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Apple iPad Pro (M4) - The Bleeding Edge of Mobile Computing

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jun 2024, 12:39pm

Apple iPad Pro (M4) - The Bleeding Edge of Mobile Computing

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jun 2024, 12:39pm

When it comes to reviewing iPads and other tablets, it's always tempting to ask, "Could I use this to replace my laptop?"

I've certainly been guilty of running that same theme and I now regret it. It's a flawed proposition for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if someone's in the market for a tablet, it's probably not because they really want a laptop.

Secondly, when a manufacturer like Apple makes both products, it's not an either/or situation; if you want a MacBook, buy a MacBook. 

Thirdly, how come nobody ever asks, "Could I use my laptop to replace my iPad?"

Of course, it's a safe bet most tech journalists use laptops a lot more than iPads or other tablets, so that goes a long way to explaining this rather skewed way of looking at things.

All that being said, if you did have to pick one over the other, wouldn’t you just go with whichever was more powerful?


The 2204 iPad Pro is powered by the M4 chip, Apple’s latest and greatest. This is the fastest, most powerful and efficient chip Apple has ever produced and right now, the iPad Pro is the only device running it.

Depending on which sized iPad Pro you go for, the M4 CPU offers as many as four performance cores and six efficiency cores - that means more speed for less battery. There’s a 10-core GPU for breakthrough graphics abilities, including ray-tracing and mesh-shading (resource-heavy 3D effects that make the unreal seem more real). And if that’s still isn’t enough cores for you, the 16-core Apple Neural Engine is allegedly capable of 38 trillion operations per second.

This last feature is what effectively future-proofs the iPad Pro for years to come. Whether you call it AI or Apple Intelligence (as rebranded at this week’s WWDC in Cupertino) only devices with this level of mind-blowing machine-learning will be up to the task… even if there are 38 trillion tasks.

As an early demonstration of just how next-level this device is, I was amazed how quickly I was able to set it up, migrating my settings, apps and preferences from the iPad Air I reviewed last week. The transfer of data took just a few minutes but then, once the transfer was complete, the actual setup happened in seconds. I know this will sound like an exaggeration but I’m talking instantly, before my eyes. 

The most time-consuming parts of the setup were any steps that involved my input - intitialising Face ID for example - this may well be the first time I’ve encountered a device that works faster than I can think.

Needless to say, I have yet to find any task the M4 iPad Pro can’t perform. Games of any genre and complexity install, load and run effortlessly.

Multitasking - be it screeds of tabs open in your browser or many apps open at once - nothing hampers the performance. Meanwhile, MacOS-like features such as Stage Manager let you manipulate, arrange and access different windows any way you like, making the most of the extra screen real estate if you go with the 13-inch model over the 11-inch option.

In fact, now I’ve brought it up, let’s talk screens because you’ve never seen a display like this… and I mean that quite literally. The Ultra Retina XDR display on the M4 iPad Pro is a world first. It’s also Apple’s first OLED screen on an iPad - that means the same ultimate level of true black until now we’ve only experienced on OLED TVs and monitors. However, no matter how sharp and colour-accurate OLED panels are can be, they’re notorious for underperforming in bright conditions.

That’s why Apple has reimagined the OLED concept and doubled up; effectively sandwiching two panels together in a tandem OLED design. This results in an astounding 1600 nits of peak brightness. In real-life terms that means if you’re anything like me when you watch video on your phone or tablet, you always turn the brightness setting up to maximum, right? Even then, sometimes the action is a bit of a mystery - especially if the protagonists are spending a lot of time inside a black box like they do on the new Apple series, “Dark Matter.”

Well, I’ve been streaming on the M4 iPad Pro for a while now, not just with Apple TV+ but Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video too - and I only realized last night I haven’t touched the brightness controls at all. Not once. Whether I was sitting in an armchair in the sun or a dark bedroom, everything looked amazing. Although, I will say as useful as the taller 4:3 ratio of the display is for stacking multiple windows and apps, when it comes to the more widescreen-formatted shows and movies, the letterbox created by the black sections top and bottom does seem like a bit of a waste.

I’ve yet to mention the other stunning design feature of this iPad; how slim it is. The 11-inch model is only 5.3mm while the bigger one I’m using right now is even thinner; a mere 5.1mm. There are two colour options; Silver and Space Black. The outer casing is 100% recycled aluminium and despite being so, so thin, the whole thing feels very robust, with no flex whatsoever.

The M4 iPad Pro also runs much cooler - it’s packed with graphite to dissipate heat and even the Apple logo on the back is copper to achieve a 20% drop in temperature from the previous model.

As far as accessories go, like last week’s M2 iPad Air, there’s a new Smart Folio which will now display the iPad Pro at multiple angles or you can really pimp your pad with the breathtakingly well designed (and excruciatingly priced) Magic Keyboard. The Pro version of the Magic Keyboard has been totally reworked - it now features aluminium palm rests and a full, 14-key function row across the top for easy access to things like volume, brightness and media controls.

Last week, I also featured the new Apple Pencil Pro quite heavily - so you can go back to find out more details on innovative features like squeezing for tool shortcuts and barrel-roll for calligraphy. Of course, you can do all that when paired with the M4 iPad Pro too but I also quickly came to depend on the Apple Pencil Pro when editing in the latest version of Final Cut Pro. Not only have I typed and created this whole review solely using the iPad Pro, I edited the video below on this device as well. And here’s where the new iPad Pro really comes into its own. Not only does it now have excess computing power for previously taxing tasks like video and audio editing, you also have the advantage of the touch screen for pinch-to-zoom and of course, the accuracy of the tip of the Pencil Pro. When it came time to resize inserts or fine-tune text and colours in my graphics, I found myself reflexively reaching for the Pencil Pro to manipulate my edits with a much finer touch than I would have been able to achieve with my fat fingers or even with a mouse.

There’s just so much more I could share with you - and I’m sure I’ll be referring back to what this year’s iPad can do in future reviews too. I haven’t even touched on the magical abilities of the four speaker sound system for example; how Apple has managed to squeeze such an immersive performance from such tiny drivers, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

The cameras are great - some of the best I’ve used on a tablet and definitely superior to what you’ll find on most laptops. The built-in LIDAR scanner combined with the awesome power of the M4 chip means 3D renderings for AR can be created in seconds.

And just like the new M2 iPad Air, connectivity is stronger, more reliable and faster than ever, thanks to the latest Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Thunderbolt, USB 4 and 5G protocols.

This week at WWDC, Apple launched new operating systems across its full range of devices, including iPadOS. While we won’t see these new features pushed out fully until Spring, it looks like the line between iPadOS and MacOS is blurring even further - which is great but as I said at the top, for the first time I’ve become less obsessed about trying to use this iPad as a MacBook because it’s just so damn good at being the best iPad it can be.

It certainly isn’t cheap. While the base model, 11-inch M4 iPad Pro starts at NZ$1,999.00 - that’s not what I’m using here. This is the 13-inch cellular version, it has a whopping 2TB of storage (as opposed to 256GB) and I’ve added the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro. That all adds up to almost six grand - and that’s without the option of Apple’s new Nano-texture glass for an even less reflective viewing experience.

Sure, six-thousand bucks would buy you a hell of a laptop but you wouldn’t get the uniquely sublime viewing experience of the tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR display, the uber-fine control offered by Apple Pencil Pro or the supreme mobility of such a thin, lightweight device - even when it’s paired with the aptly named Magic Keyboard.

And most of all, you’d miss out on the outstanding performance of Apple’s record-breaking M4 chip. Remember, you simply won’t find it anywhere else.




Click here for more information and pricing on the Apple iPad Pro (M4).


Click here for more information and pricing on the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro.


Click here for more information and pricing on the Apple Pencil Pro.

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