There’s still something special about the 2018 iPad Pro

The 2018 iPad Pro deserves a prominent spot in the Apple hardware hall-of-fame. No other product from Apple has remained so functional for so long without appearing long in the tooth. The 11-inch 2018 iPad Pro, specifically, has held up extraordinarily well for a product from over five years ago.

The thing about the 2018 iPad Pro is that it’s been replaced three times so far, yet it still offers what could be mistaken for the state-of-the-art user experience. Most computers from five years ago simply haven’t held up in the same way.

The original HomePod may be the best exception. That’s a product that left the market with a reputation for failing over time, only to return virtually unchanged. While still premium, an iPhone XR or iPhone XS from 2018 has changed much more dramatically in the same time span. The iPhone X, released just four months before the 2018 iPad Pro, has already lost support for the latest version of iOS.

Most Macs from 2018 are even further behind current machines. That’s especially true because of the transition from Intel to Apple Silicon. M1 Pro MacBook Pro and M2 MacBook Air laptops are the first contenders to age gracefully over time.

In the case of the iPad Pro, one could argue it has aged so well because the iPad category hasn’t progressed as quickly as the iPhone and Mac. Apple went all of 2023 without releasing a new iPad of any form. Hopefully that changes soon with the first OLED iPad Pro lineup, but the original $799 price tag isn’t expected to stay that low.

It doesn’t hurt that the most exciting Android tablet released last year looks like a decent competitor to the iPad in 2014.

Image via Michael Billig

There’s something else special about the 2018 iPad Pro: New features for any given year are often likely to make their way to cheaper versions of the same product given enough time. The 2018 iPad Pro hasn’t had to deal with this.

The last two generations of iPad Air are the closest case of this happening in terms of appearance, but features like Face ID and ProMotion remain exclusive to the Pro line.

How well the 2018 iPad Pro has aged does create a limited upgrade path. Reasons for replacing a 2018 iPad Pro may include seeking out more storage capacity, wanting to add cellular, or switching display sizes. The switch to OLED and new dimensions will be the first enticing change in six years.

Upgrading from a 2018 iPad Pro today would fetch you a LiDAR sensor, an ultra wide camera, 5G compared to LTE, and a modest new Apple Pencil feature with hover. Newer chips have better benchmarks, but performance for most tasks still feels fine.

The biggest upgrade to the iPad Pro experience has been accessories that work with the 2018 iPad Pro. This includes the Magic Keyboard accessory that brings trackpad integration, and the core of Stage Manager multitasking sans second display support.

However, there is the awkward state of the iPad lineup that started with the 10th-gen iPad. Its FaceTime camera moves to the center of landscape orientation versus portrait, and its external keyboard has a function row not yet available for the Pro line. Hopefully that chapter ends with new iPad Pro hardware in April.

For now, they just further cement the 2018 iPad Pro’s place in history as a product that has stood the test of time. If you’re in the market for an iPad Pro, wait a few weeks to have the first design update in years. If you’re still running the 2018 iPad Pro, however, you’ve got the iPad with the best shelf life ever.

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