The iPad Pro M4 might finally fulfill the laptop replacement promise it has always wanted to live up to — now the software has to catch up

Let Loose 2024
(Image credit: Future)
Apple Let Loose Event

Let Loose Live

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- Let Loose event LIVE — Everything announced at the Let Loose event, as it happens
OLED iPad Pro — M3 and a major display upgrade expected!
iPad Air 6 — Apple's thinnest and lightest tablet gets a new processor!
Apple Pencil 3 — Or should we say Apple Pencil Pro?

The iPad Pro has been posited as a solid replacement for a laptop ever since it was upgraded with a decent keyboard and Stage Manager. But some things have held it back from being a true, ‘do everything tablet’ — both hardware limitations and software issues. With the latest iPad Pro M4, revealed at the Let Loose iPad event, the hardware issues have been ironed out (albeit at a great monetary cost).

The software issues, on the other hand? Those remain — for now.

A new chip, a new screen, and a massive new price tag

There are a whole bunch of new features in the latest iPad Pro models that make them more viable (hardware-wise, at least) laptop replacements. The first is that M4 chip inside it — and the fact that the M4 hasn’t debuted in a MacBook points to Apple’s intent for these machines to become MacBook alternatives.

Traditionally, M-series chips have been announced in MacBooks first (usually the Air), then the more powerful models have moved up to the best MacBook Pros, and finally, the ultimate versions move on to the desktop Macs like the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro. Apple iPads usually get their M-series chips around the same time as new desktop Macs or MacBook Pro models. But Apple just disrupted this cycle; the new 2024 MacBook Air recently received the M3 chip, while this new iPad skipped a generation and revealed the next M-series chip before any other machine.

Let Loose 2024

(Image credit: Future)

Could this mean that Apple is giving the iPad line a performance boost over the MacBook Air? It could indeed, and the power on offer makes them more potent machines than the base model MacBook Air. 

The screens too are better than those in any MacBook that you can get for the same price, with new OLED Ultra Retina XDR panels pumping out (presumably) better, deeper blacks; brighter, poppier colors; and smoother motion thanks to ProMotion. Compare the same image on a MacBook Air M3 and an M4 iPad Pro and you’re going to see a stark difference in image quality between Apple’s cheapest laptops and its most expensive tablets.

There’s the new Magic Keyboard as well, which Apple says has been made out of aluminum to make it more ‘MacBook like’. The keys on the 13-inch model are going to be similar to those you find on the MacBook Air 13-inch too, and there’s a trackpad when you need more precision than a touch screen can provide.

The pricing of the new iPad Pros also brings them squarely within artillery range of the MacBook Airs. Take the iPad Pro M4 13-inch: One of those will set you back $1,299, and then a keyboard will cost you $249 more on top of that. If you’re paying attention, that’s a whole $449 more than a MacBook Air will cost you, and it gets ever closer to the MacBook Pro with M3. If you’re looking for a tablet at laptop money, then the iPad Pro is pretty much there.

What about the software?

Let Loose 2024

(Image credit: Future)

It’s the software that will leave things to be seen. The iPad Pro M2 was almost good enough to be a laptop replacement, but there were a couple of things that let it down. Multitasking was still not quite up to scratch, the Magic Keyboard wasn’t really there yet, and there were some software niggles that made life difficult for power users.

Here’s the thing — there were some very powerful apps announced for iPad during the event, in the form of Logic Pro 2 and Final Cut 2 for iPad. Those are apps aimed at professionals, and both have features that work only on an iPad. Then there’s WWDC 2024 coming up in a few weeks, where we might see updates to iPadOS that could bring all the improvements to the iPad that we need so that the device can become a true replacement for your laptop.

The hardware of the iPad Pro M4 seems like it’s finally ready to make Apple’s first true touchscreen laptop replacement — now, the company just needs to sort its software out.

We're covering the Apple iPad event as it happens. Follow the Let Loose event LIVE here. Or check out our roundups for all the latest on the new OLED iPad ProiPad Air, and the new Apple Pencil

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.

  • Just_Me_D
    iPadOS is the weak link and the reason the iPad will not replace the MacBook as a whole. The power and speed are there, but the capabilities are limited by iPadOS.
  • naddy69
    Again with this pipe dream?

    Why does the iPad need to be a "Laptop Replacement"? They are different tools for different use cases. You might as well wish for a microwave oven that is also a replacement for a wood fired brick pizza oven. :rolleyes:

    Besides, why would Apple even want to do this? They would much rather sell you a laptop AND a tablet. And BTW, a phone.

    Personally, I have both a Macbook Pro laptop and a few iPads. One is not a replacement for the other. It does not need to be. It is not supposed to be.

    It never will be.

    "iPadOS is the weak link and the reason the iPad will not replace the MacBook as a whole. The power and speed are there, but the capabilities are limited by iPadOS."

    It goes both ways. MacOS is the weak link and the reason the Mac will not replace the iPad as a whole. The power and speed are there, but the capabilities are limited by MacOS. Because the Mac UI - AND the Mac apps - are not touch friendly.

    AGAIN, different tools for different use cases. Apple would be foolish to try to combine them. It would be an exercise in compromise and frustration.