Apple iPad Pro (M4, 2024) Review: Powerful Yet Premature

it’s no secret that Apple has mastered the art of smoke and mirrors. When the company debuted the new iPad Pro, the flashy livestreamed keynote—and the hands-on event for media afterward—made it seem as if the company had finally given its high-end tablet the biggest refresh in years. And this is technically true. But that’s also because the bar is already set fairly low.

The last two iPad Pros haven’t been all that innovative. In 2021, Apple added an M1 chip and a mini-LED display; in 2022, it came with an M2 and some new minor software features. The latest model, which becomes available May 15, comes with new OLED display technology, a larger 13-inch screen size, an all-new M4 chipset, and a few cosmetic tweaks. It’s also thinner—Apple’s thinnest product ever, to be exact. It’s compatible with new accessories too, including a redesigned Magic Keyboard case and the first-ever Apple Pencil Pro.

It’s more than what we’ve been given over the past two years. And I was genuinely excited about the enhancements. But hours after the event, when the adrenaline dropped, my editor looked at me and said: “If you think about it, the new changes to the iPad Pro aren’t that crazy.” To prove him wrong, I started to list them out loud, only to realize he was right. In the grand scheme of things, the noteworthy updates to the iPad Pro are the external changes to its hardware, ones that were expected and necessary for such a high-end tablet—except for the M4 chip. But with nothing to show for its new processor just yet, aside from a speedier CPU and GPU, this iPad Pro feels half-baked.

Light ‘n’ Bright

Instead of recycling the same chassis as it has been doing for the past few years, Apple has finally ditched the old iPad Pro shell for an entirely new one. You’ll now have the choice between the standard 11-inch display or a slightly larger 13-inch size. Apple sent me the latter to test for this review. It’s not a dramatic difference. But as someone who stares at a monitor all day, I’m all for any extra screen real estate. (I use the 15-inch MacBook Air as my daily driver.) If you plan on working off of the iPad Pro full-time, I’d recommend the bigger size.

Apple has also upgraded the new tablet from mini-LED to OLED panels on both sizes (it was only the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that received the mini-LED treatment on the sixth-generation version). Known as Ultra Retina XDR, it uses a new display technology called Tandem OLED, consisting of two fused OLED layers, resulting in a brighter screen.

Photograph: Brenda Stolyar

Compared to mini-LED, OLED delivers better contrast ratios, deeper blacks, and more vibrant colors. It usually doesn’t get as bright, but the additional layer within the Ultra Retina XDR screen helps to produce twice as much light as a standard OLED panel. Apple says both sizes can hit 1,600 nits of peak brightness in HDR, which is the same amount as the sixth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The more notable difference is with SDR content—the M4-powered iPad Pro can hit 1,000 nits while its predecessor hits 600 nits.

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