I have been using the iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) for years and it has served me well; but recently I had the opportunity to upgrade to iPad Pro 12.9 (2021). Naturally, I jumped at the chance.
My 2018 was a faithful device, but it had some flaws that made it less and less reliable as a game and work tool. It got really hot when I played; Keyboard Folio would only record one keyboard press about once every 20 dips; and battery life has become abysmal. I needed a change.
I expected the iPad Pro 2021 to be that change, allowing me to play more than 10 minutes of XCOM 2 without catching fire, or work in a coffee shop without the battery draining me along the way. But, I was wrong.
When taking the new iPad Pro out of the box, I was surprised at its weight. It only weighs 50g more, but what a difference those extra grams make.
I was also concerned about the weight when attaching my keyboard accessory – instead of Apple’s Keyboard Folio, which I used on my last slate, I used the company’s Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard feels much bulkier and stiffer than the Folio.
However, I continued using the Apple Pencil 2 from the iPad Pro as it is the same pen for both models. No point in getting a new one, right?
The slowest setup in the world
I was excited to get started with the new iPad Pro, but the warning bells started ringing as I started setting the thing up.
Setting up a new Apple device should be easy and when I started booting up the new iPad it simply told me to move the old iPad close so it could start copying my files.
That didn’t work – and even after rubbing the two pills together, like two dolls I was trying to make kiss, they didn’t want to connect. And I couldn’t use iCloud for backup either, as the 5GB tier I’m at didn’t have room for the nearly terabytes of data I had on my old iPad (and since I’m an avid Google Suite user, I’m not paying for iCloud in addition to Google Drive space).
Eventually I restarted both iPads and waited a few hours; for some reason the transfer started to work. Because? I have no idea.
Tablets said it would take 12 hours to transfer all my data – remember, I had almost 1TB of ‘stuff’ on my old iPad. But in the end, it was closer to five hours. And after that, the new iPad looked just like the old one, except…new.
a partial door
I was struck by how much the new tablet experience felt copied from the old one.
The apps were all in the same places on my menu, and for most of them I was already logged in, without needing to see a login page. Many had open projects that I was working on with my old iPad.
What impressed me the most was that progress in my various different games was maintained. I could dive right into my save file in the middle of an XCOM 2 battle.
However, it was not a full port and some apps were unable to send data between iPads. One irritating example was Final Draft Mobile, a screenwriting software. I had to send the nearly one hundred scripts I had stored there to the new iPad on my own.
But after a little work, my new iPad was just as good as… old. But that’s where all the improvements ended.
No power? Mo’ problems
There are two things I really expect from a new iPad (not including a fixed keyboard, which is technically not part of the iPad itself). You know what they are; you read the introduction to this article.
After playing a few games, doing some video editing, watching a lot of videos, and of course working, I noticed with disgust a few important things. More importantly, none of the issues I had with the previous iPad have been resolved on the new model.
My first issue was that my 2018 iPad Pro got too hot when I used it to play games. It even got hot when I worked. In hindsight, I don’t know why I thought it would be better with the new model; the M1 chip clearly likes to grill. Admittedly, I haven’t done any scientific testing on the matter, but it seems that the new iPad Pro heats up faster than the old one.
Battery drain is also still a big issue, much more so than I thought. Just watching a video drops the battery percentage at lightning speed – and don’t start with what little gaming time I have when I’m not plugged into the wall. It’s really disappointing.
‘Certainly, simply having a faster chipset balances out these issues,’ some might say, but I don’t even notice any speed difference. Loading and rendering times are no different, so what’s the point?
I also have to say, I really don’t like Magic Keyboard. The trackpad is redundant, as the iPad Pro has a touchscreen – and software designed for those touchscreens. Also, it only holds the iPad in a very limited arc, so you can’t pull the thing up or down too much. I prefer the Keyboard Folio, for its suspension angles.
Glad I finally have a working keyboard. Purely on that merit, I’ll stick with the latest iPad Pro. But between overheating and battery drain, the latest model doesn’t really feel like an upgrade. We all deserve better. That means the upcoming 2022 iPad Pros will really need to justify their existence to get people to upgrade.