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iPad with M4 – will it FINALLY take centre stage?

As the dust settles here are some more in-depth thoughts about the week’s events

iPad with M4 Apple silicon

iPad has certainly made the headlines this week – and it deserved to.

When Apple said Let Loose they really meant it – they were not taking any prisoners with this next step in the tablet’s life. Over the past few days, I’ve attempted to assimilate the info and go under the hood to take a look at some of the less obvious facts from the event.

Before heading into the hardware though, I just wanted to touch on that opening machine-press sequence that Apple ran just before unveiling the M4 iPad Pro – it’s caused a bit of a stir.

The thought behind it was clearly to crush everything into the thinnest space possible as the iPad itself was about to become impossibly thin – 5mm thin! Now the issue is that folks are saying it’s Apple crushing everything real into a new AI world. We saw trumpets, pianos, turntables, speakers and sculptures being crushed. Creative tools just crushed to oblivion…I get folks objections but I can’t help thinking it’s taking the thought process a little too far.

I guess it proves no matter how hard you try you’ll never please everyone all the time. My thoughts? I had no issue with it – it leaned heavily into the concept of what we were about to see and graphically tied into the event.

Now – on to my thoughts on iPad Air to start with.

iPad – is it still an Air?

When I began to take a closer and calmer look at the iPad Air it became crystal clear that the Air was becoming what Apple had always intended for it to be.

Although never stated explicitly outside of Apple’s hallowed sanctuary the very reason for the iPad Air to exist was to be a watered-down, second-hand iPad Pro – Apple wanted to bring most of the features of iPad Pro to a wider audience at a more affordable price.

The 13-inch M2 iPad Air hits the brief – this version is a two-year-old iPad Pro. Apart from lacking Face ID, the OLED display and ProMotion you’re getting the best bits of the outgoing M2 iPad Pro at only £799 which you have to admit sounds pretty tempting, right?

Apple is attempting to simplify the range by having only two size demarcations for the Air & Pro – and any simplification is always welcome when it comes to iPad! All we have now are an 11-inch and a 13-inch in both ranges – although these are only numbers…

The iPad Air 13-inch is the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro and that is backed up by what Apple has to say on its website;

“The 13-inch iPad Air display has rounded corners that follow a beautiful curved design, and these corners are within a standard rectangle. When measured diagonally as a rectangle, the 13-inch iPad Air is 12.9 inches. The actual viewable area is less.”

Apple marketing jargon at its best!

Now – the name Air has been gaining some attention these past few days. There have been a lot of comments about how the Air is now heavier than the Pro – but I can’t help thinking that folks are looking at this the wrong way.

When Air was first used by Apple it was the MacBook Air – that manilla envelope moment. But when Apple bought the name Air to iPad it was no longer to suggest it was light but that it was not pro. With laptops, you now have MacBook Airs (non-pro) and MacBook Pros (pro). And so it is with iPads – the Air nomenclature simply means it’s not the pro tablet.

The camera is now in the correct landscape orientation across the entire iPad range – at last, other than the mini which is due for an upgrade soon anyway. The Air gets the tried and tested M2 Apple silicon inside and the storage options have been brushed up too. There are no 4 options 128/256/512 GB or 1 TB – the takeaway here is that the 64 GB choice is no longer a thing – thank goodness.

Prices remain unchanged starting at £599 for the 11-inch and £799 for the 13-inch. The iPad Air remains a solid choice for the majority of users I’d say.

The big boy – iPad Pro

The 13-inch iPad Pro is actually very nearly a genuine 13-inch tablet.

Unlike the Air, this display is fractionally larger than the M2 Pro was – and thinner too. We are now at the point of no return though as at 5.1mm this iPad can’t get any slimmer or USB-C adapters (well the housing at least) will be thicker than the iPad! And just to compound confusion the 13-inch iPad is thinner than the 11-inch – go figure!

Why Apple has decided to get back on the skinny bandwagon I have no idea – let’s face it, skinny and Apple historically have not made for the best experience! I’ve never heard anyone say ‘I’d love it if my iPad were thinner!’ Why the flex then? If they had kept it as before, the battery could have been a little bit bigger, giving a little more life.

As it stands though, the quoted battery life is as before – up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi or watching video. But, the fact that they’ve managed to retain the same battery life in a thinner body goes some way to proving how power-efficient this M4 Apple silicon must be. They are pretty serious about heat management as well – the Apple logo itself now has copper in it and acts as a heat sink which is a neat trick.

Pro enough

Apple seems happy to draw a line in the sand in the Pro lineup – there is the Pro and then the very Pro.

There is some chip binning going on. The two lower spec tablets – the 256/512 GB versions only have 9 CPU cores which feature 3 performance cores instead of 4 & 6 efficiency cores and only 8 GB RAM. To unlock the full juice you need to buy either of the two biggest Pros – the 1 or 2 TB variants.

They are trying to make a difference between pro and very pro and I honestly don’t have an issue with that – for instance, the Nano texture option (more on that in a bit) only comes on the two high-end models.

Part of the reason that these iPads came out later than planned was due to the difficulties they were having in bringing large OLED panels to iPad. We all now know about the Ultra Retina XDR Display and Tandem OLED. I’m told the tech isn’t new, but it’s new to a device this size. This is when Apple are at their best – using its creative resources to overcome an issue. Although they don’t make the panel they have enough clout to get it made and bring it to market first.

The M4 chip handles colour calibration far better and can create a map for each pixel so that it’s displayed consistently on these large Pro displays. The results should be stunning – but what if I’ve ruined mine before even laying hands on it?

I decided to tick the nano texture box – which may prove a mistake. I want to trust in Apple’s engineers though – you can’t tell me they would have gone to the trouble of developing an Ultra Retina XDR display only to ruin it with a nano texture? This version of nano texture is new and they’ve chemically altered the glass so that it will survive being touched and having the pencil used on it.

The price hike was not quite as bad as feared either – jumping up only a few hundred pounds. Prices for the 11-inch start at £999 and the 13-inch at 1299.

Finally…

I finished off my expensive Let Loose Tuesday by adding the latest Magic Keyboard and Pencil Pro to my basket as well – in for a penny, in for many pounds!

It all arrives with me next Wednesday and I’m properly excited. I think it’s because it’s all a brand-new experience for me and I’m super keen to find out first-hand if iPad and iPadOS are for me.

If the new era of iPad interests you – you can be sure I’ll be writing about it here. I can’t wait to open the box and find out all about iPad life!

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