iPad Pro (2022) review: I’m cautiously optimistic. Or foolish

Pros

  • iPadOS 16.1’s new multitasking feature
  • Strong performance

Cons

  • iPadOS 16.1’s new multitasking feature

The 2022 iPad Pro is powered by Apple’s most powerful Apple Silicon processor, has a fancy new Apple Pencil feature for creatives and note-takers, and has the same $799 or $1,099 starting price as its predecessor for the 11-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, respectively.

But, as has been the case for the high-end offering in Apple’s tablet lineup for a few years now, the real story here is the software. There’s even more pressure on Apple to deliver this year with the addition of Stage Manager, a whole new approach to multitasking on the iPad with the launch of iPadOS 16.1.

For the past few days, I’ve been using the 12.9-inch version of the brand new 2022 edition iPad Pro, complete with 1TB of storage, 16GB of memory, and Apple’s M2 Apple Silicon. I need more time to grasp the whole picture here (it’s complicated), but I have some early thoughts.

Specifications

iPad Pro (2022)
Processor Apple Silicon M2
Display 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and True Tone
memory 8GB or 16GB
storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Rear cameras 12MP wide, 10MP ultrawide
Front camera 12MP TrueDepth FaceTime
Battery 10 hours
connectivity USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4
operating system iPadOS 16.1
Colors Space gray, silver

Apple iPad Pro 2022 on a wooden floor

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but…

The hardware of the iPad Pro continues the software. Although, with the addition of Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1 and true external monitor support before the end of the year, iPad Pro users have more hope than ever that the iPad is about to turn the corner.

In my early hands-on preview for iPadOS 16, I wrote that the update fundamentally changed the way I use my iPad Pro. For the better; and I stand by it. I admittedly gave Apple the benefit of the doubt that any issues I experienced during early testing were bugs in a young beta and that by the time the official release arrived, those bugs would have been ironed out. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

For those unfamiliar, Stage Manager brings resizable windows and the ability to have four open apps active at once to the iPad Pro and iPad Air.

External monitor support doubles the number of running apps to eight, four on each screen, but was pulled from the official release of iPadOS 16.1 so that Apple could focus on all the weird and wonky issues that plagued Stage Manager early on .

I will stop to provide more thoughts about Stage Manager for the moment, but I will say that Stage Manager is full of small moments of brilliance where you realize and see the vision of what Apple has gone.

As well: Apple’s worst product has become one of its best

For example, when I use the Mail app to triage my inbox and I hit Command-R on the keyboard to reply to a message, a new window pops up from my inbox, hovers over the Mail app, ready for my input. I can move this window around, close or minimize it, just like any app window on my Mac.

However, there is no doubt that Stage Manager is far from perfect in its current form. I’m cautiously optimistic that Apple will get it right though.

But I digress. So far, the M2 processor handles iPad Pro Stage Manager and my typical workflows without any issues. That said, I have no performance complaints about my personal M1 iPad ProPerformance. Actually, at one point in the last two days, I mistakenly picked up my iPad Pro thinking it was the M2 iPad Pro (they are identical in design) and used it for an hour or so, the whole time and wondered if the performance boost I suddenly saw was a placebo effect or not.

It turns out, it was.

Apple iPad Pro 2022

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The hover feature of the Apple Pencil is neat

Outside of the iPad Pro, which now comes with the M2 Apple Silicon processor, there isn’t much that’s new with the 2022 model. That said, if you’re an Apple Pencil user, you’ll notice a trick that has so far been a very subtle addition during my use.

There is a new coprocessor in the M2 chip that is dedicated to handling interactions with the second generation Apple Pencil. It monitors for the tip of the pencil to get close to the display of the iPad Pro, and if it is within 12 millimeters, parts of the interface come to life in apps that support the new hover feature.

In the Notes app, this means that you will see a small preview of what the selected tool will look like when you place the tip of the pencil on the screen. In my case when using the pen tool to take notes, a small black dot reflects the movement of the pen across the display. In apps that support this feature, you can even hover the Apple Pencil over the screen and use the double-tap gesture to take additional actions.

Sometimes hover was obvious – like when in the Notes app – but other times I didn’t notice it at all. For example, when you use the iPad’s Scribble feature, the text field should grow larger as you write with the pencil, and then shrink back to its original size after you finish writing and it is converted to text. I’ve only seen this in the Messages app, but not in places like Safari’s address bar where it would be helpful. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. I will continue to experiment though.

More to come

I really want to spend more time with the 2022 iPad Pro and the M2 chip to see if there are any noticeable differences between it and last year’s M1 iPad Pro. A few days of testing just isn’t enough time to make a full judgment on the hardware and software that many, including yours truly, hope will set the pace for the iPad’s journey for years to come.

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