ProMotion display technology on the Apple iPad Pro explained: buttery smooth!


The most advanced display on the planet – that, in Apple's words, is what the two latest iPad Pro models treat your eyes to. That is a bold claim, but it is also one not far from the truth given all of the screen technology packed into the new 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets. Their screens are brighter and less reflective than before, with support for HDR video and automatic white balance adjustment, all while rendering eye candy across as many as 5.6 million pixels. However, the most striking display upgrade they bring is a feature that Apple calls ProMotion.

What is ProMotion on the new iPad Pro tablets?


Our own Stephen Schenck had the pleasure of unboxing the latest iPad Pro models, which also made him the first among the PhoneArena crew to witness the ProMotion difference. "This is like melted butter" is how he described the experience, referring to the fluidity of the interface. Indeed, ProMotion makes visuals noticeably smoother. Technical limitations prevent you from properly seeing the difference in the video embedded below, but trust us – it is very much there in real life. 


But how does ProMotion work?


We'll have to dive into the technical bits of how displays work to answer this question, but fear not, as I'll try to make things easy to understand. What you need to know is that displays have a rate at which visual information on them is updated – a frequency at which the image changes pixel by pixel. That's the so-called refresh rate of the display and is not to be confused with frame rate (more on that later). Most screens refresh 60 times every second (60Hz), regardless of whether they're displaying video, an app, a game, or a static image. At this refresh rate, there's delay of 16.6 milliseconds – that's 16.6 thousandths of a second – between each screen update. That's not enough to bother anyone, but it's a delay nonetheless.

In the meantime, the iPad's graphics processing unit (GPU) generates the image shown on screen frame by frame, independently from the rate at which the display itself is updated. Ideally, this would happen at a rate of 60 frames per second, but the exact figure varies since some graphics take longer to render than others. 

To understand how ProMotion works, it is key to know that the frame rate delivered by the GPU and the refresh rate of the display are not synchronized. So when the graphics unit sends a frame to the display, there may be a delay of up to 16.6 milliseconds before that frame is actually shown because of the screen's 60Hz refresh rate. ProMotion reduces this delay in half by doubling the refresh rate on the iPad Pro to 120Hz, thus making movement smoother without an actual increase in frame rate.

So why does ProMotion switch to lower refresh rates at times?


With greater refresh rates comes greater power consumption, which isn't something you want on a battery-powered device. That is why ProMotion on the iPad Pro 10.5 and 12.9 sets the refresh rate to 120Hz only when that is beneficial – when scrolling in Safari or switching between home screens, for example. Movement will also appear smoother while gaming on the new tablets. And if you own an Apple Pencil, strokes will be rendered with bottom-low, industry-leading latency of just 20 milliseconds for an even more natural feeling.

When static images are shown, however, there's no need for such a fast refresh rate. ProMotion switches to 24 screen updates per second (24Hz) in this case to preserve power. And when movies are shown, the refresh rate gets set to 48Hz – sufficient for their frame rate of 24fps, apparently.


How do I get ProMotion?


Apple's ProMotion technology relies on both software and hardware, meaning that it is available only on Apple devices that support it. Right now, only the latest 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets take advantage of ProMotion. The iOS 11 update will not bring the feature to previous iPad models or any of the iPhones in existence. But if you do have one of Apple's two latest tablet models, you'll be able to enjoy ProMotion right away. There's no need to enable or disable the function from a special toggle switch in Settings. It just works automatically and switches dynamically between refresh rates depending on the activity.

Related phones

iPad Pro 12.9-inch
  • Display 12.9" 2048 x 2732 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10X Fusion, Hexa-core, 2380 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 10891 mAh
iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • Display 10.5" 1668 x 2224 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10X Fusion, Hexa-core, 2380 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB
  • Battery 8134 mAh

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47 Comments

1. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

So, ProMotion simple refers to the 20Hz display? Just like "retina" was just about 326 ppi, and the media and fans were going berseck over it like it was a new display tech, rather than just mere screen resolution!

2. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

EDIT: So, ProMotion simply refers to the 120Hz display? Don't know how I missed to put number 1 before 20Hz... Anyways my point still stands.

18. apple-rulz

Posts: 2195; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

The only point that stands is that you are an obnoxious troll that nobody likes. Please stop ruining these forums and just go away.

20. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

^^ That post, coming from you - a pathetic sheeple troll - I couldn't care less!

22. Tipus

Posts: 894; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

You could do the same

23. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

U can already sense panic in them, knowing that the iphone 8 will destroy the galaxy series with its ProMotion at 120hz refresh display. It will make it all the more sweet knowing that samsung are the one making the display.

30. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 593; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

You act like Samsung is doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. Don't worry Samsung will be getting paid for it. So they not losing out but thanks for caring.

34. AxelFoley unregistered

Wait, you mean you can't destroy a company that is cashing tens of millions of dollars in checks you are writing them? Oh yeah, Bankz can't go 2 whole sentences without contradicting himself. Nevermind.

47. WGACA

Posts: 132; Member since: May 08, 2015

Lol, what planet are you on??

37. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1185; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

The ProMotion is basically a variable refresh rate tech. Kinda like G-sync from Nvidia or the A-sync from AMD, where the display adjust to the FPS the GPU outputs to make the "motion image" smoother to human eyes. If that's too much for your puny brain, pls stay away from tech sites

5. Wulfgardr

Posts: 73; Member since: Oct 29, 2014

Shill

9. TerryD

Posts: 553; Member since: May 09, 2017

Sounds like the ProMotion bit is the automatic/intelligent switching between refresh rates to give you the balance of smoothness and battery life.

12. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2448; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I believe the "ProMotion" feature refers to both the ability of the display to render 120Hz and the accompanying software/hardware that enables it to go from a lower hertz level to the 120Hz depending on the application being used. I have tried to research whether there has been a software feature that switches the refresh rate when utilizing different applications but I have not found anything, so depending on whether there is a software feature that does that or not would determine whether this is considered something new or not.

16. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Yes, it always referred to the 120Hz capable display. No one is going berserk over it except you, trying to tell us it's nothing more. Well of course it was never destined to be anything more. Apple likes to give fancy names to technologies.........just that! Enjoy the tech instead of telling people of how these names are there to only fool us into getting wowed. If you even get my point.

21. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

The bersek I spoke about was in referal tho the "Retina" display of years ago, I wasn't talking about the ProMotion stuff... Go watch a reading comprehension tutorial.

24. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

But you sound like you feel the ifans are going/will go berserk even on the promotion tech. That's what I percieved. Even if you feel that was incorrect, my other points are valid, aren't they?

29. Iodine

Posts: 1495; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

Like it doesn't require a ton of new display tech including Apple's custom timing controler in tow. Btw, iApplaud you for picking up to what Apple marketing materials reffer to corectly.

3. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1327; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

So they're just giving a proprietary name to an already existing industry term. G sync and freesync have been a thing for years as well as 144hz displays.

4. peace247 unregistered

It was available but not on a portable tablet like this.

19. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Apple said it was the most advanced display on earth. Well, no.

35. gehrig

Posts: 423; Member since: Apr 17, 2014

Well considering all the technologies involved, I bet that claim holds some water.

6. Wulfgardr

Posts: 73; Member since: Oct 29, 2014

Yet another shill omg

10. TerryD

Posts: 553; Member since: May 09, 2017

No, its not as smart as G-Sync/Freesync. They match the frames output by the graphics card to the screen. ProMotion seems to just switch to 120hz when it feels it needs to. So the max wait for your newly rendered frame to be displayed will be 8.33ms instead of 16.66ms.

25. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

That response time is better than many laptops. thnx for the info

7. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

@Trojan you took the words right out my mouth. It means nothing. Its a martketing name for the 120hz. But the sheep will fall off the mountain claim its the next best thing to sliced "apples". My TV is 240hz. Big deal?! Nope! Refresh rates need to be higher on a larger screen to help prevent "motion blur", which can be seen in lots of movies. Especially in dark scenes. But of course, Apple as usual has to give it some meaningless name, so the fans will fall on their face thinking its some magical fancy feature, when it isn't. Its a display with a 120hz refresh rate. Even though the iPad is the first tablet to have it, its not the first display to have it. There are even laptops that already have 120hz displays as well.https://www.amazon.com/MSI-GT72VR-Dominator-Powerful-i7-7700HQ/dp/B01N6L9S7U/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1498661454&sr=8-15&keywords=120hz+displays

13. TerryD

Posts: 553; Member since: May 09, 2017

Yep, its a marketing ploy and high refresh monitors have been around for a while but credit where credit's due, its pretty cool to get a 120hz display on a tablet. Even if its not some magic new feature that will change your life, it's still progress in the right direction.

17. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

I thought someone said yesterday that 'No one here hates Apple'. Of course, our beloved TechieXP wasn't the one. Because this Prymchgoan guy seems to show crazy love for Apple.

28. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

His Techie account got limited, so now he's continuing spreading his bulls**t with his other account.

32. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

I don't know what kind of mentality he has. He seems too knowledgeable for a kid. Yet he acts like a psycho who has been given taser shocks over and over again. That's kind of contradictory to the former which baffles me whenever I think about his age.

33. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

If you mean by "knowledgeable" his consultant thingy, it's full of s**t. I bet he got his degree from a McDonald's happy meal.

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