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Apple iPad Pro 2021: Everything that we know about Apple’s upcoming Pro tablet for power users

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The Apple iPad is unquestionably one of the best tablets you can buy. Despite the global decline in demand for tablets, different varieties of the iPad have been in high demand thanks to their unique proposition of powerful processing capabilities and portability. The iPad Pro takes it a step further with a massive display, multiple cameras on the back, pro-grade performance, and the Apple Magic keyboard that will make you want to replace your laptop with it. Apple announced the iPad Pro in March last year, and the latest models for 2021 are set to arrive very soon.

Apple has done a good job trying to put a lid on any leaks about the iPad Pro 2021 models, and we have yet to learn the majority of the details. However, recent rumors and reports highlight some of the potential features that the new iPad Pro models are expected to feature. The 2021 iPad Pro is predicted to come with an improved Mini LED display, performance comparable to Apple’s M1 MacBook laptops, and improvements like slimmer display bezels and a USB-C port updated with Thunderbolt support.

This article lists all the rumors and credible information from reports about the Apple iPad Pro slated to launch in 2021.

Apple iPad Pro 2021: Release Date​


As I mentioned above, Apple launched the 2020 iPad Pro models in March last year. Since we are already past March 2021, it’s safe to guess Apple will announce the 2021 models pretty soon. Some early rumors pointed to a launch on March 23rd, but the lack of an official announcement from Apple proved it wrong. More recently, Bloomberg reported that the iPad Pro would launch in April. However, Bloomberg did not specify the exact date when Apple launches these new iPads.

The latest information on this matter comes from Nikkei Asia which states that Apple might have been forced to push the release to a later date. This is because of the global chip shortage, which has delayed the delivery of some key iPad and MacBook components. For the iPad specifically, the major roadblock is the shortage of components for the new Mini LED displays expected to debut with the new iPad Pro.

In a separate report, Bloomberg has corroborated these challenges that Apple is facing in the timely delivery of the new displays for the iPad Pro. The report restates that despite these challenges, Apple will be launching the new iPad Pro later in the month of April, even though the actual units will start shipping next month or later.

While the actual release date has not been announced by Apple, its virtual assistant, Siri, appears to be teasing the next Apple event. When asked about the next Apple event, Siri mentions it will take place on April 20th. The assistant, however, does not clearly state this is the iPad Pro launch event but we have all the many reasons to believe it is. We were able to verify that on our end, there is no update on the official website for Apple’s events.

Apple-event-April-2021-Siri


Apple iPad Pro 2021 variants​


The iPad Pro traditionally comes in two display sizes — 11-inch and 12.9-inch, and no major change is anticipated on this front. The iPad Pro 2021 is also expected to come in the same sizes, but we could expect smaller bezels around the display this time. I will talk more about this in detail in the design section below.

Let’s start with the major changes that can be expected from the new iPad Pro.

Mini LED display on iPad Pro 2021​


The iPad Pro 2021 is expected to feature enhancements in several areas, and the display is one of them. Multiple sources have reported that the upcoming iPad Pro will be equipped with new display technology. Unlike the previous models that come with Liquid Retina displays, which are typically LCDs, the iPad Pro 2021 will feature a Mini LED display.

Notably, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently remarked that Mini LED displays for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will go into mass production in “mid-to-late April [2021].” Bloomberg corroborated that in a report, while also confirming that only the larger model out of the two — i.e. the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 — gets the new display while the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro retains the older one.

Mini LED is a variety of LCD panels in which — yes, you guessed it right — miniature LEDs (with size in the range of 100-200μm) are used as the backlight source. These miniature LEDs are much smaller in size than the ones usually used to power LED-backlit LCDs. Owing to their smaller size, a Mini LED panel utilizes thousands of these Mini LEDs.

As you would expect, the large number and small size of these Mini LEDs allow for better contrast and more accurate local dimming than the traditional LED-backlit panels. This translates to better brightness and a higher contrast ratio than the previous technologies. It probably the best you can expect from an LCD — much closer to an OLED but still not as good. One downside of this display is that it could make the iPad Pro thicker than previous models.

Even though TVs with Mini LED display technology were first introduced at CES 2020, it is still fairly new. Its novelty means Apple — and consequently users — might have to pay a higher price for the new iPad Pro’s displays. Apple currently has only two suppliers — Epistar and Sanan Optoelectronics — for Mini LED displays. We can expect more manufacturers to embrace this technology for smaller screens, including those used for smartphones.

There couldn’t be a better industry player than Apple to lead the way for this display technology. Besides the iPad Pro, Apple is also slated to use Mini LED for future MacBooks expected to arrive later this year. Over the following years, we might also see it on other iPad models and iPhones.

Processor​


Apple launched the iPhone 12 series last year, and it was powered by their custom A14 Bionic chip. The A14 Bionic is a 5nm SoC with a 6-core CPU, a 4-core GPU, and a 16-core NPU. The 4th-Gen iPad Air, which was launched just a few days after the iPhone 12 series, also rocked the same chip. While the A14 Bionic is inarguably Apple’s most powerful chip yet, the company might actually introduce a more extreme version of the chipset and dub it the A14X Bionic. References to Apple’s A14X Bionic chip were spotted by 9to5Mac in the source code of iOS 14.5 beta.

specifications of the apple a14 bionic chipset

Apple A14 Bionic chipset


Apple did not release an A13X chip with the iPad Pro 2020. Instead, it added (actually, unbinned) one more core to the GPU on the A12X and rebranded it as A12Z. The A14X Bionic could bring a massive improvement in performance over the previous iPad Pro generation. In fact, Apple’s purported A14X Bionic chip, which is slated to power the iPad Pro 2021 models, is based on its custom ARM-based M1 chipset that powers the 2020 MacBook Air Mac Mini and some of last year’s 13” MacBook Pro models. This means the A14X Bionic could be as powerful as the M1 chip, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has substantiated the same.

In addition to the improvement in performance, the A14X Bionic can also be expected to bring 5G connectivity to the iPad Pro’s cellular variants — as does the A14 Bionic on the iPhone 12 series.

New Features​


Alongside the improved display and the better processor, Apple is also expected to replace the standard USB Type-C port supporting Thunderbolt technology. Apple’s computers, including MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini, have featured Thunderbolt 3 ports since 2016.

Thunderbolt is an open and multipurpose data and power transfer standard developed by Intel. It allows storage devices such SSDs, DisplayPort-supported external monitors, and PCIe peripherals such as external graphics cards or network connectors over a USB Type-C port. Thunderbolt 3 supports transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, i.e. four times the transfer speeds of a USB 3.1 port.

The original report from Bloomberg does not specify whether the iPad Pro can be expected to feature USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3 or newer the Thunderbolt 4 standard. We shall see that when the new iPad Pro actually launches.

Design​


While no explicit leaks expose the iPad Pro 2021 models in press renders or other conspicuous forms, a set of 3D CAD renders reveals the iPad Pro might look similar to the previous models with minor changes. Earlier this year, 91Mobiles shared CAD renders of the iPad Pro from whom they call a “trusted source.” These renders reveal the 12.9-inch iPad Pro this year will feature the same design as the 2020 model, with an identical square camera bump with dual cameras and a LiDAR sensor, a power button on the top, and Face ID sensors above the display. The speakers’ positioning, the USB Type-C port, Apple Pencil charging strip, and the magnetic pins remain the same.

Apple iPad Pro 2021 CAD renders


The alleged renders do suggest the iPad Pro 2021 could feature thinner screen bezels. Additionally, Apple transitioned to Face ID on the iPad Pro in 2020 and bid farewell to the fingerprint sensor, aka Touch ID, that was previously embedded in the power button. This is expected to continue this year despite the struggles users have with Face ID due to masks. While the iPhone 13 is rumored to feature an under-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner to mitigate that, we do not hear anything like this about the iPad Pro of 2021.

As noted previously, the Mini LED display could make the new iPad Pro slightly thicker, and 91Mobiles has reported the same.

Accessories for iPad Pro 2021​


Apple is also rumored to release improved versions of its iPad accessories to pair with the new iPad Pro models. These include a new Apple Pencil and an improved Magic Keyboard. Other than these two, there seem to be no other accessories launching with the new iPad Pro.

New Apple Pencil​


The Apple Pencil is a key accessory for iPad users and can come in really handy for annotating documents or creating sketches and illustrations. Now, as per leaker Mr•White, the new Apple Pencil could come with a glossy finish with a seemingly longer tip. The glossy finish may be counterintuitive for many users who actually buy sleeves to improve the grip of the current pencil. We cannot say how legit this leak is but will know when the iPad Pro launches.

New Apple Pencil pic.twitter.com/CWGQrkU2Yn

— Mr·White (@laobaiTD) March 3, 2021


Meanwhile, a patent spotted by MacRumors last year also indicates Apple Pencil could feature color sampling. This means you can touch the pencil’s tip on any physical object and detect its color to use on any app installed on the iPad. But it is worth noting that companies often acquire patents to gear up for any patent battles in the future, but these patents may or may not translate to developing a working product. That is why we suggest considering this rumor only with a pinch of salt.

New Magic Keyboard case​


Along with a new Pencil, Apple could also be working on a new Magic Keyboard case, which has been one of the most sought-after accessories for the iPad Pro. The keyboard attachment has been claimed to offer a tactile that is very similar to the 2020 MacBook models. In 2020, Apple reinstated the scissor style keys to replace the infamous butterfly keys on the 2020 MacBooks. This keyboard is also referred to with the same name as the iPad accessory.

Likewise, the trackpad experience on the Magic Keyboard accessory is also comparable to MacBooks. This makes the iPad feel a lot like a laptop while maintaining a tablet’s usability when users do not want the keyboard.

apple ipad pro magic keyboard patent apple ipad pro magic keyboard patent with speaker microphone
Images from Apple’s patent application of the next Magic Keyboard case, Courtesy: Patently Apple​

In January 2021, Apple filed a patent, spotted by Patently Apple, in Hong Kong for an upgraded Magic Keyboard case. This report features real-life images of the iPad Pro (which may or may not be the 2021 model) mounted on a Magic Keyboard, making it slightly more believable than reports with just design schematics. While the design appears to be the same as the first generation Magic Keyboard, the new patent was reportedly filed under sections for photo and/or sound recording equipment. It could mean the new keyboard could feature speakers or a microphone, or both. But since the iPad Pro already has four speakers and four microphones, the patent does not sound very convincing.

Another patent, also spotted by Patently Apple, also indicates the Magic Keyboard could feature touch-sensitive strips on the left and right sides, much like the touch bar on the MacBook Pro. However, this appears to be more unrealistic and far-fetched for now.

Apple iPad Pro: Pricing Expectations​


There is barely any information on what the iPad Pro could be priced at, but we can outline some expectations based on the prices of the previous models. The 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 started at $799, while the 12.9-inch model was available at a starting price of $999 for 128GB storage. These prices were for the models with Wi-Fi as the only connectivity option, and you had to add $150 on top of this price for LTE connectivity.

This time around, there are some major changes expected of the iPad Pro, which might translate to an increase in the price. First off, the new iPad Pro could now feature 5G connectivity, just like the iPhone 12 series. Then, the new and more powerful A14X Bionic chip is set to debut with these iPads, and the global chipset shortage only makes it worse for consumers. Lastly, the Mini LED displays have limited suppliers while the technology itself is novel, which could also mean higher prices for the Apple iPad Pro.

So we suggest you brace yourselves for higher iPad Pro prices than last year.

We will constantly be updating this space to add more information about the 2020 iPad Pro. Bookmark the page and come back to see newer updates.

Featured image: Apple iPad Pro 2020


The post Apple iPad Pro 2021: Everything that we know about Apple’s upcoming Pro tablet for power users appeared first on xda-developers.

-YyptWTAI3w




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