Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Federico Viticci’s Review of the M1 iPad Pro

If you want to know everything about a new iPad, you ask Federico Vittici:

The new 12.9” iPad Pro hits all the right notes as a modular computer that can be a tablet with an amazing display, a powerful laptop, and an extensible workstation; its hardware is a remarkable blend of tablet-first features and technologies first seen on Apple’s line of desktop computers. It’s hard to believe the company was able to deliver all of it in a device that is only 6.4mm thin. However, the new iPad Pro’s more powerful nature doesn’t fundamentally change my daily workflow. At least not with its current version of iPadOS that will (likely) be obsolete in two weeks.

You should read this review, especially for the effort the MacStories team put into testing the new Centre Stage feature.

Viticci had nothing but great things to say about the iPad Pro’s physical hardware and, in particular, its amazing new display. I cannot wait to try one of these things in person.

The thing I keep coming back to, ever since this iteration of the iPad Pro was introduced last month, is that M1 disambiguates the iPad more than you might expect. If these iPad Pro models had exactly the same processor with different branding, there would be all sorts of theories about why the iPad is unable to take advantage of those capabilities in software. But by using the same chip as in all of the M1 Macs — the exact same chip, as Viticci’s benchmarks show — the only possibility for why the iPad is more constrained in software than its Mac cousins is because it is designed that way. There is no other reason.

As another example of this, Viticci praised the Thunderbolt port in concept, but found it somewhat limited in practice. Dieter Bohn of the Verge ran into problems, too:

Another consequence of the M1 is that the USB-C port now supports Thunderbolt accessories. In theory, that’s great. I plugged my iPad into my very fancy CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt dock and was gratified to see my monitor light up right away. From there, though, I ran into the same old iPad problems.

I have a USB microphone interface hooked into the dock, and for whatever reason I was unable to get any audio out of it on the iPad, just silence. I also tested out some admittedly old LaCie Thunderbolt 2 drives with an adapter and couldn’t get them to show up in the Files app. Oh and just to remind you: the monitor still can only mirror the iPad Pro — it can’t serve as a second display.

This all feels like hardware for an operating system that does not yet exist. But that is, frankly, a little bit what the iPad has felt like for many years, as Viticci points out at the top of his review. We are all waiting and hoping for a version of iPadOS that feels like it can take advantage of the amazing hardware it runs on. But will we get that this year? That is the question we have been asking at least since the first iPad Pro was released in 2015.