Apple launches new iPad Pros with trackpad support and LiDAR scanner

Apple just unveiled the new 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro devices. There was no fancy keynote event. Instead, the machines quietly appeared on Apple’s website.

(Photo: Apple)

New Camera System

The front of the new iPads looks mostly identical to last year’s products; however, Apple improved the internals with a noticeable external upgrade. Flip the devices around, and an all-new camera module comes into view. A 10-megapixel, ultra-wide sensor joins the 12-megapixel primary camera.

Additionally, Apple included a LiDAR Scanner on the back as well. The LiDAR sensor on the iPads accurately calculates the distance of objects from up to 5 metres (16 feet) away. That will translate to better depth sensing for AR use cases.

The camera array looks a lot like the one on the iPhone 11 phones.

Trackpad support with the new Magic Keyboard attachment. (Photo: Apple)

Trackpad Support

The upcoming iPadOS 13.4 update will bring trackpad support to iPads. That update will bring the iPad closer to the replacement computer Apple has been touting for a while now. A circular cursor will enable users to highlight and select text, fields and apps. Trackpad gesture support lets users switch between different apps and navigate in a way more akin to the MacBook series.

These features will work with an all-new, optional Magic Keyboard. It magnetically attaches to iPads, and its hinges pivot the device so you can easily see the screen. It’s backlit, so typing in the dark shouldn’t be much of an issue. Apple also used a scissor mechanism for the new Magic Keyboard. With 1mm key travel, it should provide a better typing experience compared to older detachable keyboard models. Magic Keyboard also has USB-C pass-through charging. So, you can use the iPad’s USB-C port for accessories while the keyboard charges your iPad.

The new trackpad support should work with current iPad apps with little coding. Also, Apple plans to update its Pages, Numbers and Keynote app to utilise the new trackpad functionality fully. The Magic Trackpad sound very functional and a great addition to an iPad arsenal. What’s not great is the price. The Magic Keyboard starts at US$299 for the 11-inch iPad and a wallet-busting US$349 for the 12.9-inch version.

The Magic Keyboard will be available in May.

A12Z Bionic Chip

At the heart of the new iPads is Apple’s A12Z Bionic chip. No, there’s no upgraded A13 from the iPhone. However, Apple says this chip is more powerful than most Windows laptop PCs.

Apple’s A12Z Bionic Chip is an eight-core CPU paired with an eight-core GPU and Neural Engine. They’ve improved thermals (things to make the iPad stay cool) as well as tweaked the performance controllers. The results should yield better performance than the previous models.

Connectivity is also improved. Gigabit LTE speeds are up to 60 per cent faster with more LTE bands for those who rather cellular connectivity.

The LiDAR scanner should improve AR functionality. (Photo: Apple)

New Mics

Apple outfitted the new 16-inch MacBook Pros with better microphones and the new iPad Pros are getting the same treatment. There are five “studio quality” mics on the new tablets that should remove unwanted noises when recording or on calls. The four-speaker system fine-tunes audio depending on how you hold the iPad.

Users will still enjoy smooth 120 Hz screen refresh rates, Apple Pencil support.

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You can get either new 11 or 12.9-inch iPad Pro in silver and space grey, and they come in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB capacities. Prices start at US$799 for the 11-inch model and US$999 for the larger 12.9-inch variant. Orders have already begun at Apple’s online store, with the devices shipping on March 25.