Apple Let Loose Event Review: iPad Pro Goes Really Pro

Apple's new M4 iPad Pro offers a powerful new range of features.

Apple’s 7th May Let Loose event was one of its shortest ones ever. In just under 40 minutes, the company unleashed its new iPad Air and iPad Pro models, along with a new Apple Pencil Pro. Certainly, it was the iPad Pro that got the most noteworthy updates, indicating that Apple’s most powerful (and expensive) tablet was targeting a very nice crowd – iPad users who were keen on dumping their Macs. 

The iPad Air update, in contrast, was less significant. Meanwhile the iPad and iPad mini only received an honorary mention, almost as if they were afterthoughts shoe-horned in at the last minute. Apple’s new iPads are available to pre-order immediately and will be available in store from next week (May 15). If you’ve been waiting to purchase a new iPad, here’s a quick rundown of what all Apple announced, and most importantly what it means for the iPad and its future. 

The iPad Air

Apple decided to make the decision to purchase an iPad more complex this year by adding yet another option to its crowded lineup – a 13” iPad Air alongside an 11” model. Both devices are the exact same under the hood, getting the M2 processor alongside a redesign that moves the camera from the portrait side to the landscape side. Barring that, there are almost no other notable updates. They are a tad bit heavier than their predecessors, but only by a few grams. Other than that, the only noticeable change is the colour options and a bump in storage options. The base model now comes with 128GB and there’s also a 1TB variant. 

Apple's M2 iPad Air now comes in two sizes - 11" and 13"
Apple’s M2 iPad Air now comes in two sizes – 11″ and 13″

The M2 chip powers new features on the iPad Air like the Apple Pencil Hover and the new Apple Pencil Pro. The device also now supports Wi-Fi 6E, if that is something you care about. The cameras are the exact same as last year’s models though. In short, the only big update to the Air is a new screen size. If that isn’t a dealbreaker for you, the M1 iPad Air should suffice. For those users keen on getting an Air, it might be worth shopping for deals on the M1 iPad Air, which Apple has now discontinued. If you do want the latest iPad Air though, the 11” model starts at £599, and the 13” starts at £799. Both devices can be used with the Apple Pencil (USB-C) or the Apple Pencil Pro, and the Magic Keyboard. 

The iPad Pro

Apple’s iPad Pro got its biggest refresh yet, perhaps its most significant since its launch. As part of its effort to bring in more pro users, the company has stuffed the new iPad Pros with a lot of technology. Perhaps most importantly, the iPad Pro’s front-facing camera also now moves to the landscape edge, and base storage is now 256BG as opposed to 128GB. Oh, and the device is now incredibly thin, so much so that the company proudly claimed it was their “thinnest device ever”. That may not be such a good thing for end users, but it certainly adds to the portability of the iPad Pro, especially when you factor in the technology inside the device.

Apple's M4 iPad Pro is its thinnest device yet
Apple’s M4 iPad Pro is its thinnest device yet

On the hardware front, the iPad Pro almost feels like a MacBook Pro, a fantastic futuristic device that is worth every penny. It is perhaps no surprise then that Apple opted to launch the new Pro’s with a brand new M4 chip, rather than last year’s M3. If you are a real nerd, there’s a lot to talk about with Apple’s M4 chip. But in a nutshell, here’s what you need to know – it brings hardware-accelerated ray-tracing to the iPad, is 50% more powerful than the M2, and supports a new display engine with 4x the rendering speed. All that is fancy stuff, with Apple merely hinting at the capabilities of the chip at the event. We are likely to see more at the WWDC next month, where AI is rumored to be a big part of Apple’s 2024 software. 

Back to the iPad Pro, Apple has built a new “Ultra Retina XDR Display” for the device. The OLED displays use a tandem OLED structure to reach 1,000 nits of peak full-screen brightness. The company has also added a new “nano texture display glass” (available only on the 1TB & 2TB models) to further enhance visibility in bright outdoor environments. The company has certainly added a lot of features to enhance the device’s appeal, but at the same time, it has taken one out. The new iPad Pro no longer comes with an Ultra Wide Camera. The rear is now adorned with the same 12MP Wide Camera and LiDAR Scanner as well as a new Adaptive True Tone flash that reportedly makes scanning documents better. It’s an odd decision by Apple, but one that perhaps makes sense when you consider the new Final Cut Camera app coming to iPhone and iPad. 

In short, the new iPad Pro definitely adds enough to make it a compelling upgrade for creatives who need more portability. Judging by the new features coming to the Pro suite of apps, it is clear that AI and M4 are going to play a big role in the iPad this year. The 11” iPad Pro starts at £999, and the 13” device starts at £1,299. Notably, if you want the Nano-texture display and the M4 chip with a 10-core CPU and 16BG of RAM, you’ll have to go for either the 1TB or 2TB option. Thankfully this year, there is no difference between the 11” and 13” models in the feature set. 

Accessories and Apps

“Let Loose” was also a big moment for Apple’s accessories and apps. Firstly, there’s now a fourth Apple Pencil option to choose from – the Apple Pencil Pro. Compatible with only the latest iPads announced, this new device adds a new squeeze gesture that can be used to open up a menu of options (varies per app). There’s also a barrel roll feature to change the orientations of pens and brushes. Haptic feedback allows users to feel these changes in real-time. For those users who can be a bit careless, Apple has also added Find My support for the new Apple Pencil Pro. These features alone make the device another compelling buy, but only for the most pro users (or the most careless ones). At £129, it does seem like a bargain buy compared to the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. However, most users might find more value in the USB-C variant, which at just £79 offers all the same features as the 2nd Gen Pencil, barring wireless charging and pressure sensitivity. 

The new Apple Pencil Pro with the M4 iPad Pro
The new Apple Pencil Pro with the M4 iPad Pro

The company also showed off a redesigned Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, which comes with a larger trackpad and haptic feedback. There’s also a function row (RIP TouchBar), and aluminium palm rests, to give users a MacBook-like experience. To compliment the new iPad Pro colors, the keyboard is available in either silver or black at a hefty £349. So if you want all of the new goods along with the new iPad Pro, it’s going to set you back nearly £1,500 for just the base 11” model. Upgrade the size or capacity, and you are firmly in MacBook territory. 

In terms of apps, there’s an exciting new (and free) Final Cut Camera app for iPhone and iPad. The app is largely targeted toward filmmakers, designed to work with the new Live Multicam feature in Final Cut Pro. For years, users have been complaining about the limited feature set of the native camera app. To address that, the new camera app will give users the ability to use zebras and audio meters, as well as ISO and shutter speed. Strangely though, the app only allows video recording for now, but perhaps an update down the line might open it up for photography. 

Apple's new Final Cut Camera for iPhone and iPad
Apple’s new Final Cut Camera for iPhone and iPad

Apple has also added a bunch of AI-enabled features to Final Cut Pro for iPad 2 and Logic Pro apps. None of these features are revolutionary or groundbreaking, but they are nice enough to subtly boost the productivity of users of these apps. It’s a good indication of Apple’s approach to AI. Rather than make a splashy new app or feature set, the company seems to be taking a more subtle approach that is likely to delight users. It’s a good sign ahead of WWDC for sure. 

What Else, And The Future

Apple has now discontinued its 9th Generation iPad, the last device on sale with the Lightning port and a headphone jack. Oddly enough though, users can still buy a 1st Generation Apple Pencil with Lightning, but at £99, it doesn’t really feel like a sensible buy in 2024. It is clear the USB-C variant is Apple’s entry-level stylus, compatible with the entire iPad range. The 10th Gen iPad is now the entry-level device in Apple’s tablet lineup. The device itself did not get an upgrade but did receive a price drop to £349 for the Wi-Fi model. So if you are looking for a cheap tablet for the kids, perhaps now is a good time as any to get the 10th Gen iPad. 

Sadly it seems like the iPad mini is on its deathbed. Mentioned only in passing by CEO Tim Cook during the closing speech, the device last received an update in 2021, which means it is woefully inadequate for 2024. At £499, the device is nowhere near a bargain buy. You might as well pick up the 10th Gen iPad, with the cellular model costing as much as the base iPad mini. 

With no other announcements, we are left wondering what direction the iPad will take with iPad OS 18. From the Let Loose event, we got a pretty clear picture. AI is going to be in the background of the entire OS this year. It is very likely Apple’s AI models will take over routine tasks like editing photos, creating documents and presentations, or composing emails. For the more powerful devices, Apple clearly intends to use AI to push its Pro apps, helping creatives do more in less time. That is a promising premise for sure. 


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