Apple 11″ M1 iPad Pro 2021 Review: It’s the best tablet out there but not everyone needs it

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The 2021 Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ is quite an easy sell. The M1 processor and that stunning new display make buying it a very easy purchase. When it comes to the 11″ M1 iPad Pro 2021, I’m not sure I’m as easily sold.

Before I delve into my opinions on the matter, let’s get something clear. If you’re in the market for a powerful tablet that can do almost anything your laptop can and money isn’t an issue, just go by the iPad Pro 11″. There’s no question about it. If feature-necessity or budget are part of your problems, this review is for you.

11″ Apple M1 iPad Pro 2021

Body and Design

If you’ve held an iPad Pro in your hands in the recent years, you’re not going to feel much of a difference. The new 2021 iPad Pro is slightly heavier but nothing noticeable. You still get those beautiful, sleek edges and that slim(ish) bezels. the camera still bumps out of the back, but is slim enough to disappear if you plan to use a case.

Apple M1 iPad Pro Display

Display

While it is disappointing to not see the new mini-LED display (only on the 12.9″ model) on the smaller 11″ version, the Liquid Retina IPS LCD display is still one of the best out there. You still get a 120Hz refresh-rate, True-tone, HDR-10, Dolby Vision and so much more.

Even though it’s a smaller display, watching content on it is an absolute pleasure. Lying on my couch, binging ‘The Good Doctor’ or getting completely immersed in ‘Angel has fallen’ are totally possible on the 11″ iPad Pro 2021.

Colour on the iPad is as realistic as expected from an Apple device. HDR content off Netflix looks absolutely crisp and frankly at this size, the iPad’s display is my favourite. Screen-brightness is something which isn’t bad by any measure (600 nits), but even Dubai’s relentless sunlight does blind the display a bit.

Performance

Now I’ve used the previous iPad Pro with the A12Z as my daily driver for a long time and not once in that time did it stutter. While people’s amazement at the M1 in Apple laptops compared to their Intel counterparts was justified, I wasn’t expecting to see too much of a difference in the iPad Pros. While I wasn’t wrong about this, I wasn’t right either.

The 11″ iPad Pro for this year comes with Apple’s M1 chipset. Now there has been a lot of benchmarking and conversation about the M1 being on the iPads and lot of people consider the iPadOS to be a limited one. I agree with most of them.

Apple M1 iPad Pro Lumafusion
Lumafusion on the M1 iPad Pro

Let’s take Lumafusion for example. Now I do most of my video editing on Lumafusion. So I took a multi-layered 4K 30fps file and rendered it on both iPads. While the M1 iPad Pro did it in in just over 3 minutes and 50 seconds, the A12Z kept up with a time of just 3 minutes 51 seconds. So then is the M1 iPad Pro a waste? Should you just get the older iPad? Not really because the difference is not in the render speed. It’s in the workflow.

For example, thanks to Thunderbolt 3 on the M1 iPad, data transfer from a memory card is leagues faster than the older A12Z. Remember how I said I didn’t see a stutter in all the time time I used my older iPad Pro? That’s because I hadn’t seen how fast scrubbing the video or editing clips was on the M1 iPad Pro.

Adobe Lightroom on the other hand was a different experience. Editing as well as rendering was a much smoother process on the M1 iPad Pro.

In the overall usage of the iPad Pro with M1, you might not see the increased speed on the daily but it’s definitely there.

Centerstage

M1 iPad Pro Selfie Camera
The massive 122″ field of view of the new front camera on the M1 iPad Pro

While cameras on tablets shouldn’t be a massive point of discussion, on the new iPad Pros they are. While the rear cameras remain the same and I’ll get to them in a min, it’s the front-facing camera which got an upgrade this year.

The new camera on the from is a 12MP with a massive 122″ field of view. This along with face detection is what enables Apple’s newest feature, Centerstage. While I had the tablet for review, it became my primary tool for video calls.

M1 iPad Pro Selfie Camera
Centerstage zooms into the field of view to give you Centerstage. Neat!

Centerstage allows the camera to follow you around inside the field of view and gives viewers a much more centred view of you face even when you’re moving around in the frame. Considering how much our lives are on video calls now, this is an immensely nifty feature to have. The great thing is that all video calling apps as well as the main camera automatically adapt to the feature and there’s no setup required.

Now the rear camera setup is a great one with the 12MP (wide) + 10MP (ultra-wide) + 3D TOF sensor arrangement. While I’m not suggesting that I use the setup for photography, for things like the measure app and Ikea’s Place app it’s amazing.

Security

After this year’s iPad Air a lot of people thought we’d see the return of Touch ID on the iPad Pros but alas, we’ve only got Face ID. Now I’m a huge supporter of Face ID. I think it’s fast, reliable and just so easy on the iPhone.

On the other hand on the iPad, thanks to the regularity with which I hold the tablet in landscape mode where my left hand covers the Face ID sensors, I do wish Apple would get Touch ID back here too.

Apple M1 iPad Pro Camera

Battery-life

Now obviously depending on the tasks, the M1 iPad Pro performed differently compared to other tablets I’ve used. While editing a video on Lumafusion I could kill the battery in 4-6 hours, if I were only using it for light usage such as web-browsing and the likes, I wouldn’t be charging the iPad for at least a day.

iPad OS

As far as iPad OS on the M1 iPad Pro goes, I have mixed feelings. When iPadOS 14 launched last year, I had high hopes of the operating system becoming or getting closer to being some sort of a MacOS and iOS Hybrid. This year’s early look at iOS 15 at WWDC proved me wrong. The reason I mention this is because the iPad OS is great to use but it’s not where it can be.

Are apps amazing to use? Yes. Are they full fledged like on your laptop? No. Is multi-tasking possible on the iPad Pro? Yes. Is it seamless and easy like your Mac? No. Even if not for all the iPads, the iPad Pro definitely deserves some sort of ‘Pro’ fixes to the OS.

Should you buy the 2021 M1 iPad Pro?

Like I mentioned in the start, if money isn’t an issue and you need ‘Pro’ power to support your video or photo editing or need a powerful creative tool on the move, the 11″ M1 iPad Pro is a no brainer.

Starting at Dh3199 and going up to a mind-boggling DH8199, the new M1 iPad Pro isn’t cheap. This is not even adding in the cost of a Magic Keyboard (Dh1199) and Apple Pencil 2 (Dh529). Looking at it from this perspective, not everyone needs to get the M1 iPad Pro. The previous model or even the new iPad Air (starting at Dh2499) will be the right choice for most people who just need a little over general usage out of their tablets.

Even with the the iPad OS holding the extremely powerful M1 iPad Pro back a bit, it’s still the best tablet I’ve used in the recent past. It’s just not for everyone.

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