A Closer Look at the New Apple iPad Pro M4 and iPad Air M2

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A Closer Look at the New Apple iPad Pro M4 and iPad Air M2

Apple’s latest tablets – iPad Pro M4 and iPad Air M2 – were announced last week during a keynote held for the first time at the brand’s new London headquarters. Apple CEO Tim Cook boldly proclaimed that it was “the biggest day for iPad since its introduction” – and, in some ways, he was right. We’ve spent the past few days getting to grips with both models and – ahead of their launch on May 15 – here are our early impressions. So, what’s new?

First up, iPad Pro: the brand’s flagship tablet now comes in a familiar 11″ and a sort-of-familiar-but-all-new 13″ (the last generation larger Pro model came in at 12.9″) and is launching with Apple’s latest chipset: M4, the only Apple device currently with this. Compared to the previous iPad Pro model (which launched in 2022 with the M2 chip), the iPad Pro M4 represents a 1.5x increase in CPU performance and has a 1.2x faster memory bandwidth. In our testing – which included editing and rendering video on both Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple’s own Final Cut Pro for iPad, as well as editing photos on Lightroom – it made incredibly light work of everything we threw at it. That’s a good thing, right? Well, yes, of course, performance gains are always welcome. The issue is, though, that the previous iPad Pro M2 had similarly impressive and very respectable performance, so in some ways the jump to M4 on the new iPad Pro feels like part of a longer play. Whilst the M4 made working across multiple CPU-heavy apps at the same time a breeze (and felt especially useful whilst connected at an external display), we can’t help but feel like the it isn’t even close to maximizing its full potential due to the some software limitations with iPadOS.

Apple has also opted for an OLED display on the new iPad Pro and the results are quite special. Colors are richer than ever and blacks are – for the first time on an iPad – the kind of deep, inky blacks that those of us with OLED televisions have become accustomed to and those of us without have not stopped hearing about. Never one to do things by halves, Apple actually opted for dual OLED displays in each iPad Pro, a “breakthrough” tandem design that “incorporates two OLED displays and combines the light from both to deliver stunning full-screen brightness”, according to the brand. And, like all Apple-driven innovations, it has given its technology a new name: Ultra Retina XDR. iPad Pro’s new Ultra Retina XDR display is capable of achieving 1,600 nits of peak brightness with a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio for incredibly vibrant photos and videos, and per Apple the new display will “bring out even more true-to-life details in photos and videos, including the brightest highlights along with the subtle details in the darkest parts of an image.”

The cameras on the new iPad Pro have also been updated with one immediately noticeable change on the front of the device: the selfie camera is now placed on the landscape edge of the device, moving away from its not so practical portrait edge placement previously. This has made using the iPad for video calls feel a lot more natural as the camera is now front-on and is no longer capturing an awkward low-angle corner of your face, and, while its makes sense, it calls into question what role Apple feels its iPads should play: video calls between iPads and other devices that use landscape displays as their standard orientation have now been optimized at the expense of video calls between iPads and iPhones. It feels like Apple is doubling down on the iPad being a desktop computer, or a laptop alternative.

Apple seems to be pushing the iPad further into desktop territory with the new placement of the front-facing camera. | Photo: Felix Young/Hypebeast

Launching along with the iPad Pro M4 is the new Apple Pencil Pro, an updated version of its stylus that features new gesture controls like “squeeze”, a self-explanatory action that brings up a quick menu of options on screen. A new and welcomed feature is unlimited undo, but perhaps the biggest update to the Apple Pencil functionality since its original launch comes in the shape of barrel role, a long-requested feature that gives the digital pen its most lifelike quality. According to Apple, it “changes the orientation of shaped pen and brush tools by rotating the barrel, just like it would with pen and paperhanging the orientation of shaped pen and brush tools by rotating the barrel, just like it would with pen and paper.”

The new Pencil Pro is the first from Apple that can be added to Find My, helping you easily find it if lost. | Photo: Felix Young/Hypebeast

The new Magic Keyboard features an aluminum palm rest and – finally – a function row. | Photo: Felix Young/Hypebeast

Perhaps most impressively, Apple has managed to achieve its “thinnest product ever” with the new iPad Pro M4. The 11″ measures 5.3 mm thick whilst the 13″ model comes in at an even slimmer 5.1 mm. This also means the new iPad Pro is slimmer than both the new iPad Air, as well as Apple’s smallest tablet the iPad Mini 6 from 2021. We’ve included photos in the gallery below that compared the new iPad Pro to its thicker siblings.  Both models are lighter than previous versions, but it’s not only size and weight that Apple has focused on; the brand has redesigned the thermals on the iPad Pro, using graphite throughout to give a 20% boost to thermal performance. In our usage – which spanned several consecutive hours per day – we never noticed the iPad Pro get very hot, even with the screen on its brightest 1,600 nit setting.

Even the iPad Mini (left), Apple’s smallest tablet, is thicker than the iPad Pro M4 13″ (right). Photo: Felix Young/Hypebeast

A side-by-side comparison of the new iPad Air vs. iPad Pro (both models 13″). Note: both have screen protectors applied. | Photo: Felix Young/Hypebeast

Apple’s most recent event was unashamedly all about iPad and its new iPad Air M2 is anything but a lightweight in the processing department. The new model is available in four colors across two display sizes (11″ and 13″), with the FaceTime camera also making the move over to the landscape side of the iPad like it does on the new iPad Pro M4. The design of the new iPad Air will feel familiar to some; it has borrowed heavily from the past two previous generation iPad Pros, so much so the Magic Keyboard made for them is what’s compatible with it.

The 13″ iPad Air packs 600 nits of peak brightness. not quite the levels of the new iPad Pro – the display isn’t OLED – but bright enough to use comfortably in outdoor light. The iPad Air features full lamination as well as an antireflective coating, both of which will also aid in usage in situations where the ambient light is too strong.

iPad Air is compatible with both of the latest digital pens from the Cupertino-based brand, Apple Pencil Pro and Apple Pencil (USB-C).

Apple’s latest iPads are available to order online now and will be in stores May 15. iPad Pro M4 11″ starts at $999 USD, while the 13″ starts at $1,299 USD. iPad Air M2 11″ starts at $599 USD and 13″ at $799 USD.

Click here to view full gallery at Hypebeast

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