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M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs. M2 iPad Pro (2022): Is it worth the upgrade?

Apple just refreshed its high-end iPad Pro tablet, adding a faster M2 processor, new Apple Pencil features, and more. But do you need all that? We'll break it down.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer
Two new iPad Pros on stands, displaying dramatic graphics
Image: Apple

Forgoing any sort of fancy event, Apple on Tuesday announced the 2022 iPad Pro powered by its Apple Silicon M2 processor alongside a completely redesigned -- and much more expensive -- base-model iPad.

You can preorder the new iPad Pro now, with availability beginning Oct. 26, the same day as in-store availability.

Also: iPad (2022) vs iPad (2021): Which tablet should you buy?

Before you click that buy button, though, take a few minutes to figure out if you really need that shiny new iPad Pro, or if last year's model is more than enough for your needs. Don't worry, I'll help break it down for you.


Comparing iPad Pro models

iPad Pro (2022)iPad Pro (2021)
Processor Apple Silicon M2Apple Silicon M1
Display 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and True Tone12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and True Tone
Memory 8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Rear Cameras 12MP wide, 10MP ultra wide12MP wide, 10MP ultra wide
Front Camera 12MP TrueDepth FaceTime12MP TrueDepth FaceTime
Battery 10 hours10 hours
Connectivity USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4USB-C Thunderbolt/USB-4
Operating system iPadOS 16.1iPadOS 16.1
Colors Space gray, silverSpace gray, silver

You should get the new iPad Pro if…

new iPad Pro connected to external display showing Stage Manager
Image: Apple

1. You use the Apple Pencil for everything

The new iPad Pro models come with a new Apple Pencil feature that detects when the tip of the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil is 12mm above the display and then adjusts the interface. 

For instance, if you use Scribble to write in a text field instead of using a keyboard, the text field will automatically enlarge, giving you more room to write, and then shrink back to its normal size once you're done.

On its site, Apple also shows a video of drawing tools previewing what they look like as you make adjustments to things like size and opacity. 

To be clear: Samsung's Galaxy Note and now the Galaxy Z Fold have long had a similar hover feature for the S Pen, so Apple isn't inventing the wheel here.

I'll have to wait to get my hands on the new iPad Pro before figuring out just how useful the new hover detection feature is, but it looks like it's more of a quality-of-life improvement than a ground-breaking new feature. 

2. You plan on fully taking advantage of iPadOS 16 when it's finished

With the release of iPadOS 16 on Oct. 24, newer iPad Pro models and the latest iPad Air will gain Stage Manager, a feature that brings a new multitasking experience to Apple's tablets. But not all of those tablets are created equal, with only the models equipped with M1 and M2 chips getting true external monitor support. 

The combination of Stage Manager and external monitor support means you can have up to eight apps open and in use on the iPad Pro at the same time. This, of course, will tax the performance of the tablet, and Apple's M2 processor is the most capable when it comes to powering through whatever you throw at it. 

According to Apple's Oct. 18 release, the M2-powered iPad Pro is 15% faster than last year's M1 iPad Pro. The new processor also provides a 50% boost for memory bandwidth, something you'll surely need for multitasking with a large number of apps. 

If you plan on taking full advantage of Stage Manager and don't want to run into any performance issues, now or down the road with future software features, the M2 iPad Pro makes a ton of sense. 

3. You need the latest connectivity tech

The new iPad Pro models come with support for Wi-Fi 6E -- the latest and fastest Wi-Fi standard available -- along with 5G cellular connectivity. Support for 5G isn't new, but Wi-Fi 6E is, and it's something that future-proofs your investment, or if you already have a Wi-Fi 6E system in your home, allows you to take full advantage of the increased speeds and performance improvements. 

I currently own the 2021 iPad Pro -- it's easily my favorite computer and something I use every single day. I'm not sold on the performance boost, and I don't use the Apple Pencil a whole lot to take advantage of the new features there, but if Apple offered more than $500 for my trade-in (I paid $2,000 for the 1TB 5G model), I'd strongly consider getting the M2 iPad Pro just for Wi-Fi 6E.

Also: How to use an iPad Pro to power your home office

You should get last year's iPad Pro if…

A 2021 iPad Pro on a stand, connected to an external monitor, on an office desk.

iPadOS 16 with external monitor support on the 2021 iPad Pro.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

1. You're on the hunt for a good deal

When new hardware is announced, older hardware -- in this case, the 2021 iPad Pro -- usually receives some sort of price cut. 

A quick look on Best Buy's website doesn't reflect any price changes so far, but it's only a matter of time before retailers start clearing out old inventory in order to make room for Apple's newest tablets. 

Don't bother looking on Apple's website, as the company has already removed the 2021 iPad Pro from the store. 

However, Amazon is taking a couple hundred dollars off the price of Wi-Fi models. For example, the 512GB 2021 iPad Pro is marked down to $1,199 instead of $1,399. The 1TB model starts at $1,599 if you need more storage. 

Also: How to turn your old devices into Amazon gift cards

2. You don't need all of that performance

Even though Apple removed true external monitor support from iPadOS 16 during the beta process, I never felt that my M1 iPad Pro was underpowered during my early testing of the unfinished operating system. 

And while the M2 processor is sure to bring some performance gains, I'm not sold that the 15% improvement is enough to warrant upgrading from the M1 iPad Pro. 

What that means to someone who doesn't have an iPad Pro is that you should see similar and totally acceptable performance from the 2021 iPad Pro. 

Not only that, but the iPad Pro's hardware has been overpowered for years now, with users have been begging Apple to add more features and capabilities to iPadOS. And even though Stage Manager promises to do just that, I'm not convinced that the iPad Pro's hardware has finally met its match. 

3. You don't want the new fancy Apple Pencil features

Outside of improved Wi-Fi and a faster processor, the only other notable feature coming to the new iPad Pro is the Apple Pencil's hover feature. If you're someone who doesn't use an Apple Pencil, or you only use one sparingly, then the 2022 iPad Pro doesn't really bring any extra value to the table over the 2021 model. 

You can use the second-generation Apple Pencil with the 2021 iPad Pro to write, scribble, or draw in whatever apps you need to. And for a lot of people, that's more than good enough.

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