‘M1’ iPad Pro (2021) — Mini LED, 5G, Thunderbolt 3?!

The next-generation iPad Pro might be coming our way as soon as March and, in this video, I’m going to break down… just everything that might be coming with it I’m talking miniLED display, M1-class chipset, Thunderbolt 3, and, of course, 5G.


The current iPad Pro is already full screen, with Apple Thanos-snapping half the bezels away going on 18 months ago already. It’s also DCI-P3 wide color gamut, with rich reds and vibrant greens, TrueTone ambient temperature matching, so whites look paper white, and ProMotion adaptive refresh, so it can ramp up to 120Hz for silky smooth MKBHD-quality scrolling or ramp down to 48Hz to show 24fps movies the way nature and Hollywood intended.

But it’s still LCD. In 2021… When the iPhone switched to OLED back in 2017 already.

But, despite Samsung and LG pushing for OLED in the industry rags, Apple just doesn’t seem to think the bigger-than-phone-sized OLED panels are really ready for prime tine. Just in terms of LTPO cost, yield, and brightness consistency.

So, the big rumor is, the iPad Pro is going miniLED instead. And mini LED offers almost all the benefits of OLED but without the issues like smearing, pulse width modulation, off-axis color shifting, burn-in, and PenTile sub-pixel arrangements.

No, miniLED is bless-ed RGB stripe. What it does is use smaller backlights, like 200 microns small, like 10,000 of them, grouped into local dimming zones, which lets them get the deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios needed for HDR — High Dynamic Range.

I’ll be doing an in-depth explainer on how it all works soon. So make sure you’ve hit that subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss it.

Because it should be terrific for everything from TV+ to Disney+ to all the Dolby Vision content now being shot on the iPhones 12 right now.


The 2018 iPad Pro had an A12X chipset. Basically the A12 chipset from the iPhone XS but with 4 efficiency cores, 4 performance cores, 8 neural engine cores, and 7 graphics cores, fabbed on TSMC’s 7 nanometer process.

The 2020 iPad Pro has an A12Z chipset. Basically a tweaked A12X with its eighth graphics core fully operational.

But not an A13X, probably because Apple’s silicon team was too busy working on the A14 for the iPhone 12 and iPad Air 4, and the M1 for the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.

This next one, though, the 2021 iPad Pro, is rumored to be getting an A14X or… an M1.

Which would pretty much be the same thing. Current generation versions of all the performance, efficiency, and graphics cores, 16 neural engine cores, and all the modern bells and whistles to go with them.

Whether it’s actually an A14X or M1 is part branding, part economics. It just depends if it’s cheaper to make a chip without the Mac specific hardware blocks, like x86 optimizers, or just make the same chip and not use those blocks. And, then, whatever Apple wants to call it. But if you have strong feelings one way or tother though, let me know in the comments.

Battery life should stay at 10 hours, because of the physical battery size and because that just seems to be Apple’s target for pretty much every iPad always.

Since the previous iPad Pro had 6GB of RAM but the M1 MacBook starts at 8GB of RAM, just how much memory Apple wants in the next iPad Pro will be interesting to see either way.

Would a better chipset and more RAM mean the new iPad Pro would finally be able to run Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and Xcode?

No, because more RAM and even M1 doesn’t magically port them from AppKit to UIKit, or adapt their interfaces from mouse pointer to multitouch.

It could certainly happen and I’d be ecstatic if it did, but it’s just never been a purely hardware problem to solve.

USB 4.0

Part of the iPad Pro’s big 2018 redesign was the transition from Lightning to USB-C. It allowed the iPad Pro to work with a wider ranger of peripherals — specifically, Mac and PC peripherals.

But it’s not Thunderbolt, because Thunderbolt required surfacing PCIe lanes, and Apple has never surfaced any PCIe lanes for ports on any iOS device, not even the iPad Pro.

But… But… Apple did surface PCIe lanes for the M1. Two of them. With two on-board Thunderbolt controllers.

If the next iPad Pro uses the M1 chipset as-is, it’ll also have those two Thunderbolt controllers.

In a perfect world, that would give us two USB 4/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the next iPad Pro. For some people, including me, that would make it just twice as much Pro. And if you feel the same, drop a like below.

Because our world is just so often so far from perfect. So expect the actual number we’ll get is somewhere between none and one. So, fingers crossed for at least one. Just make the iPad Pro a first-class USB 4 experience.


I’ll just say it. For most people, in most places, 5G still isn’t that meaningful. It’s something that really only carriers care about. Even then, only carrier finance and marketing people. Technicians are like up to hear with it already….

But, those are the modems being made right now, which means those are the modems Apple’s going to be using in the next iPad Pro.

Depending on how dates and yield work out, either the same Qualcomm X55 modem that’s in the iPhone 12, or the next-generation Qualcomm X60 modem that’ll almost certainly be going into the iPhone 13.

That one, the X60, is going to use Samsung’s latest fabrication process. I don’t think it’s as good as TSMCs, but Apple’s eating up most of TSMC these days, and either way, it should at least be more power efficient.


The current iPad Pro added a second, ultra wide-angle camera and LiDAR Scanner. Hopefully Apple will continue to improve both of those and the main, wide angle camera as well. I mean, if it were up to me, they’d always be as good as the latest iPhone cameras. But I don’t most times get what I want.

The A14X or M1 image signal processor — again, same thing — will do a lot to improve them either way, including HDR3, and possibly deep fusion, Night Mode, and Dolby Vision.

But the current iPad Pro was also missing things like Portrait Mode on the read camera… even with LiDAR.

Again, I assume the camera team was so busy working on the iPhone 12 they just didn’t have time to work on the iPad Pro as well. But why that wasn’t fixed with iPadOS 14 back in September… I have no idea.

Maybe third time will be the charm? And if so, even if the glass doesn’t match the iPhone 12’s, at least the functionality gap will be closed.

Size (Bonus)

There’s no indication that Apple will be changing the sizes on the next generation iPad Pro. In other words, the same 11-inch and 12.9-inch models as now. Only better..

Which is good, because it means they’ll work with existing accessories, including and especially the less-than-one-year-old Magic Keyboards that have made Apple’s tablet into a pretty damn remarkable hybrid laptop.

Still… Now that there’s a very similarly designed iPad Air that’s the same exact casing size, if not quite screen size, as the 11-inch Pro, I kind hope Apple takes the opportunity to up-size just a bit.

I fully realize everyone but artists might find this ridiculous, but if Apple even roughly followed the MacBook Pro sizes for the iPad Pro, and gave us the existing 12.9-inch and an all-new 15.4-inch, wow but would that be a bigger, even more beautiful canvas for everything from Apple Pencil to just… finger painting with productivity.

Feel totally free to @me.