Buying an M1 iPad Pro in 2023

I recently bought an 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation) 2021 edition rather than the new M2 variant, and I think this represents a fantastic deal.

After selling my iPad Air 4 a while ago and dabbling with a couple of Microsoft Surface products, I decided it was time for another iPad.

I very nearly bought the darling of YouTubers, an iPad Mini, but decided that whilst it is certainly more portable and easier to hold one-handed, I still wanted a device that could do more. Even though, despite my previous attempts, I know that an iPad still can’t be a full MacBook replacement. It has reached a point where it is certainly good enough, if not better in some cases, for all my non-developer tasks.

As I ruminated over various models and use cases, I decided the must-haves were:

  • An 11-inch (ish) display – which I find personally to be the sweet spot between hand-held and portable, yet still large enough to use with a keyboard folio case for a reasonable typing experience.
  • At least 256Gb storage – I prefer to keep my iCloud Photo library local and as much other stuff as I can with room to spare for media downloads.
  • A cellular connection – one of the quirks of living on the Isle of Man is that we have our own mobile networks, so even if I’m visiting the UK then I’m roaming and subject to a fairly limited quota. Having a pay-as-you-go SIM on a UK network makes a big difference here. I also like to work from our camper van from time to time, so I can tether my MacBook to the Wi-Fi rather than using my phone.
  • The ability to run Stage Manager on an external display, which limited me to M-series devices.

There have been many articles about the overlap of the current iPad line up and how pricing ladders are used to increase spend. There is always that thought that maybe spending another £50 or £100 could be worth it in the long-run. As I worked through the configurator on the Apple website, I was pleasantly surprised when I checked out the Certified Refurbished store.

Comparing all models with Wi-Fi and Cellular, 256Gb storage

  • iPad Air 5 — £1,029
  • iPad Pro 11-inch M2 (2022) — £1,199
  • iPad Pro 11-inch M1 (2021) — £999 Sale Price £849

It’s notable that along with the new iPad releases in 2022 came a price-hike across the line-up, no doubt down to supply chain issues and also not helped in the UK by the weak British Pound at the time. The Certified Refurb store offers a flat 15% discount based on the original release price, which represents a massive saving in real terms.

Although released 18 months prior, as far as I could tell, the only real difference between the 3rd and 4th generation iPad Pro was the M2 chip itself and the Apple Pencil Hover feature. Both nice to have, but not a deal-breaker. However, compared to the iPad Air 5, you get the improved 120Hz Pro Motion display, better cameras, speakers and microphones, and Face ID for less money. Kind of a no-brainer.

Paired with a Logitech Combo Touch case, it’s great for non-developer tasks and I can pull the keyboard off and use it hand-held. Stage Manager works fantastically with my external 32” display too.

Based on the announced iPadOS 17 feature set and the recent release of Final Cut Pro, the message I’m hearing is that the cut-off is the line between A series and M series chips. Although, you can never tell, I hope this iPad should be future-proof for a while yet.

Ant Cooper @antcooper