Cover image by Daniel W. Rasmus. An iPad Pro 2021 as reviewed below, with an original 16GB iPad. Both weigh 1.5 pounds. Both sit on the first Twelve South BookBook case for iPad.
Apple’s iPad Pro sits firmly atop the tablet market spawned by the original iPad. At this point, the iPad Pro surpasses the processing power of many traditional computers. I use it for everything. In the analog world, my iPad completely replaced my leather Levenger card notebook, my Mont Blanc pen, my tucked away Post-it flags, my pencil case, and sketchbook, and yes, even many of my books—though the Amazon’s Kindle began that movement prior to the iPad’s ascent. In the digital realm, my iPad replaced my mobile scanner, music player, portable digital video player (yes I had one of those), video camera, and my digital camera.
An iPad Pro 2021 Review
For many, most of the features listed above lean toward their phone, rather than a tablet. While I do use my iPhone for many of those features, I don’t use it nearly as much as I do my iPad Pro.
I don’t need to do a deep review of specifications, benchmarks, and comparisons to justify my objective opinion of the iPad Pro. I receive many devices for review. I paid for the iPad. In fact, I paid for the Apple ecosystem including my M1 Mac Mini, iPhone 12, M1 iPad Pro, and Apple One subscription. This is my seventh iPad. That is the best endorsement I can give team Cupertino.
The iPad Pro 12.9 gets a lot right. It sports a Dolby Vision, HDR10 XDR min-LED display. It can be purchased with up to 2TB of memory. It includes a LiDAR scanner and a 1080p, panorama front-facing camera with Center Stage software, 4 stereo speakers, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, Thunderbolt 4, and fast charging. Yes, the iPad Pro includes a number of other features I did not list. Those features, along with its M1 Octa-core processor and Apple GPU make it the best tablet on the market.
But being the best tablet does not mean that Apple didn’t leave room for improvement. Many of the ideas below could be fixed with software atop the existing hardware. Some of us thought they were already in the queue.
iPad OS 15 disappointed those who own iPad Pros. I expected to eliminate the need to carry a laptop ever. I’m not yet there, though I use my iPad far more often than any other device when not sitting in front of my Mac Mini or HP laptop doing the work of the day.
And even then, the iPad sits at the ready to do anything from act as an auxiliary screen, act as a secondary computer, to stream music or video as background while I work. My iPad is either in the center or just off the center of all of my workflows—it’s the off-center moments that Apple needs to fix.
8 Features Apple Needs to Adopt for a More Perfect iPad
1. Deliver with a MAX quality camera
I almost returned my new iPad Pro for this one missing feature. I failed to read deep enough into the specs to realize that Apple had not equipped the iPad Pro with a camera at least equivalent to the iPhone 12 Max camera. The lack of Portrait mode on the world’s most outstanding viewfinder remains an enormous disappointment.
Note, the iPad Pro does support portrait mode on the front-facing camera, which is fine for selfies, but completely useless of the types of rich images Apple so famously touts coming from its cameras.
On the flip side, the iPad, which doesn’t seem by Apple to be viewed as a production video or photography system, does appear acceptable as a microscope, with its ability to focus on objects at very close range. I wouldn’t mind that feature on an iPhone, but I would prefer portrait capabilities on the iPad as a priority.
Apple should also include the manual features found in Halide’s outstanding camera app so we don’t have to pay extra to access hardware we paid to use.
2. Drove a monitor at native resolution
Monitors reign a close second to camera disappointment. Given the GPU on the M1, the iPad Pro should be able to drive a monitor in native resolution and/or extend the display. Bigger screens and extended screens have proven time and again major productivity factors. That Apple constrains this feature purposefully makes no sense. Sure, I can run a movie in fullscreen on a secondary display, but I can’t edit that movie outside the bounds of the iPad’s display footprint.
3. Include ALL Apple Apps
Given my relationship with the iPad, it makes sense that all of Apple’s apps reside on this device. I would even like to pair my Apple Watch with the iPad. I don’t think Apple should make even well-researched choices about how people use their devices with an eye toward limiting access to features. Outside of some UI design, any of the following apps should work on an iPad.
- Audio news
- Find My (with Tag support)
Apple needs to let people decide which device is primary. Perhaps the apps don’t come pre-installed, but they should be available in the App Store.
4. Disallow portrait only apps
iOS 15 implemented landscape mode for running iPhone apps on the iPad, eliminating the need to flip the device into portrait orientation (iPhone mode). Some apps, like the Safeway app, some games in myVegas Slots and related properties, and several other apps only work in iPad Portrait mode. Interestingly, the Safeway app worked as an adaptive iPad app prior to its most recent major overhaul.
This issue comes into play most annoyingly when using a keyboard, which may, like the Zagg keyboard, be attached to the iPad, therefore making a flip more than awkward—or when in a dock, like the Satechi dock (here) that only charges or connects in landscape mode. Even with a separate keyboard, flipping the screen in the middle of doing something to accommodate a poor UI choice
Do I occasionally want an app to optimize for portrait mode, like Pages when I’m writing? Yes I do, but I want to make the choice, and few use cases would list portrait mode as a primary feature. All apps should be able to work in portrait or landscape mode. Period.
5. Improve the file app
The files app is getting closer to actually being useable, but it remains far from the elegance of the multi-windowed environment that is Apple’s Finder or Microsoft’s Windows desire the ability to sit two file browsers next to each other. Files also remains glitchy with third-party cloud file systems like Microsoft’s OneDrive, which doesn’t always load when needed (though the OneDrive Apps do work most of the time—dragging files from OneDrive to iCloud doesn’t work if OneDrive won’t load).
6. Drop the price on keyboards
The Apple Magic Keyboards are cool, but they are also expensive. I would like to see the price closer to a $250 list price. That is still a lot for a keyboard, and I think plenty. Apple also needs to offer first-class mouse and trackpad support, removing them from accessibility and into the mainstream of System Preferences.
7. Support multiple use profiles
I might not personally use multiple profiles on my iPad, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist. I know there are add-on features for schools, but iPadOS should allow multiple profiles given the power of the hardware and the price. A shared iPad makes sense at home, but it also makes sense in roles like video production, where a team can share an iPad for shooting, then conveniently (and quickly) upload them via Thunderbolt 4 or wired Ethernet to servers. Multiple profiles might not be used universally, but many features don’t get to find their niches until they exist. Multiple programs mt be a feature Apple sees as cannibalizing the very personal iPads market.
Apple iPad Pro 2021 Review: Making the iPad Pro a real computer
Beyond those features, delivering Pro app performance would also be desirable, but as a writer, I’m OK with Microsoft Word and Pages. Those who edit photos, produce video, craft podcasts, and conduct other work would have their own list of apps that could use a bit more finessing to prove of equal value to their desktop counterparts.
Apple advertises the iPad as a replacement computer—that the next generation won’t know the difference. That clearly isn’t true because iPad Pro’s iPadOS limits the iPad experience. I do understand that ipadOS Pro might be too many iOS derivatives, but Watch, TV, and others have their teams working on specific iOS versions for those devices. Apple could put together an OS team to figure out how to unleash the M1 for those of us who consider ourselves professional users. Who knows, they may even put in a feature or two not on my list, which would be great, as long as they unshackle the current constraints first.
Apple did not provide the iPad Pro 2021 review unit. It was purchased by Serious Insights.
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