TabletsTech

IPad Pro 2021 12.9″ Vs 2018 Design Review

This article highlights the differences between IPad Pro 2021 12.9in vs IPad Pro 2018, especially for users of the earlier version, to decide if there are significant advantages to upgrade. The IPad Pro 2021 12.9″ maintain its robust, premium build quality as the 2018 edition, but it also have several upgraded features that provide strong reasons to justify an upgrade.

Compare Physical Specifications

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Release DateNov-2018May-2021
Physical Specifications
Dimensions280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm
11.05 x 8.46 x 0.23 in
280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4 mm
11.05 x 8.46 x 0.25 in
Weight631 g (Wi-Fi) (1.39 lb)
633 g (LTE) (1.4 lb)
682 g (Wi-Fi),
684 g (5G) (1.50 lb)
GlassScratch-resistant glass,
oleophobic coating
Scratch-resistant glass,
oleophobic coating
MaterialsBack: AluminumBack: Aluminum
ColorsSilver, Space Gray  Silver, Space Gray

The iPad Pro 2021 12.9in vs iPad Pro 2018 is about 0.5mm thicker and 51grams heavier for the Wi-Fi, which we opine is acceptable considering the improved specifications, as we shall see below. The IPad Pro 2018 casing will not fit the new IPad Pro 12.9in 2021, because of the thickness. Conversely, IPad Pro 12.9in 2021 casing could fit the older IPad as shown in the Spigen casing below.

spigen-ipad-pro-129-2021-casing-for-ipad-pro-129-2018

Spigen IPad Pro 12.9 2021 Casing (Left) for IPad Pro 12.9 2018 (Right)The larger camera opening for the IPad Pro 12.9in 2021 can accommodate the single camera on the 2018 IPad.

Compare Rear Cameras

The original IPad Pro 12.9in 2018 has a single 12MP wide camera with f/1.8 with a 1/3″ camera sensor.

The new IPad Pro 12.9 has the same f/1.8 wide camera but also a new f/2.4 10MP Ultrawide camera with a 125 degrees field of view. According to some users’ feedback, both cameras work at the same time to give you a better picture and is a significant improvement over the 2018 IPad.

ipad-2021-rear-camera-parts
IPad 2021 Rear Camera Parts

The new IPad Pro 12.9 also has the 3D LiDAR scanner, where LiDAR is an acronym for “Light Detection and Ranging” which is for augmented reality (AR). How it works is to “measure distances by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor”. The LiDAR scanner can map out your surrounding or any 3D object and feed that into apps and programs for further uses. This is a new feature found on the newer IPad model since 2020 and is not available on the 2018 IPad.

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Rear Camera
Rear camera Specs12 MP, f/1.8, 29mm (standard), 1/3″,
1.22µm, PDAF
  • 12 MP, f/1.8, (wide), 1/3″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF
  • 10 MP, f/2.4, 125˚ (ultrawide)
  • TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)
Camera FeaturesDigital zoom up to 5x
Five‑element lens
Quad-LED True Tone flash
Panorama (up to 63 megapixels)
Sapphire crystal lens cover
Backside illumination sensor
Hybrid IR filter
Autofocus with Focus Pixels
Tap to focus with Focus Pixels
Live Photos with stabilization
Wide color capture for all photos
Improved local tone mapping
Exposure control
Noise reduction
Smart HDR for photos
Auto image stabilization
Burst mode
Timer mode
Photo geotagging
Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG
2x optical zoom out
Digital zoom up to 5x
Five‑element lens (Wide and Ultra Wide)
Brighter True Tone flash
Panorama (up to 63MP)
Sapphire crystal lens cover
Autofocus with Focus Pixels (Wide)
Smart HDR 3
Wide color capture for all photos
Lens correction (Ultra Wide)
Advanced red-eye correction
Photo geotagging
Auto image stabilization
Burst mode
Image formats captured: HEIF and JPEG
Video Recording4K: 30/60 fps
1080p: 30/60fps
720p: 30 fps
4K: 24/25/30/60fps
1080p: 25/30/60/120/240fps
720p: 30 fps
Video FeaturesQuad-LED True Tone flash
Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 240 fps
Time‑lapse video with stabilization
Cinematic video stabilization (1080p&720p)
Continuous autofocus video
Noise reduction
Playback zoom
Video geotagging
Video formats captured: HEVC and H.264
2x optical zoom out
Audio zoom
Brighter True Tone flash
Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps
Time‑lapse video with stabilization
Extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps
Cinematic video stabilization (4K, 1080p, and 720p)
Continuous autofocus video
Playback zoom
Video formats recorded: HEVC and H.264
Stereo recording

The above comparison table between the IPad Pro 2021 12.9in vs IPad Pro 2018 have highlighted the differences between the two models. In particular, stereo recording is available and uses the 5 microphones on the IPad Pro 12.9in 2021. The locations of the 5 microphones are three on the top, one on the left side edge, and one on the rear camera.

ipad-pro-129in-2021-parts
IPad Pro 12.9in 2021 Parts

Compare Hardware & OS

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Hardware & OS
Operating SystemApple iOS124,
upgradable to iPadOS 14.6
iPadOS 14.5.1,
upgradable to iPadOS 14.6
System chipApple A12X Bionic (7nm)Apple M1
16‑core Neural Engine
ProcessorOcta-core
4×2.5 GHz Vortex
4×1.6 GHz Tempest
Octa-core
4 performance cores
4 efficiency cores
GPUApple 7-core GPUApple 8-core GPU
RAM/Storage4GB/64GB, 4GB/256GB,
4GB/512GB, 6GB/1TB
8GB/128GB, 8GB/256GB,
8GB/512GB, 16GB/1TB,
16GB/2TB
Storage expansionNoNo
SensorsFace ID
Gyro
Accelerometer
Barometer
Digital Compass
Ambient light sensor
Face ID
Gyro
Accelerometer
Barometer
Digital Compass
Ambient light sensor
Speakers4 stereo speakers4 stereo speakers
3.5mm EarjackNoNo
Microphone55
StylusApple Pencil (Gen 1)
Bluetooth, Lightning
Apple Pencil (Gen 2)
Bluetooth, wireless charging
Detachable KeyboardYesYes

The biggest gain for the hardware is the upgraded RAM and storage specifications. In the past, Apple phones and tablets used to have lower RAM when compared to the Android phones. This has now changed especially for the tablets which equipped with 16GB RAM and 2TB of storage, which is useful for storing downloaded Netflix videos, thousands of Kindle eBooks, photos and music.

Another major advantage is the upgrading from Apple Pencil Gen 1 to Gen 2 that support wireless charging by simply attaching it to the side of the IPad Pro 12.9in 2021. The Apple Pencil Gen 2 was available since the IPad Pro 2020 launch and so it is not new for this year. The specifications of the Stylus can be found in the table below under Battery life.

Compare Display

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Display
Screen TypeLiquid Retina display
LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display
with IPS technology
Liquid Retina XDR display
LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display
with IPS technology
Screen Size12.9 in12.9 in
Resolution2732 x 2048 pixels, 4:3 ratio
264 PPI
2732 x 2048 pixels, 4:3 ratio
265 PPI
Screen-to-bodyNA85.40%
Refresh Rate120 Hz adaptive120 Hz adaptive
Brightness600 nits600 nits max brightness
1000 nits max full-screen brightness;
1600 nits peak brightness (HDR)
ContrastNA1,000,000:1
Color GamutDCI-P3DCI-P3
FeaturesProMotion technology
Oleophobic coating
ProMotion technology
True Tone
Anti-reflective coating with 1.8% reflectivity
Oleophobic coating

The IPad Pro 12.9in display has slight improvements over the 2018 model in terms of the brightness. It also has an anti-reflective coating which we believe comes with the glass manufacturer. Apple did not state explicitly which brand of glass is used, however, below are some articles related to the different types of glass available.

Read more:
Compare Corning Gorilla Glass Type
Compare Apple Ceramic Shield and Gorilla Glass Victus 

Compare Connectivity

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Connectivity
SIM TypeNano
eSIM
Nano
eSIM
Cellular NetworkLTE/HSPA/GSM/Edge5G (sub-6 GHz and mmWave)
LTE/HSPA/GSM/Edge
Wi-FiWi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/​​ac); 2.4GHz and 5GHz; simultaneous dual band; speeds up to 866 MbpsWi‑Fi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/​​ac/ax); 2.4GHz and 5GHz; simultaneous dual band; speeds up to 1.2 Gbps
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, EDR5.0, A2DP, LE, EDR
GPSYes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSSYes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS
ConnectorUSB-C 3.1
Magnetic
USB-C 4 (Thunderbolt 4)
DisplayPort, Magnetic

The 5G connectivity and USB Type C Gen 4 (Thunderbolt 4) ports are also strong reasons to upgrade to the latest 2021 IPad.

Compare Battery and Stylus

Tech SpecsApple iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Gen
(2018)
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 5th Gen
(2021)
Battery
Battery Capacity9720 mAh (36.71 Wh)10,840 mAh (40.88 Wh)
Battery TypeLi – Polymer, non-removableLi – Polymer, non-removable
Battery LifeUp to 10 hUp to 10 h
Charging Time2h 15mins2h 15mins
Wired ChargingFast charging 18WFast charging 18W
Wireless ChargingYesYes
Stylus
StylusApple Pencil (Gen 1)
Bluetooth, Lightning
Apple Pencil (Gen 2)
Bluetooth, wireless charging
Stylus Size175.7 x 8.9mm diameter
20.7 grams (0.73 oz)
166 x 8.9mm diameter
20.7 grams (0.73 oz)
Stylus Battery LifeNAUp to 12h

The IPad Pro 12.9in 2021 has slightly larger battery capacity but it does not change the battery life specs, probably because it is negligible and subjective, depending on how the IPad is being used.

Summary

This article has listed several strong reasons to upgrade, including

  • Wide and ultra-wide camera
  • LiDAR scanner
  • 5G Support
  • Apple Pencil Gen 2 Support
  • High RAM (16GB) and Storage (2TB) option

If the above is still not good enough to upgrade, then we feel the rest of the minor differences will change the decision.

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