Choosing Between Apple's 9.7-Inch Tablets: iPad Air 2 vs. iPad Pro

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2016-03-24
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Choosing Between Apple's 9.7-Inch Tablets: iPad Air 2 vs. iPad Pro
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    Choosing Between Apple's 9.7-Inch Tablets: iPad Air 2 vs. iPad Pro

    The new iPad Pro has the same size screen as the already-available iPad Air 2. We highlight key differences and similarities between Apple's two 9.7-inch iPads.
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    It's Hard to Tell the Two iPad Models Apart
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    It's Hard to Tell the Two iPad Models Apart

    If your compare the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 on design and mobility, you would be hard-pressed to find differences. In fact, both products are the same height, width and depth. They even weigh exactly the same. It's also hard to find any significant difference in their design specifications, other than one more color option for the iPad Pro. If it's a question of mobility, these larger tablets won't necessarily be the first choice.
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    The Displays Are Nearly Identical
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    The Displays Are Nearly Identical

    As noted, both the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 come with a 9.7-inch screen. Both are LED-backlit, come with identical resolutions, and 264 pixels per inch. However, the iPad Pro has better color accuracy and Apple's "True Tone" technology to deliver a better picture. Those who have tested the iPad Pro say its display is of somewhat higher quality than the screen offered in the iPad Air 2.
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    Look for More Power on the iPad Pro
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    Look for More Power on the iPad Pro

    The iPad Pro is running Apple's latest-generation A9X chip and M9 motion coprocessor. The iPad Air 2, meanwhile, has an A8X chip and M8 motion coprocessor. For comparison's sake, the iPad Pro's processing power is 2.4 times greater than the A7 chip in the iPad Mini, while the iPad Air 2 has 1.4 times the processing power of the earlier chip. On the graphics side, the iPad Pro is 4.3 times faster than the A7, compared with 2.5 times faster for the iPad Air 2. In other words, the iPad Pro is the more powerful slate.
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    Apple Updated the iPad Pro's Cameras
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    Apple Updated the iPad Pro's Cameras

    Apple brought some new cameras to the iPad Pro. While the iPad Air 2 has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, the iPad Pro comes with a 12-megapixel shooter with support for True Tone flash so pictures don't get washed out. On the front, the iPad Pro has a 5-megapixel camera, easily topping the 1.2-megapixel camera built into the iPad Air 2.
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    How Important Is 4K Video Recording?
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    How Important Is 4K Video Recording?

    If megapixel sensors aren't enough to make a buying decision, customers may consider video capture. In that case, the iPad Pro wins handily. The device is capable of capturing video in 4K and slow motion content in 1080p at 120 frames per second. The iPad Air 2 can only record video in 1080p and supports slow motion video at 720p resolution and 120 frames per second.
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    Both Models Support Touch ID
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    Both Models Support Touch ID

    If security is important to the prospective iPad owner, it's hard to pick a winner. Both devices come with support for Apple's Touch ID, so users can open their tablets by simply holding their finger over the sensor. Touch ID can also be used to make payments within apps via Apple Pay.
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    They Both Run the Same Software
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    They Both Run the Same Software

    The similarities between the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 are numerous, and they extend to the software they're running. Both devices are running Apple's latest iOS version, 9.3, meaning the software experience will be identical across products. Look for support for Messages, News, Notes and other Apple services. In addition, they both can run any of the apps in Apple's App Store, but since the iPad Pro has better processing power, it'll likely do a better job of handling more resource-intensive programs.
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    A Note About LTE Connectivity
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    A Note About LTE Connectivity

    Although both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro feature LTE connectivity, Apple has bundled LTE Advanced with its new slate. LTE Advanced is believed to be the next big thing in wireless connectivity, allowing for faster data speeds on cellular networks. It should also translate to greater network stability as more products jump on the LTE Advanced bandwagon. The iPad Air 2, in comparison, runs standard LTE.
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    Don't Forget About the Smart Connector
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    Don't Forget About the Smart Connector

    The Smart Connector could be a key differentiator between the tablets. Unlike the iPad Air 2, the iPad Pro comes with a Smart Connector that allows users to plug in the company's Smart Keyboard. Upon doing so, the software immediately knows that a physical keyboard is connected and the iPad Pro acts as if it's a notebook. The iPad Air 2 supports physical keyboards, but those are typically connected via Bluetooth, which the iPad Pro also supports. Still, the Smart Connector holds many possibilities for future accessories that shouldn't be overlooked. Image 9: Please use this image:
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    Keeping an Eye On Prices
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    Keeping an Eye On Prices

    When two devices are so similar, decisions can often come down to price. And at least on that level, the iPad Air 2 is a winner. The device's WiFi-only versions start at $399 for 16GB, compared with $599 for the lowest-end 32GB iPad Pro. On the WiFi-and-cellular side, the iPad Air 2 starts at $529 and tops out at $629. The iPad Pro starts at $729 (albeit for twice the storage in the iPad Air 2). The highest-end iPad Pro features 256GB of storage and is priced at $1,029.
 

Apple's "Let us loop you in" event on March 21 was a predictable affair. The company announced the iPhone SE that had been rumored for months, showed off some colorful new wristbands for the Apple Watch and talked about renewable energy. However, the event also made it harder for customers to decide which iPad to buy when Apple unveiled the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Designed to complement the big-screen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the tablet enables users to connect to the company's Smart Keyboard. The smaller iPad Pro also features support for Apple Pencil and runs on Apple's latest A9X processor. But at 9.7-inches, its screen size is identical to the already available iPad Air 2. And for customers who don't want the diminutive iPad Mini or the gigantic 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it may not be easy to choose which device to buy. This slide show highlights some of the major differences and similarities between Apple's two 9.7-inch iPads and aims to help buyers decide which model best suits their needs. 

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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