Apple has unveiled new iPad Pros as expected. While they look the same on the outside, the inside has gotten a major upgrade. These devices are the first iOS devices to run the new M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which debuted in Apple’s macOS laptops last year. The previous iPad’s A-series ARM chip already outclassed Android tablets, but now Apple’s tablets could be in a completely different category.
The new tablets still come in 11 and 12.9-inch sizes. The smaller tablet has an improved version of the LCD panel from the last iPad, but the 12.9-inch comes with a new “Liquid Retina XDR display.” That’s Apple’s way of saying it’s got a mini-LED screen, a first for the company. It has 1,000 nits of sustained brightness and 1,600 nits at peak brightness. That’s high even for a phone form factor, but it’s a huge leap for tablets. Samsung’s OLED-based Tab S7 reaches a mere 484 nits at peak brightness. The array of 10,000 mini LEDs enables 2,596 local dimming zones and a 1 million to one contrast ratio.
Both new tablets have the M1 chip, which is an ARM-based design created by Apple. It has eight custom CPU cores and eight GPU cores. Apple says the graphics performance, in particular, is 40 percent improved over the old tablets. Overall system performance is about 50 percent higher, according to Apple. Apple used this same chip in its refreshed MacBooks several months ago, and the performance on those machines running macOS has been impressive. Intel has even tried to downplay the importance of the M1 with some transparently self-serving benchmarks.
This chip could put Apple’s tablets even more in the lead. Most Android device makers have stopped releasing tablets — even Google isn’t making anything in the slate form factor anymore. Samsung has been able to limp along with its Qualcomm-based Tab S and Tab A devices, but there’s no Android equivalent of the M1, which is much more powerful than even the best Qualcomm chips. There’s no technical reason Apple couldn’t make an iPad run macOS in addition to iPadOS. It probably won’t do that, but it could. Meanwhile, Google barely bothers optimizing Android for large tablet displays. You have to be deeply mired in the Android ecosystem to buy an Android tablet over an iPad after this.
The USB-C port got some attention as well with support for Thunderbolt and USB4. That means the tablet can power a 6K external display and transfer data at up to 40 Gbps. Charging speed is still on the slow side, though, at 20W with the included adapter. Yes, Apple is still including the plug. Pre-orders for both models will kick off on April 30th. The 11-inch starts at $799 and the 12.9 is $999. There are more expensive versions with 5G connectivity as well, but the 11 and 12.9-inchers start at $1,099 and $1,299, respectively.
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