Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy the New iPad Pro and iPad Air

You should know a few things about the iPad Pro before dropping $999 on a new tablet. - Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
You should know a few things about the iPad Pro before dropping $999 on a new tablet. - Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

After spending a whole year not making a peep about iPads, Apple still managed to make us all excited about tablets again with new, more powerful iPad Pros and iPad Airs at this week’s big announcement event. As if to emphasize the FOMO, Apple has put all its products up for sale already, and we’ve heard from some readers how they already plan on doing the “shut up and take my money” routine all over again.

Suffice it to say, the Airs are bigger, the Pros are prettier and so much thinner, and both are a fair bit more powerful than previous versions. Does that mean you should shell out for a new tablet as if everyone were about to burn up in a great conflagration? Well, I would wait for full reviews to drop, but if you have an itchy trigger finger hovering over the buy button, you should know everything there is to know about the latest iPads, such as the Apple Pencil Pro and the Magic Keyboards.

We should also note that these iPads no longer ship with those small Apple logo stickers. Maybe this will shock some, but we’re here to say “good riddance.” According to MacRumors, based on an Apple Store memo, the move is supposedly a part of Apple’s environmental goals. Let’s move on from the silly stickers, shall we?

What’s the Screen Like on the New iPad Pro?

Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

The new iPad Pro comes with an OLED display, which stands for organic light-emitting diode. If you don’t already know, OLED is already considered one of the best displays you can get today due to its excellent contrast and inky blacks.

However, Apple went one step further and is now using two OLED screens on top of each other, which the company calls “tandem OLED.” This is why the company claims each display will have a ludicrous 1,000 nits of SDR and HDR brightness, with a peak brightness of 1,600 at HDR.

That’s pretty bright, and we’ll have to do our own work to check if Apple’s telling the truth. Either way, it’s still going to be a bright display, and even with our brief hands-on time with the new tablet, it proved to be a colorful experience.

Meanwhile, the iPad Air is sticking with the old iPS LCD display, namely Apple’s Liquid Retina. Still, it’s seeing a growth spurt with an all-new 13-inch version. It also comes in two new colors, a pleasant blue and purple, as well as the classic starlight and space gray.

New OLED displays are a big reason why the new iPad Pros are so much lighter than the previous models, but funnily enough, they’re also lighter than the new iPad Air. The 11-inch iPad Air weighs 1.02 pounds while the 11-inch iPad Pro clocks in at .98. The 13-inch Air is 1.36 pounds while the Pro is a mere 1.28. Not to mention, the 13-inch Pro is an incredible 5.1 mm thick, which Apple was so happy to point out is the thinnest device it’s made since the iPod Nano.

What’s the Power and Price for the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2024?

The old, 2022 iPad Pro on left versus the new iPad Pro on the right. - Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
The old, 2022 iPad Pro on left versus the new iPad Pro on the right. - Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

iPad Airs are obviously the more budget-friendly option of the two at $599 for the 11-inch model or $799 for the 13-inch, both with 128 GB of storage. You can go up to 1 TB for $1,099 and $1,299, respectively, which is more than was previously available. It will cost you an extra $150 if you want cellular data.

That’s about as much as you would spend on the 5th-gen iPad Air that came with an M1 chip in 2022. However, the new device upgrades to M2, which Apple has promised, have 50% faster performance than the previous-gen CPU. Our benchmarks have largely supported those claims, though depending on the use case, you might find that extra juice doesn’t add up to much, especially if you only want to watch Netflix or play a few games from your iPad.

The bigger deal is the iPad Pro packs an all-new chip dubbed the M4. It’s the latest processor from Apple, coming out just half a year after the company showed off its M3 with the 2023 MacBook Pro. The new chip is a 9-core CPU, with three performance cores and six efficiency cores, plus a 10-core GPU that now allows for hardware-accelerated ray tracing on Apple’s tablets. If you opt for models with 1 or 2 TB of storage, you get a 10-core CPU instead.

Can it play games? Yes, at least those that are currently available on Apple’s tablet ecosystem, though you may be held back in some titles unless you upgrade to 16 GB of RAM. The new chip also holds a neural engine that Apple says is its beefiest so far. Apple claims it packs 38 TOPS (trillions of operations per second), which is meant to compete against the latest AI-centric chips from Qualcomm and Intel.

All that will mean is you’ll pay a premium on the new Pro. The 11-inch model starts at $999, while the 13-inch will hit $1,299. That’s $200 more than the 6th-gen iPad Pro was in 2022 at $799. Want more than the base 256 GB of storage (which may be a good idea since there’s no built-in SD card slot)? You may be paying up to $1,899 for 1 TB or $2,299 for 2 TB on a 13-inch tablet before you start looking for accessories. There’s the new option to pay $100 extra for nano-texture glass, but we don’t know how the new screen performs compared to the traditional glass, so we’d advise keeping to the standard screen for now.

What’s Up With the New Magic Keyboards?

Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

Even though they bear the same name, two distinct Magic Keyboards are now up for sale, one that is clearly more capable of giving the closest MacBook-like experience on a tablet.

The iPad Pro’s $299 Magic Keyboard features a full function row, the same you would see on a MacBook. It also includes an aluminum base compared to the old polyurethane. It also houses a larger glass trackpad that feels far smoother than the older versions. Finally, it’s far lighter than the previous models, and combined with the weight of the slim iPad Pro itself, it’s a near feather compared to older models.

And yet, for the same $299 price, you can get the iPad Air’s Magic Keyboard. While it still has the USB-C connector for pass-through charging, it doesn’t have the new function row, trackpad, or material. For all intents and purposes, it’s the exact same keyboard as the one available to previous iPad generations.

Can I Use the Apple Pencil Pro on Older iPads?

Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

The new $129 Apple Pencil Pro is one of the most versatile styluses Apple has ever produced, though it’s also entirely restricted to the latest iPad Pros and iPad Airs. It won’t work on any of the 10th-gen iPads that are no longer available or one of the regular iPads, even though it’s still on sale, and it got a price reduction of down to $349.

Apple said the reason was because of the redesigned induction coils and magnets on the iPad’s landscape side to make room for the landscape camera. However, it still seems suspect, considering those who spent upwards of $1,000 on an iPad Pro over the past two years can’t use the “Pro” model stylus.

The new Apple Pencil is featuring several new features that weren’t there on past-gen Apple Pencils (of which there are now four full models, including the cheaper Pencil with USB-C released last year). The new stylus has some subtle haptics built in for running it over the screen or accessing the new Squeeze function that brings up app-specific menus.

The coolest aspect of the new pencil is the “barrel roll,” which uses a gyroscope and iPad cameras to detect the pencil’s orientation. When in apps like Freeform, you can roll the Pencil to change the orientation of a marker or pen. It will also work in apps like Procreate, so when you rotate the Pencil, you’ll get a neat twisting effect wherever your stylus is pointing. Finally, it also has a built-in connection with Find My.

It’s essentially an upgrade to the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, which we should note is incompatible with the latest Pro or Air even though it costs $129. The $79 USB-C pencil lacks any haptics or force detection, though it is compatible with the new M2 Airs and M4 Pros. Taken altogether, it’s a confusing lineup, especially considering the 1st-gen Apple Pencil is still floating around. Just know the latest Apple Pencil Pro is certainly the most capable of all right now.

How About Folios and Accessories?

There are new first-party Smart Folios to go along with the new iPads for $79, but you can also look for third-party options. Logitech has its own new Combo Touch keyboard with a built-in kickstand and detachable backlit keyboard that goes for $230 on the Pro version. It’s cheaper than Apple’s Magic Keyboard, and we’ve quite enjoyed it on past iPad models.

Also, Pitaka now has a MagEZ Folio 2 for the 2024 iPads, the company’s magnetic folio brand that goes for $50 on the 11-inch models and $60 on the 12-inch version. The point is that you can certainly shop around to find alternatives if you want to pay for extra-expensive Apple products.

Are There Any New iPad Apps as Well?

Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo
Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

Despite this being a big launch full of new products, things are slightly more subdued on the software side for any new default apps. However, if you’re creative, there are quite a few changes coming to apps like Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro. There are also some updates to existing apps that let them play well with the Apple Pencil Pro, but there’s no killer new app, at least not yet. For that, we’ll be looking to WWDC in June. Hell, maybe we’ll finally get a native calculator app.

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