Updated: July 14, 2021 12:13:11 pm
There is a question I have often been asked over the past few years, in airplanes, at cafes and at press conferences: ‘How can you work on an iPad?’ People are surprised that I manage to do literally everything on the iPad and often travel just with the tablet even on long tours. However, the pandemic has once again locked me to my MacBook and the iPad is something I use more casually, when lounging on the sofa or reading a long form article on my bed.
The very fact that I could work on an iPad for days on end is a testament to the power and ease of use of the Apple tablet. By the time the second iPad Pro range came out, I was convinced there is not much to differentiate these from my 2015 vintage MacBook Air in terms of power at least. This year’s upgrade, with Apple switching its Pro range to its M1 silicon, leaves my old faithful far behind in terms of processing power and literally gives even this year’s MacBooks a run for their money. Apple’s philosophy across products seems to be evolving more to offer the same capabilities in the form factor the user wants.
Apple iPad Pro 2021 review: What’s good?
Before I get to all that is good about this device, let me tell you the iPad Pro — I’m reviewing the 12.9-inch version — is exactly the same as last year’s iPad Pro when it comes to design. So much so that I’m using this one with the Magic Keyboard that came with the earlier version. So the changes are all inside and literally nothing is changing outside.
Clearly, the one big experience change you are expecting to see is if the iPad Pro has become more powerful as it moved from the A bionic series to M series. This one is powered by the M1, which found its way into some MacBooks last year and the iMac this year. Read that sentence again — it is this same processor on the iPad Pro.
Over the past week, I kept the old MacBook aside and moved my work fully to the iPad. That meant taking some work from home liberties like leaning back on the sofa during a zoom meeting, lounging on the bed while grappling with large important excel sheets and streaming webinars from the top of my bookshelf as I burnt calories on the treadmill.
Of course, you could do all of these with the earlier iPad Pro too, but everything now is a tad bit faster and you are much less worried if the tablet will be up to something you want to throw at it.
So take the example of Procreate, an app that lets you edit, sketch and take your pictures to a new level. I ran one of my high-resolution pictures taken from a rare outing in the city through the app and used some of the tools randomly. Even as you touch some of the buttons you see changes being rendered with not even so much as a pause. This is as fast as using Photoshop on the new MacBook with M1 and hence as fast as anything you will experience on a computing device that can be carried around in a folio.
— Nandagopal Rajan (@nandu79) July 12, 2021
Imagine the workflow of a photographer on the field, shooting and transferring images to the iPad realtime and the giving it the edit she needs before sending it out to the production team. All in a couple of minutes.
To double-check this experience I tried two graphic rich games on the iPad Pro. The first was Ultimate Rivals: The Court on Apple Arcade, which turned out to be a riot of colour and effects, all running seamlessly on the iPad. I, Gladiator on the other hand does not come from a top studio, but still offers a good idea of what the iPad Pro can do. There are many more games which have been made to take advantage of the processing powers of this device, like Divinity Original Sin. But I did not want to test a paid app when I knew I would not get time to play after the review.
Another app that I found interesting and taps the powers of the iPad Pro is JigSpace, a 3D presentation app. The app has a lot of preset AR packages which can be used to showcase something or even teach kids. I finally got my son to understand how an alarm clock works and why he should not be ignoring it every morning. Unlike earlier apps that used AR, with JigSpace I noticed how the models can be placed into the frame in realtime and respond without any lag at all.
— Nandagopal Rajan (@nandu79) July 13, 2021
The iPad Pro 2021 also ushers in one feature that could be life changing for many of us stuck in video calls most of our waking hours. Centre Stage, which will come to other Apple devices too, keeps tracking your face even as you move it around while on a FaceTime or Zoom call. This is almost as if there is someone behind the camera, but interestingly Apple is doing this without physically moving the camera at all. It won’t take long for those at the other end of the call to realise that you have some magic happening with the camera.
The experience of using the iPad Pro is enhanced by the Liquid Retina XDR display which really comes to life as you watch a show like Katla on Netflix where the predominant colour is black and the subtleties of which will be lost on a dull screen. As always, the audio performance is unmatched for any tablet.
The battery can last you an entire day if you are using this as your primary work device with extended work from home hours.
iPad Pro 2021 review: What’s not good?
I can’t really say anything bad about the latest iPad Pro. I could have used some more hardware changes along with the new silicon. But maybe this is a bad time to be making drastic changes in a successful device. Also, I noticed a hint of warmth on the screen at times while using certain apps and am expecting an update from Apple to fix this.
iPad Pro 2021 review: Should you buy?
Yes, if you are looking for a device that lets you work from home as well as office and when you go for a staycation in the hills. Also, a great upgrade for those on earlier generation iPads that are at least two years old. For those thinking of a device that is not as heavy or large as a laptop but can still do everything they want to, this is an easy pick. And yes, the creative people among us now get a device that has the power to execute everything their imagination comes up with.