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iPad Pro 2022 Review: For Apple Pencil Power Users

The latest iPad Pro doubles down on being a tablet for artists, with a basic spec bump.

iPad Pro and Pencil 2 on a table
It looks like the last iPad Pro, but its processor bump and a new Pencil feature, plus networking speed improvements, are new.
Scott Stein/CNET

Yes, the iPad is a computer. No, it's not a perfect laptop replacement yet. But even as the paths of the iPad and Mac are converging ever closer, the latest 2022 iPad Pro doesn't really try to be more laptop-like. Instead, the Pro, released alongside the new 10th-gen iPad, angles to be a better tool for artists who power-use the Apple Pencil stylus.

I'm not one of those artists, but I appreciate the proposition. The newest iPad Pro isn't much more than a spec bump, adding a new M2 processor to replace the previous M1, along with faster connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E and optional 5G now supporting faster mmWave bands compared to last year. I've just started testing the new iPad Pro, so consider this a review in progress, and I'll update it as testing continues. 

The previous iPad Pro refresh came in spring 2021, so it's been a while. That model added the M1 chip, 5G and a Mini-LED display on the 12.9-inch version, and even that felt mostly like a spec bump after the 2020 version that added the new Magic Keyboard case and its lidar-enabled rear cameras.

The iPad Pro lineup remains the same price as before, but it's expensive: The 12.9-inch model I reviewed starts at $1,099 (£1,249, AU$1,899) with only 128GB of storage, ramping up to a whopping $2,199 (£2,499, AU$3,829) for 2TB of storage. Getting the 5G-capable version costs an extra $200, and accessories like the Pencil 2 and keyboard cases will shoot the price up even further. The cheapest 12.9-inch iPad Pro costs more than two 10th-gen iPads.

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Display and design: Still beautiful, but less distinctive

To be clear, the iPad Pro is a lovely, lovely machine. It's extremely fast, has a bevy of cameras, and its front and rear cameras have depth sensors that could be used for AR or 3D scanning, if you're interested in playing with that tech. Its speakers and display are great, especially on the 12.9-inch model.

The larger 12.9-inch iPad is still the only new Pro that has that nice Mini-LED display tech that's also in Apple's latest MacBook Pros, meaning the 11-inch version may not be worth considering (the iPad Air, after all, also has an M1 processor). The iPad Pros have 120Hz displays using Apple's ProMotion variable refresh rate tech, just like the iPhone 13 Pro and 14 Pro, which does feel really nice to scroll through and use -- it's just so smooth.

iPad Pro rear cameras, alongside Apple Pencil

The iPad Pro's rear camera array still has lidar. Its design and cameras are exactly the same as last year.

Scott Stein/CNET

However, Apple's iPad lineup has all moved to this type of iPad-Pro-like design now, while dropping off features further down the line based on price. The Air doesn't have Face ID or lidar/dual rear cameras, or a larger display with Mini-LED (or 120Hz displays, or the faster Wi-Fi and 5G mmWave connectivity), but it's got Pencil 2 support and a fast M1 chip. The brand-new, 10th-gen, 10.2-inch iPad reduces screen quality a tiny bit further and doesn't have Pencil 2 support (or Magic Keyboard case support), but adds a better-centered front camera.

5G speeds, at my home, were about 569Mbps over Verizon. Your mileage may vary, especially considering how fluky my local cellular networks are.

ipad-pro-12-9-m2-benchmark

Geekbench results on the M2-equipped iPad Pro.

Scott Stein/CNET

M2 chip: Definitely faster, but for what?

The M2 upgrade on the new iPad Pro is better to have than not, if you were already planning on making a purchase (pricing tiers remain the same as they were for the last model), but speed gains remain steadily incremental. The M1's arrival on the iPad Pro felt more dramatic a year ago.

In Geekbench 5, for example, the single-core gains are so modest that they're not much better than the M1 iPad Air. On multicore benchmarks, however, there's a more noticeable bump up, yet still not massive. In comparison, however, it's more than twice the multitasking speed of the 10th-gen iPad's A14 processor. (My review model also came with 16GB of RAM.)

For anyone wanting to use an iPad for heavy graphics work or photo or video editing, the M2 could be a welcome uptick. For me, iPads have long exceeded the speed threshold I need for what I do with them.

And, keep in mind, Apple hasn't made any headway in changing the equation on the iPad feeling closer to a Mac. iPadOS 16.1 will allow true second-display support with monitors through Stage Manager, running four apps on a connected monitor in addition to the ones on the iPad Pro screen. I've wanted that for a while, but Stage Manager is still a really uneven experience that feels like a living beta. You're probably better off waiting until next year, unless you're hungering for that extra monitor support now. (Also, any M1-equipped iPad, including the Air, will work this way.)

Pencil 2 hovering over iPad display

Pencil hover on the iPad Pro is a potentially interesting feature in search of apps that will use it.

Scott Stein/CNET

Pencil hover: What will you use it for?

The most showy feature on these new Pros is a "hovering Pencil" feature that recognizes the tip of the Pencil at close range to the screen, making some icons and tools wiggle or animate before tapping them, or even potentially previewing graphic effects before selecting them. Other tablets, laptops and phones have enabled their styluses to have some hovering indicator before this, so the idea's not new.

Apple says that the M2 chip is what helps enable the experience with the Pencil 2; this feature won't work on other iPads. There are also very few apps that use the feature right now. It's potentially interesting, but when I hover my Pencil above the iPad screen and see a highlight of its cursor before I tap down, it's not really changing the equation yet.

iPad Pro, with Magic Keyboard Case and Pencil.

The front-facing camera on the iPad Pro is still on the side edge, not the top landscape edge where it should be.

Scott Stein/CNET

Design: Missing the 10th-gen iPad's best new feature

My concern is how much Apple flexes the iPad Pro down the road. This form has stayed the same for three years, while Apple keeps upgrading the chips inside. Having M1 processors and full keyboards and trackpads, and now monitor support, suggests that these iPads may eventually fuse with the Mac lineup after all. Apple keeps denying this, but what if they do? Will these expensive iPad Pros be the ones you want, or should you wait for the ones that come next?

The thing I'm missing the most is the 10th-gen iPad's new FaceTime front camera, which is now on the horizontal edge and makes Zooms and video chats finally look properly positioned, like they do on laptops. That's a pretty pro feature to me, and until the iPad Pro fixes its camera alignment, I'm going to stay away from it as my Zoom device of choice. 

Does that even matter to you? Or do you want a versatile tablet with Pencil benefits more than a laptop stand-in? If it's the latter, the new Pro may be worth the investment for artists power-using the graphics potential for their workflow. Otherwise, I'd say skip this iPad Pro gen, wait a bit, and see what Apple has cooking next.

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