I don’t need an OLED iPad Pro, but I want an OLED iPad Pro — and the new Steam Deck OLED is to blame

A Steam Deck sitting below iPads.
(Image credit: Apple / Valve)

It’s not often that I feel guilty about owning a piece of technology paid for with my own hard-earned cash, but I’ve always felt a teeny bit guilty about owning an iPad Pro. 

To be clear, that isn’t because I don’t use it. In fact, since I purchased my 2nd-generation 11-inch iPad Pro back in 2020 I’d be confident in saying I’ve picked it up for at least 15 minutes nearly every day. I adore that illuminated slab of metal and glass. I use it for browsing the web, reading digital magazines and comics, half-watching football while I’m cooking, catching up on the latest Apple Arcade releases and reluctantly sending the occasional email. 

You know… all the things you can do with the far cheaper (and still pretty great) entry-level iPad. 

And that’s where the guilt comes in. 

iPad Pro 12.9-inch in iMore freelancer's office

(Image credit: Future/Lloyd Coombes)

All the (pro) gear, with no (pro) idea

I’ve always found the “Pro” label Apple attaches to its premium line of iPhones a bit strange. Can one really be a professional phone user? Isn’t it just the really good iPhone? The best iPhone? But with Mac and the iPad, and all their creative potential, the name makes a bit more sense. The iPad Pro is for the digital artists, the video editors, the music producers, right? The iPad Pro is for those who want to do a bit more than binge-watch X-Men ‘97 in bed with their tablet. And when I bought mine four years ago I definitely had every intention of doing at least some of those things with it. 

But here’s the truth: I’m fairly certain the Apple Pencil I bought with the iPad Pro no longer works, its battery being flat for so long that it just gave up on me and died. And while I love noodling about with the many electronic music apps on the App Store when the mood strikes, it’s fair to say that I’m not about to become the next Four Tet. I feel guilty because there’s so much power I’m not taking advantage of. My iPad Pro is a consumption device for the majority of the time, which feels like a bit of a waste. 

Lululook Foldable Magnetic iPad Stand on a bedside table with iPad Pro

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Which brings me to the new OLED iPad Pro Apple is expected to announce in the coming days or weeks, which reports suggest will make use of the high-end screen tech for the first time. 

Reader: Oh dear. Just as the 2020 iPad Pro seduced me with its edge-to-edge display, rounded corners and 120Hz refresh rate (I was upgrading from a much older iPad at the time), I fear the same could be about to happen with the OLED iPad Pro if that is what Apple is about to unveil. And for that I blame the last five years of screen tech on smartphones, TVs, and handheld gaming devices. 

And, most importantly, I blame my beloved Steam Deck OLED. 

The Deck effect

I was a big fan of the original Steam Deck, Valve’s handheld Linux-based PC which set the gaming world alight when it was released in early 2022. But the updated OLED model, which came out towards the end of last year, exposed the original’s mediocre LCD display for what it was. Suddenly my games were bursting off the screen with their vibrant colors and perfect black levels. Fire up an HDR-supported game like Ori and the Will of the Wisps at near maximum brightness and you’ll see just how much of an upgrade the OLED Steam Deck is. And that has me daydreaming about an OLED iPad Pro. 

Steam Deck OLED on a yellow-to-black gradient

(Image credit: Valve)

I’m thinking about reading through Chip Zdarksy’s acclaimed Daredevil run on Marvel Unlimited on an OLED display, with all those deliciously inky blacks. Or revisiting the surprisingly great Apple Arcade-exclusive 3D Sonic game, Sonic Dream Team. Or trying my best to understand what’s going on in 3 Body Problem on Netflix with the screen held directly in front of my face. Everything I do with my iPad Pro now, but on a display with all the benefits that OLED brings. 

I’m not saying that the display on my 2020 11-inch iPad Pro is bad. It might be an LCD, but it’s one of the better LCD displays I’ve seen, and if you’ve purchased the larger 12.9 M2 iPad Pro since 2021 you’ll know that it has an even more impressive micro-LED display that gets about as close as an LCD can to OLED’s contrast and black levels without using the same self-lit pixels. The larger iPad Pro already has a stunning display and it remains to be seen whether the jump to OLED will be worth the inevitable price increase. 

But as a bit of an OLED superfan, I’m expecting the difference to be noticeable on the 11-inch model (which will reportedly become 11.1-inch), which is still my preferred size as I find the 12.9 iPad Pro to be a bit too unwieldy to use as a tablet away from a keyboard or dock. OLED is more efficient than LCD too, as individual pixels can be turned off and there’s no need for a backlight, which should result in better battery life. 

If I was really patient I could wait for Apple to eventually get around to giving the iPad Air an OLED display, as has been the case with the non-Pro iPhones. But superior screen tech has consistently been a key differentiator between the Pro and non-Pro iPads. The iPad Air is still saddled with a 60Hz display, with ProMotion being a big exclusive selling point for the Pro. It’s hard to imagine an iPad Air 6 arriving with anything other than LCD, and an OLED iPad Air feels a long way away. 

So what am I to do? Months on from launch I’m still booting games for the first time on the Steam Deck OLED and marveling at how much better they look on an OLED display, and even if it turns out that the OLED iPad isn’t quite as transformative, it will likely push me in the direction of the nearest Apple store. The last four years have taught me that I probably don’t need an iPad Pro, but I really want an OLED iPad Pro. 

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Matt Tate

Matt Tate is a freelance journalist and contributor at iMore. Formerly Stuff Magazine’s news editor and based in the UK, he’s been writing about consumer tech for around eight years, with a particular focus on gaming (hardware and software), home entertainment and, of course, Apple gear. Matt’s fascination with Apple started in the early 2000s, when his friend turned up to their local skatepark with an original iPod loaded up with ska punk tunes in his pocket. He sadly never scraped enough pocket money together to get one of those, but he was a proud day one owner of the very first iPhone some years later, and near enough every one since. These days Matt follows mobile gaming closely, and is always looking for the latest Apple Arcade game that he can comfortably play using one hand. 

For his sins, Matt is a huge Tottenham Hotspur fan and unfortunately spends a lot of his time scanning his published work for Spurs-related digs that may have been slyly inserted by editors. Otherwise, he’s often buying Lego sets he can no longer accommodate and trying to perfect his carbonara recipe. He can be found tweeting (mostly about football and video games) at @MattWTate.