iPad Pro 2021 review: Almost a computer, always a treat

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Apple's closed ecosystem feels like a massive hindrance to the powerful beast trapped inside the iPad Pro 2021. Like a ten-pronged seal on a nine-tailed fox, the potential fury of the refreshed tablet’s M1 chip is kept behind lock and key.

It’s an important factor in reviewing the hardware of the new device. The iPad Pro 2021 is as powerful as a top-of-the-line MacBook, but it's so much more limited. However, this isn't an iPad problem, it's an Apple problem.

iPad Pro 2021 performance

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Performance is Pro: it’s no surprise that the M1 chip housed inside the new tablet crushes everything that's come before. Apple's latest tablet is as powerful as they come, crushing every benchmark we can throw at it.

On the gaming side, Apple has been keen to point users in the direction of Divinity: Original Sin 2. On devices like last year’s iPad Air, the game is a beauty that runs fairly well at an often-hit target of 30fps. On the new Pro, DOS2 runs at PC's max settings, often hitting 60fps. Every game thrown at the new device runs flawlessly, as expected, but it makes us crave more.

The same goes for productivity. As a tablet user for everyday work – for accessibility reasons –the iPad ecosystem has been a blessing and a curse. Video editing is a breeze on LumaFusion, burning through 4K HDR rendering at the speed of a MacBook. Of course, the only thing holding the monster back is the lack of Pro apps.

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The Apple ecosystem

Apple's ecosystem does do a lot of good. Due to the locked-in nature of the app store, high-end software like Clip Studio Paint can make it to the platform without company intervention. However, as the iPad Pro 2021 gains PC power, it's lack of PC freedom becomes more apparent.

That's not to say the Apple ecosystem is useless in the face of the new revision's power. In fact, the iOS library has never run smoother. However, as Android starts to freely explore the world of 3DS, Gamecube and Wii emulation, iOS feels more uunderwhelming than before.

Even with iPadOS 15, the state of the locked ecosystem is simply grueling. There's enough there to get by, but the power users that seek out hidden Beasts like the new iPad are left behind. With MacBook power should come MacBook software! Where's FinalCut? Can we get a good 3D modeling software? The answers? It's not coming and who cares?

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Display

Apple has gone all-out on the display for this year's iPad Pro vouching for the not-quite-OLED Mini LED technology. In comparison to OLED, MicroLED comes remarkably close in sheer pixel quality. Colour accuracy is near-perfect, blacks are pitch and the panel itself gets oh-so-bright when needed. As a plus, there's no need to worry about burn in.

Of course, the Apple iPad Pro also chucks in 120Hz Flowmotion. While the faster refresh rate is quickly becoming an industry trend, it's still an awesome sight to see on the tablet’s flawless display. Apple has created the screen to beat.

iPad Pro 2021 Summary

There's no doubt that the Apple iPad Pro 2021 is a phenomenal tablet, but them so was the last one. With iPadOS 15 set to improve fairly little on the tablet’s big gripes – software – this remains a caged beast that's getting tired of trying to break free. It's the best tablet you could hope to buy, trapped in software Alcatraz.

If more Pro apps come to the iPad, or Apple decides to let Pro users do whatever they want with their system, then this awesome refresh could be the best tablet you've ever bought. As it stands, it's still that, it's just saddening how limited it can be.

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Read More: Apple is looking to make Macbook-size iPad Pros in the future