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New iPad Pro 2021: Release date, price, rumors, leaks, specs and M1 chips

iPad Pro
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A new iPad Pro 2021 model is expected to drop soon. But how will Apple entice shoppers to spend over $1,000 on a new iPad? The big changes, we're hearing, are on the inside. And they're huge.

These changes may include new screen technologies that will enable much better image quality. Plus, there's a chance the iPad Pro could adopt the Apple M1 chip and faster cellular connectivity. If so, the next iPad Pro would easily keep its spot on our best tablets list.

New iPad Pro 2021 release date

The new iPad Pro is expected to be revealed in March 2021, just like last year's updates. This date doesn't just make sense with recent history, but has been floated by Japanese news site Macotakara.

iPad Pro 2021: iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

March is one of Apple's primary iPad release windows, and the company has launched  new iPads in March since 2016. The most recent example was the previous iPad Pro, which added the LiDAR camera and the A12Z Bionic processor.

The current buzz points to the new iPad Pro coming out at an Apple Spring 2021 event. That's due in part to the regular iPad being released in the fall for two years in a row, and Apple's practice of never announcing new iPad Pros at the same event it reveals new iPads.

New iPad Pro 2021 price

Expect Apple's pricing for the 11-inch iPad Pro ($750) and 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($999) to stay put. The last two generations of iPad Pro tablets stuck to this pricing, and everything we're seeing suggests that will continue. 

The introduction of the mid-range iPad Air gives Apple no reason to lower the iPad Pro's price. Similarly, Apple doesn't seem to be adding much in this year's iPad Pro that would give them an excuse to charge more. 

New iPad Pro 2021 rumors and leaks

MacOtakara reports that Apple is leaving most of the new iPad Pro "housing design unchanged." That means we should expect it to look like the previous iPad Pro, just with tweaks such as slightly slimmer bezels and fewer speaker holes. The camera bump may also protrude less.

New iPad Pro 2021: Display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A lot of the similarities between 2020 iPad Pros and the iPad Pro 2021 are traced to leaked renders of the new iPad Pro's design. 

The 12.9 inch iPad Pro 2021 will be 0.5 mm thicker, which may be hard for the untrained eye to notice. That said, it could let Apple switch out its current display technology for mini-LED screens. 

We just got more confirmation about the mini-LED in the iPad Pro 2021, as a supply chain report says a vendor is about to start producing these displays for Apple.

The iPad Pro has been rumored to be going into production with mini-LED panels since last summer. This change would move Apple away from LCD displays and deliver improved contrast ratios, truer black tones and improved brightness. This would be made possible thanks to smaller LEDs, as the mini-LED name implies.

Patents also suggest Apple may be  considering a new Magic Keyboard as well. A close reading of the patents suggests that the Magic Keyboard could feature microphones, which could be used for better audio when video conferencing.

New iPad Pro 2021 specs

The big rumors about the iPad Pro 2021 tell us that Apple is focusing on the tablet's internal components. Since last year, we've seen speculation that the iPad Pro will be the first of Apple's iPads with 5G. Now that 5G is in the iPhone 12, it's logical that Apple would want to use those components in its iPad Pro as well. 

New iPad Pro 2021 M1 chip

New iPad Pro 2021: Apple M1 chip

(Image credit: Apple)

The latest iPad Pro rumor, from the reliable Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, posits that Apple will be packing the new iPad Pro with a processor that's "on par" with the M1 chip in the most recently released Macs.

Deep inside a post from case-maker and render-publisher Pigtou, which mostly focuses on renders of the iPad Pro, there's more chatter of internal upgrades. The post notes the same thing Gurman heard: a possibility we're starting to hear in whispers: the new iPad Pro may rock a version of the Apple Silicon chip seen in the MacBook Air with M1. The company could also just go with an upgraded version of the A12Z chip in the current iPad Pro, and call it the A13Z.

New iPad Pro 2021 wish list: What we want

Let's talk about what else could be going on under the hood of the iPad Pro 2021. We would love to see Apple put a Touch ID fingerprint sensor under the screen. The iPad Air's lock-button fingerprint reader is a nifty touch, but an under-the-screen fingerprint reader might  get people to pay more — and prevent the iPad Air from cannibalizing the iPad Pro's sales.

Here's a change that's less likely: a folding display. That would be impossible without changes to the chassis and internals, but having seen the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, we're curious to see what Apple would do with a folding iPad. It's one major way the iPad Pro could continue to stand out. Of course, that could easily raise its price as well.