Apple iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2 Bigger Faster More Productive

It seems a long time ago now, but back before 2010 was, at least for mass consumers, the time before tablets; that year the iPad lurched unexpectedly onto the scene and completely changed the game. Apple’s then CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs boldly stated (as he so often did) that the 9.7in display was the perfect size, insinuating that there would never be a need to tweak the design or introduce different sized iPads.

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But, as we’ve often observed with Apple over the years, such statements don’t always stick, and it wasn’t too long before the 7.9in iPad Mini appeared. Perhaps you’d thought it would end with a shrunken iPad? You’d have been wrong, however. iPad (and tablet sales in general) started tanking–iPad sales have been declining 20% year over year as most people find that, unlike iPhones, there’s not a lot of point in getting a new tablet each year.

The reason for this is simple: people use phones and tablets very differently and the latter degrade nowwhere near as quickly as the former. For instance, you’re less likely to drop a tablet while walking around town and with a phone you’re constantly hammering the battery with applications, texts, push email, calls, games and music. Tablets get it far easier and, therefore, usually last much, much longer — especially if all you’re using it for is the odd bit of browsing on the sofa in between episodes of Narcos.

For a detailed breakdown of the iPad Air 2’s specs, hardware and performance be sure to check out what our sister site Expert Reviews made of Apple’s tablet.

And this might sound like a good thing — which it actually is, obviously – but for Apple it STINKS. Apple wants you buying new gear every year. This is why it releases new iPad models every year — it wants you to buy them and start building a collection of dusty iPads in your office drawer. But in order to shock and awe people Apple needed something, well, BIG. That’s when Apple rolled out the big one – the 12.9in iPad Pro. It is an iPad, the company hopes, that will bring life back into the iPad line and convert the all-important enterprise and creative people from laptops to tablets.

Apple changed things up again in 2016. At the firm’s big media event on March 21 it not only unveiled a 4in iPhone SE, but also a new iPad Pro. The new model is again simply called the iPad Pro, but is smaller than the original 12.9in model, instead being the same scale as the iPad Air 2 with a 9.7in display. On the whole the iPad Pro 9.7in shares a broadly similar design with the iPad Air 2, while spec-wise incorporating the majoriy of the larger 12.9in iPad Pro’s hardware. There are one or two important distinctions, however, and we’ll fill them into the sections below.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro: Design and Specs

iPad Air 2

  • Display: 9.7-inch 2048×1536 pixel at 264 pixels per inch
  • Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold
  • Storage: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB
  • Processors: 64-bit A8X and M8
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Touch ID: yes
  • Cameras: front 1.2MP 720p HD camera and a rear 8MP 1080p HD camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, optional 4G
  • Size: 238.8 mm × 167.6 mm × 6.1 mm
  • Weight: 437 grams

iPad Pro (12.9in)

  • Display: 12.9-inch 2732×2048 pixel at 264 pixels per inch
  • Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold
  • Storage: 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB
  • Processors: 64-bit A9X and M9
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Touch ID: yes
  • Cameras: front 1.2MP 720p HD camera and a rear 8MP 1080p HD camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, optional 4G
  • Size: 305 mm × 220 mm × 7 mm
  • Weight: 710 grams

iPad Pro (9.7in)

  • Display: 9.7-inch 1536×2048 pixel at 264 pixels per inch
  • Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold, Rose Gold
  • Storage: 32, 128GB, and 256GB
  • Processors: 64-bit A9X and M9
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Touch ID: yes
  • Cameras: front 5MP 720p HD camera and a rear 12MP 4K HD camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, optional 4G
  • Size: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm
  • Weight: 437 grams

We’ll get to the big difference (the display) in just a bit. But first let’s take a look at the some of the major internal differences between these tablets. The biggest differences are in the RAM and CPU department. Apple has packed 4GB of RAM into the iPad Pro models–the most RAM Apple has ever used and TWICE as much as the 2GB of RAM found in the iPad Air 2. That extra RAM combined with the A9X processor found in the Pro models means these things will wipe the floor for the Air when it comes to processing power. Apple says the A9X chip has 1.8 times the CPU performance and 2 times the GPU performance of the A8X chip found in the Air.

But besides the RAM and CPU, many of the internal specs of the tablets are the same. The iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro 12.9 have the exact same cameras. Each features a paltry 1.2MP 720p HD camera front FaceTime camera and a slightly more powerful 8MP 1080p HD rear iSight camera. Each iPad also includes the same Wi-Fi connectivity as well as Touch ID and Bluetooth (though the iPad Pro has slightly newer Bluetooth 4.2, but you won’t notice a difference).

However, the new iPad Pro 9.7in has quite an impressive camera setup, borrowing the same refined module from the iPhone SE. This includes a 12MP sensor for the primary with a wide f/2.2 aperture and 1/3″ senor size, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED two-tone flash, simultaneous 8MP still and 4K video capture. The secondary camera is also uprated with a 5MP sensor.

“Let’s go over the basics first: Geekbench reports that the A9X is a dual-core chip running at about 2.25GHz. The A8X used three CPU cores to boost performance, but the A9’s “Twister” CPU architecture and the big boosts in clock speed that Apple is squeezing out of it (up from 1.84GHz in the iPad Air 2) both apparently made that third core unnecessary,” notes Ars Technica.

The report added: “The A9X can’t quite get up to the level of a modern U-series Core i5 based on Broadwell or Skylake (see the 2015 MacBook Air and Surface Pro 4 results), but it’s roughly on the same level as a Core i5 from 2013 or so and it’s well ahead of Core M. And despite the fact that it lacks a fan, the A9X shows little sign of throttling in the Geekbench thermal test, which bodes well for the iPad Pro’s ability to run professional-caliber apps for extended periods of time.”

As far as storage goes, the iPad Pro 12.9 in came in two models to begin with: 32GB or 128GB, but with the introduction of the iPad Pro 9.7in this has been expanded. The 9.7in model adds a 256GB upper-tier model to the mix, and Apple has added this storage option to the 12.9in variant too. Meanwhile, the iPad Air 2 comes in three models: 16GB, 64GB, or 128 GB. It’s also worth noting both iPad Pro types have four internal speakers, so the sound quality of audio should be much improved over the Air.

On the design front, all the iPads feature the same aluminum body and both come in Space Grey, Gold, or Silver – the iPad Pro 9.7in also comes in Rose Gold. The iPad Air 2 is still the thinner than the 12.9in iPad Pro at 6.1mm thick, but the iPad Pro 9.7in has closed this gap and is the same proportions as the iPad Air 2.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro: Display

Of course the most noticeable difference between the iPad Pro 12.9in and the other two iPads is the size of their displays. The iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro 9.7in both feature a 9.7-inch display of 2732×2048 pixel at 264 pixels per inch. The iPad Pro features a 12.9-inch 2732×2048 pixel display at 264 pixels per inch. You’ll note that their PPIs are the same, meaning the displays look identical to the naked eye–the bigger iPad Pro’s is just larger.

The logic behind the iPad Pro 12.9in larger display is simple: by giving you more screen room you can be more productive and do more work. This is helped in part by iOS 9’s split screen mode, whereby you can run two applications side by side, say Safari and Pages, for instance.

Apple wants you to use the iPad Air 2 as a consumption device and the iPad Pro as a work tool. In order to do this Apple has developed a keyboard and stylus for the iPad Pro, borrowing heavily from Microsoft and Samsung in the process.

Apple’s Grand Plan is to make people question WHY they need a PC. The iPad Pro 12.9in is designed to replace MacBooks, but, oddly, Apple is still selling MacBooks. And the reason? Again, simple: Apple wants people to question what they want from a computer too and REALLY push the boundaries with its PC line as well and basically confuse the hell out of everybody as to which product they actually need to do the stuff they’ve been doing for years on things like tablets and PCs anyway.

The iPad Pro 9.7in has a few key differences from the others, though. While the iPad Pro 12.9in features Apple’s pressure-sensitive 3D Touch, this is absent on the 9.7in iPad Pro (and the iPad Air 2, in fact), however, the iPad Pro 9.7in instead features a much more advanced display using an oxde TFT “True Tone” panel; Apple says it is considerably brighter and less reflective than previous iPads and in fact any other tablet on the market, while the “True Tone” label refers to the display ability to use on-board sensors to measure the ambient light colour in the room and adjust the display colour gamut accordingly.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro: Key Features

But of course the iPad Pro isn’t just called the Pro because it has faster specs and a bigger display. It also has a few advanced features that the iPad Air two doesn’t have. These features, however, come in the form of optional accessories. The iPad Pro works with the new Apple Pencil, an advanced stylus that allows artists to work on the iPad as never before. The reason the Pencil only works with the iPad Pro is because of a new Multi‑Touch subsystem built directly into the iPad Pro’s display.

The less cool unique feature is the optional iPad Pro Smart Keyboard accessory. This is essentially an Apple-made keyboard cover for the iPad. I say this feature is less cool because there are plenty of third-party keyboard covers.

The iPad Pro 9.7in also features Apple Pen support and its own smaller Smart Keyboard accessory.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro: Price

Here’s the rundown of the various costs for the different models of each iPad:

iPad Pro: Wi-Fi 32 GB $799, Wi-Fi 128 GB $949, Wi-Fi + Cellular 128 GB $1079.

iPad Air 2: Wi-Fi 16 GB $499, 64 GB $599, 128 GB $699; Wi-Fi + Cellular 16 GB $629, 64 GB $729, 128 GB $829.

As you can see, the iPad Pro is significantly more expensive than the iPad Air for the comparable storage size.


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