Apple announces new iPad Pro with A12Z Bionic chip, Magic Keyboard with trackpad, and LiDAR

Apple, after many rumors and a ton of speculation, has finally unveiled its brand-new iPad Pro for 2020. The device was rumored to debut at a live event this month, but due to coronavirus concerns, Apple likely canceled it before even announcing it.

With the new iPad Pro, there are three features that stand out to me: performance, trackpad support, and LiDAR. Right off the bat, Apple is including its new A12Z Bionic processor which is a step up from the A12X inside the iPad Pro from 2018. However, with no stats to compare it to, I can only assume the A12Z is slightly faster than the A12X. In other words, there probably isn’t a dramatic difference.

That being said, it’s still an insane chip. Apple uses its enhanced thermal architecture and tuned performance controllers for better heat and performance management, while the eight-core GPU should deliver some impressive graphics output. It’s not a stretch to say that when the reviews come out, the 2020 iPad Pro’s performance will be raved about.

Then there’s the trackpad support. For the first time ever, Apple is including actual trackpad and mouse support on the iPad thanks to iPadOS 13.4. The feature is meant to work in tandem with touch input by improving the keyboard experience. You won’t have to move your hand away from the keyboard to scroll, for instance. You’ll also be able to precisely select text you want to edit. But Apple wants you to know this isn’t a carbon copy of trackpad support in macOS. Rather, it’s fine-tuned to compliment the touch interface of iPadOS and only give you a greater level of precision, kind of like the Apple Pencil.

Oh, and speaking of keyboards, Apple’s gonna ship a new one that includes a trackpad. Called the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, the keyboard replaces the old butterfly switch mechanism in the Smart Keyboard Folio with a proper scissor switch design for a much-improved typing experience. Plus, it’s backlit. I’ve been wanting to buy a keyboard for my 2018 iPad Pro so I’ll probably wait to see if this one is cross-compatible with the older models. I’ll let you know.

My third notable observation is the included LiDAR support. On the back of the new iPad Pro, you’ll find a LiDAR sensor that’s built to improve your AR experience with the tablet. I’m not an expert in the world of AR, but my understanding is you get much more precise measurements and virtual maps that are more true-to-life thanks to the sensor. Apple provides a pretty detailed explanation in its press release.

The breakthrough LiDAR Scanner enables capabilities never before possible on any mobile device. The LiDAR Scanner measures the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nano-second speeds. New depth frameworks in iPadOS combine depth points measured by the LiDAR Scanner, data from both cameras and motion sensors, and is enhanced by computer vision algorithms on the A12Z Bionic for a more detailed understanding of a scene. The tight integration of these elements enables a whole new class of AR experiences on iPad Pro.

Every existing ARKit app automatically gets instant AR placement, improved motion capture and people occlusion. Using the latest update to ARKit with a new Scene Geometry API, developers can harness the power of the new LiDAR Scanner to unleash scenarios never before possible.

The LiDAR Scanner improves the Measure app, making it faster and easier to automatically calculate someone’s height, while helpful vertical and edge guides automatically appear to let users more quickly and accurately measure objects. The Measure app also now comes with Ruler View for more granular measurements and allows users to save a list of all measurements, complete with screenshots for future use.

Elsewhere, the iPad Pro sees various smaller upgrades that help it qualify for a refresh. You get the same 11-inch and 12.9-inch Liquid Retina displays with 120Hz refresh rates, the same aluminum designs, and the same four-speaker sound system. The microphones have been improved to create studio-quality recordings with its five-mic setup.

You also get a second camera on the iPad for the first time. With the 2020 iPad Pro, Apple throws in a 10MP ultra-wide camera that sits below the standard 12MP lens. The new camera lets you take wide-angle photos, although I’m not sure how useful that would be beyond using the iPad as a killer viewfinder.

Rounding things off, you still get one USB-C port, a magnetic strip on the right edge of the device for charging your Apple Pencil, a Smart Connector for accessories, up to 10 hours of battery life, LTE connectivity, and a Neural Engine. Oh, and the base model of each iPad Pro now gets 128GB of storage which is the way it’s always should’ve been.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 11-inch model, while the 12.9-inch model is $949. Both are available starting today from The Magic Keyboard will launch this May for $299 for the 11-inch variant and $349 for the 12.9-inch model. iPadOS 13.4 will launch March 24th.