Normally it doesn’t take too much of an update to an iPad, iPhone or Apple Watch to still get me excited. I still want to get my hands on modest upgrades and see what these new devices bring to the table. Because of this, I was typically excited when new iPad Pros were announced last week. However, as the days wore on, the realization set in that most of the “new features” that came with these Pros were really the trackpad support, which applies to all iPads compatible with iPadOS 13.4, and the Magic Keyboard, which will also be compatible with the 2018 iPad Pros.
In other words, there is very little new with this new hardware. Other than the improved cameras (which are a notable step up from the previous Pro models), the LiDAR sensor and the slightly enhanced A12Z processor, this is almost the same device we got 18 months ago. More on these items in a minute.
There is a little more that’s new. The WiFi has been upgraded from 802.11ac to 802.11ax WiFi 6. All of the new iPad Pro models also have 6 GB of RAM now, which is an upgrade for all but the 1 TB version of the 2018. All other models of the previous Pro had 4 GB. This isn’t substantial, but more RAM is always good when multitasking. The 2020 Pros also have 5 studio-quality (whatever that means) mics for better sound recording.
So what do these new features get you exactly? A little bit of that depends on how you use your iPad Pro, but still not that much. The only real improvement with the A12Z is graphic performance, as it has another graphics core added. The RAM should also boost overall multitasking performance, as well. However, even most power users probably won’t notice a big difference because the 2018 models are already pretty beefy when it comes to pure power. This spec bump is modest, even by Apple standards.
If you take photo or video with your iPad Pro, then these new models are worthy of real consideration.
The camera and mic upgrades may be worth it for some users. As far as new capabilities that you can take advantage of right away go, these are the most noteworthy feature upgrades. Since I do tend to use my iPad to take pictures for iPhone accessory reviews, this is the only feature that really has me considering keeping one of these devices over my current 12.9″ 2018 Pro. I’m not sure if it will be enough.
As for the LiDAR sensor, that is a new and potentially very interesting feature. However, there isn’t much you can do with it right away. If you love ARKit and like playing with AR apps and games, then this new sensor will make your experience better. It can scan the environment faster and more accurately. That said, ARKit apps still still only have a niche audience and it will be a while before a lot of apps and services fully take advantage of this new sensor.
The truth is, the LiDAR sensor on the 2020 iPad Pros isn’t really for typical users, at least not yet. This release was more about getting a new feature into the hands of developers so they can start to work with it. With LiDAR likely coming to one or more iPhone 12s later this year (unless they are delayed even longer than now expected due to COVID-19), this gets devs working on new experiences before that release. And then that release will prepare the way and generate content for the real show- the eventual release of Apple’s AR Glasses.
So the LiDAR sensor on the new iPad Pros is potentially really cool…in the future. It isn’t a reason to upgrade today. In fact, other than the new 12MP Wide Angle and 10MP Ultra-Wide Angle Cameras, there really isn’t any compelling reason for existing 2018 iPad Pro owners to upgrade to these new versions. Unless you just can’t stand it or take a lot of pics and video with your devices, I wouldn’t recommend the trouble and expense.
These new 2020 iPad Pros are are great option for anyone new to the iPad Pro, though. I would highly recommend them for existing iPad users who want to take a step up the spec ladder, or for those who are new to the Apple ecosystem. However, if none of the 2020 Pro’s new features is a must for you, don’t overlook the potential bargain of picking up a 2018 iPad Pro on close-out sale. There should be some good deals out there to clear existing stock over the next few months.
One more thing to consider is the constant rumors of another new iPad Pro coming later this year. The reports are still in flux, but it could be anything from a 5G model with a new processor that joins the current lineup, to a Mini-LED, 5G, A14X powerhouse. There are even some fringe rumors of a bigger screen iPad Pro floating around out there, although this may be more wishful thinking than real insider information. However, if more power is really what you are after and you don’t NEED to upgrade right now, the smart thing may be to wait.
I may end up doing this myself, as the Magic Keyboard and my Brydge Pro+ preorder will work just fine with my existing 12.9″ iPad Pro. It may be better to save my cash and go all out for what may potentially be a much bigger refresh down the line. That more powerful Pro is really what I want and I can’t lie- a larger screen Pro would be very tempting if that turns out to be real.
All that said, if you need a device soon, waiting may not be in your best interest. Rumors are just that and plans can always change. That has never been more true than now, in the face of a global pandemic and the recession it has touched off. If you need a new Pro today, the 2020 versions are going to hold up spec-wise for a long time, just as the previous generations have. You will not be wasting your money, by any stretch.
So that’s about it for a first pass on this new gear. Do I love the new 2020 iPad Pros? Sure. I still love the 2018 models and you can barely tell a difference besides the new camera bump in the back. What’s not to love? I just don’t think I love it ENOUGH to go to the trouble of dumping my trusty 2018 12.9″ model. We shall see.