My iPad Pro: 2021 Edition

I bought my first iPad Pro almost three years ago to replace my aging iPad Air 2 and have enjoyed its faster performance, larger and more colorful screen, buttery-smooth refresh rate, and Apple Pencil compatibility ever since. At the time I had considered Apple’s new 11″ iPad Pro with its larger screen, Face ID, screaming-fast processor, and improved Pencil, but I wasn’t willing to pay $1,200 for it. Instead I spent less than $600 on a used previous-generation model with 10.5″ screen and I’ve been happy ever since.

That is until Minecraft happened earlier this year. All was good until we discovered that the old iPad Air 2 that Adam was using couldn’t run it. As a “temporary” fix, I let him use my iPad Pro until I could figure out how to get Minecraft running since it was technically compatible. Well I never figured it out and Adam’s been using my iPad ever since – now it’s also a Roblox tablet and a few other things.

As I started to grapple with this new loss of my iPad I identified a couple options. I could buy a new family iPad for Adam to use like I did for Zach the year before. Total cost would be about $300 for a used prior generation 128 GB model with enough room to take movies on the road. Alternatively, I could buy a new iPad for myself and let Adam continue to use my Pro…

Sound nuts? Not really. For $300 more than my first option I could get myself one of those fancy 11″ iPads that cost $1,200 three years ago. My old iPad Pro is still faster than the iPad Zach uses and neither are anywhere near needing replacement, so we’ll get many more years out of them. That plan in mind, I bought a used 256 GB 11″ iPad from 2018 with a Smart Folio keyboard case for $590 shipped.

My 11″ iPad Pro isn’t quite as much of an upgrade as my 10.5″ Pro was over my Air 2, but it still includes some improvements:

  • A new case design that ushered in the old-is-new-again flat-sided design of the iPhone 4
  • An “edge-to-edge” (if you close your eyes and delete the bezels in your mind) display with the rounded corners that Apple is so enamored with
  • Twice the performance of my already fast 10.5″ Pro, and often faster than the 2016 MacBook Pro that used to be my daily driver
  • USB-C instead of Lightning, which allows a direct connection to a display (up to 5K resolution), thumb drives, and cameras
  • Face ID – “look Ma, no home button!”
  • Compatibility with the new Apple Pencil that magnetically attaches to the iPad to charge and doesn’t roll off tables
  • Five “studio quality” microphones (as opposed to two “regular” microphones)
  • Better cameras that I’ll never use

It has the same great high-refresh rate screen, the same amount of memory, and four great speakers. I never maxed out the performance of my previous iPad Pro so this one will give me even more room to grow.

Review

So how is it? Great and familiar, which is a testament to Apple’s migration experience and product consistency. The hardware is barely larger than my 10.5″ Pro, it’s in great shape, and exhibits no signs of Bendgate 2.0. I have a Smart Keyboard Folio as a case and it works well. It’s somewhat odd as a case since the keys are exposed if it’s folded back to use as a tablet. They are deactivated in this position but you can feel them on your fingers. The case is very rigid and uses numerous magnets to stay anchored, making it stronger than a Smart Cover and slimmer than a wrap-around case. This is a combination I like.

Larger screen with barely any extra width

The keyboard is sturdier than I expected and its strong enough to actually set on your lap. Unfortunately the keys are close to the edge so there is no palm rest. This makes it awkward to use if it isn’t on a table and acts a lot like laptop keyboards of the early nineties before Apple introduced palm rests. Key travel is shallow but usable, similar to Apple’s infamous butterfly mechanism but with sealed keys that keep crumbs from destroying everything.

My 10.5″ iPad was fast and this is even faster to the point where I don’t notice the difference much. The things I typically do – web browsing, email, Netflix, YouTube – seem about the same. The screen is larger and the tiny amount of extra space is nice, but not super noticeable. The thing I do notice is Face ID, which is super fast. So fast, in fact, that I had to verify that it was actually turned on. It makes securing my iPad a seamless experience.

Battery life is good so far, lasting a week of mixed Netflix, YouTube, music, and web browsing before needing a recharge. Overall I’m really happy with my new iPad Pro. It’s plenty fast for me, Face ID is awesome, and its gestures work just like my phone. It will certainly last me a few more years until I buy a used M1 model that is as fast as my MacBook Air 🙂

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