Review: Nano-texture iPad Pro display for drawing

With the M4 iPad Pros (review) release in 2024, Apple has provided an option for customers to change the display from glossy to matte with their so called nano-texture glass. However, the nano-texture glass is only available as an option for the M4 iPad Pros with either 1TB or 2TB storage.

Apple always charges insane markup for storage upgrades. The upgrade from 256GB to 512GB is an extra USD 200, and from 512GB to 1TB is another USD 400. So we're looking at spending USD 600 more just so that you can pay another USD 100 for the nano-texture glass.

I guess Apple figured out that people rich enough for pay for the insane markup probably won't mind the extra USD 100 for the matte display.

Matte glass displays are not new

Matte surface glass displays have been around for years, and this was before those displays were marketed as having nano-texture glass.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13, released in 2016, came with matte textured glass. Then pen displays from Huion, XPPen, Xencelabs and more started using matte glass instead of matte screen protectors for their pen displays.

Recent tablets that I know that come with a "free" matte glass displays are XPPen Magic Drawing Pad, LincStudio S1, Huion Kamvas Studio 16 and the Huawei MatePad 11.5 PaperMatte Edition.

LincStudio S1 with matte glass display

LincStudio S1 (above right) is the only tablet that I have now that has a matte glass surface and there is almost visible difference between this glass vs the nano-texture glass on the M4 iPad Pro.

The main visual quality difference comes from LCD vs M4 iPad Pro's tandem OLED. Both displays look good to me, almost identical, except M4 iPad Pro is much brighter and can be used outdoors easily without affecting legibility of screen content.

I have used the Huion Kamvas Studio 16 for several months and the matte glass display looks great.

How does the nano-texture glass look?

Apple's nano-texture glass almost looks like traditional desktop LCD displays with matte surface. I said almost because Apple's nano-texture does add some colour noise to affect image quality, but it's very subtle and not really noticeable unless you're looking for it. A traditional matte LCD display (not glass) has no such visual imperfections.

Text looks slightly softer but still considered sharp.

Nano-texture vs glossy

When looking at the artworks I've created, they almost look like print except you know it's a display so it still emits light. It's like looking at a matte print vs glossy print.

The more I use the display, the more I love it. However, no matter how good it is, I just cannot justify paying for the insanely marked up storage pricing just to buy the nano-texture glass. I won't even consider refurbished models in the future due to the pricing. It may be easily to justify the purchase if the iPad Pro is a business expense, or you can use the YOLO reasoning to buy it, or buy anything.


Nano-texture vs glossy

The anti-glare is great at diffusing reflections.

The anti-reflective coating on the iPad Pro's glossy displays is quite effective but there will still be reflections visible even if they are quite subtle.

If you happen to be using a desktop monitor with matte surface, it's quite nice to match the nano-texture glass beside it when using the iPad Pro as an external display.

The nano-texture glass will only show reflections under certain situations, e.g. when tablet is viewed at extreme angle, when there's a strong small localised light source.

The black bezels are still glossy and reflective though, but the display is usually devoid of reflections.

Diffused light on matte surfaces will always create this white "haze". Apple's nano-texture glass produces subtle and less aggressive diffusion. Matte screen protectors that have rougher surfaces will have have aggressive diffusion and in bright environment can actually make the tablet glaringly bright. This is the reason why I stopped using matte screen protectors and thankfully the iPad Pro's anti-reflective coating is quite effective.

In bright environment, the tablet auto-brightness will also make the display brighter, and that brightness can actually go through the diffused reflection to make the white "haze" barely noticeable. Many of the tablets I've mentioned above that have matte glass are not bright enough for outdoor use so the diffused white "haze" will always affect contrast and legibility.

The nano-texture glass on the M4 iPad Pro is more effective at reducing glare compared to the matte glass on the LincStudio S1. This is crucial difference if you have to work in bright outdoor environment.

When there is too much diffused reflection, the display needs to be brighter for the colours to go through the diffused reflection, otherwise it will be very difficult to see anything through the white "haze". Matte screen protectors are even more glaring.

The feel of nano-texture glass with the pen

This was drawn with Concepts app while commuting on the train. I was using the 13-inch iPad Pro and it definitely felt too big for such impromptu sketching.

When drawing with the Apple Pencil Pro, the pen glides smoothly but it's not slippery. The feel is definitely better than plastic pen tip on glossy glass. If you're looking for that extra control, that will have to come from you rather than from the matte surface.

What I really like was how much hands don't stick as much to the matte surface compared to glossy glass while drawing.

Apple's nano-texture glass does not look or feel too different from matte glass from other companies.

Apple has gone with a smoother matte surface instead of the rougher one so artists who prefer a more tactile drawing experience may be disappointed. The texture is very similar to the matte glass pen displays and those ubiquitous screen-less pen tablets. So if you're used those products, you will get the same feeling when drawing.

There's always a compromise when it comes to choosing between smoother and rougher surfaces. Smoother matte surface do not affect visual quality as much, but there is less tactile drawing experience. Rougher surface will give you that nice tactile drawing experience, but visual quality is degraded more noticeably.

The feel of nano-texture glass with the finger

Finger also glides more easily on the matte surface. It's like gliding your finger against a smooth wooden table vs a glass table.

The matte surface is quite resistant to fingerprints. This means you won't have to clean the display as often compare to a glossy display that can pick up fingerprints and smudges more easily.

Speaking of fingerprints, the space black metal will attract fingerprints more easily compared to the silver model.

Apple Polishing Cloth

Included with the purchase of nano-texture M4 iPad Pro is a polishing cloth that Apple usually sells separately for USD 20. Apple recommends using this polishing cloth to clean the nano-texture glass.

Apple will not explicitly say other micro-fiber cleaning cloth are also usable, but other micro-fiber cleaning cloth are indeed usable. Jerry Rig Everything has tested that.

The claim by Apple that only their polishing cloth is the best is bullshit. If the display was made in such a way that it can only be cleaned by a specific type of cloth, then it's a major design fail. Human behaviour tells me that not many people will read the instruction booklet in the box, or even open the box to find the cleaning cloth there.

Anyway, I've cleaned the nano-texture glass numerous times with my generic micro-fiber cleaning cloth and it works fine.

Will Apple Pencil Pro scratch the glass

Plastic pen tip will not scratch glass. The pen tip may wear off faster on the matte surface but replacement pen tips are so affordable as long as you don't buy them from Apple.

What may scratch the display is metal, e.g. keys. The nano-texture glass is more fragile compared to standard glass due to the matte surface. Jerry Rig Everything's video above shows that it scratches more easily compared to standard glass.

Should you buy it

This is not a question I can answer.

This question would be so much easier to answer if the nano-texture option wasn't locked behind the 1TB and 2TB option. Spending an extra USD 600 to upgrade from 256GB to 1TB storage knowing that Apple overcharges for storage upgrades leaves a bad taste in the mouth, more so if you really do not need more than 256GB storage.

I had purchase the nano-texture glass model with the intention of returning it after the review. And even so I was hesitant to even make the order due to the high price. Hopefully in the future there will be some company that can provide a service to create this nano-texture surface on demand.

If you're very particular about reflections and glare, then the nano-texture is great for you because it removes almost all reflections and the anti-glare works great.

Oh, if you have not seen my review for the M4 iPad Pro, it's here:…

The video is 50 min long.

Dont forget the 1TB also gets you twice the RAM and another core in the processor, over the 256/512.

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