Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, review: the perfect match

On November 27, 2018 we published the analysis of the iPad Pro 2018 with a 12.9-inch screen that had been presented by Manzana just a month before with the model with an 11-inch screen. This launch added interesting new features to the “Pro” family, but above all it represented a design change focused on reducing its total volume, as well as its thickness and weight, thus achieving a more manageable device than the previous generation.

On March 18, a few days after the State of Alarm in Spain was decreed due to COVID-19, Apple announced the new iPad Pro 2020 (with 11 and 12.9-inch screens), which although in terms of format maintain a continuous commitment to the previous generation, provide new hardware and operating system that improve the experience of use.

In this analysis I am going to comment on all the news of the iPad Pro 2020 based on the 12.9-inch model, but I will also analyze a new companion, the Magic Keyboard, which adds to Smart Keyboard Folio in Apple’s keyboard offering and becomes a perfect companion… not to mention the Apple pencil.

Same format and Liquid Retina display

As I have already anticipated, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2020 maintains the same dimensions, weight and form factor as the 2018 version: 280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9 mm, as well as 651 grams of weight in the WiFi only model and 643 grams in the WiFi + Cellular.

In the images below you can see that it is impossible to find external differences between the 2018 and 2020 models … at least in the front part, since in the back there is an important change, the addition of two new cameras wide angle and ultra wide angle, although I will talk about them later.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, analysis: the perfect pair

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, analysis: the perfect pair 31

As for the screen, it maintains the Liquid Retina, an LCD of 2,732 x 2,048 pixels at 264 p / p which through a process called subpixel antialising allows you to round the corners by adjusting the pixels one by one to eliminate distortion of the ends.

This Liquid Retina displays bright colors (600 nits) and realistic thanks to the support of a color gamut P3, without forgetting the technology True tone with anti-reflective coating that dynamically corrects the white balance to achieve more natural tones while not increasing the visual fatigue, so common when we spend a lot of time in front of a screen.

Another detail to consider is the technology ProMotion, which automatically adjusts the screen refresh rate up to 120 Hz, providing an incredible response when we move through it with our finger or Apple Pencil. In addition, it has an oil-repellent anti-fingerprint cover.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, analysis: the perfect pair

A12Z Bionic chip, a graphic core more than the A12X Bionic

In the keynote presentation of the iPad Pro 2020 wanted to make clear that its new chip A12Z Bionic makes this device faster than most Windows laptops on the market thanks to its eight core processor. In any case, it is in the graphics processor where the only difference with the previous model, the A12X Bionic, is found, since the latter had seven graphics cores, only one less than the current one, which has eight, so the Performance results are very similar between the new iPad Pro and the previous generation.

Apart from similarities between both chips, the speed with which the iPad Pro opens applications, reacts to gestures, recognizes our face with Face ID… Its eight-core design allows four of them to provide maximum performance in more demanding tasks and the other four cores to focus on daily tasks that demand a lot of efficiency. Its performance controller dynamically splits work between these cores, but takes advantage of all eight when a power boost is needed.

Regarding the Neural Engine (Neural Engine) of the A12Z Bionic, has been built for advanced Machine Learning tasks because it can complete up to 5 billion operations per second. Machine learning in image and video recognition, in the identification of environments in Augmented Reality applications, in the use of Face ID or even in the creation of a more expressive Memoji thanks to the fact that it can map up to 50 facial gestures justify Neural Engine .

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, analysis: the perfect pair

Cameras and sound «Pro»

When we flip the iPad Pro 2020 we find the main external difference from the previous model, I mean the addition of two new wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle cameras very similar to those on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro.

The wide angle camera It is 12 megapixels and aperture of F/1.8 (same as the iPhone 11), but it lacks optical stabilization and night mode, perhaps because Apple has not considered the iPad Pro as the most suitable device for taking photos of this type. According to the ultra wide angle camera, on the iPad Pro it is 10 megapixels (compared to 12 Mpx in the iPhone 11 family), aperture F/2.4 and 125º field of view (five degrees more than in the iPhone 11).

Other features of the iPad Pro 2020 camera system include 2x optical zoom out and digital zoom up to 5x, five-element lens, brightest True Tone flash, ability to take panoramic photos up to 63MP, cover of the sapphire crystal lens, backlight sensor, hybrid infrared filter, autofocus with Focus Pixels (wide angle), exposure control or the possibility of using the burst mode.

What remains with respect to the iPhone 11 family is the 4K video recording at 24, 30 or 60 fps (Wide) and 60f / s (Ultra Wide), as well as 1080p slow motion video recording at 120f / s or 240f / s (Ultra Wide).

As for sound, a fundamental complement for video recording, the iPad Pro 2020 incorporates five microphones for recording audio with great clarity even at very low volumes. In addition, its four speakers automatically adapt to orientation to offer an immersive horizontal and vertical experience. Apps like FiLMiC Pro’s DoubleTake use the iPad Pro’s cameras and microphones for mobile video production.

New LiDAR scanner

The time has come to make special mention of one of the star components of the iPad Pro 2020 and a distinctive element compared to the rest of the tablets on the market. LiDAR (acronym for Light Detection and Ranging or Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) is a technology that allows the distance from a laser emitter to an object or surface to be determined using a pulsed laser beam.

It has been used in professional fields for years (geology, optics, topography or atmospheric physics) and in recent times it has become popular among the general public for its use in autonomous vehicles to identify objects or in terrain mappers such as the Waymo cars it uses. Google to create / update your maps.

The great novelty of Apple is to mount a system like this on a tablet and open possibilities unknown until now on a mobile device. And for what? For photography and especially for Augmented reality. A technology by which the CEO of Apple, Tim cook, has shown his enthusiasm more than once, going so far as to ensure that “It could be as big an idea as the smartphone”. Big words.

Technically, the LiDAR scanner installed in the iPad Pro works at the photon level in nanoseconds, can be used indoors and outdoors and calculates the distance of objects located up to a maximum of five meters. Obviously, it does not have the capacity of 360 degrees like the large professional sensors that are mounted in vehicles (it is simply impossible by design of the tablet) and in the iPad Pro it is fixed acting where we point the cameras.

The support added to iPadOS to handle its functions uses the depth points captured by the LiDAR scanner, the data from the cameras and the motion sensors, with the machine vision algorithms of the main A12Z Bionic processor. This allows recreate 3D scenes in detail, combining digital objects with those of the real world for Augmented Reality and also using it in photography to apply effects such as blur or bokeh.

Apple has another great asset to enhance this technology, its software and the legion of developers who work for its platform and who can use a kit as ARKit, which will be improved in iPadOS 14 with new version 4.0.

The use cases are diverse, although most are aimed at professional environments, from architects to decorators or the medical sector where Apple has its own app (Complete Anatomy) that allows a physical therapist to monitor the patient’s evolution. Third parties such as IKEA have developed an application to furnish rooms and thus check how a space would look before buying their products. The field of use is wide and in the future there will be many more applications for a new technology in tablets.

And is that Apple with Augmented Reality has only just begun. Investments have been large accumulating talent and technology. Let’s remember that it bought PrimeSense, the firm that developed the sensors of the Microsoft Kinect and other startups dedicated to AR such as Vrvana, Metaio and Flyby Media. And it has new developments like Apple Glass underway, say the most “secret” project in Cupertino.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, analysis: the perfect pair

Apple Magic Keyboard

Although it is not in itself a novelty of the 2020 generation of iPad Pro, no one is aware that this new Apple keyboard has become one of the assets with which from Cupertino they want to give the iPad Pro a further push towards the professional market.

In front of Smart Keyboard Folio which is available by 219 euros for the 12.9-inch version (199 euros for the 11-inch) and that is a great option both to write and to serve as a protective case, we have the Magic Keyboard, with a price of 339 euros for the iPad Pro of 11 inches and 399 euros for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, review: the perfect match

The Apple Magic Keyboard has a high price, I think nobody denies it, but if you are willing to make this outlay of money it is a round product. For starters, the Magic Keyboard magnetically attaches to the iPad Pro and allows you to adjust the viewing angle up to 130 degrees.

It is a standard size keyboard with backlit keys and a scissor mechanism with a 1 mm travel, so typing with it is as comfortable as with the keyboard of, for example, my MacBook Pro. As a great novelty, it incorporates a integrated trackpad that when using it we can see how the pointer is transformed by the iPad Pro screen to highlight the elements of its interface. In addition, the Multi-Touch gestures that we are already used to also work on this trackpad.

Thanks to USB-C port It has on the left side we can charge the iPad Pro, releasing the USB-C port of the Apple tablet for accessories such as storage units or external monitors. In addition, when the Magic Keyboard is connected and closed, the microphones on the iPad Pro are disconnected so that the audio data is safe.

The price to pay for this Magic Keyboard (which also works with the previous generation of iPad Pro), in addition to the money already mentioned, is that it is a rigid keyboard that does not allow folding like the Smart Keyboard Folio, so when we use iPad Pro in tablet mode, we must undock it from the Magic Keyboard. In addition, we are talking about a weight of about 400 grams more than the Smart Keyboard Folio, so the union of 12.9-inch iPad Pro plus Magic Keyboard is already approaching the weight of some ultralight laptops.

iPadOS, the “expected”

iPadOS was the big novelty in the software section of the WWDC 2019 developer conference. If until then all Apple tablets had used iOS, the Cupertino firm explained that they needed a new operating system to “Recognize the distinctive iPad experience” and introduce new features beyond iPhone development. A strategy similar to that used when creating watchOS for your smartwatches or tvOS for living room entertainment.

The specific system for tablets began with iPadOS 13 and brought new features such as the new design of the Home screen; improved multitasking and split screen functions; greater integration with the Apple Pencil stylus; new floating keyboard; easier text and image editing; faster Face ID unlocking and a good number of internal applications optimized for use on tablets, from the file manager to the Safari browser.

Apple has been updating the system until launching version 13.4, which is precisely the one that pre-installed this iPad Pro 2020 and which is now in the 13.6. It is not a minor update. In addition to the corresponding bug fixes, functions such as iCloud shared folders, new Memojis or universal app purchase, the update includes a significant improvement for the use of peripherals with iPads, better mouse management and, as a great novelty , he support for trackpads.

Compatibility with the trackpad we use on keyboards is key to Apple’s strategy of positioning its tablets as a replacement for laptops. It has been designed specifically for the touch experience of the iPad, so the cursor appears as a circle that highlights apps on the home screen, in the Dock, interface elements and text fields, greatly facilitating tasks with documents, sheets calculating, editing or browsing with Safari, without having to touch the screen.

And shortly, iPadOS 14

And soon, iPadOS 14

Apple released a preview of what’s new in the next major version of its tablet system in June. It is currently being tested on a beta basis and will be available next fall. Although the company announced “New features designed specifically for the iPad and custom applications”, its connection to iOS 14 is still evident, as well as some features borrowed from macOS.

In any case, it will come with interesting news, among which we can mention:

  • Compact design for phone and FaceTime communications. Seeking not to interrupt the user’s work, incoming calls will not occupy the entire screen, they will be shown in a discreet banner that will facilitate the answer or reject them and continue working.
  • Siri. Same compact design for the virtual assistant. It will appear at the bottom of the screen when activated so that users can consult the information and will disappear when opening other apps or controlling music.
  • Searches. The search function has been enhanced and it will be easier to find and open apps, access contacts and files, search for information, refine web searches or consult answers to common questions about people or places. All this with the aforementioned compact design and without leaving open applications.
  • Side bars. Redesigned in many apps, they will allow browsing without losing sight of the content and together with the optimization of the toolbars and the new drop-down menus, they will give access to the controls of the apps in one place.
  • Apple pencil. Major enhancements to the stylus. The new “Handwriting” feature will allow you to write in any text field on the iPad regardless of the application by typing the text. Searches in the browser, new notes in reminders and more aesthetic designs in drawings will be possible with another new function, «Smart Selection».
  • Augmented reality. The new kit development ARKit 4 presents new features such as a depth API that will make better use of the features of the LiDAR scanner, a coordinate fixing system called Location Anchors and improves facial tracking in both the rear and front cameras.
  • Privacy. With the aim of improving transparency and control, the main novelty is that all apps will have to obtain the user’s permission before monitoring. Additionally, the product pages of the App Store will display summaries in a simple and easy-to-understand format, submitted by the developers of their privacy practices.

And shortly, iPadOS 14

iPadOS 14 features other new features for the Safari browser, widgets, accessibility, and a number of revamped apps. As I said, it is currently in the final phase of development and the final version is expected next fall to update this iPad Pro 2020 and previous models of the tablet catalog for free.

Apple iPad Pro 2020 and Magic Keyboard, review: the perfect match 39

Conclusions. Can an iPad Pro Replace a Laptop?

On the idea that an iPad “It’s not just a large iPhone” Apple has long insisted that the iPad Pro has enough capacity to replace a laptop. And it is that Apple and Microsoft have been all this decade in a kind of guerrilla war in the field of marketing to see who takes the lead in the search for new formats that attract the consumer.

Microsoft has achieved this with the Surface Pro. Devices that have themselves promoted a new category, that of the 2 in 1, which together with convertibles are the most attractive of the computing landscape and are surely the most compelling alternative to Apple tablets, along with the little that comes from Android in the high-end where – once Google removed its Pixels from the market – only Samsung seems to be able to compete.

As for Apple, there is no doubt the great improvement that the “Pro” models have made in all areas: in screens, in performance, in cameras and sensors.

If a few years ago Apple called tablets with keyboards “a mixture of toaster and refrigerator” and the ill-fated Steve Jobs had steadfastly refused to market them, as well as adding stylus, today iPad Pro are supported by keyboards (with trackpad included in the latest model) and in digital pens to convince users of their ‘laptop replacement’ capabilities.

And the software? iPadOS has been a step forward and what we know from version 14 will be another advance, but it is not the macOS that a MacBook Pro uses. Its core is still that of a mobile system and many of its applications are a carbon copy of what it offers. iOS, great for an iPhone, but perhaps short for a device that aspires to offer everything you need for a desktop.

iPad Pro 2020 is a fantastic device, in our opinion the best tablet on the market and deserving of our “Recommended Product” award, and ideal in some environments and for some users, but in general for computing uses the iPad Pro has a difficult time replacing to a laptop, be it Windows, Linux or the same MacBook.

Final assessment

SUMMARY

The 2020 generation of the iPad Pro is marketed in two models with 11 and 12.9-inch screens, respectively. Its design remains the same as the 2018 version, but this year its launch has been accompanied by the Magic Keyboard, with an integrated trackpad.

Design and build quality9.5


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