for single-core processor performance in Geekbench.

What is all this power for? There are applications that can use it. Affinity Designer, for example, is designed to take advantage of as much power as it can get, so if you give it more complexity it will just apply more combined CPU and GPU power to ensure that he never slows down.

LumaFusion is working on an update that includes multi-camera editing, and you can play many 4K video streams at the same time and create video from them without any slowdown.

What the M1 does offer is leeway for the iPad to get bigger and bigger…but that means that at this time the number of people who will really benefit from it is small, and that’s not the case. maybe not for lack of trying.

GarageBand for iPad is still limited to 32 tracks – that’s a little less than GarageBand’s 255 on Mac, or Logic’s 1,000. The M1 won’t be pushed by Apple’s flagship music app on the iPad, no matter how complex the user is willing to go.

We tried to export a short video from iMovie, and the new iPad Pro and the previous iPad Pro did it at exactly the same time, even though the new iPad is much more powerful in theory, and has more storage fast. Clearly, time isn’t directly related to processing power – some other hardware acceleration is likely involved. Again, Apple’s software does not take advantage of the chip.

Maybe we’ll see iPad versions of Logic and Final Cut coming with iPadOS 15, ready to take the M1 off the hook, and really show off what’s possible.

Speaking of which, the other reason why the extra power of the M1 has only a limited effect on the iPad is that the inherent heaviness of iPadOS still has more of an effect on working speed than on performance. treatment.

Aligning two apps side by side is trickier than it looks. Switching between apps in split screen is confusing. Moving files between apps can be slow and unpredictable as to how things will react. And let’s not talk about things like uploading, editing and uploading images…simple and easy on a desktop computer, but painfully complicated on the iPad.

Apps on the iPad are better than on any other platform, and despite these issues, the interface is generally better suited to touchscreens than Windows tablets… but it still feels like we’re stuck between the attempt to maintain the simplicity of its roots as a telephone system, and the complexity of its ambitions to become a professional machine.

Like the M1, 5G performance is very fast. We recorded 300Mbps down and 65Mbps up. Even when things got worse, we only recorded 136 Mbps down and 21 Mbps up. We should note, however, that in the UK, where we conducted our tests, 5G upgrades tend to be accompanied by massive 4G upgrades. Switching to 4G we got 91 Mbps down and 54 Mbps up, which isn’t to say the speeds are paltry.

When it comes to battery life, Apple still aims for around 10 hours of standard light use on the web, and that matches our experience. When testing HDR video, we saw a 25% drop over two hours, suggesting that the extra brightness has an impact on battery life, which explains Apple’s 600 nit limit most of the time. What really impressed us, however, was the use of 5G. Downloading a two-hour 4K HDR video from iTunes didn’t even drop the battery by 1% – it was 100% still. On the iPhone, we’ve seen the same type of movie download drop battery power by 3%.

iPad Pro M1: Features and accessories

Apart from the M1 and the screen, the big new feature of the iPad Pro (M1) is the “Centre Stage”, a new front camera feature that makes its debut on all devices Apple here – and we’re surprised it’s not as present on the 24-inch iMac, but we think it’ll find its way to other products soon enough.

Basically, the front camera is a 12MP ultra-wide angle camera, and when you enable the ‘Center Stage’ feature in a video call app, the software finds the person in the shot and cuts the image just on it. If you move, the frame will follow you, although the iPad doesn’t move – it just takes advantage of the ultra-wide lens. You can move left and right, or stand and sit, and you’re always centered and visible. If someone else enters the camera’s field of view, the camera reframes to include the two of you. It works great, with only a slight delay when it follows you – no one really notices. It’s just a little bit of software magic.

The two rear cameras have been slightly improved: image processing is better thanks to the M1 and the LiDAR sensor can now be used for faster autofocus, which makes a big difference in low light. You still get a 12MP wide-angle and a 10MP ultra-wide-angle – those are solid cameras, especially for a tablet.

The single port of the new iPad Pro has been improved: it is no longer just a USB-C port, but also a Thunderbolt 4 port. This goes hand in hand with the faster internal storage and speed of the M1 for connecting with super-broadband accessories – photographers and videographers are likely to benefit the most. Not only can you connect to your RAID, but also external displays up to 6K resolution now, although support for external displays remains quite clunky and limited (again, rolling on iPadOS 15 ).

That’s all great, but having only one port can be a bit inconvenient for charging the iPad while connecting it to an accessory, depending on whether you’re using a hub or not. (Using the Magic Keyboard adds an additional charging port).

The Apple Pencil 2 remains unchanged, and works excellently here, and the 120Hz display helps keep responsiveness as good as you could want. Our only real complaint is something unchanged from the previous model – the feel of the Pencil tip when it hits the glass is very harsh, and not a particularly pleasant thing, compared to the softer plastics you have tend to get on drawing tablets. But that’s no reason not to buy it.

The Magic Keyboard remains one of the best accessories on the market, but also one of the most expensive. As a keyboard it’s excellent, and having the trackpad option is really useful for a whole range of applications, especially text editing, which we all have to tackle on a regular basis, so it is a good improvement in the quality of life.

But it’s so expensive for a keyboard with no intelligence of its own. And especially since it’s not such a flexible case, there’s no good support for portraits or a low angle for drawing. The price would be unjustifiable, but the experience is great, so it gets by. If you want the flexibility to turn your iPad Pro into a laptop when you need it, this is simply the best option. And the new white version looks great with the silver iPad.

A quick note on the old Magic Keyboard: You may have heard that the new iPad Pro wasn’t compatible with the old Magic Keyboard, but we tried it, and it seems to be perfectly compatible. We had no problems working or folding in the case.

iPad Pro M1: should you buy it?

The iPad Pro (M1) is the best tablet around, and one of the best creative tools on the planet. There is no doubt about it. Video performance is better than anything in its class, and in fact better than most dedicated monitors, albeit small in size.

The power of the M1 means it’s an incredibly scalable tool: whatever possibilities the iPad offers in the future, this Pro will be able to handle them. The Thunderbolt 4 port just adds to that.

But I feel like a lot of what this tablet offers is currently untapped for a lot of people. You can work in a particular area with a type of application where you will use what it offers, in which case it is an unequivocal recommendation. And if you just want the best tablet and are willing to spend the money, then this is the one. Even if you don’t work in professional video, regular travelers will appreciate having such a solid screen to watch.

For everyone else, it’s just a question of whether it’s too much. Could the 11-inch iPad Pro satisfy you, since it has all the features of this one, but with a smaller screen and no HDR? Could the iPad Air satisfy you, since it has most of the features of the iPad Pro, but leaves you with a much bigger budget for accessories?

Compared to Windows tablets, there’s no real doubt that the iPad wins out on features – it’s all about the software. The new iPad Pro doesn’t change the fact that if you sometimes need access to a desktop operating system, you might need to opt for a Surface Pro or equivalent. But in all other situations, we choose the iPad Pro.

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