Why you should pick up the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro instead of the new iPad Air

Posted:
in iPad edited March 31
A couple of weeks ago, Apple quietly announced a new iPad Air. This new third generation Air now features Apple's latest A12 Bionic processor, a laminated Retina display and now supports the first generation Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. But should you buy this over the 2017 10.5" iPad Pro?

2019 iPad Air in Space Gray
2019 iPad Air in Space Gray


The new 2019 iPad Air retails for $499 and goes all the way up to $779 for a 256GB, Wi-Fi and cellular model. We've been using this iPad as our daily tablet for the past few days to watch YouTube videos or catch up on some shows on Hulu, answer emails and doodle some artworks for fun. Before Apple announced this new Air we regularly used the 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017 which physically looks identical to this new iPad Air, minus an extra set of speakers at the top, and a camera flash on the back.

Fortnite on 2019 iPad Air
2019 iPad Air playing Fortnite


This new iPad Air, as we mentioned, has new internals. It's using the A12 Bionic processor found in iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, and the new iPad mini 5 so it's reliable, and fast. I didn't notice any slowdowns whatsoever during my testing.

It also has a new display that's more color accurate and one that looks way better than any of the previous models. It also now supports the first generation Apple Pencil.

The two speakers are powerful and loud, as they have always been on an iPad. But, like with most iPads, you're likely going to cover at least one speaker with your hand, muffling the sound a bit.






The new Air also features a smart connector on the right hand side of the device to use Apple's Smart Keyboard. We think it's the best keyboard you can buy for the iPad, even though it feels a bit mushy at times, but for whatever reason, this feels right to us. There are hundreds of Bluetooth keyboards available on the market, but if you're looking for the best, the Smart Keyboard is the one you should consider buying.

The new iPad Air is pretty great. You're getting a really fast processor, amazing display, first party keyboard support.

Despite all this, right now, you should really look into getting a 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro instead.

Apple Pencil and iPad Air
First gen Apple Pencil and 2019 iPad Air


With the iPad Pro, you're getting ProMotion display which gives you a 120Hz refresh rate versus the 60Hz found on the Air. This makes the UI feel more responsive to your touch and has some other niceties when drawing with an Apple Pencil.

Two, you're getting an extra pair of speakers which is notably better for consuming media or playing music -- and if you cover one with a hand, you lose less than you are if you cover one of two speakers on the iPad Air. And, you're also getting a slightly better rear camera with an LED flash if iPad photography is your thing.

Geekbench scores for 2017 iPad Pro and 2019 iPad Air
Geekbench scores for 2017 iPad Pro and 2019 iPad Air


The difference in processing power between the A10X Fusion and A12 Bionic is slight, but the A12 Bionic has a lead. Regardless, the A10X on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is still a powerful processor that can handle anything you throw at it. From Pro apps to graphic intensive games, you're not going to be disappointed with either model's performance.

Both models support the first generation Apple Pencil, so this is a dead heat. Unless you use the half-inch Lightning adapter, you've still got to hang the Apple Pencil off the iPad like an expensive lollipop stick, instead of the magnetic wireless charging on the 2018 iPad Pro lineup.

Geekbench scores shows that the new iPad Air scored 4765 in single core and 11379 in multi core while the 10.5-inch iPad Pro scored 3916 in single core and 9346 in multi core. In the real world, the Pro model also has 4GB of RAM vs 3GB found on the 2019 Air, which means that more apps can be stored in RAM, and not dumped when things get tight.

The price between the two are really close and sometimes, you can even find the older 10.5-inch Pro model at a much lower price than the newly announced Air.

Apple Pencil and iPad Air
Apple Pencil and iPad Air


If you're looking to purchase your first iPad and you don't want the new iPad mini or the regular 9.7-inch iPad or just don't have enough money to buy the new 11-inch or 12.9-inch Pro models, look into the 2017 iPad Pro. It's almost the same price, if not a bit less expensive than the new 2019 iPad Air, plus you're getting a much better display with ProMotion, four speakers, and a slightly better camera.

Where to buy

Apple authorized resellers are currently accepting orders for the new 2019 iPad Air and iPad mini 5 with discounts of up to $10 off. Meanwhile, Apple's 2017 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are up to $380 off instantly.

Updated throughout the day, the AppleInsider Price Guides feature the lowest prices and product availability from top Apple authorized resellers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,949member
    You compared CPU performance but I'm curious what the difference in GPU performance would be? My understanding is that the A10X still has a more powerful GPU
    curtis hannahwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    There have been some good deals recently on the 10.5 Pro, and I've been using a 10.5 Pro since it first was released, and yes, I definitely agree with the article. If anybody is considering getting the new Air, then getting the 10.5 Pro right now instead, while they still can, is the smart move to make. And when it comes to benchmarks not mentioned in the OP, the metal benchmark for the 10.5 Pro is quite a bit higher than on the new Air, judging by the A12 metal benchmark for the iPhone XS and XS Max.

    There are so many other advantages and features found on the 10.5 Pro that makes it much better than the new Air, in my opinion. I'm sure that the new Air makes for a decent mid range iPad, that most people would be happy with, but it's no Pro and the overall experience of using a 10.5 Pro will be better and more pleasing.
    edited March 31 repressthisradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    You compared CPU performance but I'm curious what the difference in GPU performance would be? My understanding is that the A10X still has a more powerful GPU
    The difference is 29577 for metal on the A10X 10.5 Pro VS 21765 on the A12 iPhone XS Max. I don't see the A12 benchmarks for the iPad Air yet, but I assume that it's similar to the iPhone A12.
    mighuelrepressthisharry wildcurtis hannahradarthekatmacpluspluswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 33
    payecopayeco Posts: 310member
    After buying the Air 2 at launch and finally upgrading it to a 11” Pro in January I have to agree that the 120Hz refresh rate is an incredible difference and definitely worth the money.
    radarthekatjahbladeStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 33
    It looks like we’ll be getting about 20% speed improvements in A Series chips between product generations.  That down from the torrid pace of advancements until now.  That’s probably a good thing from a software design standpoint.  This means most new iPhone and iPad demand be driven by replacing existing devices.

    I agree with the articles conclusion, but it may make sense to wait another product generation to get Pencil 2 support.  It all depends on budget and need though...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 33
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,949member
    apple ][ said:
    You compared CPU performance but I'm curious what the difference in GPU performance would be? My understanding is that the A10X still has a more powerful GPU
    The difference is 29577 for metal on the A10X 10.5 Pro VS 21765 on the A12 iPhone XS Max. I don't see the A12 benchmarks for the iPad Air yet, but I assume that it's similar to the iPhone A12.
    Quite the difference. Good to know especially considering how much software is GPU-driven nowadays.
    curtis hannahradarthekat
  • Reply 7 of 33
    I did this two weeks ago! 4GB RAM👍, Quad speakers, better screen, color, 120 hz! The RAM that makes Apples m iledevices last longer and do web stuff better, not the speed of the SoC which is secondary to amount of RAM!
    radarthekatmacplusplusjahbladewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 33
    While not disputing the recommendation in the article, I find it curious that single core performance improvement of 20% is deemed as a slight improvement where in reviews of other recent Apple releases, be they phones or laptop/desktop computers have considered such gains as “notable” and motivation to make the purchase.  I guess it should be no surprise that difference reviewers will judge differently - but it would be nice if AI was a bit more uniform in their published assessments.

    Also, seems to me those geekbench bar graphs are wonky.  They seem skewed to make the performance difference not seem so great.  e.g., the single core performance of the A12 is 20% greater than the A10x but the graph is not 20% longer.  So follows the multi-core.
    curtis hannahforegoneconclusiondedgecko
  • Reply 9 of 33
    The thing is not only is the A12 a bit faster, but it will likely have 2 more years of software updates in the long run. Comparing that to the 2 extra speakers and 120 Hz screen, I consider them the same value.
    mcdaveradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 33
    I haven’t made a post on here in quite awhile because life kinda got in the way, but for me I bought the new 2019 iPad Air. For me it was all about price ( not that I can’t afford the 2017 or 2018 pro’s). I chose the Air because for me it had everything I want. Cellular whilst I’m on the go, the newer processor ( not that I need to have the newest Apple product every year ) but at least it’s a piece of mind that I probably would get maybe 2 more years outta it as far as iOS updates go. Mostly it was bought for more reading, streaming video, app development and every now and again web browsing as well beta testing. It’s my first iPad. It’s gonna be nice to have to use. Kinda gives my 2018 MacBook Air a rest every now and again. Sure you can get a great deal on the 2017 pro models. After all there 2 years old, not that there is anything wrong with that. Like the article stated you are still getting the best of what Apple has and what they and developers can throw at it. So I say, do your research. Get what you can afford or whatever your tastes may be. Just like me with all Apple products you won’t be disappointed.
    radarthekatcurtis hannahStv-insiderjahbladechasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    Everybody has their own priorities and they will weigh certain features up against each other and they will just have to figure out what's most important to them, as everybody uses their devices in their own personal ways.

    A quick list of the advantages of each device:

    iPad Air:
    A12 chip with higher single and multi core score.

    iPad 10.5 Pro:
    A10X chip with more powerful GPU. 12 core GPU vs. 4 core GPU on the iPad Air.
    4 GB RAM vs 3 GB RAM on the iPad Air.
    120 HZ ProMotion display.
    Quad speakers.
    Better Camera.

    How important each of those features are is of course up to each individual person.

    radarthekatcurtis hannahmacplusplusStv-insiderwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 33
    While not disputing the recommendation in the article, I find it curious that single core performance improvement of 20% is deemed as a slight improvement where in reviews of other recent Apple releases, be they phones or laptop/desktop computers have considered such gains as “notable” and motivation to make the purchase.
    In general, there's been a trend in the tech press to blow off A series improvements for iPhone/iPad and then raise a big stink when Apple's laptops/desktops aren't immediately updated with new Intel chips that come out. It's a definite double-standard.
    docno42curtis hannahwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 33
    There is still to consider: 1) battery age (2017 model is not fresh from factory) and A10X is probably less efficient than A12 2) apart from 20% better performance, the A12 has the Neural Engine that may be mandatory for a future version of iOS or for functionality such as Siri-on-device (but no idea if that is even possible) 3) Bluetooth 5 is better to have than 4.2 4) No camera bump for the Air3.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 33
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    The thing is not only is the A12 a bit faster, but it will likely have 2 more years of software updates in the long run. Comparing that to the 2 extra speakers and 120 Hz screen, I consider them the same value.
    I am writing this on a 10.5 Pro. As my iMac died, it is temporarily my home machine and gets a lot of use That said, I would go for the faster CPU in the Air for longevity reasons and has a few other features in the SOC that may become more important with future iOS updates. It will have a couple of 3xtra years of updates. The better camera and extra speakers aren’t of real world use. Or at least of enough of a difference to worry about.

    As for the screen, the pro has some lamination problems it seems based on internet reports and my own device. I have a couple of bright white patches on the screen that are quite prominent on an off white screen like this AppleInsider page. I must book a genius bar appointment to do something about it, but it seems to be a problem often reported.

    i can’t say about the refresh frequency difference, as my previous iPad was an iPad 3, so the Pro was a tremendous step up.
    edited March 31 curtis hannah
  • Reply 15 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    entropys said:
    extra speakers aren’t of real world use. 
    That is one of the biggest complaints that I ever had about iPads, even going back in time, long before any iPad Pros even existed.

    I remember complaining about the speakers on my very first iPad that I had, the iPad 2, and then the iPad 3 and then the iPad Air 2.

    When using the iPad in landscape, either watching a video or movie or playing a game, all of the sound would be coming out of only one side of the iPad. Either left or right. That always bothered me and I was so glad when they finally fixed that issue.

    If somebody never or rarely uses the speakers on their iPad, then it's maybe not a big deal to them, but to me it was. I do actually play games on my iPad from time to time, more than on my Macs actually, and I often use the iPad in landscape with sound coming from the iPad speakers, and since I was born with two functioning ears, I am so glad that the sound is in beautiful stereo now and not just made for one of my ears.

    But as with anything, these sorts of things are highly individual I suppose, depending on how somebody uses their devices.
    radarthekatdocno42macguiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 33
    joychjoych Posts: 5member
    I bought the iPad Pro 10.5 and also have a mini 2. I liked them both until recently.Until apple does something to fix their ongoing problems with these tablets constantly dropping WiFi I wouldn’t recommend any tablets from apple.
  • Reply 17 of 33
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    joych said:
    I bought the iPad Pro 10.5 and also have a mini 2. I liked them both until recently.Until apple does something to fix their ongoing problems with these tablets constantly dropping WiFi I wouldn’t recommend any tablets from apple.
    I've owned a ton of iPads, including the two models you mentioned, and I've never had any issues with constant WIFI dropping.

    Maybe it's your router or a weak signal, or the distance is too far away from the router or the signal is being obstructed by walls, ceilings etc, or WIFI interference, by being on a crowded channel or improper router placement.

    There are many variables involved.

    If you do think it's the device, then why not bring it in to Apple and they can run diagnostics or something on it. It does seem odd that both of the devices you mentioned would both develop the same issues at around the same time. That's why it seems much more likely that the root cause lies elsewhere.

    I highly recommend Apple tablets to everybody, because there are simply no other reasonable alternatives in the entire world for anybody who considers themselves to be a sane person in full possession of their mental faculties. There are no other choices. Nothing else even comes close.
    edited March 31 radarthekatchiazeus423joychapplesnorangeswatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 33
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,313member
    I got the first iPad Pro instead of a new MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro and I used it as my primary portable Mac for almost a year.  I ended up getting a MacBook Air and mostly sidelining the iPad Pro for one reason and one reason only:  Text selection on iOS sucks! 

    It's fiddly, inconsistent and overall a frustrating user experience.  If I did lots of passive content consumption, or even just did text processing for documents it may not have been an issue.  But there are several forums I enjoy participating in and text selection and editing in web forms is a huge negative with iOS.  

    I'm hoping Apple can deliver some improvements in the next iOS version - I vastly prefer the SmartKeyboard feel to my Early 2015 Air keyboard and I don't mind the new keyboards from a feel perspective - they are just unreliable pieces of trash that I still am astonished Apple is stubbornly sticking with for more than three years now.  Simply unbelievable.  

    iOS has a lot going for it, but there are still some significant disadvantages compared to a full Mac laptop for quite a few use cases still.

    As for iPad Pro vs iPad Air - the big screen is amazing.  Maybe it's just because I'm over 40 and the eyesight is starting to go but I vastly prefer the larger size of my iPad Pro.  I don't regret it at all (that and the smaller Pro wasn't even rumored when I bought my original iPad Pro). 
    edited March 31
  • Reply 19 of 33
    joychjoych Posts: 5member
    To the response about my iPads dropping WiFi.i am using these tablets within six feet of my router-there have been no changes with my router.my dell and toshiba both have no issues with WiFi.only iPads .i have read numerous complaints online with this problem repeatedly concerning the iPad.all complaints say it started with one of apples software updates and that apple is well aware of this issue but refuses to address the problem they obviously created. Look it up- there are many complaints.
  • Reply 20 of 33
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 761member
    joych said:
    To the response about my iPads dropping WiFi.i am using these tablets within six feet of my router-there have been no changes with my router.my dell and toshiba both have no issues with WiFi.only iPads .i have read numerous complaints online with this problem repeatedly concerning the iPad.all complaints say it started with one of apples software updates and that apple is well aware of this issue but refuses to address the problem they obviously created. Look it up- there are many complaints.
    I use a 6th gen Airport extreme in my home with my iPad Pro 10.5 and do not have the Wifi drop outs that you mention. 5 GHz stays connected and fast even on the top floor of my place.

    I read here daily and have not heard folks complaining of this issue. Please send us a link reporting that Apple is well aware of the issue, but is refusing to address the problem?  


    chiamacguiwatto_cobra
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