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iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: What's new?

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020
(Image credit: Apple and Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

Comparing the Apple iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020 is a complicated task, as not all of the new iPad Pros are the same. There are different screens in the iPad Pro 2021, depending on which one you're looking at, though both look to offer significant performance gains over last year's iPad Pro.

In our iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review we found a great deal to like about the 12.9-inch tablet's remarkably bright display and speedy M1-powered performance. The 11-inch version packs the same M1 chip but only the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 has the new mini-LED display, an upgrade that ratchets up your picture quality tremendously.

That means the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a stronger competitor in our best tablet rankings, as the 11-inch version is already pretty similar to the fantastic iPad Air.

The disparities end there. Both new iPad Pros boast a new front-facing TrueDepth camera with a sharper, ultra-wide camera. That same new camera aims to improve video calls with Center Stage, a feature that trains its camera on your face. Also, both of the 2021 iPads feature optional 5G connectivity, which the previous models don't.

Use this iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020 guide to find out everything you need to know. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020 specs

11-inch iPad Pro 202011-inch iPad Pro 202112.9-inch iPad Pro 202012.9-inch iPad Pro 2021
Starting price$749$799$999$1,099
Display11 inches (2388 x 1668 pixels)11 inches (2388 x 1668 pixels)12.9 inches (2732 x 2048 pixels)12.9 inches (2732 x 2048 pixels) mini-LED
ProcessorA12Z BionicM1 (16-core)A12Z BionicM1 (16-core)
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Rear Cameras12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)
Front Cameras7MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth7MP TrueDepth12MP TrueDepth
Dimensions9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches
Weight1.04 pounds1.04 pounds1.41 pounds1.51 pounds
PortUSB-CUSB-C with Thunderbolt, USB-4USB-CUSB-C with Thunderbolt, USB-4
AccessoriesMagic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, optional 4GWi-Fi 6, optional 5GWi-Fi 6, optional 4GWi-Fi 6, optional 5G

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Price

The iPad Pro 2021 starts at $799 for the 11-inch model, whereas the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 is $1,099. And while that's a modest $50 bump vs the previous iPad Pro ($749), the 12.9-inch 2020 model was $100 less, at $999.

We wish the price stayed the same, but the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's mini-LED display, M1 chip and improved TrueDepth camera may be worth that extra cash to some. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Display

Only one of the iPad Pro 2021 models has a better or different display than the iPad Pro 2020. That's the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021, which has a Liquid Retina XDR with mini-LED technology. 

The switch should deliver improved brightness and contrast, as Apple's promising an overall full-screen brightness of 1,000 nits (the 2020 model hit 559 nits in our testing), with peak brightness of 1,600 nits for HDR content. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: The 2020 model's display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple also rates the mini-LED iPad Pro 2021 for a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. The improvements are made possible by a greater density of the mini LEDS, where the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro has 10,000 mini-LEDs inside, which are 120x smaller than the LEDs in the 2020 iPad Pro. 

The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 has the same display as the 2020 model, down to the pixel. And while that's a fine display, the lack of mini-LED and XDR tech make it seem a less interesting upgrade.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: drawing on the iPad Pro 2021 display

(Image credit: Apple)

In terms of pixels, though, both panels have the same resolutions as before: the 11-inch iPad Pros pack nearly 4 million pixels (2388 x 1668), and the 12.9-inch iPad Pros are at nearly 5.6 million pixels (2732 x 2048).

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Performance

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: M1 specs

(Image credit: Apple)

Here's one upgrade that both the iPad Pro 2021 and iPad Pro 2020 get: the M1 chip that Apple's used in its iMac 2021, MacBook Air, Pro and Mac mini.

Apple's rating the M1 chip for 50% faster CPU performance over what the A12Z Bionic was capable of giving the iPad Pro 2020. Graphics performance is expected to go up by 40% year over year.

Apple touted these boosts as enabling better gaming and compelling real-life applications, such as a program that could track if tennis balls land inside a court (and keeping score in the game). While that's a pretty specific use-case, the aforementioned performance gains should be visible in everyday use.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Another under-the-hood change is found in the new 16-core Apple Neural Engine, an upgrade over the 2020 model's Neural Engine, whose number of cores wasn't spelled out. Apple's also claiming you'll get twice as fast storage access.

The other big news is that the USB-C port of the 2020 model has been replaced with a much more capable port. Now, it supports Thunderbolt and USB-4, so you'll get four times faster bandwidth from this port, and it supports extending your screen with displays as sharp as 6K. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Battery life

This is the one category where we don't expect a difference or change. Apple rates the iPad Pro 2021 as offering up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, the same amount as the 2020 model. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

And the 2020 model lived up to that estimation on the Tom's Guide battery test, turning in a time of 10 hours and 16 minutes. Our test is based on web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Design

The iPad Pro 2021 is practically the same as the iPad Pro 2020, except with one very small change. All models share the same machined aluminum back and thin bezels, and the 11-inch iPad Pro of 2021 and 2020 measure 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches.

The difference is in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021, which is a little thicker, measuring 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches, while its predecessor was 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That said, we doubt anyone would notice the small shift in thickness (which is rumored to be a result of the new mini-LED display). The iPad Pro Magic Keyboard made for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2020 won't work with the slightly thicker iPad Pro 2021, so Apple's releasing a new Magic Keyboard designed for a better fit.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Cameras

The big changes in the iPad Pro 2021's cameras are found up front with the new 12-megapixel selfie camera. To help make the endless stream of video calls better, Apple's upgraded the resolution from the 7MP sensor in last year's model, but also given the camera a 122-degree field of view. 

And that field of view comes in especially handy with Center Stage, a new feature that zooms in on you when you move around while on a video call. It can also recognize when someone else appears on your end, and zooms out. It will not be exclusive to FaceTime, and is already supported by other video calling clients, such as Cisco Webex.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Apple Center Stage

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple also highlighted improved LiDAR performance in the iPad Pro 2021, with a focus on performance in low-lighting situations and reducing capture time. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: 5G

The iPad Pro 2021 also adds optional 5G cellular connections, an upgrade from the 4G LTE option in the iPad Pro 2020. Apple says this should give you speeds of up to 3.5GBps, "in ideal download conditions."

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Accessories

The iPad Pro 2021 and iPad Pro 2020 support the same first party accessories, including the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard and both the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Apple Pencils.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: iPad Pro Magic Keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

But since the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 is a little thicker, it's going to be a bit snug if you slot it into a Magic Keyboard from previous years. It will still fit mind you, Apple's updating the 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard to fit more precisely.

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: Outlook

Both sizes of the new iPad Pro 2021 deliver a huge speed boost, but the real upgrade is in the 12.9-inch model. And because these new tablets don't share all the same features, it's harder to do an iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020 face-off. 

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 has a whole new screen with the mini-LED tech, which should make your shows, movies and everything else you watch on the tablet even better than ever. 

iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Pro 2020: iPad Pro 2021

(Image credit: Apple)

But if you prefer the 11-inch iPad Pro, you have less reason to think this upgrade is necessary. Only those who find that iPad Pro to be not fast enough, or are seriously impressed by Center Stage, should consider upgrading this year. If the 2022 11-inch iPad Pro rolls around with a mini-LED screen, you'll probably be glad you waited.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus 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.