The 2021 iPad Pro lineup is the first to feature Apple’s powerful M1 processor and, for that reason alone, you might think it’s a must-buy. Comparing the 2021 iPad Pro against the 2020 iPad Pro is a much more complicated task than just the processor alone. Sure, the screens are different, but the real question is whether or not you can choose to save a little money with the “old” model or whether the new one is an absolute need for you. Let’s take a look at how to decide which of these two powerhouse iPads are right for you.
Where They Are Similar
The two iPad Pro models might look very different, but they have more in common than you might think. Here’s a quick rundown of the features both iPads share:
- Compatibility with Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio and the Apple Pencil (second generation)
- 10-hour battery life
- FaceID enabled by TrueDepth camera
- Same industrial design identified by flat edges
- Liquid Retina display with 264ppi, True Tone, anti-reflective-coating, etc.
- 4K video recording from 24-60fps and 1080p at 25-60fps, slow-mo video support, time-lapse video with stabilization
- True-Depth front-facing camera with Retina Flash, Portrait Mode, 1080p video recording at 25-60fps, Animoji and Memoji
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
That’s just some of the features both the 2021 and 2020 iPad Pro models share. Of course, both are also available in Silver and Space Gray, so color isn’t a factor. IIn the case of the keyboards (some of them, not necessarily the Magic Keyboard) and Apple Pencil, most third-party accessories will work exactly the same for both models. For this, there is no compatibility issue for both models.
Where They Are Different
The display is the part of the device you engage with the most. The 2021 12.9-in iPad Pro adds a Liquid Retina XDR display complete with mini-LED technology. Technical jargon aside, it essentially means you are going to receive improved brightness and contrast. Apple believes the 2021 12.9 model has the best display ever released for an iPad. For anyone who enjoys HDR content, it’s the best choice.
As for the 2021 11-inch iPad Pro, it sports the same Liquid Retina display as the 2020 model.
The iPad Pro 2021 camera is a big improvement, and it is one that even the average user will immediately notice. The 2021 model adds an upgraded resolution from 7MP sensor to 12MP and adds a 122-degree field of view.
Center Stage is also available on the iPad now. This feature enables the iPad Pro 2021 to zoom in on you as you move around during a video call.
The iPad Pro 2021 model comes with 5G technology. Apple states that under ideal conditions, you can receive real-world speeds up to 3.5GBps, but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world, right?
This is the big one, the X factor that can make or break your buying decision. The 2020 iPad Pro utilizes the A12Z chipset (2.49GHz clock speed) while the 2021 iPad Pro has the M1 chip (3.2GHz clock speed). Based on results from M1 MacBook Air owners, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of previous generations.
There is no question the M1 chip is going to be faster than the A12Z. On top of that, the 2020 iPad Pro is paired with (only) 6GB of RAM while the 2021 iPad Pro is paired with either 8GB or 16GB. So if you are looking at raw power, there is no doubt the 2021 iPad Pro lineup is a real beast.
All iPad Pro 2021 12.9″ models are priced higher than the 2020 models, while only the 5G 11″ models are more expensive than in 2020 . Of course, the still-powerful 2020 model will now be discounted in its “discontinued” state. If you are looking to save a little, wait for a great deal to come along on the 2020 model from the likes of Best Buy, Amazon, etc.
Which iPad Is Right for You?
If you are just crazy about Apple’s products and want the absolute latest generation of all Apple devices, then this is no brainer. Take out your credit card and get the 2021 iPad Pro.
Other than that, the deciding factors come down to two main things: the power and the display. Do you need a faster and more powerful iPad Pro? Do you want a better display? If not, then the iPad Pro 2020 is going to be the better choice.
You might argue that the M1 chip and 5G are a must-have. The former is something of an unknown right now as most iPad apps will not take advantage of the M1 processor right now. That will change in the future, but for now, it’s not a good enough reason to pick up the 2021 model. As for 5G, different countries are at different stage of 5G rollout, so this feature may not be useful to you where you are located. For now, it is a “good-to-have” thing rather than a “must-have” feature. It may be best to wait for a year or two when the 5G technology becomes mature and more affordable.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you want to save a little bit of money, go with the iPad Pro 2020. If you want the latest and greatest, the iPad Pro 2021 is undoubtedly the best tablet in the world. If you already have the 2020 model, there is little reason to upgrade at this time. The design is almost identical, the color options are the same and audio capabilities are almost exactly the same between each year.