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I’ve used every iPad since the original. Here’s my buying advice for the new 2024 models

Apple Pencil Pro and the new M4 OLED iPad Pro

Apple Pencil Pro and the new M4 OLED iPad Pro 

Apple

Apple’s long-awaited refresh of its top iPads has arrived and Tim Cook called it “the biggest day for iPad since its introduction.”

While there’s no denying that Apple has packed a ton of impressive new tech into the iPad Pro and its latest accessories — without raising prices — the question of whether you should buy one is also more confusing than ever. 

Also: Everything Apple announced at its iPad event

The iPad now sits in an odd place in the Apple lineup for consumers — squeezed between the large-screen iPhone Pro Max on one end and the 13-inch MacBook Air on the other. There’s also the complicating factor that the Apple Vision Pro is now arguably the most premium iPad experience you can buy since it runs many of the same iPad apps and serves many of the same media-watching functions. 

The bottom line is that, unless you’re a graphic artist who wants to use the Apple Pencil and the iPad Pro for digital drawing, there still aren’t many compelling reasons to spend over $1,000 on an Apple tablet yet.  

Can iPad Pro replace your laptop? 

If you were hoping that the new iPad Pro models would finally have the firepower to replace your laptop, then there isn’t much in the 2024 iPad Pro refresh to change the equation there, other than a few Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro software updates. The hardware on the 2024 iPad Pro comes with a new M4 chip that is even more powerful and efficient and a new “Tandem OLED” display that is even brighter and more vibrant. But of course, the previous iPad Pro was already overpowered and had an incredible display and still wasn’t a great laptop replacement.

Also: Apple Pencil Pro vs. Apple Pencil 2: Which model works best for your iPad?

By my own estimation, the iPad Pro is a valid laptop replacement for only about 10% to 15% of people. While I’ve known people who have done it, they embrace the limitations as a feature and not a bug and use it to limit their computer time.

And that’s not to say I also haven’t tried it myself. In fact, I’ve tried many, many times to use the iPad in place of a laptop or even a desktop computer. When the original iPad was released in 2010, I bought one and its original keyboard dock to replace my Windows-based desktop PC at home. That quickly didn’t pan out and instead the iPad became a video-watching device for my kids — especially on trips. 

Over the years, I’ve owned a countless number of iPads and I’ve tested and reviewed even more. I’ve used all the form factors and virtually every model, including the handy little iPad Mini — which can be great for note-taking. 

In recent years, I’ve spent lots of time with all the different iterations of the iPad Pro as it evolved from the first version in 2015. I’ve taken handwritten notes with the Apple Pencil. I’ve written articles and documents using Google Docs and Apple Notes on the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard. I’ve done plenty of email and messaging from the iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard. And I’ve used the iPad Pro for reading and reviewing PDFs, presentations, and other important business documents. 

Apple iPad Pro 2024 and Apple Pencil Pro

The new 2024 iPro Pad is even thinner than the new Apple Pencil Pro.

Apple

As recently as the fall of 2023, I tried to use the latest iPad Air and Magic Keyboard instead of a laptop during an all-day Saturday meeting at an organization where I do volunteer work. It didn’t go well. The battery life wasn’t good enough to last all day. I had problems managing and sharing Google Docs in a way that would have been quickly solved from a laptop. I couldn’t share my screen on Zoom or host a Zoom meeting very effectively. And, I couldn’t run a presentation from the iPad with the same precision and clarity that I could from a laptop. 

Those are all pretty common business functions and they speak to my conclusion that it’s still difficult to recommend the iPad Pro or the iPad Air as a laptop replacement for standard business users. I’m confident most of them will be much happier with a similarly priced 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Air

Who the M4 OLED iPad Pro is for 

The M4 OLED iPad Pro is a much easier sell for professional digital artists with the upgraded Tandem OLED display and the new Apple Pencil, which brings haptic feedback, a new squeeze gesture, the new “barrel roll” function, and deeper integration with software such as Procreate. 

The new iPad Pro’s new multi-cam features with Final Cut Pro look impressive, but I can’t imagine a lot of videographers swapping the control of using professional cameras for iPads and iPhones. Plus, Apple actually reduced the camera functionality of the iPad Pro by removing the ultrawide camera in the new 2024 models. That also means the latest iPad Pro models can’t capture Spatial Video, which is a setback for the Vision Pro ecosystem.

Also: This $349 iPad was secretly the best announcement during the Apple event

The iPad Air and iPad Pro are a strong fit for many B2B and enterprise use cases where iPads are used for all kinds of business-critical functions such as point-of-sale, line-breaking, logistics, form completion, demos, and many other tasks. Of course, many of these functions can get by with lower-priced iPads and Apple also announced that it has dropped the price of its entry-level iPad to $349. 

iPad Pro 2024 vs. Vision Pro

Speaking of price, all of this also brings us back to the Vision Pro problem. Are people who just spent over $4,000 on a Vision Pro earlier this year going to also splurge by spending a thousand or two on an iPad Pro when the two devices can be used for many of the same things? Most of the Apple Vision Pro buyers are likely the same enthusiasts who would have been the top candidates to unloose the purse strings for the new M4 OLED iPad Pro. 

But as impressive as the new Tandem OLED display is on the iPad Pro, it’s no match for the cinematic MicroLED of the Vision Pro, where you can stretch a virtual movie theater screen to fill your field of view in any room in your home, office, train ride, or airline flight. 

Nevertheless, a spec’d up M4 OLED iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro is about half the cost of a Vision Pro and it’s a lot more portable. So there may be potential Vision Pro buyers who will decide to put a hold on their leap into spatial computing and instead pick up the new iPad Pro as their entertainment device. 

Heck, for the same price as a Vision Pro, they can get a new iPad Pro and new MacBook Air. It’s not as much of a taste of the future, but it’s a lot more practical for today’s uses.


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