The Apple iPad Pro 2020 is the best pure tablet you can buy right now. It offers a fantastic performance, a great screen, and a modern design. You can use it with excellent accessories too and iPadOS gets better with every update. But it is very pricey – you can pay up to 1649 US Dollars. Well, should you spend that much? In this iPad Pro 2020 review, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this tablet – both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch version.
Hardware: How Good Is The Apple A12Z?
Usually, we expect a big jump in processing power when buying a new generation of a tablet. But that’s not the case here. Instead, the iPad Pro 2020 features a slightly better processor called Apple A12Z. I like that all versions have 6GB of RAM now and the base model got upgraded from 64GB to 128GB of storage. You can also choose 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB of storage and you can get cellular versions too.
While Apple is not stating it clearly, it seems like the Apple A12Z is the same A12X from the 2018 iPad Pro. But in this case, they added or activated an eighth GPU core. That’s what benchmark scores from tools like Geekbench 5 confirm. While the CPU processing power is the same, the new iPad Pro has slightly better graphics performance.
I’ve been using the last generation since it was released and compared to that one, I didn’t notice any performance differences when using the 2020 iPad Pro as my daily tablet. Everything runs super smooth – just as you would expect from a very pricey premium device. Browsing the web and intense multitasking works very nicely.
And it continues to be a fantastic photo editing machine for me. I’ve edited lots of 24-megapixel RAW files with this tablet and that works flawlessly in Adobe Lightroom. However, even though the graphics performance did improve a bit, I didn’t notice that in video editing apps like Adobe Premiere Rush. I thought I might notice a small improvement. And in my 4K video render test the new one rendered a 9-minute video faster – but only by 10 seconds which is very minor.
I tried lots of games on the new iPad and here, I didn’t notice any differences either. Sometimes I have the feeling of games running a bit better – but when I record a video of them and look at them side by side, it seems to be just some kind of placebo effect. Among the games I played are Fortnite, Call of Duty, PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9.
So, in benchmarks, the 2020 iPad Pro is a bit faster than the previous generation. But in real life, you won’t notice any differences. At least not yet. However, it continues to be much faster than the iPad Air and the standard iPad 7. So, if you upgrade from those or their predecessors, you can notice a huge difference.
iPadOS: All About Its Software
If you’ve never used an iPad before: On the iPad Pro runs iPadOS which is very similar to iOS that you might know from iPhones. It’s the same platform. But on iPads, Apple supports real and much better multitasking. You can open two apps side by side, for instance, and even open a third one as a slide over.
Another feature that Apple introduced recently is a files app. With that one, you can transfer files from cloud storage onto your tablet. That’s where you can see downloads too. And you can even connect external hard drives and see, copy and manipulate their content using the files app. External files can be accessed by third-party apps like Adobe Lightroom too.
These are the most interesting new feature that you should know about if you’ve never owned an iPad before or haven’t used one in a couple of years. iPadOS has improved a lot in the last two years and by now, you can be super productive with it. It’s not as open as Android, of course, but almost every negative critique I had towards iOS in the past, has been fixed. And that includes the newest feature.
Mouse & Trackpad Support
Together with the iPad Pro 2020 Apple also announced iPadOS in version 13.4 which features additional mouse and trackpad support. You could have used a mouse with the tablet for over a year now, but in the past, it was a part of the accessibility features and not well implemented. It just emulated a finger.
Starting with iPadOS 13.4 you can connect a touchpad or just a normal mouse. Either using Bluetooth or via the USB C port. No matter which one you’re using, the mouse is much better supported in software now. You can continue to use it as a finger for gestures, but if you’re using a trackpad, there are additional gestures that are supported.
I like that you can use a mouse to select text now. That sounds very basic, but in fact, that wasn’t the case before iPadOS 13.4 and that was the reason why I never used a mouse with my iPad. Well, now that you can select texts, it has become much more useful. The mouse can make you more productive and can make you work much faster than before. Especially if you need to copy and paste text between apps a lot.
All of that is nice. However, once you install iPadOS 13.4 on your 2018 iPad Pro or even the iPad Air or iPad 7, you’ll have the same features. So, it’s not a unique selling point. But it shows that Apple pushes updates to their older devices which certainly is a unique selling point. The iPad Pro will get updates much longer than any Android tablet will.
Apple Magic Keyboard & Smart Keyboard Folio
Apple is offering two kinds of keyboard covers for their new iPads. You can get the Apple Magic Keyboard which is a sturdier keyboard dock and you can get the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio which is more of a keyboard cover.
While the Smart Keyboard Folio starts at 179 US Dollars, you’ll have to pay at least 299 Dollars for the Magic Keyboard. The versions for the 12.9-inch tablet are a bit pricier. Both are compatible with the 2018 predecessors.
If your main goal is to get a good keyboard, then I think the Apple Magic Keyboard is the better option. Its keyboard is much better with a travel of 1mm, a background light, and a good but small trackpad is included too. There’s a USB C port build-in which you can use to charge the tablet.
The design of the Magic Keyboard is fantastic. It looks very elegant because folded up the iPad is hovering above the keyboard. Besides its price, it does have some other downsides. It’s heavier than the tablet itself, for instance. And it does not have any shortcuts for multitasking, search, or the volume controls. But its keyboard and trackpad are fantastic for a tablet keyboard.
With the new Smart Keyboard Folios, Apple didn’t change much compared to the previous version. The color got a bit darker and there’s an Apple logo on the back now. And, sure, the cutout for the camera module is bigger. But besides that, they’re mostly the same. In fact, you could use the older ones with the new generation if you’re okay with the back not fitting perfectly.
I wrote tons of articles with the previous keyboard and a couple with this one. The keyboard parts are basically the same. I think Apple is giving us a great compromise between a slim and light portable cover and a decent keyboard.
With that being said, this is not the keyboard that you should use for 8 hours every day. It’s too bad for that because the keys have very small travel. And the Smart Keyboard Folio for the 11-inch is too cramped for that. The 12.9-inch keyboard is a normal size one but has keys with a small travel too.
Both keyboards are great travel keyboards with the Apple Magic Keyboard giving the better, more serious typing experience. Again, if you need a keyboard a lot, I would go with the Magic one. The Folios are great if you only need it sometimes and want a bit of protection when using the iPad as a tablet.
If you’re going to work at home only, I would get a proper desktop-class keyboard though. Otherwise you’ll ruin your hands in the long run.
Cameras, LiDAR & Microphones
Let’s get to the cameras and the new LiDAR sensor. First of all, the front-facing camera hasn’t changed compared to the last iPad Pro. It’s a 7-megapixel camera that takes good selfies and is great for video chats.
Speaking of video chats, if you use apps like Skype and Zoom a lot, you’ll appreciate the so-called studio microphones. The tablet has five microphones in total and according to Apple, they give us a studio-like sound quality. Well, they’re not as good as a professional studio microphone, of course. But the sound quality is fantastic for a tablet and much better than what we usually get.
On the back, we get a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and a second 10-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera. The standard camera didn’t change and continues to take great photos and 4K videos. And the ultra-wide-angle camera is very good too. I’m told that the quality is not like what you get with Apple’s iPhones, but it’s fantastic for a tablet. The only other tablet with a wide-angle camera is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. Compared to that one, the iPad Pro takes much more detailed photos.
Another new feature is the LiDAR sensor which sits inside the camera module. That’s a laser-based sensor that measures distances. It’s not used for any special photo-effects inside the camera app. At least not yet. Instead, it’s meant for augmented reality applications.
I used it with the measurement app and with the IKEA app. And sure, it’s an interesting feature. But, right now, it’s not useful for most people. I just can’t find a good use case for it yet. However, I’m sure it’s an interesting feature for developers who are working on AR apps.
Display & Apple Pencil
Apple is selling two versions of the iPad Pro 2020. You can get it with an 11-inch screen and with a 12.9-inch display. I’ve tested both and besides their screen size, they’re the same tablet. Their screens are a bit different. While both have a pixel density of 264 PPI, that also means that the 12.9-inch one has a higher resolution with 2732 x 2048 pixels. The 11-inch one has 2388 x 1668 pixels. So, their screens are super sharp.
Most other aspects of their screens are fantastic too. With 600 nits, they’re brighter than all competitors. The display hasn’t changed, and I compared the previous generation with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 and with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. In both cases, the iPads had a brighter and an overall better screen.
The iPad Pro’s are the only tablets with Apple’s ProMotion technology that give us a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Their color accuracy is great too and both screens support Apple’s True Tone technology. It means that they adjust their white balance based on the surrounding light.
There is one issue with YouTube. You can’t watch YouTube videos in 4K on the iPad Pro. That goes for all iPads because Apple is not supporting the 4K codec that Google is using. On all other iPads including the 11-inch Pro, it’s not that big of a deal. But it would be nice to watch 4K YouTube on the 12.9-inch screen. But well, unless Apple starts to support the VP9 codec or Google switches to another one, you’ll have to stick to full HD.
Speaking of watching videos, the iPad Pro is great for watching movies but also for listening to music. That’s because the tablets have four speakers that offer excellent sound quality. It also is one major point to think about if you’re deciding between an iPad Air or iPad Pro. All other iPads have two speakers that are placed on one of the shorter sides. That means you won’t hear any real stereo separation on those. But the iPad Pro speakers are fantastic.
Now, let’s get to the Apple Pencil. Nothing has changed here compared to the last generation. The 2020 iPad Pro tablets support the same Apple Pencil 2 that is charged wirelessly on top of the iPads. I think that’s a fantastic feature that some competitors like Samsung started to copy.
The pen itself is fantastic too. It’s a pressure-sensitive stylus which means that you can draw a thicker or harder line by pressing the pen down harder. You can also tilt it to draw shading. The pen is supported in tons of apps. Not only for drawing but also in notes apps if you like handwritten notes. You can also use it in apps like Adobe Photoshop. I’ve been using it to retouch photos or to remove sensor dust, for instance.
I think that the iPad Pro is the best tablet with pen support. That’s mostly due to the huge number of apps inside the App Store that support the pen. You won’t get as many features for the stylus inside iPadOS, as Samsung is offering for their S Pens though. And if you need to use full Adobe Photoshop or full Adobe Illustrator, you’ll have to go for the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 and their Surface Pen. But check out the apps, because you can find a lot of useful stuff inside the App Store.
The iPad Pro got a huge design refresh with the 2018 generation and Apple is keeping this design with the 2020 tablets. That’s a good thing because I think the design looks very modern and it does feel very high-end.
At times they seem a bit fragile and you can find videos of people bending theirs on the internet. Well, don’t do that on purpose. As I said, I’ve been using the previous one since its release and mine didn’t bend. But you should use it with a case of course.
Now, while the design didn’t change much, there are some differences. The camera bump on the back got bigger, of course, but they continue to be just 5.9mm thin. With 471g and 641g they got a couple of grams heavier though.
We’re still not getting a headphone jack. But by now, I’ve gotten over it. I think there should always be room for a headphone jack on a tablet. But since many phones are missing them too, I’ve gotten wireless headphones like many others.
I do love the USB C port. When traveling, I need just one power brick to charge my laptop, my phone, my camera, my headphones, and the iPad Pro. That’s fantastic. You can use that USB C port to connect complex USB C hubs. You can connect it to a monitor or a TV and you can also connect external SSDs or SD card readers and many other accessories.
Another feature that I learned to love is Face ID. It works much better than the facial recognition of pretty much every Android tablet. Yes, it even works in the dark. I like fingerprint scanners too, but Face ID just works and that’s great.
For my standard battery test, I’m always looping an HD video at medium brightness. In this test, the 11-inch iPad Pro got a result of 14 hours and the 12.9-inch one lasted 13 hours. When streaming HD videos at maximum brightness on YouTube, the 11-inch lasts 6 hours and the bigger one 5 hours. So, the bigger one does have a bit shorter battery life. You won’t notice it much during normal use.
You can see in my comparison that the runtime of my local video test is a bit shorter than the 2018 iPad Pro. And compared to that one, Apple did shrink the battery a bit. The additional GPU core and 6GB RAM could influence that too. And they ran different versions of iPadOS and I tested the tablets in different buildings. That could influence the battery life as well. So, see it as a rough estimate.
iPad Pro 2020 Review: Final Verdict
My final verdict is very clear. I think both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are the best pure tablets you can buy. No matter if you’re just looking at the performance or just looking at the ecosystem, no tablet comes close right now. Well, except for the previous generation. If you’ve got a 2018 iPad Pro, it makes no sense to upgrade.
No, that’s not coming from an Apple fan. In fact, I’m only using Android phones and Windows laptops. I’ve been writing about tablets since 2008, and if you read my articles from the past, I’ve blamed Apple for many things over the years. But they fixed pretty much every issue.
By now, iPadOS has fantastic multitasking. They started to support an active stylus. Apple finally switched to USB C and they included a files app with which you can access external storage. Just a couple of months ago I said that I’m still not as productive with an iPad because of good mouse support. And now they started to fix that too. Apple has eliminated almost every limitation that their tablets had.
Thanks to its fantastic screen, good speakers and excellent performance, the iPad Pro is the best entertainment tablet. No matter if you want to watch Netflix with it or play demanding games. But can it be your computer?
iPad Pro 2020 As A Computer?
For some people, the iPad Pro can be their only computer. But that always depends on what exactly you’re doing. If you use a computer for simple office work, then it can be great for that. Especially if you use it with a proper keyboard and mouse. And it can be great for certain students too.
I also think that it can be the only computer for many photographers. Lightroom is much snappier than on any PC, for example. And with Photoshop for the iPad or Affinity Photo, you can do almost everything that you can’t do with Lightroom. And you can use the tablet to answer emails and be in contact with your clients. I used the iPad Pro exclusively on two separate trips to Seoul in South Korea and Istanbul in Turkey. It was my only machine there and I used it to edit photos and write articles. It’s an amazing travel computer.
For me, it’s the perfect second device. I still can’t replace my laptop with an iPad Pro. That’s mostly because my video editing workflow can’t be simply transferred to an iPad. You can edit videos with it and the performance is good, it just doesn’t fit my workflow.
I’m also doing some occasional programming work and it’s not ideal for that either. I don’t see developers using this as their only machine. You can program with it, but it’s certainly not ideal. And if your workflow consists of heavy multitasking, it’s much easier to use a real desktop operating system like Windows, macOS or Linux.
For some, the iPad Pro could be their only computer. That might also be an age thing. If you’re growing up with a touchscreen and are used to mobile operating systems, I’m sure it would be much easier to use this as your only working machine. It always depends on what you need to do with a computer and how you want to do it.
The iPad Pro does have one huge negative point. And that’s the pricing. You’ve got to spend between 799 and 1649 US Dollars, depending on the version you need. Not including any accessories. So, let’s check out some alternatives.
A cheaper alternative is the Apple iPad Air 3 from 2019. It features a 10.5-inch screen that’s almost as good as the iPad Pros. While it is not as fast in benchmarks, you won’t notice any major differences when it comes to gaming. It does have the older design with bigger bezels, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and only two speakers. But you can use the first-generation Apple Pencil and you can get a keyboard cover.
The best competitor running Android is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. Here you get a very pretty AMOLED screen and many premium features that the iPad Air is missing, like four great speakers and a modern design. The S Pen is included at no extra charge and you can get it with a keyboard cover too. It’s the best Android tablet you can buy right now.
If you’re looking for a tablet that can replace your laptop or desktop PC, I think the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is the best alternative. Due to its operating system, it is not as good as the iPad Pro if you’re just using it as a tablet. But I think it’s the best tablet that can also fully replace your laptop – without having to make any sacrifices at all. It’s a full Windows computer with an excellent keyboard cover and stylus, which can also be a tablet.
- Super-fast A12Z SoC
- Very pretty screen
- Great cameras
- Modern design
- Face ID
- Good speakers
- Up-to-date iPadOS
- Fantastic accessories
- Very pricey
- Few changes compared to predecessor
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