Apple’s iPad Pro has traditionally been its most luxe tablet offering, a ridiculously well-engineered piece of hardware with arguably the best screen on an Apple device and performance that runs circles around most laptops, let alone other tablets.
None of that changes with the new 2022 iPad Pro that’s powered by the same M2 chips as the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. But this year’s largely iterative update has, in many ways, been outshone by the significant overhaul on the 10th-Gen iPad. No landscape-oriented front camera, no updates to the Magic Keyboard to include a handy function row for shortcuts and certainly none of those gorgeous color options – the new iPad Pro could largely be viewed as a spec bump by most folks, and they wouldn’t be terribly wrong.
Same same, but different
Much of what you knew about the Apple M1-series iPad Pros still holds true about the M2 iPad Pros. You still have the same size options – 11-inch ( ₹81,900 onwards) or 12.9-inch ( ₹1,12,900 onwards) – in space grey or silver, with storage options going from the barebones (128 GB) to the extravagant (2 TB). The slick 120Hz ProMotion display with wide color gamut support is common to both models, but you’re going to have to stick to the larger 12.9-inch variant if you want the absolutely stunning mini-LED display with 1600 nits of peak brightness for HDR content. That display alone makes the case for the larger iPad Pro, but it is a large tablet that has a noticeable heft in the bag particularly if you pair it with the optional-but-highly recommended Magic Keyboard accessory.
This leaves one wishing the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro got the same Liquid Retina XDR (Extreme Dynamic Range) love – it’s the perfect mix of power and portability that will appeal to most professionals who’d want the carry-everywhere convenience over the larger canvas. Sticking to the same design though has meant that you can use the Magic Keyboard launched alongside the 2020 iPad Pro (or other cases and accessories) with the 2022 version.
There is one specific feature that’s exclusive to the new M2 iPad Pros, and that is the ability of the Apple Pencil to ‘hover’ above the screen. No, not literally – the new iPad Pro can detect the Apple Pencil up to 12mm above the screen – so the Apple Pencil doesn’t actually have to be touching the screen to perform an action. The utility of this feature is felt particularly in drawing/photo editing apps like ProCreate or Pixelmator, but it’s seen in everyday interactions in apps like video previews in Safari, just as the effect hovering over a video would have with a mouse on a computer. It’s a quirky new feature, making interactions with the Apple Pencil a bit more playful and enjoyable than they were before.
Flip it over, and you’re looking at the same camera array on the rear that we’ve had for the past two generations. The 12MP wide and 10MP ultra-wide (with a LiDAR scanner for depth-sensing for photos and augmented reality applications) take sufficiently detailed shots for a tablet, but they’re not in the same ballpark as the iPhone 14 Pro Max, particularly in low light. Pros can now shoot video in Apple ProRes (at 4K/30fps), a high-quality codec/format for folks who live and breathe serious video editing apps like Final Cut Pro. You could, theoretically, treat the iPad Pro as an all-in-one studio – capture, edit and publish all from the same device – but one would wager most video producers would opt to use an iPhone 14 Pro for capture over a massive tablet.
But the possibility, however remote, exists, and that’s a plus. Portrait mode shots are restricted to selfies, not from the rear-facing camera. Speaking of which, the front camera is still on the awkward left edge when held in landscape orientation, but it uses Center Stage to keep you in the center of the frame to the best of its capabilities, and enables the ever handy Face ID authentication.
iPad or laptop? The answer eludes
Kitting the iPad Pro with the new M2 chip has only pushed the envelope of what one can expect from the iPad Pro – Apple claims a gain of 15% on CPU and about 35% on graphics over last year’s M1 chip – but even for most professionals, it’s not like the M1 iPad Pro was inadequate in the performance department. If you’re the sort who edit 4K videos or compose multi-track music and need to transfer large files over back and forth, the Thunderbolt/USB 4 port and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity will ably complement the M2 chip and never leave you wanting.
On the M2 iPad Pro, power is pretty much uncompromised. However, what would really unlock the beast would be the ability to run desktop-class professional apps like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop and the like. Sure, you have LumaFusion for video editing and the upcoming launch of a color-grading and visual-effects tool like DaVinci Resolve, both of which are steps in the right direction, but more professional tools would really help justify the ‘Pro’ in this iPad.
But what of non-professional users who want this powerful tablet to supplant the computer in their life? iPadOS 16 brought with it the new ‘Stage Manager’ multitasking functionality, which lets you jump between your most recent apps via a stacked panel of floating windows (up to four apps) on the left of your screen, much as you would have on a regular computer.
With the dock and the Command-Tab multitasking, this was meant to take the iPad that much closer to functioning and multitasking like a computer, on paper at least. In practice, it’s still rough around the edges, both in terms of the multiple gestures it takes to arrange windows the way you want them to the inability of many apps to resize their windows.
On a recent trans-Atlantic journey where the author committed to using the iPad as his sole computer, Stage Manager all at once both helped in the workflow yet impeded in true laptop-style multitasking. Moving or resizing apps felt oddly rigid, with the effort to lay out windows in a clean and usable manner taking a fair while.
In its current state, it had one wondering how much of an upgrade Stage Manager was over classic iPadOS Split View mode. It’s an interesting addition to a multitasking model that hasn’t changed meaningfully in many years, but it’s not fully baked as yet. It feels like it’s on the edge of something great, yet it’s held back in a uniquely iPad fashion. And so, if you’re deeply rooted in a laptop for any of your workflows, don’t leave it behind for long work trips just yet.
Having tempered your expectations of what the ‘best iPad money can buy’ can do for your workflow, if you’re upgrading from a regular iPad or a 2020 iPad Pro (or prior), you’re going to love the iPad Pro M2. Its fluidity is unrivaled, performance with the new M2 chip is top-notch and the display is without question the best you can find for media consumption and sketching. If your workflow and wallet allows for the iPad Pro tablet, it’s as good as it gets.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets at @2shar.