Evaluating the new iPad Pro is a simpler task than the basic iPad that Apple announced alongside it last week. That iPad has been completely redesigned. But the 2022 iPad Pro is a minor iteration of the model released in early 2021, which was powered by the M1 chip. Now, with M2 Macs out in the wild, Apple decided its best tablet needed one, too.
That new chip is by far the most notable change here. Otherwise, the design, screen, cameras, storage options, accessories and price are all the same. That’s not a big problem, though, because the iPad Pro was already an outstanding device — and the Liquid Retina XDR display Apple introduced on last year’s 12.9-inch model is still a simply outstanding screen. There are a couple new tricks here, like the Apple Pencil “hover” feature and the ability to shoot video in Apple’s ProRes codec, but by and large this iPad Pro isn’t angled at people who bought that M1 model. Instead, it’s just a case of Apple flexing its muscles by making the most powerful, spare-no-expense tablet that it can.
In the short time that I’ve been testing the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I can say that it’s far more responsive than my personal 11-inch iPad Pro from 2020 as well as the new iPad I’ve also been testing. Those other devices aren’t slow by any stretch of the imagination, but the M2-powered iPad Pro responds to everything almost instantaneously. Of course, the same can be said about the M1 iPad Pro, especially given my modest workflow.
In a demo last week, Apple showed how the new iPad Pro can chew through apps like the forthcoming DaVinci Resolve and Octane X. The former is an intense video application that combines things like professional-level color correction, color grading, visual effects and much more, while Octane X is meant for 3D rendering. Both apps are pretty far outside things I’d use, but in the demo it was pretty easy to see how responsive the new iPad Pro was scrubbing through and editing frames from an 8K video or applying different effects.
One thing I can tell is that the new Stage Manager multitasking feature in iPadOS 16 is working much better on this new iPad Pro than it did in my testing on last year’s model using various beta releases over the last four months or so. Again, my needs are modest, but I never had any app crashes or moments where the interface just shut down and threw me back to the Home Screen. In a sign of Apple’s confidence, Stage Manager was even enabled out of the box, whereas it was turned off by default when iPadOS 16 was in beta.
Conceptually, I’m still struggling a bit with how Stage Manager decides what apps (or groups of apps) show up on the left-side switcher, and I feel like the experience of using it on any iPad smaller than the 12.9-inch Pro is not going to be much better than just using two apps in Split View, but it does seem a lot more stable now. I don’t know if that’s thanks to software optimizations, the more powerful hardware or some mix of both, but it’s a welcome change.
If you’re an Apple Pencil aficionado, the M2 enables a pretty cool new feature called Hover. As the name suggests, the iPad Pro can detect when the Pencil is within 12mm of the screen, and elements will start to react. For example, if you hold the Pencil over the apps in your dock or on the homescreen, the one that the Pencil is over will zoom in slightly to show you what you’re targeting. It’s similar to what happens when you use the trackpad to move the pointer over apps. It’s not the most essential trick, but it’s a good example of what Hover can do. But this is just a trick that doesn’t really change the iPad experience; developers will need to build Hover functions into their apps for it to be really useful.
That said, I was able to see a few potential use cases for it. In the Notes app, there’s a new watercolor brush, and when you hover the Pencil over the screen you’ll get a little preview of the color you’ve selected. And when you select a new color, you can hover the Pencil over your existing sketch to see how the watercolor interacts with it before actually drawing. In a demo of the illustration and animation app Procreate, hovering the Pencil over a project brings the animation to life or shows a 3D view of your creation. It’s one of those features that is clever but doesn’t have an essential use case yet, but I’m definitely curious to see how developers implement it.
Otherwise, most of what we said about the iPad Pro in 2021 still applies here. Performance is outstanding, the screen is one of the nicest that we’ve seen on any device, the Pencil and Magic Keyboard are great but expensive add-ons, but iPadOS 16 still feels like it occasionally holds back the hardware here. Over the next few days, I’m going to do more detailed performance testing to see how the M2 compares to the M1, though we already have a good idea of how that’ll play out thanks to how M2-powered Macs stack up to older models. Even after a few days, I’m pretty sure that people who own the M1 iPad Pro don’t need to worry about upgrading. If you really push your iPad Pro to the limit, and it’s a few years old, these new models should offer a pretty significant upgrade.