iPad Pro 2021 — 5 reasons to buy and 3 to skip

iPad Pro 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

During Apple’s Spring Loaded Event, the tech giant finally lifted the lid on the iPad Pro 2021. After months of rumors, speculation, and a few leaks along the way, we now have official confirmation of what we can expect from Apple’s latest flagship tablet. 

The inclusion of the much-lauded Apple M1 chip is the headline-snatching improvement, but there’s definitely a lot more to be excited about with the iPad Pro 2021. Apple has dominated the tablet space, pretty much since day one, and that looks set to continue with this latest iPad. 

However, there are definitely some reasons to be hesitant about picking up this latest iPad Pro. It’s by no means an impulse purchase. With the tablet starting from $799 for the 11-inch model, that’s a hefty price to justify. If you’ve already got an iPad that gets the job done, then you might be on the fence about upgrading. 

There’s no definitive answer when it comes to deciding whether the iPad Pro 2021 is worth picking up. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste and user requirements. However, below you’ll find some pros and cons to make your purchasing decision a little bit easier. 

M1 Chip (reason to buy) 

iPad Pro 2021: M1 specs

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s M1 chip is a marvelous piece of computer engineering, and we’re delighted to see that the iPad Pro 2021 will take advantage of its power.

The chip offers 50% faster CPU performance when compared to the iPad Pro’s A12Z Bionic processor, and a graphical leap of 40% when compared to last year’s tablet. That’s not even mentioning the 2x faster storage access and the 16-core Neural Engine. 

This is all to say that the M1 Chip is a total gamechanger for the iPad Pro, and if you’re a heavy user, you’ll struggle to ever go back to an iPad without it once you’ve experienced the speed of the M1 chip yourself. 

12.9-inch model is expensive (reason to skip) 

The iPad Pro 2021 comes in two models, one sporting an 11-inch display and the other a 12.9-inch panel. The former starts from $799, while the bigger screen iPad will cost an eye-watering $1,099 in its most basic configuration.  

We’d argue that with an iPad Pro you’ll want that bigger display real estate, but the 12.9-inch has been priced so high that it’ll no doubt give plenty of consumers pause for thought. After all, most people don’t drop over $1,000 on a tablet without at least a little hesitancy.

What makes it worse is that the iPad Pro 2021 12.9-inch is $100 more expensive than its 2020 counterpart, and even the 11-inch model is $50 more than its equivalent from last year. 

Mini-LED display (reason to buy)  

iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

Arguably the biggest reason to upgrade to the iPad Pro 2021 is the mini-LED display, it’s an even more sizeable upgrade than the M1 chip.

Offering a display with 5.6 million pixels, extreme dynamic range (XDR) support, and 10,000 mini-LEDs, it’s no wonder that Apple is making such a big fuss about this improvement. This mini-LED display most certainly is a looker. 

Unfortunately, this panel only comes on the 12.9-inch model whereas the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 features a liquid retina display, while still far from outdated it just isn’t on the same level. 

Lack of ports (reason to skip) 

It’s an Apple product so a lack of ports was basically a given. But that still doesn’t mean that the iPad Pro 2021 hasn’t disappointed us with its stingy offering. 

Both models of the tablet offer just a single USB-C port, though it does offer a thunderbolt and USB-4 support. Nevertheless, we’d really like to see Apple be a bit more generous with ports as we’re fed up with dongles being basically a requirement to use iPad accessories. The headphone jack is also long gone at this point, but we’re not going to let that slide either. 

TrueDepth camera (reason to buy) 

iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

While the M1 chip and the mini-LED display have grabbed a lot of the headlines, the improvements that the iPad Pro 2021 is making in the camera department shouldn’t be overlooked. 

The rear cameras match the iPad Pro 2020 (12MP wide, 10-MP ultra-wide) but it’s the addition of a TrueDepth sensor to the front-facing camera that’s really got us excited. This increase from a 7MP sensor seen on previous models of iPad to a 12MP TrueDepth sensor with a 120-degree field of view is very welcome.  

Considering that Zoom/FaceTime calls have become an even bigger part of our lives in the last twelve months, a new camera feature called "Centre Stage" is certainly grabbing our attention. This nifty addition automatically pans and zooms to keep you in the frame even as you move around. It's like having an actual camera operator filming you. 

Thunderbolt port (reason to buy) 

As mentioned above, we’re not particularly impressed with the iPad Pro’s single port offering. However, we are delighted that the sole port is of the thunderbolt variety. 

This will provide 4x as much bandwidth as the USB-C port on last year’s iPad Pro, and it’ll even allow the tablet to support 6K external displays — for the very few people that actually have access to those panels (but, hey, it’s future-proofed). 

Apple’s vision for the iPad Pro is for the tablet to offer as much power as a traditional PC, and this port definitely gets the device that little bit closer to that vision

Magic keyboard too pricey (reason to skip)

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

If you didn’t already think the iPad Pro 2021 was too pricey, then once you’ve included a magic keyboard accessory you may have been tipped over the edge. 

The keyboard essentially turns your iPad into a laptop, so for those who want to get serious use from the tablet, it’s all but essential. But we’ve always found the $349 price seriously off-putting. Unfortunately, that’s not changing with the iPad Pro 2021. 

A fancy new white model was announced during the Spring event but there was no indication of a permanent price drop which is very disappointing. There are cheaper alternatives out there however, such as the recently announced Logitech Combo Touch, which makes this issue less of a deal-breaker. 

Optional 5G (reason to buy)

5G is rapidly becoming the industry standard, so it’s not too much of a surprise that the iPad Pro 2021 will support it. We’re very pleased that 5G is an optional extra as there’s nothing more frustrating than slow internet speeds.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news on this front. An iPad Pro 2021 with 5G support doesn’t come cheap and will set you back an extra $200 on either model. We’re sure in future models 5G connectivity will be included as standard, but for now it’s still viewed as optional. 

Whether it’s worth the upgrade cost will depend on the user, but we’re overall pretty glad that it’s at least being offered. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.