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(Pocket-lint) - Apple has revealed the new iPad Pro M1 line to follow up the iPad Air and a new entry-level 8th generation iPad from late last year. 

The iPad Pro 2021 isn't a leap on from the 2019 or 2020 models in terms of design, but it has received several enhancements under the hood - here's what's new. 

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Design and display

  • Same core design in 11 and 12.9 inch versions
  • Mini-LED display on  mentioned

The iPad Pro 2021 didn't undergo a full design change, with the same external design and 11 and 12.9-inch size versions. However, the 2,732 x 2,048 resolution display is different on the 12.9-inch version.

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This uses Mini-LED - in fact, over 10,000 tiny LEDs - across the entire display with 600-1,000 nits of brightness and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. As usual, Apple has a brand name for this display, Liquid Retina XDR. XDR is also the name it uses for the premium Pro Display XDR 32-inch monitor available for use with the Mac Pro. 

The 11-inch version hasn't received a display upgrade, it still features the same 2,388 x 1,668 resolution Liquid Retina display at 264ppi. 

Both displays support the 2nd generation of Apple Pencil. 

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Processor and graphics

  • Apple M1 processor inside
  • 8-core graphics
  • 16 core neural engine

The late 2020 iPad Air came with the A14 Bionic platform and we'd expect an upgraded version of that chip to come to the iPad Pro, perhaps as the A14X Bionic. However, Apple pulled a fast one by using the same M1 chip as inside the latest Macs.

On reflection it shouldn't have been a surprise - the M1 is, essentially, a A14X. It does tell you all you need to know about how much cooling the M1 needs though; not a lot. 

The graphics processor on the M1 is an eight core version (not the 7-core as on the entry level MacBook Air, for example) and there's the same 16 core neural engine.

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Other specs

  • 5G support
  • 128, 256, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB are the storage options

Again there are  Wi-Fi and Cellular and Wi-Fi only options of both iPads but this time there is a switch to 5G support as well as 4G - which is what we have in the iPhone 12.

Storage-wise, we did wonder whether they would start at 256GB, but instead 128GB is still the entry level. Storage options are available right up to 2TB, which is seriously expensive. In terms of RAM, there's 8GB RAM on models with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB storage and 16GB RAM on models with 1TB or 2TB storage. 

There's a four-speaker array and the well-known iPad 10-hour battery life. Both nanoSIM and eSIM are supported.

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iPadOS 14 is the current version of iPadOS and introduced a sidebar in apps so you can drag and drop files more easily, while there are also the same widgets that you can get in iOS 14. But it doesn't support App Library that we've seen in the new iPhone software.

While iPadOS does support widgets, they're in a sidebar on the home screen rather than being able to be placed anywhere on the home screen as in iOS 14. The latest version is iPadOS 14.5

The next version, iPadOS 15, will be launched later in the year and will reportedly improve the home screen layout with widgets and more. 

Camera and Face ID

  • Face ID still supported
  • Same rear camera setup
  • Front camera improved, now has Center Stage

The rear camera setup hasn't changed this time around - there's a dual rear camera with12-megapixel wide and 10-megapixel ultra wide sensors, with 2x optical and 5x optical zoom in addition to LiDAR support. However, the front camera has changed significantly.

The 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera still supports Face ID but has 2x optical zoom plus a feature called Center Stage that sees the camera follow and track you as you move around a room, much like the camera in Facebook Portal

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Apple iPad Pro 2021 rumours: What happened before the launch? 

Here's everything we have heard so far about the next iPad models.

Which Apple iPad is best for you? iPad mini vs iPad vs iPad Air vs iPad Pro

13 April 2021: Apple Event confirmed: Here's when we'll get a new iPad Pro, iMac, AirTags

Apple sent out invites to an event on 20 April 2021. The tagline for the event was "Spring Loaded", suggesting lots of devices or announcements. No further details were provided though.

9 April 2021 - iPad Pro and iPad mini set to retain their older designs

A leak of dummy versions of the upcoming iPad Pro and iPad mini devices reveals that not only will the iPad Pro retain its current design, but the iPad mini will do, too. 

23 March 2021 - References to A14X chip appear in iOS code

According to 9to5Mac, the latest iOS beta refers to a new '13G' chip which most likely corresponds to the forthcoming hardware inside the latest iPad Pro. Again there's a suggestion is that it could approach the power of the M1 processor inside the recent Apple Silicon Macs. 

18 March 2021 - Are they coming in April? 

A new report from Bloomberg suggests the new iPad Pros might arrive in April with a new iPad mini also expected this year. There's also a suggestion that they'll have a Thunderbolt 3 port instead of a standard USB-C. There may also be improved cameras. 

11 March 2021 - A case is spotted

A Speck case was spotted in a Target store in the US that lists a 2021 11-inch Apple iPad model on the box, alongside the iPad Pro (2018, 2020) and last year's iPad Air. Will there be a new standard 11-inch iPad? And why is the 2021 iPad Pro not mentioned? 

5 March 2021 - The 2022 iPad is set to have an OLED display

A new report from DigiTimes has suggested Apple could introduce OLED displays to both the iPad and MacBook Pro range in 2022, starting with a 10.9-inch model of the iPad.

1 March 2021 - M1-quality CPU coming to the iPad Pro, claims report

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman revealed that the iPad Pro will come with "a new processor" that's "on par with the M1 chip in the latest Macs". He also claimed that it will come with "5G" and "better cameras".

19 February 2021: Will there be another Apple event on 16 March? 

Rumours have surfaced of an Apple launch on 16 March that may see the launch of the long-awaited AirTags trackers as well as the new 2021 iPad Pro series. 

21 January 2021: Will we also get a new iPad mini?

It will be two years since the iPad mini was refreshed - rumours now point to an iPad Air and Pro-style full-size screen display for the smallest Apple tablet. This would most likely boast Face ID. A separate rumour suggests the device will come with an 8.4-inch display. 

13 January 2021: Leaked renders surface showing the rough design of the 2021 iPad Pro

The factory CAD (computer-aided design) renders of the exterior suggest a similar design to the existing iPad Pro series. It looks very much like there will be a Mini-LED display on the new iPad Pro, leaving OLED for 2022 as was also suggested in December 2020. 

8 January 2021: More suggestions that Mini LED is on the way

Reports are circulating that both the iPad Pro and MacBook Air will get Mini LED during 2021, although they are seemingly on very different timelines. Mini LED might only come to the bigger 12.9-inch iPad Pro according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. 

10 November 2020: Another Apple Event, but it was for the Mac

Apple held an event on 10 November, when it introduced the first Macs running on Apple Silicon - the Apple M1-based Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

15 September 2020: Apple refreshes some iPads 

The next generation of the iPad Air and entry-level iPad were revealed at Apple's Special Event alongside the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE. The iPad Air is basically an iPad Pro-lite, with the big difference being Touch ID - re-sited on the on/off/wake button - rather than Face ID which appears to be the preserve of the iPad Pro. 

26 August 2020: New iPad model numbers spotted

It looks very much like we're going to get a refresh of all non-Pro iPads - A2270, A2072, A2316, A2324, A2325, A2428, A2429. That looks very much like a refreshing and re-aligning of the complete lineup with the possible exception of the iPad mini. The model numbers were spotted on the EEC database where devices are ratified for sale in Russia and other countries. 

26 June 2020: iPadOS 14 brings keyboard, mouse and trackpad support for games

Also announced during Apple's developer conference was the ability for game developers to support the iPad's trackpad and keyboard (as well as mouse control) in future titles. Additional gamepads will also be supported including the Xbox One Elite 2 Wireless Controller and the accessible Xbox Adaptive Controller.

22 June 2020: iPadOS 14 announced

Like iOS 14, the new version of iPadOS was announced at Apple's developer conference and has data-rich widgets and other enhancements. But iPadOS goes further than iOS and many apps now have a sidebar so you can drag and drop more easily - for example in Music and Files.

Many apps also have a new Tools menu at the top of the screen to free up space at the bottom. And also in iOS and iPad OS incoming call notifications no longer take up the whole screen so you can easily dismiss them if you're working on something else. 

4 June 2020: Early 2021 iPad Pro expected to come with 5G and MiniLED displays

The MiniLED display rumour has been around for a while, but this report is a little different in that it says the 2021 iPad Pro will boast the Qualcomm X55 modem for 5G cellular connectivity instead of 4G LTE. They will also have a new A14X processor, which isn't a big leap to surmise. 

15 May 2020: Upgrades to iPad Air and mini expected in late 2020 or early 2021

TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests there will be a new 10.8-inch iPad (presumably to replace the iPad Air) and a new iPad mini that would clock in between the 8.5 and 9-inch size. That means it would have a screen at least half an inch bigger than the current iPad mini display. 

16 April 2020: Mini-LED iPads could be delayed until 2021, could be 5G

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that a new iPad featuring Mini-LED could be delayed until early 2021. This may not be for any reason other than we have already had an iPad Pro refresh in 2020 and so it makes sense to space things out because the iPad Pro is the most likely to get the new display. At that point, a new iPad Pro at that point is likely to be released with 5G on board.

2 December 2019: Could new iPads have Mini-LED displays?

This report - via 9to5Mac - suggested that upcoming iPad displays will switch to Mini-LED and that other products will also go the same way, with the MacBook Pro 16-inch also switching to the upgraded tech during 2020, possibly at the same time as a MacBook Pro 14-inch is launched to replace the current 13-inch. 

It was also suggested new iPads could be based around a beefed-up Apple A14X processor. 

4 October 2019: Apple might have a haptic on-screen keyboard in the future so you can feel the 'keys'

Could Apple have a tactile touchscreen keyboard on its iPads in the future? A patent, discovered by Patently Apple, shows a next-gen haptics tech known as Static Pattern Electrostatic Haptic Electrodes. A variety of voltages could be applied which would make typing on the device feel different.

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The site said such efforts could mean that touchscreen keyboards could, in future, potentially emulate the feel of more traditional keyboards - even with concave-feeling 'keys' - so users would be able to find their place on the keyboard without looking down at it. 

Writing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 25 September 2020.