Hands-on the latest iPad Pro

A year and a half after it was first powered by Apple’s silicon architecture chip, Apple is finally introducing the next generation of its most powerful iPad series: the iPad Pro series with the M2 chip. After getting a short taste of the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in advance, I’d like to briefly describe my impressions of this product.

Changes and changes in appearance
Among the 2 sizes of the current iPad Pro series, the 12.9-inch screen size has been used since the release of the first generation of iPad Pro in 2015 and has been iterated to the sixth generation of products; while the 11-inch version was officially confirmed in 2018 after the market validation of the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch 2 sizes of products. The latest version just released is the fourth generation of the 11-inch series.

The same is true for the third generation 12.9-inch version released at the same time as the first generation 11-inch iPad Pro in 2018, which opened the era of iPad Pro with a right-angle bezel design together with the former. Although the iPad Pro series has since produced more or less minor changes in appearance, in general, the iPad Pro’s right-angle bezel form factor design language has been with us for four full years.

It’s a shame that the latest two iPad Pro models continue to have the same right-angle bezel shape and no changes in size or weight from the previous generation; although the iPad Pro itself is not a product that focuses more on looks and feel, Apple’s product designs have been more or less expected. And after this year’s iPad Pro further explores the performance limits of the mobile platform, one can’t help but wonder if the new iPad Pro design language will come next time.

However, the new iPad Pro is not completely unchanged in terms of appearance. Take the dark sky gray 12.9-inch model I got for example. Compared to the previous generation version, the new dark sky gray iPad Pro is more white or gray in color in terms of the back panel, bezel, and the separating strip near the bezel that prevents metal from shielding the signal. Whether or not you like this change to the iPad Pro in dark sky gray is up to your personal preference.

The hardware and software experience goes even further
As many expected, the new iPad Pro ships with iPadOS 16.1, which means that when iPadOS 16 officially launches for all users on October 25, the version number will skip 16.0 and come to 16.1. By then, not only will the new “Front Desk Scheduler” give iPad more powerful multitasking capabilities, but also “Reference Mode” will continue to explore the use of the iPad Pro in professional areas. Reference Mode” continues to explore the use of iPad Pro in the professional world. And on the new iPad Pro, the exclusive Apple Pencil hover feature is another new dimension of interaction for iPad.

Let’s start with the iPad Pro screen. Like its predecessor, the new iPad Pro uses a mini-LED technology Liquid Retina XDR display with 600-nit SDR maximum brightness, 1000-nit HDR full-screen maximum brightness, 1600-nit HDR peak brightness, a contrast ratio of 1000000:1, and ProMotion adaptive refresh rate technology. ProMotion adaptive refresh rate technology.

The advantages of the XDR screen, which we have already experienced in the iPad Pro last year, will not need to be repeated this year. Although the XDR display is no different from its predecessor in terms of hardware parameters, the new iPad Pro “bends the curve” through the software experience by adding the new Apple Pencil hover function, thanks to the further arithmetic power of the M2 chip and the iPadOS 16 software capability.

Immediately after getting my iPad Pro, I also tested this new capability of the Apple Pencil on the new device. First, on the Home screen, hovering the Apple Pencil over an app icon has a similar effect to placing the mouse pointer over the icon, with the app icon telling you that the current app is selected with a slight zoom effect. In the Memo app, for example, when the Apple Pencil is hovering over the toolbar, the toolbar icon will be zoomed in and pre-selected, and when the Apple Pencil is far away, the selection will be cancelled; and when the Apple Pencil is near the blank area of the editor, Memo will automatically enter doodle mode, so we can start handwriting notes or drawing patterns directly. We can start writing notes or drawing patterns directly.

From the experience point of view, the interaction and display of Apple Pencil hover has been quite perfect. Although “12mm” is a seemingly small number, in practice, the hovering distance of Apple Pencil is actually quite intuitive, and you don’t need to deliberately control the distance between the pen and the screen to start this function easily. In terms of basic capabilities, Apple Pencil hovering can really help us to control the trajectory of the pen or erase content more precisely when writing notes or drawing by hand.

However, the Apple Pencil hover function needs to be actively adapted by developers. Among the third-party apps I tested, for example, the note-taking app GoodNotes is not currently supported, and the drawing tool Procreate can only use Apple Pencil to pre-select paintings in the gallery interface, while the editing function has no effect, etc. That is to say, similar to the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island, the iPad Pro’s new interactive feature, Apple Pencil hover, has more capabilities that we need to wait a while longer before we can really see.

After a short experience, I also think that Apple Pencil hovering does not seem to be an interactive feature that requires special reliance on the chip’s computing power, and secondly, it is not a feature that is strongly related to professional scenarios, although Apple currently supports this feature only on the iPad Pro with the M2 chip. We all know that Apple tends to be cautious when it comes to new hardware features and software features; just like the “front-of-the-stage scheduling” introduced at WWDC22 this June, it wasn’t until after months of testing that iPadOS 16 opened this feature to devices with non-Apple silicon architecture chips.

The same thing seems to be true for Apple Pencil hover, which is not so hard to understand. On the one hand, Apple has currently marked Apple Pencil hover as Beta on its developer website. Referring to the “Live Activity” on iOS 16, perhaps Apple Pencil hover will have to wait for three or four months of testing and refinement before it can be unveiled as a stable official version, and perhaps we will be able to use it in more iPads by then. On the other hand, considering that the new iPad Pro has just come out, Apple may also want to promote the sales of the new product with these differentiating features, so it has not delegated all the capabilities to other devices for the time being.

Behind the powerful performance may be a readiness for the future
Looking at the results, we can well say that this year’s new iPad Pro is a routine update: the chip is almost the only hardware upgrade for the new iPad Pro, pulling apart the ability to differentiate between the old and new devices with new software capabilities.

By the way, the addition of the M2 chip does give the new iPad Pro one more noteworthy upgrade: the addition of the ProRes codec engine and support for ProRes and ProRes RAW hardware acceleration, Apple’s first video format in the iPhone 13 Pro series, which offers higher color fidelity and lower compression. ProRes format video can also be imported to professional editing tools on macOS for more professional editing. As an iPad device that focuses on creativity, it’s only natural that after providing such a top-notch screen with XDR specs and stunning results last year, it will continue to support the ProRes format this year.

According to Apple, the new iPad Pro is not only capable of shooting ProRes format material directly, but the corresponding transcoding speed has been improved by a factor of three, which means that the vision of creating anywhere, anytime with just an iPad is becoming more possible for many creative workers. In terms of shooting, the smart HDR 4 in iPhone 14 Pro is also supported in the new iPad Pro, although most people don’t usually shoot with iPad Pro.

However, as powerful as the iPad Pro is now, perhaps the biggest bottleneck is the battery life of the device. Although in my usage scenario, I can write, consult data and read comics continuously, the iPad Pro can fully meet the needs of a day’s use; but realize that in more professional scenarios, the gap between power consumption will become very large, and even for daily use like me, I can already feel the huge difference in battery life between it and the MacBook Pro. Therefore, the focus of the next iteration of the iPad Pro should probably not be the leap after leap in performance, but the strengthening of the battery life is a change that I would like to see in future products.

In addition, the 8-core CPU is 15% faster, the 10-core graphics processor is 35% faster, the neural network engine is 40% faster, and the memory bandwidth is 50% larger. These paper parameters listed by Apple are really impressive performance improvements. For ordinary users like me, the constantly upgraded performance has indeed lost much of its meaning; and for the iPad Pro, no matter how powerful its professional performance, and no matter how rich its applications in the professional field, most users of this device will always be more popular consumer users, and a single performance boost will not be its full value.

So I’m not going to try to confirm these performance upgrades Apple describes to you through repetitive testing, not to mention my lack of ability to do so. If you want to hunt for the performance limits of the new iPad Pro, good professional creators will show you the performance boundaries of the iPad Pro through their creative workflows and provide you with enough visual and detailed information about it.

As a consumer user, I think the continued iteration of Apple silicon on the iPad Pro may be preparing the iPad and the Apple ecosystem for the future; after all, there are enough professional tools for creative workers in all fields to choose from, and the iPad Pro doesn’t seem to be strictly speaking the only one. What’s more, as the iPad Pro continues to “pile up” and its performance (for most users) is already too much, iPadOS may be the shortest plank in the iPad Pro’s ability; it just so happens that there are recent rumors that Apple may be testing a special version of the macOS operating system for the M2-chip iPad Pro, although in the face of these rumors it’s just Just take a look.

As for the Apple mixed reality wearables that keep popping up, I’d hazard a guess. The iPad Pro is a product with good portability and powerful enough computing power to be a good complement to the former’s external computing power.

The growing iPad Pro appeal
This year’s iPad Pro and iPhone 14 Pro have both done a lot of work in terms of interaction experience, and both have made a lot of attempts to further break the boundaries between software. In terms of iPad, whether it’s the “front desk scheduling” that continues to blur the boundaries of applications and explore the ability of applications to work with each other, or the Apple Pencil that once again explores new dimensions of interaction, we are seeing a more open iPadOS system ecology.

In the promotional materials for this year’s iPad Pro, we can see that professional apps like Davinci Resolve for Mac and Octane X, a 3D rendering tool, will be coming to iPadOS within the year. Professional-level tools like LumaFusion and Procreate have also been added to the desktop with the iPad Pro’s increasing computing power. It’s safe to say that the “productivity” issue that has been the subject of heated debate around iPad Pro since its introduction in 2015 doesn’t need much debate; the fact that more and more manufacturers are actively adapting desktop-level features to iPad is further evidence of the power and appeal of iPad products in the professional world.

Whether there are already more and more iPadOS apps with desktop-level features, or the rumored macOS for iPad Pro will really come later, the iPad Pro has really surprised and surprised us all the way through the controversy. Although this year’s new iPad Pro will inevitably feel a little bland, but let’s keep an expectation and more imagination space, waiting for the future of the most powerful iPad will go.