Forget the iPad Pro 2020: Why you should buy the older one instead

2018 iPad Pro, and not the 2020 iPad Pro
(Image credit: Future)

No offense to Apple, but I'm not going to recommend the iPad Pro (2020) for most people. Yes, I've long said the 2018 iPad Pro was one of the best devices that Apple ever made — and even with the release of the new 2020 model — I'm still telling people to buy the previous edition. 

Even though Apple's done a fair share of good with this year's new model, I'm still convinced the iPad Pro 2018 is the best high-end tablet you can buy. And that's coming from someone who has upgraded their iPhone annually for the last two years.

As we're all getting more careful with our budgets than ever, I strongly recommend that people look for the 2018 iPad Pro, as it should be on discount everywhere. We're currently seeing savings between $70 and $120 on the 2018 models right now, as retailers clear remaining stock for the new version.

The 2020 iPad Pro's upgrades aren't that monumental (for me)

iPad Pro 2020

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Yes, more speed is always a good thing. But the new A12Z processor might not be as big of an upgrade as it seems at first glance. Looking at its Geekbench 5 scores, the latest edition of Apple's system-on-chip iPad Pro processor clocked a 4,720 on the multi-core portion and 1,126 on the single-core test. The 2018 iPad Pro (with the A12X Bionic chip) punches pretty close to that, with respective scores of 4,635 and 1,114.

The other big new feature is the highly-touted triple-camera setup on the back, which features a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner for much faster augmented reality app performance. That sounds really cool, if you care about AR apps. Personally? I'm completely out to lunch on them, and waiting for developers to do something great with AR.

iPad Pro AR performance

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

And as for the iPad Pro's new 10-megapixel ultra-wide and 12MP wide cameras? Maybe that small subset of folks who aren't embarrassed to use a tablet as a camera in public will like this, but I've already got better (or just as great) cameras in the iPhone 11 Pro in my pocket. 

iPad Pro 2020 cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

What about the highly-anticipated Magic Keyboard that's coming in May? Well...

Why the 2018 iPad Pro is still right for more folks

We're really excited that Apple's added a trackpad to the iPad Pro, which is coming in the mighty-pricy Magic Keyboard ($299 for the 11-inch version; $349 for the 12.9-inch version). I'm even happier, though, that this accessory — which makes the iPad Pro even more like a laptop than before — will work with the 2018 iPad Pro. 

And while I'm thankful for this decision, I'm a bit surprised that Apple's not limiting it to the latest iPad Pro. This keyboard is definitely the kind of feature that could be enough to push someone to upgrade — even though it's only been 1.5 years since the 2018 iPad Pro came out.

iPad Pro 2020

(Image credit: Future)

Also, since iPadOS 13.4 hit public beta, I've been using a mouse with the 2018 iPad Pro and found that to be more than enough on its own. It's already reached the level of integration that I wish Apple had added in the first iPadOS drop last year. The cursor is a smaller and more elegant dot (and not the big bulls-eye from last year), and it shifts to a vertical line when you hover over a text field. 

And when you hover over an app icon, it grows, as if the spotlight were shining on it. It's great, and perfect for when I'm at home — whereas the Magic Keyboard will likely be better for when I'm on the road, thanks to its floating and adjustable screen design.

The other reason why I'd recommend the 2018 iPad Pro is that I've never found it to be "too slow" or needing any extra performance muscle. As I've juggled apps in its Slide Over and Split View multitasking modes, I've never hit a wall where it felt like I needed more power. 

The 10.2-inch iPad is probably the right iPad for most people due to its $329 price. But I'd still pick the 2018 iPad Pro as the best iPad overall, especially now that it's gotten a little cheaper.

Outlook: Will there be another 2020 iPad Pro?

iPad and iPad Pro tutorials

(Image credit: Future)

There's also the matter of a rumored Fall 2020 iPad Pro, which would surprise me. It would be unlike Apple to update a product twice in a given year, but if a rumor from February comes true, we'll be seeing a 5G iPad Pro with an A14X chip coming at the end of the year.

We'd need to test it to see if the jump from A12Z to A14X is a major speed boost, but it's not hard to assume that people would be interested in a 5G iPad Pro (provided they've got 5G in their city by then).

But if that model doesn't arrive in the fall, I'm going to recommend most people stick with the 2018 iPad Pro (if it's available at a lower price). Unless you love AR apps, I can't see a overwhelming reason to spend more on the 2020 iPad Pro, when the older version still works with the new Magic Keyboard.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.