I was quite underwhelmed by the iPad Pro 2020 or iPad Pro 4th gen. It's not surprisingly though because the previous generation from 2018 was and is still blazingly fast, and so far ahead of competing tablets from other companies. It's difficult to improve significantly on something that's already so good.
I've been using the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2018 for 1.5 years. This time I decided to buy the 11-inch instead to try and see how different the drawing experience will be.
iPad Pro 2020 was announced in March 2020. These are the upgrades:
- An ultra-wide camera was added
- A Lidar system was added
- All iPad Pros now have 6GB ram
- Base model now has 128GB storage
- Wifi 6
- A12Z processor
The physical design is similar to the previous model except for the larger camera bump behind to accommodate the extra ultra-wide camera and Lidar. The bezels are still real thin, weight is similar, 473g for the 11-inch and 643g for the 12.9-inch.
The most significant upgrade for me is the increase in base storage from 64GB to 128GB. 64GB storage does feel quite limited so 128GB is really welcome.
There is no noticeable performance difference between 4GB and 6GB RAM. I mean even in Procreate, the maximum number of layers you can create are the same, eg 60 layers for 4K resolution.
11-inch vs 12.9-inch for drawing
While the larger screen of 12.9-inch is nice to draw on, and joy to use for watching videos and working, the downside is it's heavy. Add a case on it and it becomes even heavier. I've often wished that it was lighter, which is why I bought the 11-inch this time.
That's the 11-inch compared to an A5 sketchbook. The drawing surface is still larger than A5 and is still a rather comfortable area to draw on. There's ample space to rest your hand on it.
The 11-inch has a resolution of 2388 x 1668 vs 12-9-inch's 2732 x 2048. Pixel density for both is still 264 ppi so everything still looks sharp. Pixelation The 12.9-inch has more resolution to show more content. For most of the drawing apps that I've tested, the user interface elements are similar is size, which means the only difference is the remaining size of the canvas for drawing.
Most drawing apps are designed in such a way that palettes and menus will hide or can be hidden while you draw. So those user interface elements actually don't take up much screen estate. You'll still have a good amount of digital canvas to draw on regardless of whether you're using the 11-inch or 12.9-inch.
It took no time to get used to drawing on the smaller display.
Main advantage of the 11-inch is it's so much lighter. I can easily hold the 11-inch iPad Pro in hand and draw. With the 12.9-inch, I often have to find a surface to rest it on, and it's usually on the table or on my lap when I'm outdoors sketching. I could hold it in hand while drawing, but I have to have it rest above my forearm while I grip it from the bottom.
Drawing experience is still excellent. Drawing is fluid, responsive. Apple Pencil support pressure and tilt sensitivity really well, and is very accurate. The iPad Pro uses a laminated display so there's no gap between the glass and the LCD beneath. The lines always appear directly beneath the pen tip without gap, so it really feels like you're drawing on the surface of the display.
Battery life is fantastic. While I did not exactly measure it, you can definitely get many hours of use from morning to night. Apple states 10 hours for video streaming and it seems accurate to me in real life. If you use it outdoors with auto-brightness turned on, battery life is going to be significantly less, maybe 4-6 hours depending on what you do and the brightness, since more power is needed for the display.
While drawing, the iPad does not produce much heat so you can rest your hands on it for hours comfortably. If you draw outdoors, and the display is bright, it's going to feel warm.
I did not apply any matte screen protector this time. Apple Pencil moves smoothly and is not considered slippery. So you don't really need to use a matte screen protector but many artists do appreciate the extra tactile drawing surface, The downside of a matte screen protector is at certain angles when reflecting light, it creates a white haze that can be quite annoying. Without a matte screen protector, you get reflections with hard edges but you also have more vibrant colours. Anyway, reflections on the iPad Pro isn't that bad because there's this coating applied to dull the contrast of reflections.
Without a matte screen protector, the glass is prone to fingerprint smudges which are most noticeable when the display is not powered on.
When the display is lit, fingerprints are not that noticeable.
Other minor details
Due to the lower resolution, the layout of some websites display will be slightly different. Most of the time content will be cropped off but you'll be scrolling anyway.
If you're coming from a 12.9-inch, it will take some time to get used to the smaller virtual keyboard which is missing the top row of numbers, and some keys on the right side. The 11-inch shows a condensed keyboard, just like how smartphones show an even more condensed keyboard layout.
Should you buy one or upgrade?
If you are using the 2017 iPad Pro and have not upgraded to the 2018 model. For the same reason why you did not upgrade, you don't have to upgrade to this newer model. The 2017 iPad Pro is still a fantastic workhorse. The things you'll notice when you upgrade would be the design, eg thinner bezels, Face ID and how Apple Pencil charges on the side. The downsides to upgrading is the new iPad Pros are more expensive and you have to buy a new Apple Pencil 2nd gen since the 1st gen is not supported by iPad Pro 2018. Upgrade will mean spending a lot of money.
If you're using the 2018 iPad Pro, there's absolutely no reason to upgrade. There's no noticeable difference when it comes to drawing.
If you don't have an iPad and is thinking of getting one, note that all the iPads from Apple now support Apple Pencil. Only the iPad Pros support Apple Pencil 2nd generation. If you want to draw without spending too much, consider the iPad 7 instead. If you want something better, there's the iPad Air 3 which also has a laminated display. If you really want the raw power, like you do a lot of processor intensive task, eg video editing, then the iPad Pro is the more appropriate choice. During the 1.5 years that I've been using the iPad Pro 2018 for drawing, I've never had the chance to really push it to its limit. This iPad Pro 2018 is as fast as the day I bought it. And surprisingly, the battery has held up really well. There's just slight battery wear but I can still get several hours worth of work done on it.
Which storage option to get
The base model with 128GB is quite sufficient.
The base 11-inch wifi model is US $799 while the 12.9-inch is US $999. The cellular model is $150 more.
To increase the storage from 128GB to 256GB cost US $100 which isn't too bad. The alternative is to get iCloud which is US $12 per year for extra 50GB storage online, or $36 per year for extra 200GB.
You can actually save money by going with iCloud, starting with just 50GB and increasing that when needed. But I do recommend getting the extra 200GB because it's big enough to backup your whole iPad Pro and still have storage left for you to store extra files.