2024 iPad Pro impressions

Just before Apple’s iPad announcements earlier this month, I posted my hopes for the updates in the context of the last 5.5 years with 2018 iPad Pro. I’ve been travelling since then, so I didn’t buy anything yet, but I did try the new iPad Pro in the Piazza Liberty Apple store in Milan.

Here’s a follow up to my previous post with my initial thoughts on the new 13-inch iPad Pro.

Where’s this shop?

Photo of glass box above Apple store with fountain behind the box

The Milan Apple store is one of the fancy ones. Far from a regular retail unit, it’s underneath a city square, and to get inside you walk past a fountain and down some stairs (or a lift).

Photo of steps in a city square that form the roof of the Apple store

From Apple’s official photo, it looks like people are supposed to hang out on the steps above the store in a utopian harmony of sociability and commerce. Maybe they do when it’s warm and dry, but it was raining when I was in Milan.

Photo of Apple store interior

Speed and specs

I’m very happy about the speed of the M4. I want a computer that’s good until 2030, so it ought to feel overpowered for 2024. I hope this chip is fast enough to make Spotlight feel responsive.

I have mixed feelings about the need to buy 1 TB of storage in order to get the highest number of CPU cores and amount of RAM. In my previous post, I wrote:

unless virtualised macOS as an iPad app is announced on Tuesday, there’s no chance I’d pay for an iPad spec’ed so high

By cleverly bundling CPU, RAM and storage upgrades all together, Apple has given me a lot of doubt about my “no chance”. I want the speed and RAM, but I’m only using 82 GB on my 2018 iPad Pro, so 1 TB gives me room to expand my storage needs by about ten times by 2030, which feels over-provisioned. That said, software updates have hugely expanded my use of iPad Pros over the years. Some highlights:

If Xcode or macOS virtualisation come to iPads before 2030, I’d make good use of 1 TB of storage.

However, I’m unsure how well macOS virtualisation would work with the 16 GB RAM available on the top-end iPads. The latest iPads have less memory than the latest MacBook Pros, but virtualisation means running two operating systems at once, so the iPads would need more memory, not less.

One thing I was specifically hoping for:

Can compile code faster than my M1 Pro MacBook Pro.

Jason Snell reports a Geekbench 6 multi-core score of 14,595 on the iPad Pro with M4 (10 CPU cores), which is comfortably higher than the 12,257 listed for the MacBook Pro with M1 Pro (also 10 CPU cores). That suggests if this thin and fan-free iPad could run the compiler, it would compile faster than my Mac. This is excellent, but that’s a big ‘if’.


The OLED screen should be great for watching movies in dim lighting, but I couldn’t appreciate this in the brightly-lit Apple store. Backlight bleed on other displays is hard to see where there is lots of ambient light.

From what I read, I thought the nano-texture display would diffuse reflected light. However on seeing it, my impression was more that the reflections were just as sharp but were reduced in intensity and slightly more yellow.


I’m really pleased that the front-facing camera is now on the top when the iPad is in landscape orientation. This will be more pleasant for people on the other end of video calls.

As far as video quality, it doesn’t look like the front-facing camera is advancing much. The specs are the same as the last couple of generations of 13-inch iPad Pro from 2021 and 2022. This camera has a higher resolution than the one on my 2018 model, but Centre Stage means not all of those pixels are used. However sensor size is probably a more important metric than resolution for video calls, which Apple isn’t talking about so this probably isn’t improved.

For my needs doing plenty of video calls but not doing much photography or scanning, it seems like the bump is still allocated to the wrong camera.

Otherwise still portrait-first hardware

Except for the front-facing camera, the new iPads are still fundamentally arranged like an iPhone from 2007. The Apple logo on the back is still oriented for portrait. The USB-C port is still in the middle of the right-hand side. This feels odd.

Keyboard and thinness

I’m delighted by how thin the new 13-inch iPad Pro is. It’s not such a significant reduction compared to the 2018 model I have now, but still really nice. Here’s the progression of thickness of the 13-inch iPad Pros:

I was on board for the rumours that the new Magic Keyboard for iPad would have a built-in battery, which would both extend battery life and distribute the weight such that the device was more stable. This didn’t happen. Apple instead chose to reduce the weight of both the iPad and the keyboard, resulting in a laptop that’s similarly unstable but lighter than before. I think it’s a reasonable path to have taken, but for me the reduction in weight in my bag will be negligible considering I’m often also carrying around a 14-inch MacBook Pro (hence the importance of Xcode or virtualised macOS).

Apple Pencil Pro

I use the Apple Pencil mostly for testing our support in PSPDFKit/PDF Viewer. I also use it to draw diagrams to solve problems, for which a uniform thickness line is adequate and desirable. The Apple Pencil Pro felt magical with the hover and rotation support. The haptic feedback and radial menu seem great. I don’t think I’ll make much use of the finesse this new Pencil provides, but it will be useful for testing as a developer.

Non-matching non-colours

In the Milan Apple store, I saw a 10th-generation iPad in person for the first time. It was pink and adorable, and it made me smile. But given Pros don’t get colours, my preferred gadget non-colours are black (for the non-metallic parts) and silver. I like the contrast. This is what I have on my 2018 iPad Pro, 2021 MacBook Pro and 2016 iPhone SE.

The two colour options on the new iPad Pros are:

For the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, the options are:

The Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro has been described as colour-matched, but this is only for the metallic parts. For silver fans like me, we have to decide whether to match the metallic or non-metallic colours. I could drop the silver requirement, but then the iPad won’t match my silver Lululook stand. Can’t win.

I’m disappointed there isn’t a black and silver option for the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. Somehow the iMacs can come in seven colours matched to their accessories, while the iPads don’t properly match with only two non-colours. At this point, I think I’ll go for a silver iPad and a space black Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, although I‘d like to find a way to see this in person before buying. (In the store the only space black keyboard Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro was for the 11-inch iPad.)

Buying the same things again

A benefit of modular computers is supposed to be that you can replace parts. If you build your own PC, you can go as far as independently upgrading the RAM, graphics card, or whatever. This is great for reducing waste. I’d guess most integrated computers like laptops and iMacs are retired while their screens and many other components work fine.

Integrated computers have a huge number of benefits that I appreciate, but we’ve swung so far in this direction that the iPad is considered a modern version of a modular computer.

While there are justifiable reasons, the new iPad Pros and accessories have a poor compatibility story. I can keep using these items with a new iPad:

But I need to buy new versions of these:

It’s unclear whether my magnetic Lululook stand for desktop mode will work with the new iPads, but if the magnets are arranged differently then it sounds like I’d need to change the stand too.

I can’t shake the feeling of buying the same things from Apple I already bought.

Purchase decision?

I’ll be travelling from London to Athens and back by train and ferry until early June. Just in case WWDC software announcements might impact the best hardware for my needs, I’ll defer making a purchase decision until after then.