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iPad Pro (2022) review: Stop me if you've heard this one before, but…

Apple's latest iPad Pro gets a small spec bump over last year's model, but there's a lot of hope among iPad Pro fans that the software experience will finally catch up.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • iPadOS 16.1’s new multitasking feature
  • Strong performance
  • Consistent battery life
  • Hover mode for Apple Pencil is useful
Cons
  • iPadOS 16.1's new multitasking feature
  • Hover mode for Apple Pencil feels hard to discover
  • Same exact design as last year’s iPad Pro

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 several 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, an entirely new approach to multitasking on the iPad with the launch of iPadOS 16.1.

For nearly two weeks now, 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. It's become clear the longer I use the M2 iPad Pro that it's really just the M1 iPad Pro -- with a negligible performance boost and a new Apple Pencil feature. 

Specifications

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

Yet again, a powerful tablet for work and play

The iPad Pro's hardware continues to overpower the software. Although, with the addition of Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1 and true external monitor support included in iPadOS 16.2 -- which is due for release 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 of iPadOS 16, I wrote that the update fundamentally changed the way I use my iPad Pro. For the better, and I stand by that. I admittedly gave Apple the benefit of the doubt that any issues I'd experienced during early testing were bugs in a young beta and that by the time the official release arrived, those bugs would be ironed out. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case. 

More: iPadOS 16 has arrived for your iPad, here are all the new features

Appel iPad Pro 2022 on a wood floor

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro with its full-screen glory. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

For those who aren't familiar, Stage Manager brings resizable windows and the ability to have four apps active and open at the same time 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 Apple could focus on fixing all of the weird and wonky issues Stage Manager was plagued with early on. 

I'm going to hold off on providing more thoughts about Stage Manager for now, but I will say that Stage Manager is full of small moments of brilliance where you realize and see the vision of what Apple was going for. 

Also: Apple's worst product has become one of its best

For example, when I'm using the Mail app to triage my inbox and I hit Command-R on the keyboard to reply to a message, a new window pops out, floating above the Mail app, ready for my input. I can move that window around, close, or minimize it, just like an app's window on my Mac.

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

But I digress. So far, the M2 processor in the iPad Pro is handling Stage Manager and my typical workflows without any issues. That said, I didn't have any performance complaints about my personal M1 iPad Pro to begin with. Actually, at one point during early testing, I mistakenly picked up my M1 iPad Pro thinking it was the M2 iPad Pro (they're identical in design, save for a slight difference in the color shade for the Space Gray model) and used it for an hour or so, the entire time questioning whether the performance boost I suddenly perceived was a placebo effect or not. 

Turns out, it was. 

Appel iPad Pro 2022

New generation, still an iPad Pro. 

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Outside of that brief moment, while my 2021 iPad Pro has now been powered off for the rest of my testing. my iPad Pro experience has mostly been the same. There's no noticeable performance increase on the M2 iPad Pro over last year's model. 

To be clear, performance is a non-issue on either iPad Pro. Opening apps, multitasking and even gaming on either model is a speedy experience that's free of any hiccups or lag. 

Battery life for the M2 iPad Pro has been on par with the M1, which is to be expected; Apple has stuck with its 10-hour battery life estimate for WiFi web-browsing on the latest iPad Pro. For me, battery life has ranged from either needing to charge the iPad Pro after a couple of days of sporadic use or zapping through the battery in under five hours while sitting in a Starbucks on an LTE connection, with Stage Manager active, streaming Apple Music to my connected AirPods Pro, all while connected to a Magic Keyboard with Trackpad and the display at 100% brightness.

Review: AirPods Pro 2 offer two big upgrades but connectivity chaos hasn't been tamed

The Apple Pencil's hover feature is neat

Outside of the iPad Pro now coming with the M2 Apple Silicon processor, there's not a whole lot that's new with the 2022 model. That said, if you're an Apple Pencil user, you'll notice a trick that, so far, has been a very subtle addition during my use. 

There's a new coprocessor in the M2 chip that's dedicated to handling interactions with the second-generation Apple Pencil. It monitors when the tip of the Pencil gets near the iPad Pro's display -- within 12 millimeters -- to proc unique app interactions via the new hover feature. 

In the Notes app, for example, that means you'll see a small preview of what the selected tool will look like when you put the tip of the pencil to the screen. In my case, when using the pen tool to take notes, a small black dot mirrors the Pencil's movement above 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 trigger additional actions. 

At times, hover has been obvious -- such as when in the Notes app -- but other times, I haven't noticed it at all, or it just hasn't been present when I'd expect to see it. 

For example, when using the iPad's Scribble feature, the text field is supposed to get bigger as you write with the Pencil, and then shrink back to its original size after you're done writing and it's converted to text. I've only seen that happen 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?

Apple did announce tools for third-party developers to integrate hover into their apps, and maybe once more developers have had time to add integration, hover will work as users expect in nearly every app and interface. But right now, it feels like a good feature that's in need of discoverability. 

Bottom line

There's still a lot of pressure on Apple, perhaps more than ever, to deliver a robust multitasking experience on the iPad Pro. But that's for the iPad Pro lineup in general, and not specific to the 2022 iPad Pro. That said, as I sit here, finishing this very review with the iPad Pro connected to an external monitor, with Safari, Slack and Messages on one display, and a document open on another, I can see the vision and where Apple's going with it. Now it's time to execute it. 

Should you get the newest iPad Pro with the M2 processor? If you have the 2021 iPad Pro with an M1 processor, you can confidently skip this upgrade. There's just not enough of a difference in the overall experience or a big enough performance boost to warrant the upgrade. However, if you have a non-Pro iPad or a non-M-series-equipped iPad Pro, then it makes sense to upgrade to the M2 version when you're ready. 

Alternatives to consider

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