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I replaced my MacBook with an M4 iPad Pro and was less bothered than I expected

The M4 iPad Pro is faster, thinner, and more powerful than ever, but I wouldn't bank on WWDC making the tablet more like a Mac.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor

Apple iPad Pro (2024)

4.5 / 5
Very good

pros and cons

  • Tandem OLED display gets plenty bright
  • M4 processor is fast, reliable, and for everyone
  • Strongest accessory ecosystem yet
  • Thinner, lighter design makes this the most advanced Apple product yet
  • iPadOS still feels inconsistent and limited
  • Accessories are expensive but almost mandatory

ZDNET's buying advice

I'll say it: The new iPad Pro is Apple's most advanced piece of hardware in 2024, besting the Vision Pro and likely any new AirPods and iPhone 16 models to come. From the moment you pick up the ultra-thin slab of glass and aluminum to when you discover finer details in darker scenes thanks to the Tandem OLED display, such burdenless design choices make Apple's premium iPad model a justifiable option for those willing to spend the money.

With configurations ranging from $999 to $2,599, keep in mind that the higher storage tiers (1TB and 2TB) also come with double the RAM (16GB vs. 8GB) and an extra CPU core. It's a subtle, under-the-hood difference that's easy to miss, especially when cross-shopping between iPad models. If you can use the greater compute, have an offline-heavy workflow, and/or want the most future-proofed iPad on the market, it's worth the upcharge. Otherwise, the base 11- or 13-inch model will serve you just fine, as they have for me.



11-inch or 13-inch OLED with ProMotion (10Hz to 120Hz)


444 grams or 579 grams


Apple Silicon M4 with up to 16GB of RAM


Starting at 256GB, up to 2TB


Up to 10 hours of surfing the web


12MP wide (4K, ProRes), Landscape 12MP ultra-wide


Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil Pro/USB-C


Starting at $999

How I tested the iPad Pro (2024)

Over the past week and a half, I've used (or attempted to use) the 11-inch iPad Pro as my primary computer for work and as a secondary, entertainment-only device. When it wasn't paired to a Wi-Fi connection 90% of the time, it ran off my phone's T-Mobile hotspot. While Apple sells an LTE version of the iPad Pro, my primary testing grounds for the device have been at home, a local café, and my work office -- nowhere adventurous enough to justify the always-connected upgrade.

I also paired the iPad with Apple's revamped Magic Keyboard. The $299 starting price gave me pause when I first checked out the accessory, but the thinner, lighter aluminum form factor, larger trackpad, and a new row of function keys this year make the keyboard case more essential than ever for the full iPad experience.

What are the best features of the iPad Pro (2024)?

Not just any OLED panel: "Tandem OLED" is the term Apple uses to describe the arrangement of light panels underneath the new iPad Pro. By stacking two layers of OLED, the iPad Pro gets remarkably bright (up to 1,600 nits for HDR content) while offering the same traditional benefits of the display type, including better contrast (it's easier to discern the lighter and darker pixels on the screen) and improved color accuracy at a per-pixel level.

iPad Pro M4 2024 OLED display

The OLED display on the 11-inch model is an even bigger upgrade over its direct predecessor's LCD display.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

In practice, Tandem OLED makes the iPad Pro a phenomenal tablet for visual experiences. I've been able to complete text-heavy and photo-editing work -- which often require adequate viewing angles -- under a New York City sun that thinks it's already summer. Watching Netflix and Disney+ on the iPad is straight eye candy; colors pop, and the darker, moodier scenes have a level of shadow detail unseen on older Pro models.

This could pass as an iPad Pro Air: There's an old SNL skit about Apple making the iPhone too thin and light, and it immediately came to mind when I first held the new iPad Pro. While I've never heard someone complain about the iPad Pro being too thick, I don't mind the even slimmer form factor. Both the 11-inch and 13-inch models are thin. Super thin. So thin, in fact, that it's almost inexcusable not to pack the tablet whenever I'm traveling. Dropping the iPad when watching movies in bed also hurts a little less now.

Also: I tested the 11-inch iPad Air for a week, and it made my $1,200 Android tablet feel old

The biggest yet most subtle advantage of being nimble is how much more burdenless it feels to carry the iPad around while it's encased in a folio or keyboard cover.

iPad Pro M4 2024 with MacBook Air M3

The iPad Pro (top) is about the same thickness as the top lid of the MacBook Air M3 (bottom).

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Everyone benefits from the M4: The subtle wins carry over to the new M4 chip that powers the iPad Pro, from supporting the Tandem OLED's variable refresh rate (10Hz to 120Hz) to enhancing the accuracy of Face ID, which captures from a front-facing camera situated on the longer side of the iPad now -- I've dug that design change since testing the iPad in 2022

Also: iPad Pro (2024) vs. iPad Air (2024): Which Apple tablet is best for you?

A more efficient processor means the iPad absolutely speeds through app load times, 4K video exports, detecting and cropping subjects out of images, and more. On a recent flight, I played 30 minutes of Genshin Impact at max graphics settings, 120fps and all, and the iPad got lukewarm at its worst -- a major improvement over my 2022 model, which would overheat after 10 minutes.

Professionals will notice the performance gains even more, with services such as Final Cut Pro (for iPad) gaining new capabilities like Live Multicam and color grading. I'm not exactly sure how many creatives can or have already switched to an iPad-iPhone-only workflow, but it feels less challenging now than ever before. This ultimately lowers the barrier to entry for videographers, digital artists, and other content creators, which is never a bad thing.

What I'd like to see in the next model 

More flexible software: The limitations of iPadOS remain with every generation of iPad reviewed; I can talk all day about how lovely it'd be to have native apps that give me something remotely close to their desktop counterparts or how every iPadOS update feels like another small step towards an ever-distant touchscreen MacBook dream.

Also: The M4 iPad Pro's true potential will be realized at WWDC, and AI will have a lot to do with it

iPadOS 17 still has some kinks to work out, and several missing features. For example, text sizing on Safari is inconsistent across split-screen mode, floating windows, and Stage Manager. There are also moments when I need to import and export large files, and a compulsive swipe-out to a different app is all it takes to put those tasks on pause. In an ideal world, some memory -- which the iPad Pro has plenty of -- should be dedicated to keeping those processes running in the background.

iPad Pro M4 2024 Magic Keyboard and Pencil

Perhaps the iPad Pro doesn't need to be as good as a Mac; it just needs to be a good iPad. 

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I'm also aware that Apple sells iPads like no other tablet maker, generating an underwhelming $5.6 billion in revenue last quarter. So it doesn't surprise me that Apple continues to distance the iPad and Mac experiences to satisfy the greater portion of the two user bases, beyond the tech enthusiasts who want one device to rule them all.

More ports, even if they're not on the iPad: Adding more port options, from an extra USB-C to MicroSD/SD to a headphone jack, may be a potential fix for professionals who want to make the most of Apple's magical glass slab. The ability to quickly import photos and videos via an SD card and then edit them on Lightroom or Final Cut Pro/Premiere Rush would be helpful for creatives; a 3.5mm headphone jack would solve any audio latency and quality issues that engineers and sound designers face; and an extra USB-C port would give users more flexibility to charge and connect the iPad to other devices.

Of course, slimming down the iPad Pro means Apple likely won't move towards adding ports. Given how essential the Magic Keyboard is to the iPad, however, it could be even more so with the additional I/O.

Final thought  

Apple's tablet lineup is ultimately (and has always been) confined by an operating system that promotes flexibility and ease of use over high-power multitasking. That balance may shift come WWDC, should the company pitch a more ambitious, AI-driven version of iPadOS.

Regardless, the future of the iPad shouldn't be a dealbreaker because the iPad Pro is, for all intents and purposes, an iPad -- a tablet you carry around for getting certain tasks done and for consuming content. For many, being the best tablet on the market -- not the best laptop or PC -- is more than enough.

 Alternatives to consider 

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