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Review of the Apple M4 13-inch iPad Pro

Photo of the M4 13-inch iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro

The iPad has had its ups and downs over the last 14 years. In that time there have been 37 Wi-Fi devices and 38 cellular devices across four different iPad families of iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. The iPad devices have had an ever changing set of capabilities and features, including Wi-Fi improvements, cellular connectivity enhancements, improved cameras, Touch ID, and even Face ID.

Each iPad has its own place within the entire lineup. The iPad is the entry-level, while the iPad Pro is on the opposite side of the spectrum and has the latest features, and technologies. The iPad Air is a more affordable model that has some of the technologies that were originally on the iPad Pro and have made their way to the Air. This leaves the iPad mini, which to be honest, is a conundrum because it is a mix of the iPad and the iPad Air. It is a smaller size, so it is less expensive than the iPad Air, but has slightly better technology, so it is more expensive than the original iPad.

The current iPad lineup makes a lot more sense than it has previously. There is now a more consistent lineup with the iPad mini at 8.3 inches, the iPad and 10.9, the iPad Air at 11-inches and 13-inches, and the iPad Pro with an 11-inch and 13-inch version.

As mentioned above, the iPad Pro has the latest and greatest technologies in it. Apple has just released two new iPad Pro models, the 5th generation 11-inch and the 7th generation 13-inch. I have purchased one, and what follows will be a bunch of details about the iPad Pro as well as my own thoughts on the device, and its accessories. But first, let us take a brief look at my personal history with the iPad.

Personal iPad History

Being a person who likes to use the latest tech, it would not come as a shock that I have been using an iPad since it was first available back in April of 2010. Unlike iPhones, I have not purchased each new model of iPad. The iPad is not primarily a productivity item for me, instead it is used for development, playing some games, and occasionally used for performing light productivity tasks.

While I have not owned all of the iPad models, I have owned a few including:

  • Original iPad (2010)
  • iPad 2 (2011)
  • iPad 3rd generation (2012)
  • iPad Air 2 (2014)
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 1st Generation (2015)
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2nd Generation (2017)
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 3rd Generation (2018)
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 5th Generation (2021)

To this list I can now add the 13-inch iPad Pro, or 7th generation iPad Pro.

As you can see I skipped a fair number of iPads, including the 4th generation, original iPad Air, and the 4th and 6th generation iPad Pros. The reason that I skipped these varied, but it mostly came down to the update not being compelling enough to upgrade. In the case of the 4th generation iPad, it was because it was released 7 months after the 3rd generation, although the 4th generation would have been a better device than the 3rd generation.

It should be noted that I have opted to get the largest screen, not only because I like the idea of having more screen real estate, but also because the highest end devices typically have the best technology in them and I do not mind living on the bleeding edge of technology when it makes sense. Furthermore, when I hand down my iPads to someone else, they can usually appreciate the larger screens.

For the 4th and 6th generation iPad Pros, I opted to not get these device because they did not offer a compelling enough change to warrant purchasing. The 4th generation iPad Pro only added a LiDAR camera, so it was not enough. Similarly, while the 6th generation iPad Pro offered a bit more, the M2 and Apple Pencil Hover. I will admit, I am glad that I skipped because it means that I can purchase the 7th generation 13-inch iPad Pro, which has some great additions. Let us start looking at aspects of the 13-inch iPad Pro starting with the System on a Chip, or SOC.

System on a Chip

Normally when Apple introduces a new device they offer the next processor in the line. For example, the 1st generation iPad Pro had an A9x, the next model had an A10X Fusion. The 3rd generation iPad Pro skipped to the A12X. The 4th generation had an A12Z, which only had one additional GPU core. The 5th Generation introduced the M1 to the iPad Pro line, and the 6th generation had the M2. It would make sense for Apple to have the 7th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro to have the M3. However, they did not do that, and there is a good reason behind that. To explain we need to take a bit of a deeper dive into manufacturing.

Manufacturing Processes

Apple uses Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC, to produce their latest and greatest chips. Each of these chips has its own manufacturing process. The reason that Apple, and many other companies, use TSMC is because TSMC has the most advanced manufacturing plants in the world and can produce the best chips.

As technology has progressed the physical size of silicon chips has gotten smaller and smaller. It began with 20 micron, or 20,000 nanometers in size, in 1968. The 10 micron, or 10,000 nanometer, process was used in the Intel 8008 processor. The process size was reduced in 1974 to 6 microns, or 6,000 nanometers, and used in the infamous Intel 8088 processor.

The first sub-micron sizes were developed in 1987 with the 800 nanometer process. This process would not be used widely until 1993 when Intel introduced the P5 Pentium chip running at 60MHz or 66MHz. The 90nm process was developed in 2001 and was eventually used with Sony's Playstation 2, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and the AMD Athlon processors, just to name a few.

One of the turning points for manufacturing, at least in terms of Apple, was the 20nm process. Apple bought PA-Semi, in 2008 and they began putting out their own chips, starting with the A4 in 2011. The A4, A5, A6, and A7, were all manufactured by Samsung. In 2014 this changed when Apple began working with TSMC. The first A-series chip that TSMC produced was the A8, and this was on a 20nm process. The A8 came out in 2014 with the introduction of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and HomePod, to name just a few of the products.

The next process was the 16nm, or 14nm, and this included Apple chips like the A9, A9X, and A10 Fusion. This was a notable process node given that the 1st generation iPad Pro was introduced with the A9X. The A9 had 2 billion transistors, the number of transistors on the A9X was not disclosed.

The 10nm process was short lived, and mostly used by Apple for the A10x and A11. The A10X had 3.3 billion transistors, meanwhile the A11 had 4.3 billion transistors.

The 7nm process entered mainstream with the A12 Bionic, which debuted September of 2018. The 7nm process was used on a number of products including iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. It was also used in the 5th generation iPad mini, iPhone XR, 3rd generation iPad Air, 8th and 9th generation iPad, and the 2nd generation Apple TV 4K. The A13 was in the iPhone 11 line and the Apple Studio Display. The A12 had 6.9 billion transistors, while the A13 had 8.5 billion.

The first 5nm processor was Apple's A14 Bionic, which has been in the 10th generation iPad, 4th generation iPad Air, and the entire iPhone 12 line. The A15 Bionic also used the 5nm process, and was in the iPhone 13 line, iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, 6th generation iPad mini, 3rd generation Apple TV 4K, and the 3rd generation iPhone SE. These came with 11.8 billion transistors on the A14 chips.

The 4nm process was used on the A16 Bionic, which has only been in the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, as well as the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. The A16 had 15 billion transistors.

One thing that you may notice with all of the items listed above, is that as the process size gets smaller, the more transistors that can be put onto a chip. With more transistors that are on a chip means that there are more capabilities that a device can have. Typically, the smaller the process size, the more power efficiency increases. Progress has continued until the current size of 3 nanometers.

3 Nanometer

TSMC has indicated there are a number of 3 nanometer processes, including the N3, N3B, N3E, N3S, N3P, and N3X. Each of these has their own benefits. N3 is the base process, which offers 25 to 30% power efficiency over the N5 process. At the same time power increases 10 to 15%.

N3E uses 32% less power and offers 18% better performance. N3P should offer between around 33 to 34% less power than N5 and 19% to 20% better performance than N5. N3X will use a bit more power, but still offer a bit more performance than N5.

These comparisons are good to highlight, because the M2 was manufactured using the N5 process.


Marketing images for the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips
Marketing images for the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max

The first set of N3 processors that Apple introduced were the A17 Pro and M3 and used the N3B process. It turns out that the N3B process was not the right approach to 3nm processing. While it would indeed work, it was more expensive and per an EE Times article from April of 2023:

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) is straining to meet demand from top customer Apple for 3-nm chips. The company's tool and yield struggles have impeded the ramp to volume production with world-leading technology

With costs being higher, and yields not being what they need. This means that it that it will not work with Apple needs millions of chips. What this means is that Apple is keen to move onto the next process, which will have better yields which means more chips can be manufactured. Apple has introduced a chip that matches this. It is called the Apple M4.


Marketing image for the M4 System on a Chip
Marketing image for the M4 System on a Chip.

With the introduction of the 5th generation 11-inch iPad Pro and the 7th generation 13-inch iPad Pro, Apple did something different and introduced an Apple Silicon chip on the iPad, before it does so on a Mac. Apple introduced the M4. According to Apple this uses the 2nd generation 3nm manufacturing process.

The M4 has a number of improvements, including the aforementioned 25% less power consumption and 18% improved performance. According to Apple the M4's neural engine is "capable of 38 trillion operations per second, "which is 60x faster than Apple's first Neural Engine in the A11 Bionic chip".

Part of the chip's ability to perform that many calculations per second comes from the memory bandwidth. Since the M1, the memory bandwidth in iPads has been 100 Gigabytes per second. There is now a 20% increase to 120 Gigabytes per second with the M4.

The M4 actually comes in two variants, a 9-core variant with 3 performance cores, and a 10-core variant with 4 performance cores. For either variant there are 6 efficiency cores. The 256GB and 512GB 11-inch or 13-inch iPad Pro will have the 9-core processor, while the 1TB and 2TB models have the 10-core processor.

This is the first time that Apple has differentiated models of the iPad by having different number of cores depending on model. This is not the first time Apple has done that in general, because this is quite common with Macs, in particular the MacBook Pro.

Media Engine

The M4 also has a couple of other enhancements over the M3, in particular related to the Media Engine. The first of these changes is that it now supports 8K High Efficiency Video Codec, or HEVC. HEVC is the successor to H.264, which has long been the standard compression format for video. HEVC is more commonly known as H.265 and its chief improvement over H.264 is that it can provide better quality video at the same bitrates, meaning that it can look better for the same video size.

The inclusion of 8K HEVC means that you can easily handle processing of 8K video, even though you cannot shoot 8K video on an iPad.

The second change is that there is now hardware accelerated decoding of AOMedia Video 1, or AV1. AV1 is similar to HEVC, except that it is designed for streaming over the internet. This is the first time that AV1 decoding is on an iPad. The benefit to having hardware-acceleration of AV1 decoding is that it will provide more power efficient playback, which means less wear on the battery.


Media encoding is definitely an important aspect of the iPad, yet there is another important feature of the M4, the Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU. The GPU on the M4 adds some new enhancements of its own. There is a new 10-core GPU and it includes Dynamic Caching. Dynamic Caching. Dynamic Caching was introduced on the M3, but this is the first time it is on an iPad. Dynamic Caching is a technique that allows the hardware to allocate the proper amount of memory for each task. This can mean that more of the graphics processing unit will be utilized when needed. Furthermore, it also means fixed amounts of memory do not need to be allocated, potentially locking up the memory when not needed.

Dynamic Caching is not the only change. The M4 also supports Ray Tracing, particularly Hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing. Ray Tracing is a technique where the light is more realistically rendered, which can result in more life-like lighting. Here is a great example of how Ray Tracing can improve gameplay. It is title How Nvidia and Valve Gave Portal its Ray Tracing Makeover and while it covers the game Portal, the same information is still applicable to the iPad.


The first thing that one must do is setup their iPad. If you have a previous iPad you can use a direct connection between the devices to perform the setup. Alternatively, you can use an iCloud backup and restore that to your iPad. For me, I opted to do the direct connection. When you do a direct transfer between the devices, neither device will be usable while the transfer is taking place. The estimates for how long it would take started off at 2 hours and eventually crept up to an estimate of 6 hours. Ultimately, it ended up taking approximately 3 hours to finish, which is still longer than I would have liked.

Given how much is on my iPad, It might have made more sense to do an encrypted backup and then restore to my new iPad, but I did not do that. While writing this section I opted to look at my iPad storage and I saw that I had 35 gigabytes of synchronized media, and I should have removed this before beginning the transfer, it would have saved some time off of the total transfer time.

One thing I did not try was to use a thunderbolt cable to see if I could transfer the data using that method instead. If anybody has done this, I would be interested in knowing how well it worked. If it is not supported, I think that should be something that Apple adds as an option. I understand not allowing standard USB-C cables, as these will only transfer up to 40 Gigabits per second, or a theoretical max of 5 Gigabytes per second. Although, even this would be significantly faster than using Wi-Fi.

I have purchased the cellular version of the iPad since the 1st generation iPad Pro in 2015. Normally, I would just physically move the SIM from my old iPad to the new one. However, the cellular 13-inch iPad Pro does not have a physical SIM slot, only an eSIM. Therefore, my existing data plan for my iPad needed to be moved. The setup steps account for this and my data plan moved successfully without any issues.

Screenshot during setup of confirming transfer of cellular plan from old iPad.
Screenshot of confirming cellular plan transfer during setup.

Once the setup was complete, all of the apps needed to download and then I could use my new iPad Pro.

Dimensions and Weight

The 13-inch iPad is roughly the same size as the 5th generation iPad Pro. In fact, it only has 0.64% more physical area. This is accomplished by it being 1mm taller and 0.6mm wider. This physical size is needed to account for the new display size of 13-inches. One area where the dimensions have changed is in the depth.

One of the highlighted aspects of the 13-inch iPad Pro is how thin it is. According to Apple it is the "thinnest device we've ever made". Apple's "Let Loose" event video mentioned that it is thinner than the iPod nano, which was Apple's thinnest device. The iPod nano was 5.3mm. The 13-inch iPad Pro is indeed thinner at 5.1mm. This is a significant reduction from the 6.4mm on the 5th generation, which means that the 13-inch iPad Pro is 20.3% thinner, or just over 20% thinner than the 5th generation.

Closeup photo of the difference in thickness of the 7th generation 13-inch iPad Pro as compared to the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro
Photo of the 13-inch iPad as compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

This is a huge difference. The reduction in the physical size does have some implications most notable in the weight, which has gone from 685 grams to 582, a difference of 103 grams of 15.04%. This is a huge and noticeable difference. Another quite noticeable difference was going from the iPhone 14 Pro Max to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, where the devices went from steel to titanium. The reduction in weight for the iPad is almost twice the amount for the iPhone Pro changes.

Next, let us turn to another visual item, and the one that iPad users see the most, the display.


Almost every single product that Apple has created, and that has a battery and is portable, has needed a display of some sort. One notable exception to this is the iPod shuffle, but that was a unique product. Each and every iPad that Apple has sold has had a display. Apple has attempted to obfuscate the technology used in each type of display. To date Apple has employed some marketing names including:

  • Retina
  • Liquid Retina
  • Liquid Retina XDR display

There is now a new marketing name. The 13-inch iPad Pro has a display that Apple is calling "Ultra Retina XDR". The technology used for the display has varied over time and has included:

  • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED)
  • Micro-Light Emitting Diode (Mini-LED)

Different display technologies have their own benefits and approaches.

The 13-inch iPad Pro has a new display. The actual technology used for this display is not brand new, but it is new for the iPad Pro. The Ultra Retina XDR display is powered by Organic Light Emitting Diodes, more commonly known as OLED. Apple has used OLED on devices in the past, most notably on the Apple Watch and the iPhone.

OLED is better in some ways, most notably in that it uses less energy. This is accomplished by only lighting up the pixels that are needed.

In a battery constrained device, like the Apple Watch, OLED is the only way to go because pixels that are not lit do not consume any energy. Even with the Always On display of the Apple Watch and iPhone, items are only updated infrequently, at little as once a minute, so the devices are able to maximize battery and minimize energy usage.

When you extrapolate this technology to a larger device you can have the same benefits. There is a limitation to OLED which does not necessary appear in other display technologies; the organic nature of the diodes. Because the diodes in an OLED display are organic, they can degrade over time. Unfortunately, there is no way to regenerate the organic materials.

This new display is called Tandem OLED and it is worth diving into a bit.

Tandem OLED

Tandem OLED is a display technology that consists of two OLED displays that are connected with some sort of interconnect. This is similar to the way that an M2 Ultra chip is actually two M2 Max chips with their own interconnect. This interconnect actually allows sub-millisecond control over the color and luminance of each pixel, which means that colors can be controlled more fluidly for even better content viewing, particularly for video content.

The reason that there are two panels instead of a single panel is that a single panel is not capable of producing the brightness levels that Apple wants to achieve, at least not in the sizes needed for the 13-inch iPad Pro. The OLED display in the 13-inch iPad is capable of producing up to 1000-nits of brightness. High Dynamic Range (HDR) content is capable of showing up to 1600 nits of brightness.

It is not that an OLED display cannot display 1600 nits, it can. In fact the iPhone 14 Pro/Max and iPhone 15 Pro/Max can do up to 1000 nits, 1600 nits for HDR content, and up to 2000 nits while outdoors. The Apple Watch Series 9 can also do up to 2000 nits, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can do up to 3000 nits.

You might think that with a Tandem OLED that ProMotion might not be supported, but it still present. It still has the same range of 10Hz to 120Hz, so if you are accustom to using ProMotion, it is still present.

When I first used the 13-inch iPad Pro, I did not really notice the difference in the screen. It is not that I did not believe it was an OLED screen, I did. However, it became quite apparent once I started working on my review on my 13-inch iPad Pro. The black background of the Notes app was noticeably darker than on my 5th generation iPad Pro.

Now that we have covered the display, let us look at some wireless connectivity.

Wireless Connectivity

All devices these days have a myriad number of radios. This can be for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even Ultra Wideband. The Wi-Fi in the 13-inch iPad Pro has the same Wi-Fi that has been on all 12.9-inch iPad Pros since 2020. That is Wi-Fi 6E, also known as 802.11ax. Wi-Fi 6E was included on the 6th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but on my 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro it only has Wi-Fi 6, so this has been a slight improvement. Have I noticed it during normal usage, no because I do not have a Wi-Fi 6E network, so until I have one I will not see any changes.

As for cellular connectivity, the 13-inch iPad Pro has 5G connectivity, as have all iPad Pros introduced since 2021, with the 5th and 6th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pros. So, this has not changed. I would not expect the 5G connectivity to change for a couple more generations, because 5G's successor, 6G, will not likely begin deployment until the 2030s, so it could be anywhere from 6 years to 15 years away, but likely closer to 10 years before deployment begins.

There has been a change from my 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the 13-inch does not support EDGE, which is not really surprising given that the EDGE cellular networks were shutdown in 2022, so it makes no sense to continue to support it on the iPad Pro. Strangely though, the iPhone 15 line still does support GSM/EDGE.

Ever since the iPad was introduced in 2010 Apple has offered a cellular option. The cellular options, as you might expect, cost more due to needing the additional hardware needed. Each of the cellular iPad models has had a physical SIM. The iPads that have been introduced since 2018, have all had the option of using either a physical SIM or an electronic SIM, known as an eSIM. This changes with the 13-inch iPad Pro.

Much like when Apple introduced iPhone 14 line, there is no physical SIM slot on the 13-inch iPad. Instead, the only option is to use an eSIM. Therefore, if you have a physical SIM in your existing iPad it will need to be converted to an eSIM by transferring your existing account. For many, this will not be a problem, but it is something to be cognizant about when setting up your iPad Pro.


The iPad is designed to be a versatile device and one way that this is accomplished is by providing the iPad with a camera. The camera on the iPad is by no means the best camera, the best camera is reserved for the iPhone Pro line. Starting with the 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro Apple added a second camera to complement the existing camera. The Wide and Ultra-Wide cameras were present on the 4th, 5th, and 6th generation iPad Pros. However, starting with the 13-inch iPad Pro, there is no longer an Ultra-Wide camera. Instead, there is just a single camera.

The removal of the Ultra-Wide lens may be disappointing for some, but Apple has indicted that the 12 megapixel camera is improved in a number of ways. This includes capturing photos and video with better color and increased detail in low light. This can be useful for many situations. There is one in particular where the improved lighting can help, and that is with document scanning.

Document Scanning

A task that many users perform is to scan documents into Notes or another application. Typically when you take a picture of a form, or a receipt, you will get a bunch of shadows around the edges. Now, the iPad Pro camera system will attempt to remove as much of these shadows as possible, therefore when you do scan the shadows should be significantly reduced. Along with this, machine learning will be applied to make it even easier to get a more consistent color.

Front Facing Cameras

When the first iPhone was released, it only had a single back camera. It was the same for the iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS. But in 2010 when Apple added a second camera, this time it was on the front. This was great for taking selfies, but it was also very useful for another feature, FaceTime.

FaceTime is Apple's proprietary video call software that works on both iOS and macOS. For its entire existence, the iPad had the FaceTime camera along the top edge, near the power button. This remained the case for all iPads, except for the 10th generation iPad released in 2022. Now, the 5th generation 11-inch iPad Pro and 7th generation 13-inch iPad Pro now have the FaceTime camera along the landscape edge. This makes a lot more sense because a significant number of users use the iPad Pro while it is in landscape mode.

The FaceTime camera is not the only camera on the edge of the 13-inch iPad Pro. When Apple introduced the redesigned iPad Pro in 2018, with the 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro they added Face ID. The True Depth camera module that actually paints invisible dots on your face so that it can algorithmically compare what if finds to what is stored in the Secure Enclave, which stores the Face ID results. The True Depth Camera is actually now separated from the FaceTime camera. It is in fact separated with a magnet that is used to charge the Apple Pencil, more on that in a bit.

The specs of the front Facing camera has remained the same since the 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This means that there is a 12 megapixel camera with an aperture of ƒ/2.4, with 2x zoom out.

Now that we have covered all of the hardware of the 13-inch iPad Pro, let us look at some accessories, including the Apple Pencil.

Apple Pencil Pro

Photo of the Apple Pencil Pro box with black text
Photo of the Apple Pencil Pro box.

When the 1st generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro was announced, an accessory was announced and it was a stylus that was designed to work with the iPad Pro. The 1st generation Apple Pencil powered and charged via the Lightning port on the original iPad Pro. This remained the same for the 2nd generation iPad Pro.

The 3rd generation iPad Pro was a complete redesign, including the Apple Pencil. The 2nd generation Apple Pencil charged, and paired, strictly by magnets. By simply placing a 2nd generation Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro, it would pair and begin charging.

The 2nd generation Apple Pencil is compatible with the following devices:

  • 3rd to 6th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 1st to 4th generation 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 4th and 5th generation iPad Air
  • 6th generation iPad mini

Missing from this list, is the 13-inch iPad M4 iPad Pro. That is because there is a whole new Apple Pencil, the Apple Pencil Pro.


Initially, you might think that the 2nd generation Apple Pencil and the Apple Pencil Pro should be interchangeable given the fact that they are both magnetic, but I can attest that the 2nd generation Apple Pencil cannot be used on the 5th generation iPad Pro. The reason for this is because of the placement of the magnets.

The magnets within the Apple Pencil Pro have a different placement, specifically the charging needed to be updated in both the iPad and the Apple Pencil in order to work with the landscape camera.

The Apple Pencil Pro works the same as the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. Once you place the Apple Pencil Pro on the 13-inch iPad Pro, it will pair and begin charging. Let us turn to some other features of the Apple Pencil Pro, starting with Apple Pencil Hover.

Apple Pencil Hover

Since my previous iPad was the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I had not yet had a chance to try out Apple Pencil Hover, because that was exclusive to the 6th generation iPad Pro. Apple Pencil Hover is a feature where you can, as the name suggests, hover over an element on the screen and it will highlight the item.

As an example, you can use the Apple Pencil Pro to hover over any standard control and it will be highlighted, similar to how you might use keyboard navigation. In addition to standard controls, you can also hover over app icons. During my testing, it seemed to work for most elements, with one exception, it does not work with hovering over an individual note, within the Notes app. It seems like an oversight for it to not work with Notes.

Barrel Roll

The Apple Pencil Pro has a gyroscope within it. This means that when you are using an app, like Notes, Freeform, or Pixelmator, you will be able to quickly change the size of the brush that you are using by simply turning the Apple Pencil Pro.

You might initially think, "What is the big deal, you can just adjust your grip and adjust the brush size that way." Yes, you can, however when you are drawing being able to quickly, and easily, adjust the angle of the brush without needing to lift up the tip, provides a much more natural mechanism for drawing.

Third-party apps will need to add support for barrel roll for it to work, but it is something that they can add. This is not the only new feature, there is another gesture, squeeze.

Squeeze Gesture

When you are holding a standard pencil you might be tempted to squeeze it. When you do this, nothing much will happen. However, with the Apple Pencil Pro, you will get a popup toolbar. This is the same toolbar that you can activate when you tap on the current item in the toolbar.

Much like the barrel roll, being able to quickly use the toolbar without needing to lose your place and focus is a big step forward particularly for those who like to use the iPad Pro for drawing.

Haptic Feedback

Another new feature that is a nice touch is Haptic Feedback. Now, when you squeeze the Apple Pencil Pro you will get a bit of feedback that will confirm the gesture that you performed. This is helpful for when you may not be able to fully see that a gesture was successfully completed.

Find My Support

The last new feature of the Apple Pencil Pro is something that many have wanted for each of the previous Apple Pencils, and that is the ability to use Find My to locate an Apple Pencil. This is now possible with the Apple Pencil Pro.

Find My is NOT automatically enabled when you connect an Apple Pencil Pro. Much like other devices, you need to actually add it. To add an Apple Pencil Pro to Find My, use the following steps:

  1. Open "Find My"
  2. Tap on "Devices"
  3. Tap on the "+" symbol in the upper right corner.
  4. Tap on "Apple Pencil". A popup will appear.
  5. Per the popup, attach your Apple Pencil Pro, if it is not already attached. Another popup will appear.
  6. In the "Add to Find My" popup, tap on "Add Pencil".
  7. A confirmation will appear, and your Apple Pencil Pro will be added to Find My.
Screenshot of the 'Add Apple Pencil' confirmation in Find My.
Screenshot of the confirmation to add the Apple Pencil Pro to "Find My"

Once added, you will be able to use Find My to locate the Apple Pencil. It will show its last location. If it is currently attached to your iPad Pro, it will show that it is attached. If it shows that it is attached to your iPad, then you will likely want to locate the iPad Pro in order to find your Apple Pencil Pro.

You cannot use Precision Finding with the Apple Pencil, because the Apple Pencil Pro does not have a U1 chip, which is required for Precision Finding. Maybe that is something that a future Apple Pencil Pro can add. Even though there the Apple Pencil Pro is not capable of Precision Finding having basic Find My support is a significant upgrade and will bring you one step closer to finding a missing Apple Pencil.

Let us look at one other new accessory, the new Magic Keyboard.

Magic Keyboard

Photo of the Magic Keyboard with its packing material in place of the iPad Pro
Photo of the Magic Keyboard

As outlined above already, 2018 was a big year for the iPad Pro. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro included a big redesign, which included flat sides, the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, USB-C, and an updated Smart Connector. The Smart Connector was relocated, which allowed a new accessory, the Magic Keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard is a combination keyboard and case that uses the magnets within the iPad and the Magic Keyboard in order to allow it to be placed properly as well as aligning the camera properly. The Magic Keyboard is not only a keyboard, but it also has a Trackpad as well.


The overall design remains the same, in terms of having a fabric back to help protect the back of the iPad Pro. The Magic Keyboard has a keyboard at the bottom. The material in the Magic Keyboard is now aluminum. This means that the keyboard is lighter than the previous model. It is not just lighter by a little bit, much like the iPad itself, the weight difference between the previous Magic Keyboard and the new one is quite noticeable.

The two previous Magic Keyboards were effectively the same, and the only change was the size of the hinge to accommodate the slightly larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The previous Magic Keyboards had a piece of material that would cover the barrel shaped hinge. The one downside to this change is that you can no longer rely on the hinge to provide a bit of friction against a surface like you could with the previous Magic Keyboard. This is a minor change, but one that you should be cognizant about.

The new Magic Keyboard for the 13-inch iPad Pro now has a tubular shape to the hinge and it is now sans material around it. This gives it a bit more of an industrial look. The tubular hinge also means that the orientation of the charging port on the Magic Keyboard has rotated 90 degrees, to be perpendicular to the orientation of the USB-C port on the 13-inch iPad Pro. This results in the USB-C cable being parallel to the keyboard while open. On the topic of the keyboard, let us look at that next.

Keyboard Layout

One of the most requested features for the Magic Keyboard was the addition of row of function keys. This is now on the Magic Keyboard. Each of the icons in the function row are the same as on the MacBook Pro, with a slight tweak to the F3 key where the icon is in a grid instead of in masonry layout.

The function row even includes a dedicated Escape key. For those who want to use the Magic Keyboard with a terminal emulator, this is huge. If you have ever had to try and connect to a server and use VIM without an escape key, you know how big this is. There is an alternate key combination of command + period, and this still works even with a dedicated function row, but muscle memory with a physical escape key is just better.

One thing to note about the function row is that the keys are half-height. I am sure that some would prefer full height, I will gladly take half-height keys instead of no keys what-so-ever.

Let us now switch to something a bit different with the Magic Keyboard, the possible positions of the iPad.


The previous Magic Keyboard was somewhat limited in the angles that you could have the iPad. For instance, if you tried to have the entire back of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. against the back of the keyboard, the iPad would lean forward. Yes, it is possible to use it in this position, but it is a bit awkward.

Now, with the new Magic Keyboard you are able to have the 13-inch iPad Pro be at a 90 degree angle with the entire back against the back of the keyboard case. On the previous Magic Keyboard there was one way to have the iPad at a 90-degree angle. You would need to place the iPad so it was a bit above the top row of the keyboard. Here is what that would look like.

Photo of the Magic Keyboard with the iPad at 90 degrees
Difference in iPad Positions when at 90 degrees

You can accomplish the same thing with the 13-inch iPad Pro, and the iPad would be in the same general position, but now that the keyboard includes a function row, the iPad sits right at the top of the function row. Putting the 13-inch iPad in this position could be useful in situations where there might not be a lot of extra space, like on an Airplane.

Being able to position the iPad in a variety of angles is great, particularly if you use the iPad in a variety of situations. There is one last feature of the Magic Keyboard that has seen some changes, and that is the Trackpad.


The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has more than just a keyboard. It also includes a Trackpad. This is important if you want to use the cursor on the iPad. The Trackpad on the new Magic Keyboard is significantly larger than on the previous model.

When I saw the differences in the Trackpad sizes, it actually reminded me of when I went from my old 2008 Black MacBook to my old 2015 MacBook Pro. There was a significant change in size to the Trackpad then, and this change feels very similar. It is so similar to that situation right down to the click of the Trackpad.

Comparison of the Trackpads between the 13-inch 7th generation iPad Pro and 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro
Difference in Trackpads between the two Magic Keyboards

On the Magic Keyboard for the 5th generation iPad Pro, if you remove the iPad, you can feel the Trackpad actually click, just like the 2008 MacBook did when powered off. However, if you remove the 13-inch iPad Pro from its Magic Keyboard and try to click the Trackpad, nothing happens. This is exactly same behavior as on the 2015 MacBook Pro, which does not move unless there is power.

I cannot say that I have noticed the size difference between the two Trackpads, at least not in my typical usage. If I played more games or used the Trackpad on a more consistent basis I might actually notice it. For me, the Trackpad is mostly used when I need to move to a position on the screen quickly, like when clicking a button. When I do this, I typically use my forefinger and not my thumb. But, with the new Trackpad size, this behavior may change, only time will tell on that.


No review would be complete without at least some benchmarks. For this review, I have included every Apple Silicon device that I personally own. All of these are running some version of Apple Silicon. There are no Intel Macs on the list. The reason behind this decision is that by not including Intel machines, the comparison will be a bit more consistent and equitable. Plus, I do not have any Intel machines that can run macOS Sonoma.

Geekbench 6 Single Core Multi-Core GPU (Metal)
13-inch iPad Pro (M4, 2024) 3712 13180 53622
MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 2023) 2701 14778 123331
iPhone 15 Pro Max (A17 Pro, 2023)2915 7019 27153
Mac mini (M1, 2020) 2405 8790 33714
Mac Studio (M1 Max, 2022) 2388 12418 95601
12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021) 2305 8398 33200
iPad mini 5th gen (A15, 2021) 2133 5371 19918

Given that I am upgrading from the M1 iPad Pro to the M4 iPad Pro, it makes sense to compare the two directly. When you compare my M1 12.9-inch iPad Pro to the new 13-inch iPad you will see there has been a 61% increase in single-core processing, a 57% increase in Multi-core processing, and a 61.5% increase in GPU performance. This is a significant jump. This makes sense given that the process size has gone from 5 nanometers down to 3 nanometers, meaning more chips in the same space.

For the next test I ran Geekbench ML, which is designed to take a look at Machine Learning tasks. Apple positioned the M4 as "built for AI", but we will not know how well until there are features that can really take advantage of the processor. For now, we must rely on benchmarks and below are the Geekbench ML results for each device and the processor being used for Machine Learning.

Geekbench ML CPU GPU Neural Engine
13-inch iPad Pro (M4, 2024) 4648 6773 9592
MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 2023) 3507 8049 9144
Mac Studio (M1 Max, 2022) 3003 6206 7809
12.9-inch iPad Pro (M1, 2021) 3018 3369 6907
Mac mini (M1, 2020) 3002 3538 6839
iPhone 15 Pro Max (A17 Pro, 2023) 4044 3678 6133
iPad mini 5th gen (A15, 2021) 3135 1933 4526

The ordering of these all makes sense, the newer devices have better scores than the older devices. The most stark difference is when you compare my 13-inch iPad Pro to my iPhone, where the GPU and Neural Engine are no where near each other. The GPU in the 13-inch iPad Pro is no where near my M2 MacBook Pro, which makes sense, given that the M4 in the 13-inch iPad is the base chip, whereas the MacBook Pro is an M2 Max, which is significantly more capable.

Again comparing the 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro to the 13-inch M4 iPad Pro, there was a 56% increase in CPU processing, 205% increase in GPU processing, and a 37.8% increase in Neural Engine processing. The CPU processing change is in line with the single-core, and close the multi-core benchmark. So this makes sense. However, the GPU on the M4 iPad Pro is a lot faster. It is even faster than my Mac Studio with the M1 Max, but still slower than MacBook Pro with the M2 Max.

There is one last topic to cover, iPadOS.


iPadOS 17 logo
iPadOS 17 logo

Most modern hardware is not particularly useful without some sort of software and for the iPad Pro the software that powers the device. The iPad Pro hardware has always been pretty solid and recently the hardware has always outstripped the software.

There are many who have been wanting the iPadOS software to match the capabilities of the device. Some have suggested that the iPad Pro should be able to virtualize macOS, and it would provide an escape hatch for those who want to be able to perform tasks that iPadOS is not currently capable of doing. I think for them it could be a good thing. I would definitely try it out, because I do find myself being less productive on an iPad than I am on a Mac.

Even if Apple did not allow virtualization of macOS on an iPad Pro, there are still a number of things that Apple could add that would not degrade the current experience for many iPad users, but would improve those who need Pro level features. As one example, the ability to record and stream from an iPad. Currently, this is not possible due to limitations of iPadOS.

At one time I thought about trying to use the iPad as a primary device instead of using a MacBook. However, I could never use an iPad as I would a Mac.

Long time iPad Pro-User Federico Viticci has written an article about the shortcomings of iPadOS. This article compiles a long list of items that goes almost a decade and every single one of the items is worth reading.

Personally, for me, there are two things that would make iPadOS even better and provide a bit more "Pro" features.

The first of these would be the ability to use Xcode directly on the iPad. Yes, Swift Playgrounds is available, but there is definitely something different about having Xcode itself. With Xcode on iPad, it would not need to have any simulators because you could just use the device itself.

The second would be additional background tasks, not just audio recording, but allowing true background tasks that would not be killed by simply switching away from the app. Yes, this might require extensive vetting by Apple and even special entitlements (permissions) for this to happen, but it could be a possibility should Apple opt to make it happen.

It is not likely the 13-inch iPad Pro, particularly with 8GB of RAM in the 256GB or 512GB model, could not be capable of handling "Pro" features, it absolutely could handle it. This is because the Mac mini, which has many "Pro" features, has the same base specs, 256GB of storage and 8GB of unified memory. Therefore, this definitely seems more like a choice than any technical limitation.

Many people have been saying for a long time that the issue with the iPad is not the hardware, and I completely agree. The hardware has not been a problem on the iPad, instead the issue is software. We are just a few weeks away from Apple's World Wide Developer Conference. I hope that we will see a significant update to iPadOS, one that goes beyond just making the iPad seem like a larger iPhone with a few extra bells and whistles. Only time will tell us if this will actually be the case.

Even though all of the iPad hardware, including the accessories, are solid. There are some shortcomings with iPadOS. Next year will mark 10 years since the introduction of the iPad Pro, as well as 5 years since iPadOS became its own distinct operating system, separate from iOS. It is my thinking that if we do not see any significant, and I do mean substantially significant, change at WWDC 2025, then it might be time to just write off the iPad Pro as being anything except "More Expensive" and a showcase for the latest technologies, because at that point, Apple will have made it abundantly clear that the iPad is not worth their time and anybody trying to use it for actual productivity is fooling themselves that it is possible.

Closing Thoughts

The 13-inch iPad Pro is a great upgrade, particularly from the M1 iPad Pro. The new M4 processor provides a great upgrade, including even faster CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. Some of that speed is due to the storage speed being 20% faster at 120 Gbps. The 13-inch iPad Pro is much thinner and therefore lighter. According to Apple it is the thinnest product they have ever released.

Beyond being super thin, and lighter, the 13-inch iPad Pro has an OLED display, specifically a Tandem OLED display. These two OLED displays allows for even richer colors, deeper blacks, and the dual displays allow for up to 1000 nits of brightness, and up to 1600 nits of peak brightness or HDR content.

The 13-inch iPad Pro has its own set of accessories, including the Magic Keyboard. Much like the 13-inch ipad Pro, the updated Magic Keyboard is lighter and slightly redesigned. The redesign includes a function row, including an escape button. This is great or those who rely on the escape key for functions. Even though the function row is half-height, it is still a great addition. The Magic Trackpad also comes with a larger Trackpad. One with Haptic feedback, similar to the MacBook Pro, where the Trackpad only simulates a click, but does not actually click.

The last accessory is the Apple Pencil Pro. It now includes a gyroscope, that is used with a new Barrel Roll feature. Barrel Roll, if implemented by developers, will allow you to change the shape of a brush, just as if it was a physical pencil. In addition to Barrel Roll, you can now use a squeeze gesture to bring up the toolbar, right where your Apple Pencil Pro is. Once it shows, you can easily switch tools, change colors, access the eraser, or any other option within the toolbar, all without needing to leave the current location or look away. You also do not need to worry about losing your Apple Pencil Pro, because it can be added to your "Find My" devices. Therefore, if you do manage to misplace it, you will at least know where its last location is.

If you are looking to purchase an iPad Pro, the 13-inch iPad Pro is a solid option. It is worthwhile keeping in mind that it is never a good idea to purchase something with the expectation that it could do something more in the future, because there is no guarantee of what it will be able to do. Instead, buy the iPad Pro for what is is capable now.

13-inch iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard, and Apple Pencil Pro in their boxes.
13-inch iPad Pro, Magic Keyboard, and Apple Penci Pro in their boxes.

Sources: There are a couple of sources for some of the processor information.

TSMC N3 process (
TSMC Details 3nm Evolution (