Shootout: Apple's new 9.7" iPad Pro vs. iPad Air 2

Posted:
in iPad edited March 2016
The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is meant to be a successor to the iPad Air 2 as much as a cheaper alternative to its 12.9-inch sibling. But what separates the 9.7-inch Pro from its predecessor, and what's unchanged?




Performance



At its core -- literally -- the Pro is simply speedier. It features an A9X processor, a leap over the A8X used in the Air 2. Apple claims that the chip's CPU performance is 1.8 times faster, and that graphics should be up to twice as fast.

Practically, this won't make a difference for many users. It can have an impact in gaming and other graphically-intensive tasks, since as Apple is keen to point out, you can theoretically edit 4K video on a Pro.




It should be pointed out however that the A9X in the 9.7-inch Pro is actually slightly slower than the one in the 12.9-inch version. The tablet also has just 2 gigabytes of RAM, which is equal to the Air 2, but half that of the 12.9-inch Pro.

Storage



The Air 2 originally shipped with three capacity options: 16, 64, or 128 gigabytes, in Wi-Fi-only or 4G-capable configurations. With the arrival of the new Pro, the 128-gigabyte tier has disappeared.

The Pro is available in 32-, 128-, or 256-gigabyte versions, again with a choice of Wi-Fi or 4G-ready hardware. It's in fact the first iOS device of any kind to offer 256 gigabytes.

Cameras & Display






Although the products' displays are mostly similar -- both having the same size and resolution -- the Pro has the clear edge, with a 25 percent wider color gamut, and even less reflectivity. It's also the first Apple product with a "True Tone" display, matching the color temperature of the screen to ambient light.

The rear camera is another major advancement, jumping from 8 megapixels with an f/2.4 lens to 12 megapixels and f/2.2 (the lower the second figure, the more light can be let in). The new sensor shoots 4K video, uses "focus pixels" for faster autofocus, and is paired with a True Tone flash, the first flash ever included on an iPad.

The front camera has also received some modest attention, upgrading from 1.2 megapixels to 5. That might improve some selfies, especially when paired with Retina Flash, a technology missing on the Air 2.

Apple Pencil, the Smart Connector, Sound, and Battery Life






Unlike its predecessor, the Pro supports the Apple Pencil and offers a Smart Connector. The latter is particularly important for the productivity-minded, letting you connect some accessories -- mostly keyboards -- without consuming a Lightning port.

In the sound department, the Air 2 has two speaker ports, whereas the Pro has four. This not only enables louder sound, but true stereo when viewing the tablet in landscape mode, once again making the Pro better for games and video.

The tablet doesn't have better battery life, however -- it's once more rated at 10 hours of non-stop use, regardless of what you're up to.

As an incidental note the Pro has an embedded Apple SIM, letting you switch between supporting carriers on the fly. The Air 2 comes with a removable card, but only in the U.S. and the U.K.

Price



Here's the most controversial change: the base Pro (a 32-gigabyte Wi-Fi model) is $599, $100 more than the cheapest Air 2 model was when it launched. As of this week the price gap is even bigger, since the Air was given a $100 price cut.

A top-of-the-line Pro -- with Wi-Fi/4G and 256 gigabytes of storage -- is a whopping $1,029, while you can now get a 64-gigabyte Wi-Fi/4G Air 2 for $529. You can probably go even cheaper if you turn to Apple's refurb store or third-party retailers.

Conclusions



On paper, at least, the 9.7-inch Pro is a significant upgrade, setting a new baseline for what iPads are supposed to include. Even a future iPad mini might incorporate flash and a Smart Connector -- assuming the product line survives.

In comparing the Air 2 with the Pro, the real question is whether it's worth the cost difference. Stay tuned for AppleInsider's full review to find out.
jahblade
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    Apple's storage strategy is flat out a money grab
    braderunnerschlackthinkman@chartermi.netAI2xxxcash907censored
  • Reply 2 of 46
    Typo?
    The Air 2 originally shipped with three capacity options: 16, 64, or 128 gigabytes, in Wi-Fi-only or 4G-capable configurations. With the arrival of the new Pro, the 128-gigabyte tier has disappeared.

    The Pro is available in 32-, 128-, or 256-gigabyte versions, again with a choice of Wi-Fi or 4G-ready hardware. It's in fact the first iOS device of any kind to offer 256 gigabytes.
    edited March 2016 thinkman@chartermi.netAI2xxxcash907censoredai46netmage
  • Reply 3 of 46
    schlackschlack Posts: 704member
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?
    AI2xxx
  • Reply 4 of 46
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    schlack said:
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?
    Reviewers have already commented in testing that, which in my opinion is an overblown issue, is in-fact a non-issue.. it's so low-profile that it doesn't rock or anything when set down. 
    edited March 2016 thinkman@chartermi.netdjkfisherpmzstevehpscooter63magman1979nolamacguyration alnetmageredgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 46
    schlack said:
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?

    No need to fret about a non issue.
    That's what the sapphire lens-glass is for.

    My 6s sapphire glass is completely perfect and unblemished, and I use it with out a case
    ….it's the way I roll. B)
    thinkman@chartermi.netredgeminipa
  • Reply 6 of 46
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 187member
    Got to quibble with the article title. "Shootout" sounds like an actual, physical, side-by-side comparison, as opposed to what you gave us, essentially just putting the iPad Pro/iPad Air 2 spec page into article form.
    thinkman@chartermi.netdewmeAI2xxxcash907censoredroundaboutnowai46kpluckwonkothesane
  • Reply 7 of 46
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,503member
    adrayven said:
    schlack said:
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?
    Reviewers have already commented in testing that, which in my opinion is an overblown issue, is in-fact a non-issue.. it's so low-profile that it doesn't rock or anything when set down. 
    I'll believe it when I see it.

  • Reply 8 of 46
    AI2xxxAI2xxx Posts: 38member

    At its core -- literally -- the Pro is simply speedier. It features an A9X processor, a leap over the A8X used in the Air 2. Apple claims that the chip's CPU performance is 1.8 times faster, and that graphics should be up to twice as fast.

    It should be pointed out however that the A9X in the 9.7-inch Pro is actually slightly slower than the one in the 12.9-inch version. The tablet also has just 2 gigabytes of RAM, which is equal to the Air 2, but half that of the 12.9-inch Pro.


    That doesn't appear to be the case.

    Looking at the SoC performance of each device in GFXBench 3.0 - Manhattan Offscreen:

    iPad Pro 12.9 (Metal) - 5017 Frames (80.9 FPS)
    iPad Pro 9.7 (Metal) - 3117 Frames (51.1 FPS)
    iPad Air 2 (Metal) - 2695 Frames (43.8 FPS)

    Source: https://gfxbench.com/result.jsp

    cash907censored
  • Reply 9 of 46
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,192member
    hmlongco said:
    Got to quibble with the article title. "Shootout" sounds like an actual, physical, side-by-side comparison, as opposed to what you gave us, essentially just putting the iPad Pro/iPad Air 2 spec page into article form.
    Yeah, has to be the weakest "shootout" ever. Spitballs at 20 yards. More like a spec sheet showdown that adds nothing to what we've already seen from other sources. I expected some meat on the bone but this time AI whiffed. Nothing to see here. 
    AI2xxxcash907censoredpscooter63nolamacguy
  • Reply 10 of 46
    sog35 said:
    Apple's storage strategy is flat out a money grab
    BULLSHIT.

    32 GB is exactly the size iPad I want.  The $599 32GB iPad is exactly what I want.

    Stop being so myopic. Apple is serving hundreds of millions of customers who having different uses and storage needs. 

    If Apple product is too expensive for you there are literally hundreds of other alternatives.
    You want a 32 GB iPad pro? Why not more? Keep in mind that whatever storage capacity you get, you're pretty much married to until you buy a new iPad.
    cash907censoredsingularity
  • Reply 11 of 46
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    schlack said:
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?
    I guess you should ask the hundreds of millions of iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, and 6s Plus owners how they've dealt with all the broken cameras.

    Oh wait, that has never actually happened.

    "Deal killer" my ass.
    williamlondonkevin keeai46jahbladepscooter63fallenjtnolamacguyaaronjtdknoxnetmage
  • Reply 12 of 46
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,740member
    sog35 said:
     I'm glad Apple still offers lower storage options at cheap prices.  Those who storage massive data should be paying more.
    I agree. I'm going to be getting an iPhone SE next week, and I'll be getting the 16 GB model.

    Why? Because I know EXACTLY what I need, since I own countless iOS devices and have been using them for ages. 

    I currently have an iPhone 5S 16 GB, and I just checked it, and I have 7.5 GB free. 

    I also have 128 GB on my iPad Air 2, but I use that differently than I use my iPhone.

    Bottom line. If somebody needs more storage, then just buy the model that suits your needs. If somebody feels that it's too expensive or not worth it, then fine, go buy something else. We don't care. Go buy an Android tablet.
    edited March 2016 pscooter63nolamacguynetmageredgeminipa
  • Reply 13 of 46
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,740member
    sog35 said:
    Exactly.

    I love that Apple is giving us CHOICE.  

    All the people who are crying about 16GB/32GB devices don't realize that if Apple started devices at 64GB they would have to raise prices.  It would be horrible for me and many other users who are fine with 16/32GB to be forced to pay more and buy a base model 64GB device.
    Yes. Those people are basically freeloading losers who expect other people to subsidize their purchases. Not me. I'm not going to contribute a dime to help out those people.

    Apple has actually improved on the storage issue, because it wasn't that long ago that it cost $100 to go from 16 to 32. Now, that same $100 will get somebody 64 on many devices.

    If we fast forward 25 years, I guarantee you that there will be people complaining about the Apple iPhone (Hologram Edition).

    Man, the entry level model only comes with one terrabyte of RAM! That sucks! Apple is so cheap! Everybody knows that a browser needs at least 2 terrabytes RAM to function smoothly. This thing is going to flop so badly! Apple is doomed! (again......)
    edited March 2016 ration al
  • Reply 14 of 46
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,319member
    schlack said:
    that extended camera is a deal killer...how can i put the iPad down without damaging the camera or its raised edge?
    You must be joking. I don't use an iPad without a cover, nor would I or do I use the iPhone without one.
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 15 of 46
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 272member
    If someone must have a new 9.7 inch IPad with the Pencil, keyboard connector and 128 GB or more of storage, then the new iPad Pro is the only choice.
    - But let's say that a person can get by with about 64GB of storage (& they don't need the Pencil), then the price difference between the Air 2 and the 9.7 inch IP Pro could be a factor.
    9.7 iPd Air 2 64 GB $499
    9.7 iPad Pro 32 GB $599
    9.7 iPad Pro 128 GB $749.

    * Performance; depending on the benchmark the Air 2 can be close in speed to the new IP Pro. Ars Technica did some tests in their hands on article;
    Geekbench 3 single core the new Pro is a little over 1/3 faster than the Air 2
    Geekbench 3 multi core the new Pro is a little over 10% faster than the Air 2
    GFXBench GL: Onscreen T-Rex HD frames/sec; new IP Pro 59.5, Air 2 52.8
    Manhattan HD; new IP Pro 35.3, Air 2 28.1

    In terms of performance, imo for many users, they will not be able to tell the difference between the new IP Pro and the Air 2. Considering price / performance to me the Air 2 will be the better deal for a lot of buyers.
    edited March 2016 ration alnetmage
  • Reply 16 of 46
    Does anyone know if the new 9,7" iPad Pro use the same improved Touch ID sensor as the iPhone 6S/6S Plus?  As far as I know the 12,9" iPad Pro use the older and slower sensor.
  • Reply 17 of 46
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,740member
    JoakimW said:
    Does anyone know if the new 9,7" iPad Pro use the same improved Touch ID sensor as the iPhone 6S/6S Plus?  As far as I know the 12,9" iPad Pro use the older and slower sensor.
    I've read that the iPhone 5SE uses the older sensor, but I don't believe that I've read anything about the iPad Pro 9.7 Touch sensor yet, though I would probably guess that it's the previous version too most likely. The new one is lightning fast, but I don't really have any complaints about the previous one either, and I use it many times per day on a few different devices.
  • Reply 18 of 46
    AI please include some sort of benchmark next time you use the word Shootout. This was a spec comparison found at apple.com Pretty pathetic writing.
    nolamacguyration alsingularity
  • Reply 19 of 46
    Does the built-in Apple SIM card get carrier locked if pick AT&T like on the Air 2?

    On the Air 2 you could get another card to go back to Sprint or T-Mobile if it did, and swap them out on the fly. You'd be stuck for life with a built-in card.
  • Reply 20 of 46
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    sog35 said:
    Apple product is too expensive for you there are literally hundreds of other alternatives.
    This is true and judging by their sales lately, it seems a lot of folks have chosen an alternative.

    -kp
    roger wade
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