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(Pocket-lint) - Apple revealed the fifth generation of the iPad Pro 12.9 during an event in April 2021, replacing the iPad Pro 12.9 fourth generation that launched in March 2020. 

The iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen) launched alongside the iPad Pro 11 (3rd generation). You can read all about how all Apple's iPad's compare in our separate feature, as well as how the new iPad Pro 11 specifically compares to its predecessor in another feature.

Here we are focusing on how the new iPad Pro 12.9's specs stack up against the old iPad Pro 12.9's specs though. Which should you buy or should you upgrade?


What's the same?

  • Design and colour options
  • Battery and audio
  • Rear camera
  • Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard Folio compatibility

The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and iPad feature the same design, with both offering the identical measurements, along with an aluminium frame, square edges and super-slim bezels. They both feature Face ID at the top of the display and both are compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil and the Smart Folio Keyboard. They also both come in Silver and Space Grey colour options.

Both offer the same dual rear camera comprised of 12-megapixel wide and 10-megapixel ultra wide sensors, with 2x optical zoom out and 5x optical zoom and they also have the same four-speaker audio array and 10-hour battery life.

What's different?

Despite offering multiple similiarities, there are a few differences between the fifth generation iPad Pro 12.9 and the fourth generation iPad Pro 12.9.


The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) comes with a Liquid Retina XDR display, compared to the iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)'s Liquid Retina display. Both have the same size and resolution, but the newer model offers a 1000nits max full-screen brightness and 1600nits peak brightness (HDR). 

The older model, by comparison, has a 600nits max brightness. Other screen technologies like the fully-laminated display, True Tone and ProMotion technology are on both models though.

Front camera

The iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen) comes with a 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera with ultra wide camera, offering 2x optical zoom out, a feature called Centre Stage that sees the camera follow and track you as you move around a room, and extended dynamic range for video up to 30fps.

The iPad Pro 12.9 (4th gen) has a 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera. 


The fifth generation Apple iPad Pro 12.9 comes with Apple's M1 chip, which is also found in the new iMac, making this model very powerful. It has an 8-core CPU, 8-core graphics and next-generation Neural Engine. There's also a choice of 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

The fourth generation model comes with the A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine. There are no RAM options and while still powerful, it likely won't match the fifth gen model.

5G connectivity

The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) both come in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi and Cellular options, but the fifth generation model offers 5G connectivity in the Wi-Fi and Cellular model, while the fourth generation model has 4G LTE.

Storage options

Both the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and the iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) come in storage options of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. The fifth generation model also adds a 2TB option though.

Thunderbolt/USB 4

The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) model has a Thunderbolt/USB 4 charging and data transfer port, while the iPad Pro 12.9 (2020) has USB-C. It means the newer iPad Pro 12.9 will offer quicker data transfer than its predecessor, though not everyone is likely to need that.


The fifth generation iPad Pro 12.9 is a little heavier than its predecessor. The Wi-Fi only model weighs 682g, and the Wi-Fi and Cellular model weighs 684g, while the fourth gen Wi-Fi only model weighs 641g and the Wi-Fi and Cellular model weighs 643g.



While the design of the fifth generation iPad Pro 12.9 and the fourth generation iPad Pro 12.9 are the same, along with the rear camera, battery and audio capabilities and the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio compatibility, there are a few differences.

The new iPad Pro 12.9 comes with a new, more advanced processor, RAM options, a 2TB storage option, new front camera with new features, an improved display and 5G capabities. 

For some, the new features will be exactly what you were after - like 5G capabiities and the M1 processor - which will make spending the extra money on the 2021 model over the 2020 model worth it. For others, you might skip the upgrade this time round or opt for the 2020 model to save a few pounds if you're investing in the iPad Pro 12.9 for the first time.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle. Originally published on 21 April 2021.