iPad Pro 2020 vs iPad Pro 2021: Which One Should You Buy?

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Featured

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:

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021
  • 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

Display

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Displayish

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.

Cameras

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Camera

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.

5G Technology

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 5g

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?

Power

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.

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Power

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.

Price

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Price

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.

Ipadpro 2020 Versus Ipadpro 2021 Keyboards

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

David David

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

One comment

  1. I agree that most users (and iPad apps themselves) will not take full advantage of the M1 chip. However, I feel there’s one aspect that’s missing from this (and many others) 2021 vs. 2020 analysis: longevity.

    I tend to use my Apple tech as long as they’re still viable. I’m still using a 2001 TimeCapsule, pre-intel Mac Mini, old Macbook Airs running unsupported MacOSs, and a host of ipads long unsupported by iOS (now doing music and light web browser duties). While I’ve found Macs are generally viable for 10+ years. iPads tend to become marginally unusable, for hardware, at about the 5-6 year mark, and for iOS apps at about 3-4 years.

    Also, having lived through the Moto 68k to PowerPC, the System 7 to MacOS, and the PowerPC to Intel transitions, I’ve learned to recognized (the hard way) to pay attention to things that could potentially cut the life of a piece of tech short. In this case, that would be the transition from A-series to M-series chips. One can often utilize tech w/in its same generation or iteration. But if there is a fundamental change, like a change in OS or change in core CPU architecture, that represents a hard transition hard transition which will almost certainly become a hard limiting factor in the future.

    The M1 transition could result in A-series apps becoming unsupported, left behind, or completely out of the M1 transition. The risk of usability of the hardware and software being shaved by a year or two is high. And if that does occur, the long-term viability of a 2020 iPad may be cut by 10-25%.

    That said, longevity is something I care about. But I may be in the minority. For me, spending an extra $200 for enhanced longevity is worth it (especially considering how expensive Pros are compared to other iPad, or Macs for that matter). My two cents.

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