Tuesday, April 20, 2021

iPad Pro (M1, 5th Generation)

Apple (MacRumors, Hacker News):

The addition of the Apple-designed M1 chip delivers a massive leap in performance, making iPad Pro the fastest device of its kind. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a new Liquid Retina XDR display that brings extreme dynamic range to iPad Pro, offering a stunning visual experience with more true-to-life details to the most demanding HDR workflows. Cellular models with 5G deliver even faster wireless connectivity when on the go, and to provide users with pro-level throughput for high-speed accessories, iPad Pro now includes support for Thunderbolt. Additionally, an all-new Ultra Wide front camera enables Center Stage, a new feature that automatically keeps users perfectly framed for even more engaging video calls.

Juli Clover:

iPad Pro models with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage will come with 8GB RAM, while iPad Pro models with 1TB or 2TB of storage will feature 16GB RAM.

Update (2021-07-03): Federico Viticci:

If anything, this new iPad Pro, which I’ve been testing in the high-end 12.9” flavor with 2 TB of storage for the past week, only widens the chasm between its hardware and software: it’s an absolute marvel of engineering featuring the Apple-designed M1 chip, a brand new Liquid Retina XDR display, and 16 GB of RAM that hints at a powerful, exciting future for its software that just isn’t here yet.


The new iPad Pro’s most fun (and timely, given our current pandemic-ridden world and importance of video calls) addition is a textbook example of what Apple can achieve when its hardware and software teams collaborate to turn complex ideas into simple, intuitive features that make our lives even just a bit better.

Center Stage is a new feature of the ultra-wide front-facing camera of the 2021 iPad Pro that iPadOS uses to “follow you around” as you move during video calls. Made possible by the new 122-degree ultra-wide selfie camera, Center Stage relies on machine learning to recognize you and keep you in the center of the frame as much as possible, zooming and panning around to crop the image accordingly. The way Center Stage works behind the scenes is ingenious: the camera’s ultra-wide field of view is cropped to focus on you; if you move around, the system “pans” to another area of the camera’s field of view that wasn’t previously displayed onscreen to ensure you stay front and center.

Nick Heer:

The thing I keep coming back to, ever since this iteration of the iPad Pro was introduced last month, is that M1 disambiguates the iPad more than you might expect. If these iPad Pro models had exactly the same processor with different branding, there would be all sorts of theories about why the iPad is unable to take advantage of those capabilities in software. But by using the same chip as in all of the M1 Macs — the exact same chip, as Viticci’s benchmarks show — the only possibility for why the iPad is more constrained in software than its Mac cousins is because it is designed that way. There is no other reason.

I’m not sure I agree with this reasoning, since iPad has less RAM, no virtual memory, and a much smaller battery yet with higher expecations for battery life. But, on another level, yes—it is designed that way. There were portable Macs 25 years ago, with much lowlier hardware, doing things that today’s iPad Pro can’t.

David Sparks:

While this new iPad runs faster than a MacBook Pro on some benchmarks, it still is pretty terrible at file management. I know the rallying cry this year is that we need something like Final Cut to take advantage of the sexy new hardware. I’d argue we also need the ability to efficiently work with tags and sort our files. Where Final Cut on the iPad represents the high-hanging fruit, there still is a lot of low-hanging fruit (like adequate file management) on the tree.


All of this got me wondering how Apple sees the iPad. Do they look at it the way I do, as an alternative computing platform to the Mac, or do they look at it like my kids do, an excellent tablet device but never to be on par with a Mac? Put simply, are we still thinking about cars and trucks? Apple markets the iPad as a truck but develops software as if it is one of those tiny electric cars that feels just a step beyond a golf cart. It’s actually more complicated than that because what they’ve done at this point is build fighter jet hardware with a put-put car software engine.

John Gruber:

The iPad was just a different sort of thing. The pitch for using an iPad instead of a MacBook was basically, Hey, for a lot of the stuff you do, you don’t need the speed of a MacBook. Why not trade that power for a device that’s one-third the weight, meant to be held comfortably in one hand, and half the price? It was a decided trade-off: iPads were lightweight and less expensive, but slow; MacBooks were fast, but heavy and more expensive. It all made intuitive sense.

But then a funny thing happened.

Each successive year, Apple’s A-series chips got faster at a remarkable clip. Yet iPads (and iPhones) weren’t getting thicker and heavier — in fact they were getting thinner and lighter. Intel’s chips improved year-over-year too, but not nearly at the pace A-series chips were.


The elephant in the room is iPadOS. It’s just not good enough. In the same way that Intel’s chips were holding back Macs, iPadOS has been holding back iPad Pros. With Intel chips, the hardware was holding back the Mac platform. With iPads, it’s the software holding the platform back. This hardware is indisputably amazing, and iPadOS is fine for casual use. But it still feels like I’m trying to do fine detail work while wearing oven mitts for my day-to-day work.

Damien Petrilli:

So got confirmation from Apple support / engineers that when using demanding Apps like games on M1 iPad Pro, the magic keyboard isn’t expected to provide enough power to keep charging it. So the battery is actually draining over time.

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But does it hold a charge? Been very unhappy with the fact that my iPad Pro will drop from 100% to <25% after sitting for three days without any use. What’s the point of a powerful portable device if you can’t trust it will have charge when you go to use it?

The problem with battery life lies with the terrible OS, not the hardware. Since iOS 7, there has been a very steady decline in battery life, due to both added cruft … sorry, “features” nobody asked for … and many, many bugs in the OS.

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