iPad Pro with M1 Chip: Incredible Power and Potential


Apple is all in on the M-series chips. At the “Spring Loaded” event on April 22, Apple revealed multiple products that contain the M1 processor. The iMac was a sensible and expected reveal, but the iPad Pro with M1 came out of nowhere. We are quite literally able to access the performance and power of a computer on the iPad. That has incredible potential.

A Primer on Apple Silicon

Let’s start at the beginning. Apple is in the midst of a processor transition on its Mac line, moving from Intel® chips to Apple-designed silicon. This is an incredibly technical discussion—and one best left to developers—but we can talk about some of the key advantages Apple has promised with this shift.

  • Superior power efficiency (aka longer battery life and AC power draw)
  • Better optimization between hardware and software
  • Ability to run iOS/iPadOS applications on Mac

The iPad was already using Apple silicon with the A-series chips. We have seen how these advantages work in practice on the iPad, and our early use of M1 Macs has shown clear benefits in battery life, power draw, and interoperability. The most interesting part is, honestly, that last bullet point: the ability to run iOS/iPadOS apps on Mac natively.

The new Apple silicon chips being used in the Macs operate in the same way as the A-series chips found in iPads and iPhones. It makes it possible to run apps coded for iOS and iPadOS natively on Macs. However, it does mean that Intel®-based apps need either to be rewritten to run on the new processor architecture or run through an emulator with a potential for bugs or reduced performance. Developers have jumped on board, though, and many pro apps are running natively on Apple silicon.

Using the same processor from the Macs in the iPad Pro, and given the fact that plenty of apps are now natively running on it, means there is no technical reason we can’t get desktop-class apps on the iPad. Or, in my ideal world, true Mac apps on the iPad.

Can you imagine a world with Final Cut Pro on an iPad? I certainly can now.

M1 on iPad Pro, a Major Power-Up

On specs alone, the M1 is an upgrade for the iPad Pro. Compared to the previous generation, the M1 chip delivers 50% faster CPU performance and gives a 40% boost to graphics. This has a lot to do with the 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU design of the M1 chip.

Honestly, it takes a lot to max out an iPad Pro. I use the previous generation often and I can’t tell you any instances where the iPad Pro stumbled when editing high-res photographs (>50MP). This is leaps and bounds better, and if you are ever concerned about product longevity, this is one that will keep you going for a long while.

As for RAM, the iPad Pro offers 8GB or 16GB of unified memory—just like the MacBook Air, 13.3" MacBook Pro, and 24" iMac. If you want to be loaded up on memory, you’ll need to pick the 1TB or 2TB storage option. This is a complete package.

Once developers start to take full advantage of the power inside the iPad Pro, we will likely see the iPad become an even more popular choice for creators in need of an everyday carry device.

Introducing Mini-LED and the Liquid Retina XDR Display

Specific to the 12.9" is a (relatively) new display technology, referred to as mini-LED more broadly and as Liquid Retina XDR here. Apple certainly isn’t the first to use mini- or even micro-LED technology, but the iPad Pro is an excellent real-world example that will find its way into many hands. It’s a big improvement over classic LCD screens and gains many of the advantages of OLED without the major disadvantages.


High brightness

Good longevity

Lower cost

High brightness

Good longevity

Advanced zone control for improved contrast & HDR

Pixel-level control

Superior contrast and HDR

Better viewing angles

Backlighting limits contrast & HDR performance 

Not pixel-level control

Expensive and newer technology 

Low brightness

At risk of burn-in

Expensive but becoming more common

Mini-LED essentially takes the idea of LED backlighting found in conventional LCDs and miniaturizes them for more extreme zone control. OLED—being an organic, self-emissive setup—gives pixel level control and can turn off pixels if it needs to for “infinite” contrast. Mini-LED gets us much closer to that. This means the iPad Pro’s new display will deliver much better contrast and much inkier blacks than previous generations, though it’s not quite at the level of OLED. However, for a portable device with a large display, the extra brightness will come in handy for locations where you can’t control the lighting.

If you want an example of where this tech is being used, the Pro Display XDR is one place to look. It doesn’t even do it on as small a scale, and that brings a lot of hope that the iPad Pro’s implementation will be spectacular. Honestly, this is the best screen Apple has ever put in a tablet or computer, and mini-LED is to thank.

Let’s check out the key specs:

  • 12.9" Liquid Retina XDR display
  • 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
  • 1000 nit full screen brightness, 1600 nit peak brightness
  • P3 Wide Color and True Tone
  • ProMotion 120 Hz refresh rate
  • 10,000 mini-LEDs in >2500 local dimming zones
  • Touchscreen and Apple Pencil support

The use of 10,000 mini-LEDs is far from the millions of individually controlled pixels of OLED, but the jump from conventional LCD is massive and should be visible to the everyday user. Plus, this is one of the best panels for use as a graphics tablet if you are a fan of the Apple Pencil and stylus support.

Creatives, like photographers and videographers, will love this screen. iPad and Mac screens are already very good, having supported P3 Wide Color for a long while. Now, with even better contrast and more true-to-life HDR, the iPad is just that much better. It even works as a SideCar display or preview device before you send along your finals to the client or upload to the Web. I like iPads and iPhones because the colors look great, and they are so common that it’s a good “consumer” display on which to test your footage.

5G, 5G, 5G, and Wi-Fi 6

It was inevitable and if you follow tech at all you probably saw 5G on iPad coming from a mile away. It’s here now! If you are working on the road, the iPad’s ability to have a cellular connection has always been a major leg up over the MacBook. Portability is key and 5G is one way to unlock it. Honestly, I’m not going to go into this much, because it is what it is at this point.

I will say that 5G is still rolling out, so while you might not see a speed boost today, if you are planning to invest in a device for the long haul, having 5G now is the right choice. That extra speed is real if you are in an area that will support it.

Creators looking to get images or photos from the cloud as they work on location, or even just for uploading or emailing high-res images and videos for clients, will benefit from having cellular with 5G speeds.

If cellular isn’t your thing, then you should be glad to hear that the iPad Pro does use Wi-Fi 6, too. It’s good. It’s fast. That’s all most of you need to worry about.

The Cameras Are Good, Too

I know, I know, iPads are not exactly the first pick for a camera. It doesn’t mean they can’t be good.

First, we live in an increasingly online world and video calls are the new norm for a ton of professionals. I practically live on Teams and Zoom. Apple has upgraded the front-facing camera to a 12MP Ultra-Wide with 122-degree angle of view. Making even better use of that is the new Center Stage feature that automatically pans around the frame to keep you perfectly centered, even as you move around.

Center Stage is amazing if you are streaming. Doing a cooking demo or just hosting a Q&A session with some of your fans as you work on set, you don’t have to do anything to stay in the frame. And that big iPad display is a joy as a monitor.

On the other side of the iPad Pro is a set of cameras plus a LiDAR scanner. The cameras are a 12MP Wide and a 10MP Ultra-Wide. The M1 provides a new image signal processing engine that enables Smart HDR 3 for even better dynamic range. The cameras are good and worthwhile for creators in need of a fast option or extra rig.

Video specs include 4K up to 60 fps, so the iPad Pro will definitely be able to keep up.

Lightning-Fast Thunderbolt™ Connectivity

Creatives (I hope) have mostly jumped on the USB-C/Thunderbolt™ bandwagon. It’s a faster and much nicer connector than old school USB or FireWire. iPad Pro elevates its USB-C to Thunderbolt™ 3 in this 2021 iteration. That means transfer speeds up to 40 Gb/s. That’s fast. Now all your drives will be running at full speed when hooked up to the iPad Pro.

If iPad is more than just an everyday carry friend, perhaps even your desktop companion, Thunderbolt™ allows for enhanced support for docks and displays. It will even drive the 6K Pro Display XDR if that’s your thing. More likely, photographers and videographers will want to make use of a display with more real estate to double-check their images as they perform precise edits or retouching.

Plenty of Other iPad Goodness

There’s much more to iPad Pro than pure specs and power—although it does have those in abundance. The iPad Pro is a pleasure to use and experience. When you aren’t working, you can quickly load up a movie to watch with Dolby Atmos, download a game to pass the time, or start up a video chat with your friends.

There’s also the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil to discuss. The Magic Keyboard is a personal favorite of mine and completely transforms the iPad Pro from just another tablet into a powerful work-friendly machine. Apple Pencil changes the game for anyone looking for tactile control over their graphics or retouching. Plus, it’s a joy for handwritten notes.

Tack on all-day battery life (9-10 hours of surfing the Internet or watching video), the speedy iPadOS, and an App Store that has more than a million apps ready to use and you likely will find the right setup for your work and play.

Even More Hope for the Future of iPad

M1 truly changes the game for the iPad. It’s desktop-class performance in a tablet. On my wish list are some Mac apps to come to the iPad Pro. I have a feeling we won’t have to wait all that long for some news on what Apple has in mind. WWDC is just around the corner and I am so ready.

The iPad Pro with M1 is just bursting with untold potential. All we need now is for Apple to reveal it.

Are you as excited about the iPad Pro with M1 Chip as we are? Share your thoughts and questions about this new development in the Comments section, below.