Oh no, I think I want an iPad Pro now


The iPad Pro has always struck me as a baffling device. It’s significantly more expensive than the (very capable!) iPad and iPad Air. iPadOS still isn’t a great environment for multitasking. And Apple hasn’t yet justified why, exactly, you’d want a super-powerful tablet in the first place (simplified versions of Final Cut Pro and Audition aren’t enough!). If you’re trying to get serious work done, you’re better off buying a slightly used last-gen MacBook Pro, instead of shelling out $1,000 or more on a souped-up tablet.

And yet, something about this year’s iPad Pros compels me.

Apple

Taken individually, most of the tablet’s new features seem inessential. It’s the first device with Apple’s M4 chip, which has vastly better AI performance than its earlier M-series hardware. It has a “tandem” OLED display, which stacks two OLED panels together for better performance. And both the 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Pros are incredibly thin and light (the latter model is the slimmest device Apple has ever made, measuring 5.1mm).

But when you wrap all of those advancements together and pair them up with a redesigned, MacBook-like Magic Keyboard, the iPad Pro M4 is starting to look more and more like the ultra-light computer of my dreams. A super-powerful machine that’s easy to take anywhere, with a gorgeous screen for binging TV shows and a capable keyboard for writing on the go. Maybe I’m just charmed by the side profile of the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard, which looks like it could have been designed by Syd Mead in the ’90s, imagining how laptops could be transformed in a few decades.

iPad Pro M4 with Magic Keyboard

I’ll admit, the new iPad Pro looks very similar to the 2022 model. But, as the kids say, it just hits differently now. This year’s iPad Pro is thinner than I ever thought possible, and the revamped Magic Keyboard solves most of the problems I’ve had with earlier versions, thanks to its aluminum top cover, function keys and larger touchpad.

Part of the appeal, for me at least, is that Apple has also taken the idea of a tablet PC a step further than Microsoft’s Surface tablets. While those devices can function as genuine PCs and run full Windows apps, Microsoft hasn’t improved its keyboard covers or overall design in years. If you want to hold a Surface on your lap, you’ll still have a kickstand digging into your legs and a pretty flimsy typing experience. The iPad Pro M4, on the other hand, now more closely resembles an actual laptop.

Now I realize part of this gadget lust comes from covering Apple’s recent launch event. I’ve been thinking far too much about iPads over the past few days, and it’s taken a toll. You could potentially get a laptop-like PC experience from either the entry-level iPad or iPad Air when paired together with a keyboard case. But, then again, I’ve already bought a 10th-gen iPad with Logitech’s Slim Folio keyboard and I don’t actually use it much for typing. It’s fine for jotting down something short like emails, but the unsatisfying keys makes it tough to get into a writing flow.

I’d also feel better about jumping on the iPad Pro bandwagon once iPadOS becomes an even better platform for multi-tasking. Stage Manager is a start, but it’s a bit clunky and hard to navigate. Sure, Apple is constrained by what’s possible on smaller displays, but I could imagine iPads (along with iPhones and Macs) becoming far more functional once the company starts rolling out its rumored local AI models.

What if Siri could accurately note down your shopping list, pull in prices from local stores and share it with your friends. What if it could automatically edit your vacation videos to post on Instagram? Now imagine you could do those things without losing focus from the email on your screen, or your company’s Slack channel. Multitasking doesn’t necessarily need to involve jumping between several apps. With AI enhancements down the line, we could potentially complete complex tasks with natural language, and our devices could better anticipate what we actually need.

iPad Pro 2024

Apple

Price is another obvious problem facing the iPad Pro. It has always been expensive, but Apple is really pushing the boundaries of acceptability with these new models. Both the 11-inch and 13-inch tablets are $200 more than before, starting at $999 and $1,299 respectively. While it’s nice to see them come with 256GB of storage by default (up from 128GB), creative professionals will probably want to spend another $200 to get 512GB.

If you want the full 10-core CPU power of the M4 chip, though, you’d have to shell out for at least 1TB of storage, which makes the 11-inch iPad Pro $1,599. Want nano-textured glass for additional glare reduction? That’s another $100. Oh, and don’t forget the Magic Keyboard! That’s $299 or $349 more, depending on the size. If you actually wanted to spec out the iPad Pro like a laptop, it’s easy to hit a price near $2,000.

Alternatively, you could just get a $1,299 MacBook Air, or $1,599 14-inch MacBook Pro. Maybe add another $200 to get 16GB of RAM. At least with those machines, you’ve got larger screens, excellent keyboards, the full desktop power of macOS and more than a single port for connectivity. If you really want an iPad Pro experience, you could always keep an eye out for used or refurbished 2022 models, which come with the very capable M2 chip.

Given just how expensive it is, I likely won’t be buying a new iPad Pro anytime soon. But the desire is certainly there, sitting somewhere deep within me, ready to take over my cognitive functions the minute these tablets get cheaper.

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