Apple revamps iPad lineup, adds M4 chip to Pro model


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Writes Mike Robuck

Apple made a big splash for its iPad devices at its Let Loose event on 7 May 2024, including a new 13-inch iPad Air and its M4 chip in the company’s latest iPad Pro.

It is a much-needed refresh for Apple’s signature devices following the last update 18 months ago.

Apple CEO Tim Cook hyped the company’s new iPad line by stating during the online event it was the biggest day for the devices since they were first introduced.

The tech giant’s executives stated the M4 chip improves performance for AI-related tasks in iPadOS due to a new neural engine (NPU) that can perform 38 trillion operations per second and is 60 times faster than its first NPU.

The M4 is built on a second-generation 3nm process. Its ten-core CPU is configured with four performance cores and six efficiency cores, making the CPU performance 50 percent faster than the M2 chip used in the previous iPad Pro.

The ten-core GPU also features dynamic caching, hardware-accelerated mesh shading, and ray tracing for an iPad for the first time. In addition, the new display engine has four times the rendering speed compared to the M2.

The ten-core CPU found inside the new M4 chip is exclusive to the 1TB and 2TB iPad Pro models.

“The new premium chipset will be a big draw among users and developers, which will allow the porting of the same services across devices,” stated Paolo Pescatore, founder of PP Foresight.

iPad Pro
John Ternus, SVP of hardware engineering, stated the new iPad Pro uses two OLED panels and combines the light from both to “deliver phenomenal full-screen brightness”. The tandem OLED panels enable the display to reach 1,000 nits of peak brightness and 1,600 nits for HDR content.

The 13-inch model measures 5.1 millimetres thick, which Ternus noted is Apple’s thinnest device to date, while the 11-inch is 5.3-millimeters. The devices weigh 0.98- and 1.28 pounds, respectively, for the 11-inch and 13-inch tablets.

Apple shifted the 12-megapixel front-facing camera to the landscape edge of the device to improve FaceTime calls. The rear 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera has improved document scanning due to image stitching and new adaptive flash.

The smaller device starts at $999 for the Wi-Fi model while the 13-inch starts at $1,199 for the Wi-Fi and cellular-enabled tablet. Both are available for pre-order ahead of shipping next week.

iPad Air
For the first time, Apple added a 13-inch tablet to its iPad Air lineup. Both the 11-inch and 13-inch tablets have Apple’s M2 chip and will be available in blue, purple, starlight, and space grey colours.

“It has a faster CPU, faster GPU and much faster neural engine,” stated Melody Kuna, senior manager, iPad product design at Apple. “And when combined with faster memory bandwidth, the new Air is nearly 50 percent faster than the previous Air”.

Its front-facing camera is also located on the long edge of the device. The wide 12MP camera on the rear supports 4K video capture at up to 240 fps.

The 11-inch Air still starts at $599, while the 13-inch starts at $799, with both available for pre-order today. For an additional $250, cellular models are available for both tablets.

“The new line-up includes significant improvements that will appeal to a broad range of users, consumers and businesses alike,” Pescatore said of both the Pro and Air tablets. “Importantly, this comes at a time when current iPad owners will be looking for an upgrade.

New accessories
The company’s new Apple Pencil Pro features rotation detection via a new gyroscope embedded in the device that provides rotational input on iPad apps. It also comes equipped with a sensor in the barrel of the pencil to enable new interactions such as squeezing the device to bring up a new tool palette or rolling to change the orientation of a shaped pen or brush.

The pencil costs $129 and is compatible with the new Air and Pro devices.

There’s also a new Magic keyboard that’s thinner and lighter than the previous version. Like a MacBook keyboard, it now includes a function row with screen brightness, media, and volume controls. It also features a new, larger trackpad with haptic feedback.

The new keyboard costs $299 for the 11-inch and $349 for the 13-inch iPad Pro models.