Apple's 2018 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are bigger, better, and way faster than any other iPad — but are they worth your hard-earned cash? Whether you currently have a first-generation iPad Pro, considering buying your very first Pro-model iPad, or weighing the 2018 base-model iPad over a Pro, here's what you need to know.
Capacity & Color
Both the 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models start at a baseline 64GB of storage space and go all the way up to 1TB (!) at their highest configuration. (For reference, the base MacBook Pro model starts at 128GB.)
Both sizes of the 2018 iPad Pro come in Silver or Space Gray. Gone are the days of many colorful options. If you're looking for something in Gold or Rose Gold, you may want to check out the 10.5-inch 2017 model iPad Pro instead.
If you need more storage on your next iPad and cloud-based storage won't do, both of these iPads are great improvements — 1TB of storage is the largest ever offered on an iOS device, and it's especially nice given that the storage needs of creatives continues to grow.
Screen & ProMotion
The Pro models are all about that screen technology: The entire line now carries a 264ppi Wide Color Liquid Retina LCD display (the same technology used for the iPhone XR) with True Tone (which allows it to intelligently detect and adjust outside light to match the screen tone to your environment); like iPads Pro of old, it also sports a laminated display and anti-reflective coating.
The 2018 model iPad Pro also supports the superior ProMotion refresh technology that the 2017 models premiered.
Like Retina and Wide Color, the tech specs of ProMotion are interesting, but not really necessary for the average user to understand. What's important: ProMotion makes the iPad Pro screen feel fast. Blazingly, blisteringly fast. Scrolling feels more responsive, opening apps is faster, and Apple has made another gigantic leap forward in digital sketching technology. Drawing with Apple Pencil still won't feel exactly like drawing on paper, but the company is inching ever-closer to that goal.
ProMotion alone is worth an upgrade to the new iPad Pro for plain screen speed, but if you like drawing on the iPad Pro, the upgrade is almost mandatory. This sounds like hype, but I mean it truly: Once you try a screen with ProMotion, you'll never want to go back.
A12X Bionic Chip
If more advanced screen technology wasn't enough, the iPads Pro also get a super-powered processor in the form of the A12X with 7-nanometer technology. This is practically the same as the processor in the iPhone XS and iPhonSX Max, but bigger —10 billion transistors bigger. It has the Neural Engine, which Apple says runs five trillion (yes, trillion) operations per second and enables advanced machine learning.
If you thought the 2017 iPad Pro was impressive, the 2018 model will really wow you. It's built on an 8-core CPU: four performance cores and four efficiency cores. The 2018 iPad Pro also has a 7-core GPU, making it 2X faster than last year's model.
That chip is paired with Apple's M12 motion co-processor and a standard 4GB of RAM across both iPad Pro sizes. If you upgrade to the 1TB capacity, you'll also get a RAM upgrade to 6GB.
If you need a tablet that can hit faster speeds than some of Apple's entry-level Macs, this is the iPad Pro for you — no question.
The iSight camera of the 2018 iPad Pro is 12 megapixels, the same as the 2017 model. Also same as last year is the ƒ/1.8 aperture, 5X digital zoom, QUAD-LED True Tone flash, and hybrid IR filter. It gets a minor spec bump with Smart HDR (which really isn't all that minor at all).
The iPads Pro now have the iPhone 7's 12MP iSIght camera and 7MP FaceTime HD front-facing camera, with all their bells and whistles: optical image and video stabilization, a True Tone flash, 5x digital zoom, Wide Color capture, and a six-element lens.
You might be wondering why Apple still hasn't added dual cameras to the iPad Pro. I'd guess it was primarily a cost decision — not enough iPad photographers out there to warrant the extra component pricing.
If you're an iPad camera buff, you'll appreciate how fantastic Smart HDR works, but the camera on the 2018 model is pretty much the same as the 2017 model otherwise.
One of the other biggest changes to the 2018 iPad Pro is the addition of Face ID. With an edge-to-edge screen, that Home button had to go somewhere. Well, it went clear away and has been replaced by the more advanced facial recognition software.
Face ID uses Apple's security chip, the T2. Your facial identity is stored on your iPad, not in the cloud, and can't be mimicked by anyone by an identical twin (despite what fake scare stories want you to believe).
On iPad Pro, you can use Face ID to unlock your screen in both landscape and portrait mode, something even the iPhone hasn't been able to succeed at.
The advanced security of Face ID, similar to Touch ID, makes it possible for you to use biometric scanning to unlock your iPad Pro, buy stuff with Apple Pay, and access your passwords in iOS 12.
If you prefer Touch ID to Face ID, the 2018 iPad Pro lineup is not for you. You may have to stick with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro or the 9.7-inch iPad.
Like all iPads before them, these iPads Pro continue to boast a 10-hour battery life (9 on the cellular models). The internal batteries themselves have been slimmed down slightly due to the fact that the displays don't need as much power to stay lit: The 11-inch iPad now has a 29.37-watt-hour battery, while the 12.9-inch has a 36.71-watt-hour battery.
Apple Pencil and Apple Pencil 2
People have been making stylus pens for the iPad for years, even ones that tried to emulate pressure sensitivity through clever use of Bluetooth and code. Apple Pencil, however, delivers real pressure sensitivity.
Apple's 2018 base-model 9.7-inch iPad offers support for the first generation Apple Pencil, but it lacks the ProMotion technology found in the iPad Pro line. With it, you get a digital drawing experience unlike any other, rivaling Wacom.
The 2018 iPad Pro supports Apple Pencil 2, which has a completely different method of connecting (via magnetic connectors). The second-generation Apple Pencil also supports shading.
The second-generation Apple Pencil has the added functionality of quick access to digital tools by double-tapping the flat edge.
If you regularly draft, scribble, write, sketch, do calligraphy or technical drawing, or otherwise express your creativity in ways previously only possible on paper, you'll be happy with the iPad Pro. If you only want to use the Pencil occasionally (or not at all), the base model iPad may be more up your alley.
Smart Connector & Keyboard
All iPad Pro models have a Smart Connector, which allows you to wirelessly connect to a keyboard, dock, or other accessory for quick powered access. Accessory manufacturers have largely used this to make great keyboards for the iPads Pro, including Apple itself. The company's third-generation Smart Keyboard uses a new system of magnetic connecttors, but still lets you connect and charge directly without having to worry about Bluetooth or batteries. As keyboards go, it's divisive — some love the ultra-light laser-ablated fabric keys and others hate them. But those considering Pro iPads will be happy to know that the Smart Keyboard is a full-sized model for both the 11 and 12.9-inch (as well as the older 10.5 model) — no miniature keys here.
Should you upgrade?
There are a number of compelling reasons to get the new iPad Pros if you're considering upgrading your older device: They're much faster and offer a brilliant screen that you'll want on all your other devices. They come in bigger sizes and offer a camera package equal to the current-generation iPhone. And for artists, ProMotion is a game-changing technology for drawing on glass.
If you're upgrading from a non-Pro iPad
As long as you have the cash to make an iPad Pro purchase work, you should 100% consider a new iPad Pro — the benefits you'll get from the processor, RAM, ProMotion, and more are worth it.
If you're upgrading from a first or second-generation iPad Pro
The newest iPad Pro on the market, the 2018 model, has been completely redesigned from the bottom up. It's got a near bezel-less display measuring either 11 or 12.9 inches diagonally. It supports Face ID, and the advanced processing power makes it more powerful than 92% of all laptops (like all of them). If you can afford the update, sell last year's model and upgrade now.
If you're upgrading from the iPad mini
Chances are, if you're still rocking an iPad mini, you are doing so because of the size, not the advanced features. You're likely unhappy that Apple didn't make a mini Pro. I understand.
At this point, however, if you can afford it, why not just have both? The iPad mini will soothe your tiny needs while the iPad Pro will blow your tech-loving mind.
Still have questions about whether you should upgrade to the 2018 iPad Pro? Pop them into the comments section and I'll help you out.
Updated October 2018: Updated for the 2018 iPad Pro.
Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide.
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