Apple's sixth-generation iPad Pro does not possess a major upgrade from last year's version but it continues to add to the tools needed by its target demographic — professional users and creative workers.
The 2022 iteration of Apple's high-end tablet is the best in its class and powerful at the same time.
Even with the sturdy M2 chip, Apple has kept the status quo on pricing. If you want style — and have some cash to spare — this is the device for you, but keep in mind that it still falls short of the capabilities of a fully armed MacBook.
The appeal of the iPad is obvious: the iPhone maker remains the leader in the global tablet market.
As of the third quarter of 2022, Apple held a tablet market share of about 51 per cent, almost double that of Samsung's 29 per cent, according to Statcounter data.
The new iPad Pro comes in two sizes: 11 inches (28 centimetres) and 12.9 inches, and we are reviewing the latter.
2022 iPad Pro vs 2021 iPad Pro: what's the difference?
Design-wise, nothing has changed between the new iPad Pro and its predecessor — they are a dead heat even in weight and dimension.
Apple has continued with the same design it introduced in the iPad Pro's 2018 refresh, featuring round corners and flat edges similar to all other devices since the release of the iPhone 12.
Apple could have given the new iPad Pro a camera on the landscape side, similar to what it did for the latest entry-level iPad. This feature would give users a more comfortable and centred angle when using it in landscape mode and/or with a folio or keyboard attached.
However, retaining it only for the regular iPad could be a test to assess how consumers react to it.
Based on our review, we think it will be well-received and it could be included in all iPads in future.
Performance: Apple Pencil's new hover feature
The iPad Pro's positioning as Apple's top-tier tablet runs parallel with its performance: it is built for those who work with graphics-intensive content, such as photo and video editing, as well as other creative functions.
Apple says the M2 chip gives the iPad Pro a 15 per cent boost in performance, which is not bad.
Despite the addition of the M2 chip, the CPU cores remain at eight. However, Apple has added two more graphics cores, which means the device is more capable of handling content without the risk of freezing up or crashing.
This results in a graphics performance boost of up to 35 per cent, according to Apple. And with the 16-core Neural Engine, the new iPad Pro can process 15.8 trillion operations a second, or 40 per cent more than the M1 chip.
The iPad Pro also has second-generation Apple Pencil support, and the company added an interesting trick: a hover feature similar to the Air capabilities of Samsung's S Pen, but with additional functionalities.
With this, the iPad Pro can detect the Pencil from up to 12 millimetres — or 1.2 centimetres — above the display.
It then shows a preview of the mark, such as a paint brush stroke, complete with how big it will be and the colour used. If you intend to blend colours, the preview will also show how the combined shades will look.
You can also use hover to preview web pages on Safari by pointing the Pencil on the tabs.
On YouTube, users can preview content, similar to what a mouse hovering feature does on its desktop version. Apple says more third-party developers are working to incorporate hover functionality into their apps, so expect the feature to become more widespread sooner rather than later.
The addition of the hover functionality is a plus, particularly for creative users, given its preview and precision functions.
It also incentivises more use of the Pencil, even for those who don't use it that often: it unlocks the activation of certain features you would normally find on a desktop or laptop, such as YouTube.
That said, the new iPad Pro is fast and this is particularly noticeable with the speed of the Apple Pencil's hover function.
Meanwhile, the iPad Pro's main 12 MP camera can now record 4K videos in Apple's ProRes, the codec that allows the delivery of high-quality content meant for heavy duty functions such as broadcasts, advertisements and Blu-ray, without taking too much space.
This is another reason for content creators to upgrade or switch to the new device, especially if you factor in Apple's ecosystem: shoot in ProRes on an iPhone or iPad, then, for a more focused job, export the content to a Mac for editing and/or post-production.
Apple continues to guarantee “all-day” battery life on the new iPad Pro, which translates to up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi and up to nine hours on cellular.
However, given that the iPad Pro now has the M2 chip, we were surprised that it didn't receive an upgrade on this front.
The M2 chip was developed to consolidate operations on Apple devices to boost power efficiency, so we feel this is lacking on the new iPad Pro after expecting at least a two-hour increase in battery life.
How long the battery lasts depends on how you use it. During a normal work shift — slotting in some videos and games in between — left us with about 10 per cent of battery life at the end of the day.
You can stretch the battery life to two days if you use it to browse the web or check social media — and not leave it open all day. Turning down the brightness also helps.
In our one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the new iPad Pro lost 12 per cent of its battery life.
However, charging times are slow. Using the 20-watt charging block that comes with the device, it took 30 minutes to reach a quarter of its capacity and one hour to slightly under 50 per cent.
After two hours, it hit 86 per cent and finally reached full capacity slightly under the three-hour mark.
We understand that the iPad has a bigger battery that takes more time to charge but hope that Apple can find a solution to speed up the process, as it will greatly benefit users who rely on iPads for work.
The new Apple iPad Pro gets a nice upgrade with its ProRes and Pencil hover capabilities, but if you look at the bigger picture, they are updates that cater to a specific set of users.
This means there could be little reason for a majority of users to upgrade their tablets. Apple also missed out on updating its keyboard folio with function keys, unlike what it did for the latest entry-level iPad.
It is also worth factoring in the price, which is similar to that of an M2 MacBook Air. Still, it is by far Apple's best iPad, despite the fact that the upgrades were limited this time around.
But as we pointed out in our iPad review earlier this week, we see these updates as the beginning of a turning point in Apple's tablet line-up.
If we were to make a prediction, it could follow the same two-tier route as the iPhone: entry-level iPads, comprising the mini and a merger between the regular and Air iPads, and the Pro models.
However, the key question is around timing as an iPad Air update could come late in the first quarter of 2023, which would be too soon for updates for the latest iPads, while there is no word on the mini.
If Apple is to consolidate the iPad line-up, then it deserves its own special event or, at least, at its next Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2023.