Apple iPad Pro (6th gen): Niche appeal with minor updates

Physically, the latest iPad Pro is identical to its predecessor in size (12.9-inch), dimension and weight. PHOTO: APPLE

The latest iPad Pro, now in sixth-generation guise, has received largely minor updates.

Physically, the latest iPad Pro is identical to its predecessor in size, dimension and weight. The design has not changed since 2018, and there is no headphone jack. But it also means all the existing pricey accessories for older iPad Pros such as the Magic Keyboard, sleeves and covers will work with this new version.

Unfortunately, the position of the front-facing TrueDepth camera is still above the display in portrait orientation, in what many would consider to be “the wrong place”. That is glaring because Apple moved the position of the front-facing camera on the new 10th-generation iPad so that it is above the display in a landscape orientation. 

The latest version of the iPad Pro still comes in two sizes – 11 and 12.9 inches. Similar to last year’s model, only the larger version is getting the gorgeous Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display, which has not changed much.

The other notable update is support for the new Wi-Fi 6E standard, which allows it to tap the relatively uncongested 6GHz band for faster wireless speeds. However, you need a compatible Wi-Fi 6E router to take full advantage of this.

Apple Pencil enhancements

The new Apple Pencil Hover feature gives you a preview of where your input will land and the results when you bring your Apple Pencil close to the iPad Pro. For instance, if you are painting with watercolours and want to mix colours, the preview will show you the resulting colour of the mix. The inner artist in some users can finally be unleashed.

But this feature is exclusive to the new M2-equipped iPad Pros. According to Apple, the M2 has a special co-processor that makes this feature possible.

iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager

One of the things often said about the iPad Pro is that it is too powerful. Only a handful of apps can truly take full advantage of it. Has the introduction of iPadOS 16 finally allowed Apple’s most powerful tablet to live up to its potential?

A new multitasking feature called Stage Manager in iPadOS 16 enables users to run apps concurrently more easily. Like all of iPadOS’ multitasking features to date, Stage Manager is not the most intuitive.

As a quick recap, Stage Manager allows users to open up to four app windows on the screen at once, and these can then be organised into workspaces. The workspaces are organised as a vertical column on the left. The idea is that you can access groups of apps quickly.

Stage Manager is disabled by default – you have to turn it on by going to the Control Center. Activating it disables older multitasking features like Split View and Slide Over.

Unlike traditional operating systems where apps open on top of one another, opening an app in Stage Manager creates a new workspace. So if you want to view multiple apps in a single view, you have to manually add apps to workspaces by dragging them into the same workspace. 

Also, unlike traditional desktop OSes, you do not have full freedom to resize and reposition the windows. Stage Manager lets you resize them, but only within a predetermined set of dimensions.

Furthermore, it automatically repositions apps in the background for you as soon as you start moving the active window. Some people might not care about these quirks, but for people who know what they are doing and are used to creating their own workspaces on desktops, it is extremely frustrating.

Performance analysis

The iPad Pro probably does not need to be faster, but Apple has equipped its newest iPad Pro with its newest M2 chip anyway. This chip debuted in the all-new MacBook Air and the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro. The chip allows the MacBooks to be faster than a PC notebook equipped with Intel’s new Core i7-1260P processor. The new iPad Pro is unquestionably the most powerful tablet on the market right now.

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Battery life

A standard battery test was run by looping a 720p video with maximum screen brightness and volume, and with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on. This new model lasted just as long as last year’s model, demonstrating the efficiency of the M2 chip.

Its battery life is in more or less the same ballpark as the iPad Air and iPad – around six to seven hours of non-stop use, even with a brighter screen over cellular data connectivity.

Prices start at $1,699 for a 128GB model with just Wi-Fi support, and can go up to as high as $3,579 for a model with cellular connectivity and the maximum 2TB storage.

A second-generation Apple Pencil is $199 while the fancy floating Magic Keyboard is $529. Even if you opt for third-party accessories, the final outlay remains significant.

At these prices, you could very easily get yourself a new M2 MacBook Air, which is just as powerful and arguably more versatile because it can run all the professional apps including Final Cut Pro, Apple’s premiere video-editing software that remains exclusive to the macOS.

And Stage Manager, in its current form, does not move the multitasking game ahead in meaningful ways.

The iPad Pro remains a curious and arguably Apple’s most niche device. There is no denying that the hardware is breathtaking, but most people would rather pick a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. As is the case for its predecessors, this new iPad Pro is let down by the limitations and quirks of the iPadOS. HWZ

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