Review: iPad Pro 2020 (is that a computer?)
But so confident is the Cupertino firm that the iPad Pro can do everything a desktop can that it has blasted the slogan, “Your next computer isn’t a computer” all over the internet.
The new iPad Pro can certainly back that up in specs; it’s full to the brim with Apple’s latest processor, better graphical power and an all new light-sensing camera unit. But can it ever really replace a bog-standard laptop or desktop in functionality?
iPad Pro 2020: design and build
The new model keeps the previous Pro design – which is no bad thing. It’s all glass, steel and rough edges (the best kind).
It looks fantastic, and while the 12.9-inch model is rather big (some might say too big for use as a day-to-day tablet) its slight frame makes it feel far smaller than it really is.
Like the last iPad Pro, there’s barely a bezel on each side and no home button. And with the same design, this year’s model is just as much of a fingerprint magnet as the previous one.
iPad Pro 2020: screen
The iPad Pro makes use of Apple’s Liquid Retina display, which retains its predecessor’s resolutions.
However, a new 120Hz refresh rate makes a huge difference when it comes to swiping and prodding away at the screen. Everything feels more responsive, from flicking through YouTube trailers or playing the next round of Space Marines; you’ll find yourself swiping from home screen to home screen, just for the sheer joy of it.
iPad Pro 2020: performance
This new iPad absolutely flies through everything, from games and other graphically intensive apps, to video streaming and multitasking between web browsers with multiple tabs open. It is genuinely hard to make the iPad Pro even stutter, let alone lag.
It runs a new A12Z Bionic chipset – Apple's fastest to date, natch – which has its own neural engine bolted on the back. That gives you an 8-core graphics processor, and more than enough grunt to handle whatever you throw at it.
Battery life too is very good, very much up to Apple’s touted ‘all-day performance’.
iPad Pro 2020: cameras
All that extra oomph helps power Apple’s camera module.
Turn the new iPad around and you will see a similar camera setup to the iPhone Pro; but looks can be deceiving.
The new iPad Pro packs two cameras (a 12-megapixel wide camera, and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide sensor) as well as a LIDAR sensor – which uses light to measure objects and distances
LIDAR doesn’t help the tablet take better pictures, instead it lets the iPad make use of some truly spectacular augmented reality capabilities. The measuring app, for example, is quicker than ever and spot on every time.
For the moment, AR apps tend to be reserved for furniture companies and tabletop gaming – but as the technology becomes more commonplace, you can expect to see it crop up in all sorts of places (including the new iPhone 12 Pro? Probably).
The regular cameras are still very good (far better than most laptop’s built-in webcams) but we don’t foresee anyone using this as their main snapper anytime soon – it’s still a tablet, after all.
iPad Pro 2020: software
This isn’t the first time that Apple has taken the fight to the computer with its iPad, however previous attempts have always been let down by the iPad’s finger and app-friendly operating system.
Last year Apple launched iPad OS – supposedly the middle-ground between a fully-fledged PC operating system and a smartphone’s touch-friendly OS. The results were good.
iPad OS gives you a proper, desktop-level web browser and a proper file storage system. It also works with all manner of accessory, letting you plug in USB-C storage (which lets you fling files back and forth) as well as support a USB-C mouse and keyboard.
But those aren’t the only accessories Apple has been banging on about...
iPad Pro 2020: accessories
If the new iPad Pro is the general to Apple’s plans for desktop domination, then its new keyboard accessory is surely the captain.
Apple unveiled its new tablet alongside a new Magic Keyboard accessory, which is similar to its Smart Keyboard but with one big difference; this one comes with a trackpad.
Yes, big fat fingers have always been a downside when it comes to doing fiddly work in apps like Excel or while moving files around, and the new trackpad aims to re-address that.
The trackpad works with Apple’s familiar MacBook gestures, and has its very own intuitive cursor. It goes a long way to fixing the major issues of using a tablet as your main PC, but we’re going to withhold judgement until we get our hands on the Magic Keyboard – which doesn’t arrive until May.
iPad Pro 2020: the verdict
Apple says the new iPad Pro will comfortably replace your regular old laptop or desktop. But does it?
When it comes to portability: yes. On performance: ditto. Screen and battery life? Check and check. On software, it’s not quite up to the same functionality of full-blown Mac OS, for example, but it gets most of the way there.
In fact, unless you regularly need to use a proprietary piece of software – such as a workplace management system – then the new iPad Pro will do 99 per cent of what you need it to do.
The last iPad Pro was almost certainly the best tablet when it launched, and this one is no different. But is it the best computer?
We’re going to withhold judgement until the entire package is complete (when the magic keyboard ships in May), but for now we will say the new iPad Pro is one heck of a machine.
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