Artist Review: M4 iPad Pro (2024) with Apple Pencil Pro

Not a sponsored review

Apple released the M4 iPad Pro, M2 iPad Air and Apple Pencil Pro in May 2024.

My review is from the perspective of a visual content creator, someone who does graphic design, digital art, edits photos and videos.

This review will help you decide whether the M4 iPad Pro is worth the money, or should you go with the more affordable M2 iPad Air.

Since there are many similarities with the previous M2 iPad Pro (2022), I will duplicate parts of that review here.

By the way, if you find this review useful and you have the intention to buy the tablet, consider using the affiliate links below to make your purchase to support the work I do here.

Bottom line
Many artists have made their careers from creating art on the iPad. So it is no doubt that the iPad Pro, and even the other iPad models, are good enough for professional uses.

The word "Pro" in the product name has lost its meaning many years ago when it was being overused. For the iPad Pro, it just means it has all the features that the other iPads do not.

This is obviously the best tablet from Apple. If you don't already have a tablet and want the best, this is the one to consider provided you have the budget. The 11-inch M4 iPad Pro cost USD 999 and the 13-inch cost USD 1299, and base model starts with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.

Below are the main differences between the 2024 iPad Air and iPad Pro.

M2 iPad Air 11 M4 iPad Pro 11 M2 iPad Air 13 M4 iPad Pro 13
Resolution 2420 x 1668, 264 PPI 2360 x 1640, 264 PPI 2732 x 2048, 264 PPI 2752 x 2064, 264 PPI
Display IPS, SDR 500 nits, 60Hz Tandem OLED, SDR 1000 nits, XDR/HDR 1600 nits, 120Hz IPS, SDR 500 nits, 60Hz Tandem OLED, SDR 1000 nits, XDR/HDR 1600 nits, 120Hz
Display surface Glossy with anti-reflective coating Glossy with anti-reflective coating, nano texture matte option (only for 1TB & 2TB option) Glossy with anti-reflective coating Glossy with anti-reflective coating, nano texture matte option (only for 1TB & 2TB option)
Ports USB 3.1 gen 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB 3.1 gen 2 Thunderbolt 4
Biometric unlock Touch ID Face ID Touch ID Face ID
Speakers 2 way 4 way 2 way 4 way
RAM, storage 8GB, 128GB to 1TB 8 to 16GB, 256GB to 2TB 8GB, 128GB to 1TB 8 to 16GB, 256GB to 2TB
Dimension (H, W, D) 9.74 inches (247.6 mm), 7.02 inches (178.5 mm), 0.24 inch (6.1 mm) 9.83 inches (249.7 mm), 6.99 inches (177.5 mm), 0.21 inch (5.3 mm) 11.04 inches (280.6 mm), 8.46 inches (214.9 mm), 0.24 inch (6.1 mm) 11.09 inches (281.6 mm), 8.48 inches (215.5 mm), 0.20 inch (5.1 mm)
Weight (wifi model) 462g 444g 617g 579g
Pen support Apple Pencil Pro, Apple Pencil USB-C Apple Pencil Pro, Apple Pencil USB-C Apple Pencil Pro, Apple Pencil USB-C Apple Pencil Pro, Apple Pencil USB-C

The few upgrades over the M2 iPad Pro (2022) are the M4 chip vs the previous M2 chip, the switch from LCD to brighter OLED displays in both the 11 and 13 inch models, the thinner and lighter body.


The downsides are the removal of the ultra-wide angle lens, and the new design is incompatible with all older accessories, e.g. Apple Pencil 2, cases, screen protectors, magnetic stands.


Apple Pencil Pro's new features offers shortcuts and convenience. The core drawing performance is similar to Apple Pencil 2 that's used by the iPad Pros (2018 - 2022) and iPad Air (2020 - 2022).

iPadOS is still, well, iPadOS. Beautiful, stable but has limited functionality compared to desktop OS, especially when it comes to file management. The Apple App Store offers countless high quality apps for visual creators for drawing and graphic design.

Choosing between the 2024 iPad Pro and iPad Air comes down to how much you value the extra features.

The M2 iPad Air (2022) is priced lower at USD 599 and USD 799 for the 11 and 13-inch models respectively. The base model has 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. Increasing storage to 256GB is an additional USD 100, and that brings the price difference from the iPad Pro to USD 300 to 400 which is substantial.

Both the M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Air are well made tablets. Which to get will come down to the features you value and how much you're willing to spend.

Things included


The included USB-C to USB-C charging cable is not a video cable. Here in Singapore, a 20W USB-C charger is included. The charger may not be included in some countries.

Design


Shown above is the size comparison of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018) that I am still using vs the new 11-inch M4 iPad Pro.

I had purchased the 11-inch instead of the 13-inch because I use my tablet outdoors for sketching. The 11-inch is much lighter than the 12.9-inch and way more comfortable to hold in one hand for long periods of time. The new model even has reduced weight of 444g vs 462g of the previous model. When sketching outdoors, I often remove the case so that I don't add extra weight to the tablet.

The 13-inch M4 iPad Pro's weight is 579g which is 103g lighter (15%) than the M2 iPad Pro's 682g.


While the 13-inch weight reduction is significant, the bigger tablet is still too heavy for my personal preference, and its size makes it unwieldy to hold in one hand comfortably since you also have to balance the tablet.

The larger 13-inch model is better for split-screen multitasking, Stage Manager (desktop like workspace UI), and for use as an external wireless display with SideCar or Duet Display.

If you're deciding which size to buy, just ask yourself how often you will be holding the tablet in hand vs putting it on the table or on your lap when using the tablet. I emphasise "when using the tablet" because both 11 and 13-inch are portable when you're bringing it around. It is only when you are using the tablet will you feel the usability differences.


11-inch is still a big tablet, it's just that 13-inch is bigger. 11-inch still has enough canvas space for drawing with even with my palm resting on the display. Palm rejection works great.


I also prefer the almost 4:3 aspect ratio that makes the tablet useable in both landscape and portrait orientation for drawing. However, this aspect ratio will have thick black bars at top and bottom when watching videos.


The thickness or thinness of the iPad Pros are 5.3mm and 5.1mm respectively for the 11 and 13-inch models. These tablets are even thinner than the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra which was crazy thin when it was released.

I am not too concerned about the tablet bending because that would be a major design fail on Apple's part.

The thinner design makes it possible to reduce the weight of the tablet and make it even more portable.

Below are the battery capacities for the tablets:

M2 iPad Pro 11 (2022) M4 iPad Pro 11 (2024) M2 iPad Pro 12.9 (2022) M4 iPad Pro 13 (2022)
28.65 Wh, 7538 mAh 31.29 Wh, 8152 mAh (measured) 40.88 Whr, 10758 mAh 38.99 Whr

The new 11-inch model surprisingly has larger battery capacity. Apple claims 10 hours of battery life with normal usual, e.g. web browsing and watching videos.


The M4 iPad Pros have different dimensions and magnet placements compared to the iPad Pros from 2018 to 2022 which means all older accessories cannot be used, eg screen protector, magnetic stand, case, keyboard folio, Apple Pencil 2. Show above is my old case which is smaller now because the 11-inch M4 iPad Pro is slightly taller.

Upgrading from any of the 2018 to 2022 iPad Pros will require replacing all the old accessories with new ones.


The camera has moved to landscape orientation and Apple Pencil 2 can no longer be used with this tablet due to redesigned magnet locations. At the time of review, the M4 iPad Pros are compatible with the Apple Pencil Pro and Apple Pencil USB-C (no pressure sensitivity). Apple Pencil Pro is not backwards compatible and cannot be used with iPad Pros from 2018 to 2022.

Apple could have created a wired charging pad to make Apple Pencil 2 compatible, just like how Apple Pencil USB-C charges and pairs with a cable connected to supported iPads. But Apple of course won't want to deny you the opportunity to buy the Apple Pencil Pro.

The new landscape camera's location is an upgrade because I have a tendency to block the front camera with my left hand when holding the tablet horizontally several times each day, affecting the use of Face ID unlock.


The 4-way speakers still sound awesome, loud with good amount of bass and clarity. The USB-C port supports Thunderbolt 4 for fast data transfer and video output.

There is unfortunately no water resistance.


Camera on the M2 vs M4 iPad Pro

The 10MP f/2.4 ultra wide camera from the previous model has been removed. Only the 12MP f/1.8 wide camera remains. This is a downgrade even if you don't use the ultra-wide angle lens because taking an ultra-wide photo or video is something you could do before, but now you can't.


I use the ultra-wide lens to take reference photos. In the example above, I was designing my kitchen layout by drawing lines over the photo of my old kitchen space. A wide angle lens will not be wide enough to take a photo like this.

And it's not like the camera bump is made smaller.

Display

This is the first time Apple is using OLED displays in their tablets. Apple is using tandem OLED which has two OLED layers making it possible for the display to produce up to SDR 1000 nits brightness and XDR peak brightness of 1600 nits with HDR content.

This tandem OLED display is available for both 11 and 13-inch models. These displays have adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that can go as low as 10Hz for static content to conserve energy.


Xiaomi Pad 6S Pro with advertised 700 nits vs M4 iPad Pro with 1000 nits

Shown above is the difference between the 700 nits LCD vs 1000 nits OLED, under shade just beside sunlight. The difference is obvious. Note that brightness does not scale linearly.

The older 11 and 13-inch M2 iPad Pros have maximum SDR brightness of 600 nits.

600 nits very bright indoors, but from my experience is not sufficient for outdoor bright environment. By the way, real world display brightness is usually 10-20% lower than the advertised brightness. The extra brightness from the new OLED display makes it easier to see the content on the screen thanks to the significantly improved contrast.

The effective anti-reflective coating together with the extra brightness improves the readability and clarity noticeably. If you use your tablets outdoors often, this OLED display is worth upgrading to.


When using the tablet indoors, the tablets won't be running at maximum brightness anyway so there isn't much difference between 600 vs 1000 nits with auto brightness, as shown above. The one on the right is the M4 iPad Pro. I had increased the brightness slightly for the M2 iPad Pro (left) because auto-brightness was lower.

Note that OLED displays usually have Pulse Wave Modulation (PWM) that may affect people with sensitive eyes. If you are not sure whether your eyes are affected by PWM, it's best to see the displays yourself in an Apple Store. I am not affected by PWM, thankfully.

Apple portables such as iPhones and iPads have a tendency to overheat when the display is running at maximum brightness for extended periods of time. The M4 iPad Pro will still suffer from display dimming with overheating, however it is more resistant to display dimming compared to previous models when I tested it outdoors.


M2 and M4 iPad Pro (right) playing HDR content from Youtube app

The OLED displays have the extra brightness and extra contrast ratio to make HDR effects more obvious.


E.g. When looking at light emitting objects such as lights, fire, you will really feel like the object is glowing. Typical brightness for OLED displays in tablets are usually under 500 nits. Samsung Tab S9 series tablets have advertised brightness of 420 nits and those will have contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. Tandem OLED has brightness up to 1000 nits and hence contrast ratio is even higher.

It is actually the contrast ratio that makes HDR effect obvious. A 500 nits OLED display can still show HDR more obviously compared to a 1000 nits LCD display. To make something look brighter, you can either increase the brightness (LCD) or make the surrounding darker (OLED). By the way, OLED is organic light-emitting diode. Since OLED can turn off the light completely for each diode, it can show true black and anything brighter that's shown beside true black will just look brighter by comparison.

There is visible difference when playing games with OLED vs LCD displays. So I actually prefer to play games on LCD because shadow areas are brighter and I can see more detail. Shadow areas in OLED displays can be too dark to see details.

And OLED does not have the blooming issue with mini-LED displays and their dimming zones.

I cannot comment much on editing HDR content on these OLED displays because I do not work with HDR content. If you create HDR content, you will still have to check your visuals to see how they look on LCD since many still use LCD on their tablets and computers.

The P3 colour space supported by the tandem OLED displays support is larger than sRGB colour space. Apple's factory colour calibration looks good to me and with the True Tone feature the visuals look more natural.

When looking at non-HDR content on the OLED vs LCD displays side by side, there's almost no difference. Sure you may see the blacks are darker but that's only with a side by side comparison. Black will still look black enough on LCD simply due to perception.


The laminated display has almost no gap between the line and pen tip. The plastic pen tip is quite smooth on the glass surface, but not slippery.


If you want more pen tip resistance but don't want to use a matte screen protector, you can buy this USD 2 silicone Apple Pencil tip. If you want to buy matte screen protector, get SuperShieldz brand from Amazon USA which is less than USD 10 for three pieces. If you don't like how the matte screen protector looks, you won't have wasted too much money.

Using matte screen protector is a personal choice. Just note that matte screen protector will affect the contrast, colours, clarity and viewing angles of the beautiful OLED display.

Nano-texture glass display

I will update this section when I get my hands on the iPad Pro with nano-texture glass display.

The nano-texture matte surface cost an additional USD 100 and is only available to iPad Pro models with 1TB and 2TB storage.

An increase from 256GB to 512GB storage cost USD 200. And from 512GB to 1TB it's another USD 400. So that's a total of USD 600 extra to upgrade from 256GB to 1TB.

If you do not work outdoors and don't need that much storage, it's cheaper to buy a matte screen protector.

I have seen reports that the nano-texture is quite smooth and doesn't really provide the extra texture or tactile experience that artists prefer.

As for the nano-texture surface requiring their special Apple polishing cloth for cleaning... It's bullshit. Most people will not read the instruction manual that says to use the included polishing cloth. Most people will just clean the tablet with their other micro-fiber cloth or their t-shirt. That's human behaviour. Not being able to clean your tablet with a typical micro-fiber cleaning cloth is a design fail.

iPadOS

Many will say that iPadOS is holding the hardware back. The main thing I don't like about iPadOS is the Files app has limited features compared to MacOS Finder. Photos are saved separately into the Photos app and are not available from the Files app even though photos are also files. So when uploading photos, you can't choose them from the Files app.

The most important feature about iPadOS that sets itself apart from Android OS is Apple iCloud can backup EVERYTHING, provided you have enough iCloud storage. I have reviewed many Android tablets over the years and I know that Android backup options do not backup everything, which means if you lose your tablet, you may have lost some files. Same applies to upgrading from one Android tablet to another.

Apple Pencil Pro


The Apple Pencil Pro is compatible with the M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Air. This is a separate purchase of USD 129.


All of Apple Pencil 2 features are still around, namely cursor hover (only for M2 or newer iPads), double tap shortcuts, magnetic pairing and charging.


Shown above are double tap shortcut options available for customisation.

New features are haptic feedback, squeeze to show shortcuts, barrel roll with the new gyroscope and lost location finder with Find My app.

Haptic feedback: This provides a phyiscal confirmation for an action you made, and this is better than looking for visual cues on the display for confirmation. E.g. When you double tap to switch from brush to eraser, you don't have to look at the brush and/or eraser icon.


Squeeze: At the time of review, squeeze can be used with Apple Notes to call up a mini palette with brush options. Shown above are squeeze shortcut options available for customisation. Hopefully squeeze feature can be customised by third party apps in the future.

Barrel roll: The pen has a new gyroscope to detect pen rotation and adjust the brush shape accordingly. E.g. You can adjust the angle/direction of the brush shape with both direction and rotation of the pen. Apple Pencil 2 only allows you to adjust angle of shape with direction of the pen. This new feature makes it easier to create certain brush effects or strokes.

Find My: This lets you find your misplaced Apple Pencil Pro.

Creative and visual apps


iPads have a huge selection of feature-rich drawing, graphic design and video editing apps.

Below are non-exhaustive lists for some of the popular creative apps:

Drawing

Graphic design

Photo and video editing apps

The main advantage iPads have over Samsung tablets for creatives comes down to the availability of the graphic design apps, more specially apps that are great at creating vector art and handling type.

And the main advantage iPads have over Microsoft Surface devices is the 10-hours battery life and Apple Pencil is more accurate. There's no lack of great drawing, graphic design, photo and video editing apps on Windows. Touch interface implementation and palm rejection on Windows devices aren't as good compared to iPads and Samsung tablets.

My general recommendation is always to choose the device based on the software you want to use.

If you don't need to draw, there's no compelling reason to get an iPad over a laptop.

Below are the number of layers you can get for an A4 sized 300 DPI canvas in Procreate.

Model RAM No of layers
iPad 9 (2021) 3GB 26
iPad 10 (2022) 4GB 26
iPad mini 6 (2021) 4GB 26 (at launch)
iPad Air 3 (2019) 3GB 26 (19 before update)
iPad Air 4 (2020) 4GB 57 (19 before update)
iPad Air 5 (2022) 8GB 116
iPad Air 6 (2024) 8GB 116
iPad mini 5 (2019) 3GB 19
iPad Pro 2018 4GB 57
iPad Pro 2020 6GB 73 (56 before update)
M1 iPad Pro 2021 8GB and 16GB 116 (26 before update), 211
M2 iPad Pro 2022 8GB and 16GB 116, 211
M4 iPad Pro 2024 8GB and 16GB 116, 211

Line tests

These line tests below were created in Procreate.

The line quality is similar with Apple Pencil 1 and 2. And because of that, I will be using the same picture below for my reviews of other iPads.


1. Initial activation force is minimal. Drawing thin lines is easy even with a thick brush selected. No noticeable jitter or wobble when drawing slow diagonal lines.

2. Lines taper smoothly and sharply.

3. Line transition from thin to thick and back to thin smoothly.

4. Consistent line width can be created by maintaining consistent pressure.

5. Dots can be drawn easily.

6. There is no cursor misalignment. Joining lines do not have gaps or overshoot.

The Apple Pencil Pro is accurate, and has consistent and predictable performance for drawing.

At the time of review, barrel roll works only with the Apple Notes app, and the feature works fine.

Drawing experience


This was drawn with Procreate. I didn't experience any issues. The drawing experience is similar compared to other iPads with the laminated displays.


This was drawn with Concepts app using the M2 instead of M4 iPad Pro. If you're upgrading from other iPads with Apple Pencil, you will settle back into the familiar workflow easily.


This was drawn with Concepts app using the 11-inch M2 iPad Pro. For this sketch, I did not use pressure sensitivity so all the lines have the same width. This was drawn while standing so I had to hold the 11-inch tablet in hand. This sketch would be incredibly challenging to complete if I had to hold a 13-inch iPad Pro for more than an hour.


This was also drawn with Concepts app using the 11-inch M2 iPad Pro, also drawn while standing. Even though the sketch had many details, I didn't feel like I needed a larger drawing surface area to include all those details. 11-inch is a smaller tablet but not a small tablet.

Video editing

Youtubers like to talk about video editing because that's the only type of work that's gonna be demanding on the processor. I've been editing 4K videos without lag on my M1 Mac Mini for years. The M4 chip is obviously more powerful than M1 and certainly good enough for editing 4K videos.

The main consideration here is on video editing workflow. How are you going to manage and backup source footage and exported videos, transfer them in and out of the iPad.

Most video editing apps have user interface that work best on larger displays. And desktop versions of video editing apps are just more efficient and have proper and familiar file management system.

Stage Manager

I haven't used Stage Manager much to provide useful insight.

It's a feature that's there if you need some sort of desktop-like interface, or when you want to use the iPad together with an external display.

Should you upgrade from the previous iPad Pro

Here are some questions to think about to help you decide:

  • Do you have the "I wish this tablet could be faster" thoughts often?
  • Is your display much dimmer now after years of usage
  • Is your tablet's battery life much shorter now after years of usage
  • Is your tablet faulty in anyway?
  • Do you need Apple Pencil Pro's new features
  • Do you watch HDR content often?
  • Do you need a bright display because you work outdoors often?
  • Do you need the nano-texture surface?

When watching HDR content, the visual difference between OLED vs LCD is noticeable even without a side by side comparison. I don't feel like this is a main reason to upgrade, at least for me. I do value the extra SDR brightness up to 1000 nits because I use the tablets outdoors often, and even with the M2 iPad Pro's mini-LED's SDR brightness of 600 nits is not sufficient for enough contrast when used outdoors in bright environment.

The other thing might be worth upgrading for is probably for Apple Pencil Pro's new features. Squeeze for shortcuts to appear is easier than finger tapping. Barrel rotation is a feature that makes creating certain brush strokes easier.

I personally am upgrading for two reasons: the extra brightness and because I run a Youtube channel so I want to have this tablet around to compare with when the next tablet comes out. If I don't work outdoors and/or run a Youtube channel, I won't be upgrading. Being able to watch HDR content is just a bonus for me.

Should you buy the previous models

The 2021 M1 and 2022 M2 iPad Pros are still terrific tablets. The main difference between the two for artists is M2 supports cursor hover feature. Both M1 and M2 models have Stage Manager external display support, so avoid iPad Pros from 2020 or older.

I'm still using the 2018 iPad Pro which can still be upgraded to the latest iPad OS 17.5 (2024). The M1 model from 2021 can definitely get updates even six years later.

If you don't need the extra brightness for outdoor use, or don't need the new Apple Pencil Pro features, the previous models are definitely still worth buying if you can find them at good prices.

Should you get the M2 iPad Air instead?

Let's look at the differences:

  • 500 nits LCD vs 1000 nits OLED
  • 60Hz vs 120Hz refresh rate
  • 11-inch 462g vs 444g
  • 13-inch 617g vs 579g
  • USB 3.1 gen 2 vs Thunderbolt 4
  • Touch ID vs Face ID unlock
  • 2-way vs 4-way speakers

Both tablets support Apple Pencil Pro so you don't really have to get the M4 iPad Pro to use Apple Pencil Pro.

Main difference here is brightness of the display. 500 nits vs 1000 nits will determine whether you can or cannot see contents on your display under bright outdoor lighting. If you use the tablets indoors most of the time, then this difference in brightness will not matter.

120Hz is certainly nice to have but 60Hz is not a deal breaker.

Weight difference is noticeable with the 13-inch iPad Air vs iPad Pro. The price difference for these two models is even more noticeable.

Conclusion


If Apple had included those >500 nits OLED display, then the M4 iPad Pro probably won't be worth upgrading to. Having a 1000 nits display actually makes it possible now to work with the tablet in bright outdoor conditions, provided your tablet does not overheat.

Yes the colours and contrast on OLED displays are better but they don't fundamentally change how you work. Having a 500 vs 1000 nits display will determine whether you can work or not, with greater ease.


Drawing performance of the iPad has always been great since the first day Apple Pencil was launched. It's a shame that Apple Pencil 2 cannot be made to work with the 2024 iPad Pros and iPad Airs.

I would say the M4 iPad Pro is worth the money if you have the budget for it. The M2 iPad Air will provide more value for money since it's more affordable, but there are of course several missing features.

If you're thinking of upgrading, just ask yourself whether you need that 1000 nits for outdoor use, and whether you need the new Apple Pencil Pro features. Barrel roll is nice and makes it possible to create brush strokes that are difficult to create with Apple Pencil 2. So that's a fundamental difference with usage. Squeeze, haptic and lost item finder are just bonus features.

Pros and cons at a glance

+ Beautiful design
+ Tablets are thinner, lighter and hence more portable
+ 13-inch iPad Pro is noticeably lighter than previous model
+ Tandom OLED display with amazing brightness for outdoor use
+ Effective anti-reflective coating on display
+ Good colour accuracy
+ OLED display can show true HDR
+ Apple Pencil Pro have great drawing and writing experience
+ Apple Pencil Pro has new features
+ Thunderbolt 4
+ 10 hours battery life
+ Many drawing, graphic design, creative apps
- Price increase of USD 100
- Stage Manager multi-tasking's usefulness is mainly for switching between apps
- Stage Manager external display usefulness depends a lot on third party app implementation
- Accessories made for previous iPad Pros (2018 - 2022) are all not compatible
- Apple Pencil 2 is not compatible
- Ultra-wide lens is removed
- Nano-texture glass display only available to 1TB and 2TB models
- OLED displays have PWM that may affect people with sensitive eyes
- More resistant to display dimming due to overheating
- No water resistance

Availability

If you're interested to get the M4 iPad Pro or accessories, consider supporting my blog by buying through the affiliate links listed below at no extra cost.

Here in Singapore they are available from Lazada SG and Shopee SG.

They can be found on Amazon too via these links
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

For matte screen protectors, I recommend SuperShieldz for 11-inch and 13-inch because you can get three pieces for less than USD 10. These are cheap and good. Just make sure you're buying for the 2024 model.

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