The iPad Pro M2 is Apple’s brand new, flagship tablet, replacing the previous M1 model as the very best iPad. This new tablet has the same M2 chip as the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. That’s a lot of power for a laptop, let alone a tablet.
This means that the iPad Pro can be used for far more than the usual set of tablet tasks – browsing websites, watching movies and playing games. This is a proper creative tool, designed for use by photographers, videographers and graphic designers. You can edit RAW images or ProRes video files, with the benefit of the mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display for accurate colour reproduction. Or you can use the second-generation Apple Pencil to sketch or draw directly on the screen.
I’ve spent the last week using the iPad Pro as my main machine, for work and play – including writing this review. For more on T3’s reviewing process, you can read our How we test page. If you want to know more about how the iPad Pro M2 performed, read on.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Price and availability
The iPad Pro (2022) was announced on 18th October and is available for pre-order now with full availability from 26th October. The new model comes in two sizes: the 11-inch display and the 12.9-inch display.
Both models come in a choice of silver and Space Gray colours and five capacities from 128GB up to 2TB. Prices for the 11-inch model start from £899 / $799 / AU$1399 while the 12.9-inch model starts from £1249 / $1099 / AU$1899.
The compatible Magic Keyboard, which turns the tablet into a 2-in-1 style laptop is a no additional £319 / $299 / AU$489. Meanwhile, the Apple Pencil second generation is £139 / $129 / AU$219.
The model I reviewed was the 12.9-inch model with 1TB, priced at £2049 / $1799 AU$3129. With the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, that’s a total of £2507, which is more than the MacBook Pro 14 with a 10-core M1 Pro chip.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Design and features
This is the sixth generation of iPad Pro and has come a long way from the original A9X chip version. The new model looks and feels very similar to the fifth generation though. It is identical in size and weight and works with the same Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil.
Of course, this is nothing to sniff at. The iPad Pro M2 – like its predecessor – is beautifully put together and feels great in the hand. Due to that gorgeous 12.9-inch screen though, it’s quite a big unit and has a decent amount of weight to it, 682g (1.5lbs) to be exact. Held in two hands, or with one on the back of the tablet, that doesn’t feel too heavy and it is impressively thin at just 6.4mm (0.25in). I suspect most users will use the iPad Pro in some form of case, whether that’s a basic Smart Folio or one of the keyboard covers like the Magic Keyboard. Either way, it’s likely to be used on a desk rather than in your hand a lot of the time.
The notable changes on this new iPad Pro come in the form of the processor and the interaction with the Apple Pencil. The new M2 chip is of course faster than the M1 chip used in last year’s iPad Pro. Up to 15% on the CPU performance and 35% on the graphics according to the specs.
The second big change is that the Apple Pencil (second gen) can now interact with the screen when hovering up to 12mm above the display. This allows for more accurate placement when writing or sketching, as well as providing a more mouse-like experience when hovering over apps and functions.
There’s been an improvement to video recording on the iPad Pro, in that you can now film in ProRes format on the rear cameras to give the full amount of data from the footage for professional editing. The WiFi connection has also been updated from WiFi 6 to WiFi 6E for faster connections with compatible routers.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Screen and speakers
The display is Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR display, with mini-LED backlighting and a multi-touch operation. This has a 2732 x 2048 resolution and up to 1600 nits peak brightness for HDR content. Like the previous model though, there’s a caveat on this – the max full-screen XDR brightness is 1000 nits and for regular SDR content, just 600 nits. It’s a shame that the iPad Pro didn’t get the same brightness bump as the new iPhone 14 Pro models (which have a standard 1000 nits peak brightness and up to 2000 nits for outdoor use).
As a professional tool, that extra brightness would come in handy for those shooting and editing outdoors. That said, the current screen looks seriously impressive in any light most of the time I had the brightness set to around three-quarters.
One thing you really notice on this large 12.9-inch screen is the benefits of ProMotion. Having the smoothness of a 120Hz refresh really stands out compared to other iPads and makes browsing through content an elevated experience, and gives any video content an extra edge.
The combination of keyboard (with trackpad) and touchscreen still feels like a bit of a novelty on an Apple device, especially as it’s something that none of the MacBooks offer to date. I certainly found there were times when I switched to my fingers or Apple Pencil, and others (normally when writing), that I opted for the trackpad.
When it comes to audio, the iPad Pro has four speakers (the same as last year’s) and these blast out some seriously impressive audio. It’s not just loud either. The stereo effect is genuinely remarkable. Of course, if you connect a pair of AirPods you will get Spatial Audio here too, which not only gives great separation but also can make the sound appear like it’s coming from your device. I do find this confusing sometimes though if I’m not sure if my earphones are connected or not.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Performance and software
Running the Geekbench 5 test on the new iPad Pro M2 gave a multi-core score of 8424 (the M1 model averaged 7205). That’s slightly behind the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro M2 models but way above the M1 models and even the former Mac Pro – which is mind-blowing.
In practice, you’re only really going to see the benefit of this if you are really crunching large images, video or audio projects. That is what makes this iPad Pro stand out really. Whereas most tablets are more than capable of watching movies, basic gaming and browsing the web, most would lock up if given any serious processing to do. The iPad Pro is not just capable of crunching through files, it’s what it’s designed to do most.
Using everything from iMovie and Garage Band to Final Cut Pro and Photoshop is lightning fast and you can process huge files in seconds. All this extra power is bringing more and more professional editing tools to the iPad with Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve video editor and Atoy’s Octane X 3D modelling tool being two of the latest to offer an iPad version for pros.
Of course, with the new functionality of the Apple Pencil with this new iPad Pro, you can’t forget the sketch tools. Procreate has long been one of the leading apps for Apple Pencil use and here it really excels with the hover-over functionality. There are also plenty of free apps like Illustrator, Adobe Fresco and Drawing Desk – but expect to be plagued by requests to buy premium features.
Apple’s own Freeform productivity app will launch later this year (expected in iPad OS 16.2) providing more of a notebook approach to Apple Pencil use. This will allow you to insert documents, video, audio clips, images and more and collaborate with others on views.
If you’re just looking for something more hobbyist, I did enjoy some of the colouring apps, such as Pigment which allows you to paint freely over the line drawings. This allows you to make the most of the Apple Pencil, even if you lack drawing skills.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Stage Manager
Stage Manager is new to iPad OS 16 and is only available to a limited number of iPads, including the new iPad Pro. This is designed to provide a way of multitasking that is closer to a MacOS experience. When activated – either in the settings or from the Control Center – the app you are using appears in a window, your previously used apps are displayed as mini windows on the left and the dock remains active at the bottom.
The idea is that this allows you to not only swap more easily between apps but it allows you to have multiple windows open and even group apps together for use. There’s quite a bit of customisation that can be done in Stage Manager. You can turn either the recent apps or the dock (or both) off with a hard press of the Stage Manager icon in the control panel. You can also then rearrange or apps, resize windows and group apps together.
It’s a nice idea though feels a little over-complicated. I would have preferred the minimized apps to just sit in the dock at the bottom, as they do on MacOS but even when you turn the recent apps on the side off, they don’t do this.
Where Stage Manager really comes into its own is when you use it with screen mirroring. I tried this by mirroring it to my MacBook Pro, which was linked up to a 24-inch monitor. Later this year it will get full external display support. Using an iPad OS on a 24-inch monitor is impressive but I hope when the external display support comes, you will be able to resize the dock and recent apps, as they look massive currently.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Cameras
The iPad Pro features two rear cameras. These are the same 12MP wide angle and 10MP ultra-wide angle models that were on the previous model. In addition to still shots, the cameras can both shoot video up to 4K at 60fps or slo-mo video in 1080P at 240fps or 120fps.
On the front once again is the 12MP TrueDepth camera. This features Centre Stage to keep the subject in the middle of the frame during video calls by zooming in and then panning with them as they move around the frame.
While these cameras are all very capable, It would have been nice to see the new 48MP camera here – the one that features on the new iPhone 14 Pro models – as this is the flagship iPad. It would also have been nice to see the front camera repositioned to the long edge, so that it sits at the top for video calling in landscape position, as it has been in the new iPad 10th generation. Especially as this is how the iPad Pro is more likely to be used.
One new addition on the camera front is the ability to shoot ProRes video, however this is not a function built into the main camera app. Instead, it’s only available in third-party apps like Filmic Pro. Though this seems a little odd not to offer in the camera app, as it is on the iPhone 14 Pro models, it’s unlikely to be much of a loss for regular users, and those that want to shoot in ProRes will prefer the level of control that Filmic Pro and other dedicated options offer.
I tried out the ProRes format using Filmic Pro and the footage does look impressive. My 40 second shot in 4K 24fps did take up 2.56GB though, so definitely not recommended for casual video shooters.
Apple iPad Pro M2: Verdict
There’s no doubt that the iPad Pro 12.9 M2 model is the best tablet you can buy. Up until now the previous model held that honour, and this simply improves on it. The combination of its lightning fast chip and an excellent screen makes it ideal for creative professionals. Though it also makes it outstanding for those that just want to watch movies, play games and type a few emails.
In much the same way as most MacBook Pro users don’t use their machines to their full potential, most iPad Pro users will never really stretch that processor power but maybe that doesn’t really matter. It matters more that speed is never a limitation here.
All that said, this new iPad Pro is a relatively small update on the M1 model. In fact, aside from the M2 chip there appears to be no other physical changes to the device. It would have been nice to see a few more advances here, certainly in terms of the cameras and the screen brightness.
Stage Manager is a big addition to iPad OS16, and the iPad Pro gives the perfect platform to show its strengths. It does help the iPad to provide a more laptop-like experience for those that want it, and that will be even greater when the full external display support comes. For me though, it’s not quite the full MacOS experience I want – and that I know this iPad Pro at least, is capable of.
While it feels a little petulant to suggest buying the older version, here I feel the 5th generation of the iPad Pro is worth considering. The M1 chip is still plenty fast enough and unless you need the hover-over Apple Pencil functionality, you’re not missing much else.
If you want a more compact tablet, the 11-inch iPad Pro also now comes with the M2 chip, and all the benefit that brings. It’s £350 / $300 cheaper though the display isn’t an XDR model with Mini-LED – instead it has a more standard LED liquid retina display.