Apple iPad Pro M4 review: Can the iPad finally replace your laptop?

The new Apple iPad Pro in space black. The iPad Pro (2024) starts at  ₹99,900 in India. (Apple)
The new Apple iPad Pro in space black. The iPad Pro (2024) starts at 99,900 in India. (Apple)


The Apple iPad Pro – in its 2024 avatar – is near perfection when it comes to a tablet. But its most glaring limitation remains on the software side

The user base for tablets has been debated for years. Truth be told, no one really needs a tablet, especially since phones have big screens now. Yet, the category of tablets continues to sustain itself—proving that there is a case to be made for a device that can serve both work and entertainment needs, is lighter than a laptop, but has a bigger display than a smartphone. For such an intersection, the Apple iPad Pro (2024) is as close to perfection as one can imagine.

While many will argue that any Apple device has a certain feeling of effortlessness about it, the latest iPad Pro takes it a step further—by shaving 5% off its weight and reducing its thickness by 10%. The iPad Pro was already quite sleek, but now, as a regular user and especially if you’ve used iPads before, the newfound finesse can be felt in-hand.

There is one major part of this equation that continues to remain unresolved —the software. For the fifth year now, Apple’s tablets continue to run on iPadOS—a marginally modified version of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. This, in the long run, is the only problem—and a rather significant one.

Before we delve deeper into this problem, a little bit on what the new iPad Pro is capable of. You can render heavily layered images on creative tools such as Procreate and Adobe Fresco and make changes to any of the layers in a large design project—without spending even half a second to render all layers.

A similar effortlessness and seamless performance can be seen when you are editing short video content timelines—if editing on an iPad is your thing, this iPad Pro can tackle considerably heavy colour grades and graphics on top of 4K video files with ease.

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Ideally, the iPad Pro is built for such professionals, exemplified further by the new Apple Pencil Pro. The glorified stylus continues to remain one of the best in the industry in terms of precision and its ability to accurately mimic various pen, pencil and shading angles and textures.

If your work involves heaps of writing, emailing, video conferencing and frequent travelling, the iPad Pro might be within your ambit too—as a premium, sleek device that replaces a laptop. The iPad Pro’s lighter weight, great finesse and a mobile-like charging adapter make it the perfect companion for corporate executives. The problem however, is software and pricing.

Why software?

Despite a new and impressive Magic Keyboard with backlit keys, the iPad Pro isn’t quite a convertible, hybrid laptop replacement yet. iPadOS’ biggest drawbacks lie in its fundamental behaviour as a mobile operating system. As a result, trying to navigate the OS with a trackpad leads to much frustration in the long run.

Often, you need extra swipes, taps and clicks to do something as simple as switch from one home screen to another or close a recently opened application.

On web browsers, every webpage keeps reloading even if you switch to a different tab for less than two minutes—despite the performance prowess of the M4 processor and 16GB of memory in the 2024 iPad Pro’s top variants.

A customer draws with an Apple Pencil Pro on an Apple iPad Pro M4 at Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York, US, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
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A customer draws with an Apple Pencil Pro on an Apple iPad Pro M4 at Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York, US, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Bloomberg)

Each of these errant twists and turns show that the iPadOS is meant to be a touchscreen-first operating system and isn’t quite as seamlessly integrated to operate with a pointer as it should be.

Then, there’s software support. Using a Google Workplace tool such as Docs or Sheets loads a mobile version of the apps, which are restricted in their feature set against their full-scale desktop representations. This makes the native apps unusable to a power user.

For users who do not want a native app, logging in through a browser can make more sense. However, this comes with the trade-off of repeated reloads and scrolling issues.

Until Apple decides upon its future framework for tablet software, all the goodness of the iPad Pro (2024) becomes tricky to savour.

Pricing an issue too

The key factor to consider is that in close proximity sits the MacBook Air—which is powered by the M3 processor and starts with 256GB storage. The iPad Pro has the same storage and WiFi connectivity but uses the latest generation M4 processor instead.

The iPad Pro (2024) starts at 99,900 in India. In comparison, retail outlets are selling Apple’s latest M3-powered MacBook Air at 1,04,900—a price that could reduce further with bank discounts. For the lesser price, an overwhelming majority of users would find the MacBook Air a better product—one that runs all apps and tasks smoothly. With Apple adding support for mirroring an iPhone entirely on a Mac with the upcoming macOS Sequoia in September (announced at the WWDC 2024 event), there’s little reason why the MacBook Air would not be ideal.

From every aspect, therefore, the MacBook Air appears to be a better purchase. This leaves the iPad Pro as an aspirational device that is almost good enough to replace your laptop. It makes the most sense for designers and creative professionals as their expanded mobile platform—for this demographic, there’s no better hardware in the market.

The author was in Cupertino, California to cover Worldwide Developer Conference 2024 at Apple’s invitation.

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