iPad Pro 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2021 Buyer's Guide

In April 2021, Apple updated its popular iPad Pro lineup, introducing a faster M1 chip, a Liquid Retina XDR display, a Thunderbolt port, and more, replacing the previous models from March 2020.


Although the 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models have now been discontinued by Apple, it is common to find them available at discounted prices with third-party retailers. Some other users who already have the 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ may also be considering if it is worth the upgrade to the 2021 model.

Should you consider sticking with or purchasing the older ‌iPad Pro‌ to save money, or do you need the latest model? Our guide answers the question of how to decide which of these two iPad Pros is best for you.

Similarities

Being only a year apart, the 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ has more in common with its 2021 successor than it has in contrast, including key features such as the design and rear camera setup.

  • Industrial design with flat edges
  • Face ID enabled by TrueDepth camera
  • Liquid Retina display with 264 ppi, full lamination, oleophobic and anti-reflective coating, P3 Wide Color, and True Tone
  • ƒ/1.8 12MP Wide and ƒ/2.4 12MP Ultra Wide rear cameras with LiDAR scanner
  • 2x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom in, brighter True Tone flash, and Smart HDR 3 for photos
  • 4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, slo-mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps, time-lapse video with stabilization, and audio zoom
  • TrueDepth front-facing camera with Retina Flash, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, Cinematic video stabilization, 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps, Animoji, and Memoji
  • Stereo recording with "studio quality" mics
  • Four speaker audio
  • "All-day" 10 hour battery life
  • Wi‑Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
  • USB‑C connector
  • Compatible with Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, and Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
  • Available in Silver and Space Gray

Apple's specification breakdown shows that the two ‌iPad‌ Pros share an overwhelming majority of features. Even so, there a number of meaningful differences between the 2020 and 2021 ‌iPad‌ Pros that are worth highlighting, including their display technologies, processors, and front-facing cameras.

Differences


2020 iPad Pro

  • Liquid Retina LED display with 600 nits max brightness (typical)
  • A12Z chip
  • Neural Engine
  • 6GB RAM
  • Storage configurations up to 1TB
  • ƒ/2.2 7MP TrueDepth camera
  • Smart HDR for photos
  • USB-C
  • 5.9mm thickness
  • 1.04 pounds / 1.41 pounds

2021 iPad Pro

  • Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display with 1,000 nits max full-screen brightness. 1,600 nits peak brightness, and HDR (12.9-inch model only)
  • ‌M1‌ chip
  • Next-generation Neural Engine
  • 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • Storage configurations up to 2TB
  • ƒ/2.4 12MP TrueDepth camera with Ultra Wide camera, 2x optical zoom out, and Center Stage
  • Smart HDR 3 for photos
  • Extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps
  • Thunderbolt / USB 4 port
  • 6.4mm thickness (12.9-inch model only)
  • 1.03 pounds / 1.5 pounds

Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both ‌iPad Pro‌ generations have to offer.

Display Technology

The 12.9-inch 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌, as well as the two generations of the 11-inch models, have the exact same Liquid Retina LED display, featuring 120Hz ProMotion, full lamination, an anti-reflective coating, P3 wide color, and True Tone.

iPad Pro Mini LED Article
2021's 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ has an entirely new Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED display. In addition to the display features of the other ‌iPad‌ Pros, the Liquid Retina XDR display uses over 10,000 LEDs across the back of the display to deliver 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, and a 1 million-to-1 contrast ratio. The result is an improved visual experience that captures the brightest highlights and subtle details in even the darkest images.

m1 ipad pro display
Now creative professionals, including photographers, videographers, and filmmakers, can view and edit true-to-life HDR content on the ‌iPad Pro‌. There is also an enhanced cinematic viewing experience for HDR and Dolby Vision content.

If you can take advantage of the new display by consuming or creating HDR media, the 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ presents a clear upgrade over the 2020 model. If you're looking at the 11-inch size, the identical displays mean this won't be a factor in your decision.

A12Z vs. M1 Chip

The two generations vary considerably when it comes to chips. The 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models contain the A12Z chip, which is an iteration of the previous A12X chip from the 2018 ‌iPad Pro‌, which itself was a variant of the A12 chip from the iPhone XS. The 2021 ‌iPad Pro‌ contains the ‌M1‌ chip from Apple's latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac.

a12z bionic clean
Both the A12Z and the ‌M1‌ chip have eight cores, four of which are high-performance cores and four of which are high-efficiency cores. Both processors can leverage all eight cores for the GPU.

The A12Z is built on a 7-nanometer manufacturing process, while the ‌M1‌ is made using a newer 5-nanometer process. The A12Z features a maximum clock speed of 2.49GHz, and the ‌M1‌ chip has a much higher clock speed of 3.2GHz.

new m1 chip
Benchmarks for the ‌‌M1‌‌ chip in the ‌‌iPad Pro‌‌ show that it is much more powerful than the A12Z, with similar scores to the ‌‌MacBook Air‌‌, which is also a passively cooled mobile device with the ‌‌M1‌‌ chip. The ‌‌M1‌‌ in the ‌‌MacBook Air‌‌ achieves a Geekbench single-core score of 1700, while the ‌‌iPad Pro‌ with the A12Z achieves 1121. In multi-core, the ‌‌MacBook Air‌‌ has a score of 7374, while the A12Z in the ‌‌iPad Pro‌ has a score of 4655.

The ‌M1‌ chip shows a clear performance improvement over the A12Z, but it will likely not be noticeable in most tasks. The A12Z was already a powerful and capable chip, and it is difficult to recommend the 2021 model over the 2020 model simply on the basis of processor unless you can definitely use the additional performance.

Memory

The A12Z processor in the 2020 ‌‌iPad Pro‌‌ is paired with 6GB of RAM. The ‌2021 ‌iPad Pro‌‌ has either 8GB or 16GB, just like Macs with the ‌‌M1‌‌ chip. ‌‌iPad Pro‌‌ configurations with either 1TB or 2TB of storage contain 16GB of RAM, while all other storage configurations contain 8GB of RAM.

6GB in the ‌2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ will be adequate for casual users, but 8GB will be defter at handling multiple windows of the same application and a range of intense background tasks.

Ultimately, iPadOS is excellent at memory management, so it is unlikely that the amount of RAM in your ‌‌iPad‌‌ will be important in most cases.

Storage

Both ‌iPad Pro‌ models are available with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of storage. The 2021 ‌iPad Pro‌ adds a new 2TB storage option for an extra $400 over the 1TB configuration.

The maximum 1TB of storage in the ‌2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ will be more than enough for most users, but for power users who intend to store a very large amount of data on their ‌iPads, the option is available with the ‌2021 ‌iPad Pro‌‌.

Camera

Both ‌iPad Pro‌ models feature the exact same rear camera setup in terms of hardware. Even so, the 2021 model adds Smart HDR 3 and extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps.

ipadprocameras
Bigger camera differences emerge on the front of the ‌iPad Pro‌. The 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ features a ƒ/2.2 7MP TrueDepth front-facing camera, while the 2021 model features a ƒ/2.4 12MP TrueDepth camera with Ultra Wide camera.

The improved specifications of the 2021 model's camera facilitate a 2x optical zoom out and Center Stage for video calls.

new ipad pro 11 inch
Center Stage uses the much larger field of view on the new front camera and the machine learning capabilities of the ‌M1‌ chip to recognize and keep users centered in the frame. As users move around, Center Stage automatically pans to keep them in the shot. When others join in, the camera detects them too, and smoothly zooms out to fit everyone into the view.

Cellular Connectivity

The 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models feature connectivity to standard 4G LTE in cellular configurations. The 2021 ‌iPad‌ Pros, on the other hand, are the first to feature 5G connectivity, allowing the ‌iPad Pro‌ to reach speeds up to 4Gbps.

5G is considerably faster than 4G, but it will only be worth it for users with the cellular ‌iPad Pro‌ configurations and a corresponding plan from a carrier.

Ports

The 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ features a standard USB-C port, while the ‌‌iPad Pro‌‌ features a Thunderbolt port. USB-C on the ‌iPad Air‌ can transfer at a speed of 10Gb/s, while Thunderbolt supports speeds of up to 40Gb/s. As well as being considerably faster, Thunderbolt opens up the potential for compatibility with a much broader range of Thunderbolt-only accessories such as external hard drives and monitors. Thunderbolt also is backward-compatible with USB-C, so the two ports look identical.

iPad Pro USB C Feature Purple Cyan
Even though Thunderbolt is much faster than the ‌2020 ‌iPad Pro‌‌'s standard USB-C port, most users likely will not have Thunderbolt accessories that can take advantage of these speeds, so for most users, the 2021 model will not be worth it for Thunderbolt alone.

Accessories

Both ‌‌iPad Pro‌ models‌ support accessories such as the ‌‌Apple Pencil‌‌ 2, as well as Apple's ‌‌Smart Keyboard‌‌ Folio and Magic Keyboard. Since they both support the same accessories, there is no reason to buy one model over the other when it comes to the likes of keyboards or trackpads.

ipad pro
Nevertheless, it should be considered that accessories such as the ‌‌Apple Pencil‌‌ and Magic Keyboard have to be purchased separately from the ‌‌iPad‌‌, so will push up the overall price. Therefore, if the 2021 ‌‌iPad Pro‌, which starts at $799, is already moving out of your price range and you want an accessory such as the $299 Magic Keyboard, you may need to opt for the ‌older ‌iPad Pro‌ to bring down the overall cost.

For 2020 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ users who use the Magic Keyboard and are looking to upgrade to the newer model, it should be noted that since the 2021 model is slightly thicker, you may want to purchase a new Magic Keyboard too for a better fit. Although the 2020 Magic Keyboard fits the 2021 12.9-inch model, Apple notes that it is only "functionally compatible" and may not fit precisely due to the added thickness.

Other iPad Options

If the ‌‌iPad Pro‌ is too expensive or you feel you will not be able to take advantage, you may wish to consider the ‌iPad Air‌, which starts at $599. The ‌iPad Air‌ offers a large number of features shared with the ‌iPad Pro‌, such as the latest all-screen design, a fast, capable processor, practical features like USB-C, and compatibility with the latest Apple accessories, all at a lower price point.

ipad air 4 colors
Unless you need ‌iPad Pro‌ features such as a more advanced camera setup, ‌Face ID‌, more RAM, or stereo audio recording, the ‌iPad Air‌ is the best option for the average consumer. For more on whether you should buy the ‌iPad Air‌ or the ‌iPad Pro‌, see our iPad Air 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2021 Buyer's Guide.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the upgraded features of the 2021 ‌iPad Pro‌ models are significant but very specific. It will only be worth getting the 2021 model over its predecessor or upgrading to it from the 2020 model if you have a clear use case for features like Thunderbolt, more RAM or storage, or a better front-facing camera.

The ‌M1‌ chip shows a distinct performance bump over the A12Z, but most users will likely not have workflows that can take advantage of the added power. The 2021 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌'s mini-LED display is a notable upgrade from the previous model, and will be a game changer for consumers or creators of HDR media, but for 11-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ users in particular, there is little point in upgrading.

5G connectivity is the only other reason that it may be worth buying the 2021 ‌iPad Pro‌, but again only a minority of users who choose the cellular configuration will likely be able to take advantage of it.

Nevertheless, the ‌M1‌ chip and larger amounts of memory will make the 2021 ‌iPad Pro‌ more future-proof. If you are intending to keep your ‌iPad Pro‌ for more than a few years, it may be worth buying the newer model to ensure better performance over time through successive updates and with more demanding apps.

For the latest pricing on 2020 and 2021 models, check out the iPad Pro section of our Apple Deals roundup.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Related Forum: iPad

Top Rated Comments

Mr. Dee Avatar
14 months ago
I still have a 2017 iPad Pro and it does just about everything I need. Apple pumps people up when they show woke 20 somethings editing videos on an iPad with a 6k display connected. But we all know in reality, we are just gonna use this to browse the web and post on Macrumors and social media. We like the potential of what it can do. We might even download and launch LumaFusion just to feel good about ourselves. Our spirit knows deep down a basic iPad 9.7 is more than enough. But yes, we just like nice things.

For those still in impulse buy mode, wait a little bit more and you might think differently.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deebinem Avatar
14 months ago

Putting an M1 into fart app machine is like outfitting a trike with a V12.
Uhhhh, they kind of already do...



Attachment Image
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
edgonzalez32 Avatar
14 months ago
I was really considering getting the new one but saw an open box for a 2020 model for a really good price. I figured with me planning on buying an M2 MacBook Pro, I wouldn’t necessarily need an M1 enabled iPad as I just need the iPad to be my secondary device. My MacBook Pro is where I still need the power.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darth Tulhu Avatar
14 months ago

It’s never going to replace a laptop until Apple enables it to run a full OS, either virtualized or otherwise. Putting an M1 into fart app machine is like outfitting a trike with a V12.
You mean it's not going to replace a laptop for you.

Plenty of people have put their MacBooks down in lieu of iPads, especially recently.

This new model will only increase the amount of folks who do so, even if it's not everyone who switches.

All that said, it is not Apple's intent to replace a Mac with an iPad. They have different strengths, even if they overlap in several areas.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GuruZac Avatar
14 months ago
Honestly, the only thing that remains is the design and rear cameras/LiDAR. Otherwise, a new device inside and out. Whether or not those with 2018/2020 iPad Pro feel it’s worth it to upgrade depends on their usage.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GuruZac Avatar
14 months ago

You mean it's not going to replace a laptop for you.

Plenty of people have put their MacBooks down in lieu of iPads, especially recently.

This new model will only increase the amount of folks who do so, even if it's not everyone who switches.

All that said, it is not Apple's intent to replace a Mac with an iPad. They have different strengths, even if they overlap in several areas.
Yeah my 2018 12.9/Magic Keyboard combo has replaced my 2017 MBP for just about everything. I still need macOS so still need a laptop/desktop but after school, I’ll easily get by with an iPad Pro 12.9 and Magic Keyboard.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

ipad pro m1 feature

Apple's 2022 iPad Pro: What to Expect

Wednesday February 16, 2022 1:55 pm PST by
Apple is working on a next-generation version of the iPad Pro, and while there are no major design updates that we know of, there are some new features that are worth looking forward to. This guide aggregates everything that we know about the 2022 iPad Pro so far based on the rumors that we've heard. Mini-LED Display Apple last year introduced an updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro with mini-LED...
Pro Display XDR Blue

Apple is Finally Making a Cheaper Display: What We Know

Monday February 14, 2022 2:21 pm PST by
Apple has not offered an affordable Apple-branded display since the 27-inch Thunderbolt display was discontinued in 2016, but that's set to change sometime in the not too distant future. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Right now, Apple only sells the $5,000 Pro Display XDR, but rumors suggest new standalone displays are in the works. We don't know a lot right now,...
m1x feature dark blue

Apple M1X Chip Rumor Archive

Tuesday October 12, 2021 1:44 pm PDT by
The M1X was one of the rumored names for the Apple silicon chips that followed the M1. These chips actually turned out to be called the M1 Pro and the M1 Max, and Apple did not use the "M1X" nomenclature. Though the naming was wrong, the rumors about the chip were accurate, and this guide serves as an archive for all of the rumors about the M1X prior to the launch of the new MacBook Pro...
Universal Control Colored Feature

Universal Control: Everything You Need to Know

Thursday February 3, 2022 1:48 pm PST by
iOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 introduce Universal Control, a long-awaited feature that Apple first previewed at the 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference. Universal Control is designed to allow you to control multiple Macs and iPads with a single trackpad/mouse and keyboard, and this Universal Control guide covers the ins and outs of the feature and answers all the questions you might have ...
iPad Pro vs Air Feature Yellow

iPad Air 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2021 Buyer's Guide

Thursday April 29, 2021 4:51 pm PDT by
In April 2021, Apple updated its popular iPad Pro lineup, introducing the M1 chip, a Liquid Retina XDR display, a Thunderbolt port, and more. Since the iPad Air saw a major update in September last year, both the iPad Air and the iPad Pro now share similar designs and an increasingly close feature set. Despite their appearances, the iPad Air and iPad Pro are still very different devices intended...
m3 feature black

Apple's M3 Chip: Everything We Know

Thursday January 13, 2022 1:22 pm PST by
Apple is developing the next several iterations of its M-series Apple silicon chips, and one of those future chips coming in 2023 is expected to be called the "M3" and use updated TSMC chip manufacturing technology. This guide contains everything that we know about the M3 chip, and it will be updated over time as we learn more about it. What We Know Apple is still on the M1, M1 Pro, and...
iphone se 3 vs iphone 11

iPhone SE 3 vs. iPhone 11 Buyer's Guide

Wednesday March 9, 2022 9:34 am PST by
The third-generation iPhone SE and the iPhone 11 are Apple's lowest-cost iPhone options, starting at $429 and $499 respectively. Apple released the iPhone 11 in late 2019, and has bumped it down in price since then to make it more accessible as new iPhone models have been released. On the other hand, the third-generation iPhone SE launched in early 2022, refreshing the most affordable iPhone...
iPad mini vs Air Feature

iPad Mini 6 vs. iPad Air 4 Buyer's Guide

Monday September 27, 2021 3:00 pm PDT by
Apple recently introduced the sixth-generation iPad mini, featuring a complete redesign, a larger display, the A15 Bionic chip, and more. The iPad mini now effectively shares the design of the fourth-generation iPad Air from 2020, with both devices possessing many of the same features such as an all-screen design with no Home button, Touch ID in the top power button, and stereo speakers....

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Renders Highlight Multiple Design Changes

Wednesday May 25, 2022 8:56 am PDT by
Leaker Jon Prosser today shared ostensibly accurate renders of the iPhone 14 Pro, providing the most accurate look yet at what the device could look like when it launches later this year. In the latest video on YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser revealed renders of the iPhone 14 Pro made by Apple concept graphic designer Ian Zelbo, highlighting a range of specific design changes...
iPad Pro USB C Feature Coral

Deals: Apple's iPad Pro Reaches Up to $449 Off in Amazon's Latest Sales

Wednesday May 25, 2022 10:09 am PDT by
Amazon is marking down a wide variety of 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models this week, with prices starting as low as $749.00 for the 11-inch tablet. You'll find the full list of sales below, all of which can be found on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep...
apple account card

Wallet App Now Supports Apple Account Cards on iOS 15.5

Wednesday May 25, 2022 5:01 pm PDT by
Apple appears to have recently updated the Wallet app to allow users to add an Apple Account Card, which displays the Apple credit balance associated with an Apple ID. If you receive an App Store or Apple Store gift card, for example, it is added to an Apple Account that was previously visible in the App Store and Apple Store apps. As of today, the Apple Account balance can also be added to...
iphone 13 pro max display bleen

iPhone 14 Max Reportedly Weeks Behind Schedule [Updated]

Thursday May 26, 2022 7:25 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Max is currently behind schedule by around three weeks, according to Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu. Yesterday, Nikkei Asia reported that at least one iPhone 14 model was three weeks behind schedule due to the impact of lockdowns on Apple's supply chains in China, but it was not clear which iPhone 14 model this related to. Now, Pu has clarified that the model...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 14 Pro Screen Refresh Rate Upgrade Could Allow for Always-On Display

Tuesday May 24, 2022 7:23 am PDT by
Last year's iPhone 13 Pro models were the first of Apple's smartphones to come with 120Hz ProMotion displays, and while the two iPhone 14 Pro models will continue to feature the technology, their screens could well boast expanded refresh rate variability this time round. To bring ProMotion displays to the ‌iPhone 13 Pro models‌, Apple adopted LTPO panel technology with variable refresh...
Apple Tap to Pay iPhone

Apple Stores Rolling Out iPhone-to-iPhone Contactless Payments Starting Today

Wednesday May 25, 2022 6:54 am PDT by
Apple in February unveiled a new "Tap to Pay on iPhone" feature that will allow compatible iPhones to accept payments via Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets, with no additional hardware required. Apple began testing the feature at its Apple Park Visitor Center earlier this month, and now Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has tweeted that the feature will begin...
apple tv 4k design green

Apple Releases tvOS 15.5.1 for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K

Wednesday May 25, 2022 9:42 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 15.5.1, a minor update to the tvOS operating system that first launched in September 2021. tvOS 15.5.1 comes about 10 days after the launch of tvOS 15.5. tvOS 15.5.1 can be downloaded over the air on the Apple TV through the Settings app by going to System > Software Update. ‌‌‌‌‌‌Apple TV‌‌‌‌‌‌ owners who have automatic software updates...