Apple during Tuesday’s Spring Forward event announced exciting new devices and technologies. Among those was a refresh for both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch the iPad Pro tablets – now dubbed the 3rd generation and 5th generation respectively for the year of 2021.

There’s a lot to take in, and that’s why in this piece, we’ll compare the features and technical specifications of the 3rd generation 11-inch iPad Pro and 5th generation iPad Pro of 2021 with the features and technical specifications of the 2nd generation 11-inch iPad Pro and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro of 2020.

Without further ado, let’s get started in comparing this year’s iPad Pro refresh to the iPad Pro tablets that Apple introduced last year:

Display

Perhaps one of the most distinguishable features of the 2021 iPad Pro refresh that will catch any user’s eye is the novel display that the tablet now possesses – or at least, for the 12.9-inch model, that is.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): Liquid Retina XDR with mini-LED, ProMotion technology, and TrueTone
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): Liquid Retina LCD with ProMotion technology, and TrueTone

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): Liquid Retina LCD with ProMotion technology, and TrueTone
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): Liquid Retina LCD with ProMotion technology, and TrueTone

Processor & GPU

A less discernible difference at first glance, but more noticeable with regard to performance, is the upgraded SoC provided by the 2021 iPad Pro refresh, which now incorporates Apple’s M1 chip – the same found in many of Apple’s Mac computers.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): 8-core M1 chip with next-generation 16-core Neural Engine
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): 8-core A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): 8-core M1 chip with next-generation 16-core Neural Engine
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): 8-core A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine

Storage

Apple doubled down on its largest storage space offering this year, which was a smart move given that more and more professionals are turning to the iPad Pro platform for projects involving larger file sizes.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): Available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): Available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): Available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): Available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB

Memory

Apple is advertising the amount of RAM provided by certain models of the iPad Pro for the first time starting this year, but as you might come to expect, more RAM is only available on the more expensive 1 & 2TB storage models.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): 8GB RAM for 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models, 16GB RAM for 1TB and 2TB models
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): 6GB RAM for 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): 8GB RAM for 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models, 16GB RAM for 1TB and 2TB models
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): 6GB RAM for 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models

Rear Camera

The specs of Apple’s rear-facing camera are nearly identical in this year’s iPad Pro refresh as they were in last year’s model.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): 12 megapixel wide camera and 10 megapixel ultra-wide camera
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): 12 megapixel wide camera and 10 megapixel ultra-wide camera

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): 12 megapixel wide camera and 10 megapixel ultra-wide camera
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): 12 megapixel wide camera and 10 megapixel ultra-wide camera

Front Camera

While the rear-facing camera didn’t change much, the same isn’t true about the front. Apple is proving significant updates to the front-facing camera in this year’s iPad Pro refresh when compared with last year’s model.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): 12 megapixel TrueDepth camera system ƒ/2.4 aperture, Face ID, ultra-wide, and 2x optical zoom
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): 7 megapixel TrueDepth camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture and Face ID

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): 12 megapixel TrueDepth camera system with ƒ/2.4 aperture, Face ID, ultra-wide, and 2x optical zoom
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): 7 megapixel TrueDepth camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture and Face ID

I/O

Apple is upgrading the way we connect devices and accessories to our iPad Pro in a big way this year, and much of that comes by way of the speedy new Thunderbolt and USB 4-in-one port. This is the first year that Thunderbolt has made its way to the iPad Pro.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): USB C port with support for Thunderbolt and USB 4
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): USB C port (USB 3)

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): USB C port with support for Thunderbolt and USB 4
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): USB C port (USB 3)

Cellular

As expected, the latest iPad Pro is capable of connecting to 5G networks – both sub-6GHz networks and the much faster mmWave variant – in addition to 4G LTE. This compares to last year’s model being 4G LTE-ready only.

12.9-inch

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation/2021): Super-fast downloads and high quality streaming over 5G, and 4G LTE where 5G isn’t available
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th generation/2020): 4G LTE

11-inch

  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation/2021): Super-fast downloads and high quality streaming over 5G, and 4G LTE where 5G isn’t available
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation/2020): 4G LTE

Other notable differences

These features aren’t as important to all users as they would be to a niche few, so we’ll list them out to make consuming the information easier.

  • 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro is .5mm thicker and slightly heavier than its predecessor because of the inclusion of the mini-LED display
  • 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro reaches a max full-screen brightness of 1,000 nits, or peak full-screen brightness of 1,600 nits compared to the previous max brightness of 600 nits at all times
  • 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro boasts a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio whereas other models sport a 1,400:1 contrast ratio
  • 2021 12.9-inch & 11-inch iPad Pro support extended dynamic range up to 30fps (front and rear cameras) whereas 2020 models do not
  • 2021 12.9-inch & 11-inch iPad Pro support Center Stage, allowing the ultra-wide front camera to pan and follow the user as they move around in video
  • 2021 12.9-inch & 11-inch iPad Pro support 32 different bands of Gigabit LTE, whereas 2020 models only support 30 bands of Gigabit-class LTE

Conclusion

The 2021 iPad Pro lineup offers an enticing bump over the 2020 lineup, and perhaps even more-so if you have one of the older 2018 iPad Pro models. All of your existing accessories including the Smart Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, and Apple Pencil 2 will continue to work with the latest iPad Pro lineup.

Are you excited about all of the hardware changes Apple is packing into this year’s iPad Pro refresh? Be sure to let us know in the comments section down below.