2021 iPad Pro 11 review: is it better?

2021 iPad Pro 11 review: is it better?

A good friend’s husband once told her that she needed the right tools for the job when she wanted to buy an expensive vacuum cleaner. This is how I feel about my iPads, and I guess other people feel the same about their devices, computers, etc. , I haven’t looked back. I can’t even remember for sure how many I got, but I’m pretty sure the 2021 iPad Pro 11 ″ featured in this review is my sixth. Each one helps me to do my job a little better than the last. Will the 2021 model be better than the 2018 model that I have been using for over two years?

Configuring the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021

Like most Apple products, there isn’t much to set up the 2021 iPad Pro 11 ″, which is a huge draw for me. All iPads and iPhones have the same startup process, and the iPad is no different. Once you turn it on, it sends you a series of questions to set it up. If you are an existing user, it is much easier. You can sign in to your Apple ID through another iPad or iPhone and choose to load it with the backup of a previous device. If you’re not a previous user, however, the getting started process will walk you through everything.

I had over 300 apps on my 2018 iPad Pro, so rather than downloading all of those apps and adjusting all the settings, it’s much easier to get started with my most recent backup. However, I like to work with public beta versions of iPadOS, but the bootable OS on the iPad is older than my public beta, so it couldn’t recover the backup. So what I did was reboot as a new iPad, then register the new iPad for public beta, download and install the beta, restart the iPad, reset it and erase all content and settings. This gives me a blank slate with beta software so I can load my recent savegame.

Using the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021

There are four key changes to the Pad Pro 11 ″ 2021 that I wanted to test:

  • Apple’s M1 chip
  • Thunderbolt connector
  • Liquid Retina display
  • LiDAR scanner


Apple’s M1 chip might be the most exciting thing about the 2021 iPad Pro 11 ″, and it was a surprise that it was included until it was unveiled. No one really thought this would happen to the iPad Pro, as iPads traditionally have modified chips used in iPhones. Still, during the spring announcement, Apple said the M1 would be coming to both the iPad Pro and the iMac.

I have to admit, I found the M1 to be incredibly fast. However, I am embarrassed by two things.

1. I sometimes have a slow Internet. He goes in and out. So it was hard to distinguish with my old iPad whether the sluggishness I was feeling was due to a slow iPad or my Wi-Fi. I now know it’s my Wi-Fi. Yet at this moment a test shows that my internet is fast.

Ipad Pro Internet Speed ​​Review

2. As we reported here recently, iPadOS apps do not fully utilize the M1. By design, they only make full use of 5 GB of RAM. This was not a problem for the previous 6GB iPad Pros, but it is a problem for these 8GB and 16GB models. My 256GB storage gives me an 8GB chip. But apps don’t. use only 5gb so it’s not better than my previous iPad with some things.

Despite the fast internet, when I try to open YouTube, I get a spinning bullet. It cannot be the speed of the Internet. I’ll add that the image below opening YouTube was actually hard to catch, as the spin didn’t last long, only about half a second, but for me it shouldn’t be there at all.

Ipad Pro Review Youtube

There are still a lot of things happening a lot faster, like loading images into WordPress and browsing the internet, but some things are happening just a little too slowly.

Thunderbolt connector

The Thunderbolt connector is another chance for more speed, especially when transferring files. But since it requires the use of an app, when the transfer is slow, is it because of the app limitation to 5 GB?

The 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro were improvements for sure, adding a USB-C connector instead of Lightning. This left the device open to connect to external storage drives, cameras, USB drives, etc.

Ipad Pro Review Thunderbolt

The 2021 iPad Pro 11 ″ further improved this by replacing it with a Thunderbolt connector. You can still do whatever you did with USB-C, but apparently it’s faster. It certainly charges faster. It went from around 15% to over 90% in less than two hours.

But I was a little disappointed that the battery lasted a little longer – I still need to charge it in the middle of my day. Granted, I have strange working hours, so my iPad is unplugged for about 16 or 17 hours. I had to rely on a power bank later that night, and still have to. It also seems like the battery drains very slowly at first and then really speeds up as it drains. That said, it is a known issue with iOS 14.6. Public beta 14.7 hasn’t changed that, but maybe iOS 15 will.

Ipad Pro External Drive Review

I bought an external Thunderbolt drive to test the speed of file movement. I was able to move a folder of 150 high resolution photos in just a few minutes. When I tried to move only four, it still seemed to take a few minutes. I was moving them from Dropbox, so maybe that was a limitation of my Wi-Fi. It just seemed odd that it seemed to take about the same amount of time.

Liquid Retina display

Superb. This word completely sums up the Liquid Retina display of the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021. While the iPad Pro 12.9 ″ received a mini-LED backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology, the 11 ″ received a display. Multi-Touch LED backlit with IPS technology. They both have 264 PPI, Pro Motion technology, and a large color display, but the 12.9 ″ also has a maximum brightness of 1000 nits in full screen and a maximum brightness of 1600 nits (HDR).

Consider this image below. This is an image I took a year ago in St. John in the US Virgin Islands with my old iPhone 7. I made it my background on the iPad Pro. While this is a stunning photo to begin with, it is jaw-dropping and sort of even clearer on this screen. I’m not sure if the clarity I saw will transfer through this screenshot.

Ipad Pro Review Homescreen2

What I also find particularly amazing is the white on black text, and this is something I come across a lot, as I run in dark mode all the time.

Ipad Pro Review

I had thought that I really didn’t need a great display, so a “lesser” 11 ″ display would do. But experiencing it now, there is nothing “less” about it.

Camera system

I looked forward to the camera system on the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021, and it didn’t disappoint. I only wish there were more apps to use with the LiDAR scanner.

There are three cameras: a 12MP wide camera and a 10MP ultra wide camera on the back and a 12MP selfie camera on the front. There is also a LiDAR scanner.

Wide and ultra wide cameras are more than effective. I usually don’t take photos with my iPad other than screenshots, but now I want to. The presence of the ISP and the M1 chip allows the iPad to steal the Smart HDR 3 processing of the iPhone 12 range.

Ipad Pro Review Cameras

Using the Clips app that came with iOS 14, I was able to play around with the cameras. I could put some animated backgrounds behind me and even add what can only be described as the “Take on Me” effect as well as a scene from The Incredibles. It’s a white wall behind me, by the way.

This is also where I was able to play with the LiDAR sensor. I scanned my surroundings with the camera, then dropped the effect I wanted. Our patio needs to be repainted so I added a dance floor.

Ipad Pro Exam Deck

One of the features of the camera system is Center Stage. When participating in a video call, such as FaceTime, the camera’s focus is supposed to move with you. While this has worked for me before, you can see in the image below that I’m clearly not in the center of the stage.

This makes sense, because it’s not like the iPad Pro is going to levitate and follow me; it’s limited to the range of the camera.

Ipad Pro Review Center Stage

I guess if I played with the position I could make it work again, but that’s not really the point.

Other characteristics

There are other features that weren’t the focus of this review, like 5G. The iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021 may also be 5G compatible, but I only have Wi-Fi on mine. I don’t want to pay for another cellular plan.

Optional accessories include Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard, and Smart Keyboard Folio. I have had an Apple Pencil for over a year and I can’t imagine working on my iPad Pro without it. I don’t like Apple keyboards and not because of the high price. They do not have a row of function keys. I use third-party keyboards for this reason. I’m still trying to decide if I need a trackpad and have tried one that’s built into a keyboard and another stand-alone.


the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021 starts at $ 799 for Wi-Fi only and 128GB and is sold with up to 2TB for $ 1,899. The 5G model starts at $ 999 and goes up to $ 2,099. The 12.9-inch model starts at $ 1,099, with the most expensive being $ 2,399.

Going back to the original question: is the iPad Pro 11 ″ 2021 better than the 2018 model I was using? Yes, but probably not as much as it could be, although I think it’s the right tool. Hopefully some OS updates will fix these issues.

Image: Credit: Apple Newsroom


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Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews and editorials, including over 10 years as a writer. She has used Apple products exclusively for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site’s sponsored review program.

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