The 2021 iPad Pros are the first to feature Apple's fancy M1 processor, and they are finally available to buy (shipping starts this Friday, May 21). Like the 2020 iPad Pros that were released a little over a year ago, the 2021 models come in two different sizes — 11-inch and 12.9-inch — and they actually look identical in pretty much every way. So how exactly are they different?
The main differences are that the 2021 iPad Pros have the M1 processor, the same as in its most recent iMacs, MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. Apple also decked the newest 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a Liquid Retina XDR display, a first for the line. The newest 11-inch iPad Pro does not have this fancy display, instead sporting a similar 120Hz display as the 2020 iPad Pros. The 2021 iPad Pros also have a USB-C port that now supports Thunderbolt for use with external hard drives or monitors (for mirroring only), a wide-angle webcam and the option for 5G, if you get a cellular model.
Apple has stopped selling the 2020 models, but you can still find them (discounted) at other online sellers like Amazon, Best Buy and B&H. To tell them apart, pay close attention to the names. The 2021 11-inch iPad Pro is generally referred to as the "11-inch iPad Pro (3rd-generation)." And the 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro is also referred to as the "12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation)."
The newest iPad Pros are the first to have Apple's M1 chip, which is the same processor used it Apple's latest iMac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. It also has a few other meaningful improvements.
- Faster than last year's, with Apple's M1 chip.
- Thunderbolt port opens it up to more accessories.
- The 12.9-inch model's XDR display arguably best ever put in a tablet.
- Wide angle webcam for improved FaceTime and video conferencing.
- Supports 5G.
- The 11-inch model doesn't have the fancy new display.
- The 12.9-inch model starts at $1,099, which is very expensive.
- No design updates for your money.
Last year's 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros look basically identical to Apple's newest offerings. They pack a slower-yet-still-powerful A12Z Bionic processor and work with (almost) the same accessories. Also, you can get a good deal on one now.
- Looks identical to the newest iPad Pros.
- Works with all the same accessories.
- Beautiful 120Hz display.
- Runs all the same apps as the newest iPad Pros.
- You can find a better deal on these older models now.
- The 12.9-inch model lacks the fancy Liquid Retina XDR display.
- No Thunderbolt Support.
- No support for 5G.
- Its older A12Z Bionic chip will likely become unsupported sooner than the newer M1 processor.