Apple iPad Pro (2020) review: Is it a notebook killer?
Note: This review was first published on 24 March 2020.
Big shoes to fill
The last iPad Pro, which was released in 2018, was a stunning tablet. Sure, it has some limitations, such as the inability to read USB drives, but they were mostly because of the OS that launched with it. And to be fair, Apple has fixed some of those limitations via software updates. iPadOS now supports external USB drives.
The hardware, however, was nearly faultless. It’s powerful, remarkably thin, and has a fantastic display even if the bezels were quite thick. The only negative thing you could really say about it was that it’s really expensive – the tablet itself and its accessories.
To say this new iPad Pro has big shoes to fill would be an understatement. So how does it fare?
What's not new?
On the surface of things, not much is new. The new iPad Pro still comes in two sizes – 11 and 12.9 inches – and the overall dimensions are unchanged and weight has gone up by a couple of grams for all models. What this means is that the new iPad Pro remains really slim and light. There’s a larger camera bump which I will get into later, but otherwise, the new iPad Pro is physically identical to the last.
The display is also unchanged, which is a good thing because the Liquid Retina display on the last generation iPad Pro was a stunner. The display on this new iPad Pro is no different. The unit I have is the larger 12.9-inch one and its Liquid Retina display is stunning. It’s large, expansive, gets really bright, crisp, sharp, and has superb colours. It may not be an OLED display but it’s easily one of the best displays I have seen on any mobile device. It also supports ProMotion technology, so it can crank up the refresh rate up to 120Hz if required; and it has TrueTone technology too, so it calibrates colours automatically depending on the lighting in your environment.
Also unchanged are front-facing camera and the physical buttons on the iPad Pro. The front-facing TrueDepth camera shoots at 7-megapixels and also supports Face ID. Face ID works in the same way as the last iPad Pro, which is to say it's extremely quick and works regardless of the orientation of the tablet.
In the top right corner are the power button and two buttons for volume control. The iPad Pro also remains to be the only iPad with stereo speakers and there are speakers in each corner. The speakers are plenty loud and are remarkable for a tablet. I guess that’s a good thing because the iPad Pro has no headphone jack. Finally, this new iPad Pro still has a single USB-C port which can be used for charging, connecting to external displays, or most USB peripherals.
And as for accessories, yes, they are still sold separately and are really pricey. This new iPad Pro supports the second-generation Apple Pencil (S$189) just like the model it replaces. The second-generation Apple Pencil attaches magnetically to the side of the iPad Pro and charges wirelessly when it does so. It also has a flat side to prevent it from rolling off tables – a common complaint with the first-generation Apple Pencils. There's a new Smart Folio Keyboard (S$299 for 12.9-inch, S$269 for 11-inch) too, but it's largely similar to the old one save for the camera cutout to accommodate the larger camera bump (more on this later).