New 12.9-inch iPad Pro already has a display problem — what you need to know

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch)
(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

Apple has begun shipping its 2021 M1-equipped iPad Pro tablets, and the larger 12.9-inch version has earned special acclaim for its beautiful mini-LED display. We praised its brightness and stellar picture quality in our own iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review, but now some owners are reporting some distracting bloom effects appearing on the screen while viewing their tablet in a dark room.

Notably, 2021 iPad Pro users like Josh Teder and Teoh Yi Chie have taken to Twitter to post images showcasing a slight bloom effect that can be seen around bright areas of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's screen when using it in total darkness.

This is significant because, as MacRumors points out, Apple's support documents for the new iPad Pro specifically spell out how the larger iPad Pro's Liquid Retina XDR display is designed to minimize bloom by handling local dimming better than typical LED LCD displays. 

12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 light bloom

This image, posted to Twitter by Teoh Yi Chie (@ParkaBlogs), shows how noticeable the bloom effect can be around bright areas of the screen when viewed in total darkness.  (Image credit: Teoh Yi Chie)

Local dimming is a trick used in newer LED LCD displays to try matching the high contrast ratio of OLED displays, which are capable of switching individual pixels on and off. LED LCD displays, by contrast, are backlit with LEDs that can't light specific pixels without casting some excess light.

The 12.9-inch version of Apple's 2021 iPad Pro has a special mini-LED display, and the addition of mini-LED is a big deal because the Pro's mini-LED diodes are a fifth the size of normal LED diodes, meaning more densely packed lighting zones that can be individually brightened or dimmed.

"These mini-LEDs are grouped into an array of over 2,500 individually controlled local dimming zones. This delivers incredibly deep blacks right next to bright image areas, achieving a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio," notes Apple's support documentation. "Transitional characteristics of local dimming zones, such as a slight blur or color change while scrolling against black backgrounds, are normal behavior."

Some users are now posting images which show a noticeable light bloom around bright areas of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's screen in total darkness, even when they aren't scrolling. Many are quick to point out that this is a very subtle effect that's barely noticeable unless you're using the iPad in a dark room, but it's still a notable example of how Apple's new mini-LED display falls short of what can be achieved with a high-quality OLED screen like that found on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus.

We should also point out that while we found the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's display to be remarkably sharp and bright in our review, we also noticed that you really need to be viewing HDR content on the device to see the difference the mini-LED display makes. Not that it makes non-HDR content look bad, of course — you should just know that not all iOS apps currently support HDR content (we're looking at you, HBO Max) so you won't get the most out of your new 12.9-inch iPad Pro's display when using them. 

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.