Compared: Apple's 2020 iPad Air versus 2020 11-inch iPad Pro

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2020
While there are still reasons to opt for the 11-inch iPad Pro, Apple's new iPad Air 4 brings so many pro features that the two have never been this close.

Left: the new iPad Air 4. Right: the 11-inch iPad Pro
Left: the new iPad Air 4. Right: the 11-inch iPad Pro


During Apple's September 15 event, Tim Cook referred to the company's whole lineup a couple of times. He didn't go so far as to say this product slots into this spot in the lineup, but he was emphasizing how Apple is trying to offer products for ever different type of user.

This was one occasion, though, when the introduction of a new device rather upsets that lineup. Just as when, most recently, the updated iMac made it necessary to think twice about buying the iMac Pro, so the same thing has happened with the iPad Air and the 11-inch iPad Pro.

Specifically, the new 10.9-inch iPad Air is sufficiently close to the 11-inch iPad Pro that you could even wonder how much longer that more expensive device can last. If it doesn't get its own update, the 11-inch iPad Pro could be on the way out.

Which would be a shame because this iPad Pro continues to be a first-class machine. It's also just understandable, because the new iPad Air is catching up -- and in some ways, exceeding it.

Comparing the 2020 iPad Air to the 11-inch iPad Pro

iPad Air (4th Gen, 2020)11-inch iPad Pro
Year20202020
Base price$599$799
Screen Size (inches)10.911
Resolution2360 x 16402388 x 1668
Pixel Density (dpi)264264
Brightness (nits)500600
Display TypeRetina, True Tone, Wide Color (P3), Fully LaminatedLiquid Retina, ProMotion, True Tone, Wide Color (P3), Fully Laminated
ProcessorA14 BionicA12Z Bionic
Apple PencilSecond GenerationSecond Generation
Smart ConnectorYesYes
Dimensions (inches)9.74 x 7 x 0.249.74 x 7.02 x 0.23
Weight (lbs)11.04
Capacities64GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear camera (megapixels)1212 wide, 10 ultra wide
Front camera (megapixels)77
Video recording4K 24/30/60fps4K at 24/30/60fps (wide) and 60fps (ultra wide)
BiometricTouch IDFace ID
Speakers24
PortUSB-CUSB-C

Noticeable physical differences

Given that the new iPad Air now has the same kind of flat-edged design as the iPad Pro, there's no practical difference in the hardware. You'd think twice before swapping cases between them, but for putting in a bag or carrying around, they're effectively the same.

That extends to how, for the first time, a non-Pro iPad is able to use Apple's Magic Keyboard.

The one really visibly exception to these devices having the same design is when you see the rear cameras. The new iPad Air 4 has a greatly improved camera, but it's still only one.

For comparison, the 11-inch iPad Pro camera bump on the rear houses a 12 megapixel wide lens, a 10 megapixel ultra wide one -- and a LiDAR sensor. While there may not exactly be mainstream uses for that just yet, LiDAR is going to help with Apple AR.

There are already key differences in use between the two devices today, though. Although the screens are so close in size as to be indistinguishable -- at 10.9 inches versus 11 inches -- the iPad Pro's one is significantly brighter. Its maximum brightness is 600 nits compared to the 500 of the iPad Air.

Then there is ProMotion. This is the feature, introduced with the 2017 iPad Pro, which is arguably what makes these devices feel more responsive than any other iPad.

With ProMotion, the iPad Pro intelligently changes the refresh rate of the screen, the speed at which the display is updated. These iPad Pro models can drive the screen at 120Hz, but it drains the battery.

So rather than driving the entire display at top speed, the iPad Pro assesses where that speed will give you the most benefit. If you're drawing on it with the Apple Pencil, then the area right under your fingers will refresh at 120Hz, but the app's unchanging tool palette will not.

It makes a significant difference -- but that difference is also needed now because officially the iPad Air is the faster machine. With its A14 Bionic processor, compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro's A12Z Bionic, there is more power in the new iPad Air.

That's going to be more apparent as you use the new iPad Air, but beyond the performance, there is one more speed difference to consider. The 11-inch iPad Pro has Face ID, which is certainly more convenient and arguably faster than the Touch ID that the new iPad Air has.




Choosing between the iPad Air 4 and the 11-inch iPad Pro

When the 11-inch iPad Pro came out, there was a question over whether Apple was thinking it should replace a traditional laptop. Just a few months on, that question hasn't been answered, but there's also one over who Apple thinks will buy it.

There's a $200 difference between it and the new iPad Air 4. For that, you get the better camera, LiDAR, Face ID, and a Liquid Retina screen with ProMotion. There is also an option to have more storage than the iPad Air 4 is capable of, but for a cost.

Overall, this is quite a lot for the $200 price difference and it means that on paper, the 11-inch iPad Pro keeps its spot as the bottom of the iPad Pro range.

In practical, day to day use, though, the quality of the iPad Air 4 screen is hardly poor. Then there's the small fact that LiDAR remains a niche capability for now, plus the large fact that the iPad Air 4 should outperform the 11-inch iPad Pro.

We won't know the specifics until the new iPad Air 4 can be thoroughly tested, but the difference in the processor guarantees that it will be faster.

So right now, just as with the iMac versus iMac Pro, the choice has to be the lower-cost device -- if you're buying the base model. The iMac Pro pulls ahead again if you're looking at the higher-specification versions, and, similarly, the 11-inch iPad Pro does have that extra storage option.

It will cost you $1,299 to get an 11-inch iPad Pro with 1TB. However, you cannot get an iPad Air 4 for that, so this one option may be what forces your decision.



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dewme
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    edited September 2020 entropysrazorpit
  • Reply 2 of 46
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,216member
    dotcomcto said:
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    I would wait for the tear down and actual testing before saying the Pro model isn't worth it. This is a overview of the new model not an actual review. Just my opinion of course.. B)

    watto_cobrarazorpit
  • Reply 3 of 46
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    jcs2305 said:
    dotcomcto said:
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    I would wait for the tear down and actual testing before saying the Pro model isn't worth it. This is a overview of the new model not an actual review. Just my opinion of course.. B)

    It is not a review, it is just a spec comparison, that is correct. 

    A review is labeled with "Review" as the first word in the headline.
    chasmwatto_cobrarazorpit
  • Reply 4 of 46
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,216member
    jcs2305 said:
    dotcomcto said:
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    I would wait for the tear down and actual testing before saying the Pro model isn't worth it. This is a overview of the new model not an actual review. Just my opinion of course.. B)

    It is not a review, it is just a spec comparison, that is correct. 

    A review is labeled with "Review" as the first word in the headline.

    Oh I am fully aware this isn't a review. OP seemed to be making a buying decision form the info in this overview/comparison.

    That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.

    I guess I wasn't clear.. my opinion was to wait until there is an actual review and tear down before making a final decision.

    edited September 2020 chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 46
    GabyGaby Posts: 176member
    @AppleInsider Guys its two separate articles now where you make the mistake of stating the 2020 iPad Air has two speakers. It has the same 4 speaker design as the iPad Pro except they  are only advertised as operating  in landscape
    mac daddy zeerandominternetpersonwatto_cobrafrantisek
  • Reply 6 of 46
    When comparing the $200 difference between the two base models, I think the difference in base storage is quite significant. If 64GB is not enough for you, your only option with the Air4 is to spend $150 more which mostly wipes out the cost difference.

    To me, the difference in storage is at least as significant as other differentiators that seem to get more attention (camera difference, LiDAR, nits...)  YMMV
    randominternetpersonmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobraGabycitpeks
  • Reply 7 of 46
    Cook mentioned upgrading the whole line multiple times... Maybe they're just delaying the iPad Pro a little bit so it can share the 5G/Apple silicon thunder?
    watto_cobraCuJoYYC
  • Reply 8 of 46
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,118member
    bageljoey said:
    When comparing the $200 difference between the two base models, I think the difference in base storage is quite significant. If 64GB is not enough for you, your only option with the Air4 is to spend $150 more which mostly wipes out the cost difference.
    To me, the difference in storage is at least as significant as other differentiators that seem to get more attention (camera difference, LiDAR, nits...) 

    Bigger storage isn't so important for corporate machines. Price and bang for the buck is the reason the air is the top selling iPad, and this makes it even more so.
    Great spec and feature comparison btw Ai. I can see the Air replacing my 10.5 inch pro in the future.  Cook made it pretty clear in the keynote that there won’t be more changes to full size iPads this year it seemed to me. He referenced that the iPad Pro was updated earlier this year.

    edited September 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 46
    I wonder how much ram is in the air 4.  The pro has 6gb.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 46
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,216member
    Gaby said:
    @AppleInsider Guys its two separate articles now where you make the mistake of stating the 2020 iPad Air has two speakers. It has the same 4 speaker design as the iPad Pro except they  are only advertised as operating  in landscape
    If you look at the specs page.. iPad Air is listed with Stereo Speakers and the iPad Pro is listed with Four Speaker Audio and the illustration looks different between the 2 when the speaker location is shown.





    chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 46
    With its A14 Bionic processor, compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro's A12Z Bionic, there is more power in the new iPad Air.
    That is likely not the case. The A12Z has four high-performance cores to the A14's two, and eight GPU cores to the A14's four. I'd expect better single-core performance from the Air, but the Pro is likely to be more performant in multi-core and GPU applications. This is the second comparison article from Apple Insider that failed to point out these differences. If I were in the market, I would certainly hold out for an iPad Pro update to A14-class chips, but I don't think one can presume that the Air is more powerful than the Pro given the information that we have.
    aderutterchickMacQuadra840avchasmmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobracitpeks
  • Reply 12 of 46
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,264administrator
    jcs2305 said:
    jcs2305 said:
    dotcomcto said:
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    I would wait for the tear down and actual testing before saying the Pro model isn't worth it. This is a overview of the new model not an actual review. Just my opinion of course.. B)

    It is not a review, it is just a spec comparison, that is correct. 

    A review is labeled with "Review" as the first word in the headline.

    Oh I am fully aware this isn't a review. OP seemed to be making a buying decision form the info in this overview/comparison.

    That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.

    I guess I wasn't clear.. my opinion was to wait until there is an actual review and tear down before making a final decision.

    Waiting for a full review is probably wisest in OP's scenario, I do agree.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 46
    dotcomcto said:
    Just the information that I was looking for, so thanks for posting this timely article. I'm disappointed that Apple didn't see fit to bump up the iPad Pro specs. That device should clearly be the high end device, and it's only marginally so with the iPad Air release. It's certainly not worth the extra $200, at least for my personal needs.
    The iPad Pro update was in March of this year. I don't think anyone expected it to be updated yesterday. When it is updated, I imagine it will again hold value proposition over the Air, as the newer product.
    dewmechasmthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 46
    It’s all about th 6 months range difference. When iPad Air4 lands it will be better value for most, until the iPad Pro is updated then that will be the better value for most. If the price hadn’t risen or if iPad Air4 started with 128GB it would be a clearer difference.
    edited September 2020 jcs2305watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 46
    Gaby said:
    @AppleInsider Guys its two separate articles now where you make the mistake of stating the 2020 iPad Air has two speakers. It has the same 4 speaker design as the iPad Pro except they  are only advertised as operating  in landscape
    According to this comparison page, it's a two-speaker setup

    https://www.apple.com/ca/ipad/compare/
    MacQuadra840avchasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 46
    xyzzy01 said:
    Cook mentioned upgrading the whole line multiple times... Maybe they're just delaying the iPad Pro a little bit so it can share the 5G/Apple silicon thunder?
    The next iPad Pro update is rumored to get a high-resolution mini-LED screen.  Those won't be ready until some time in the first half of 2021.  That's when we should see the next iPad Pro.
    MacQuadra840avchasmthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 46
    entropys said:
    bageljoey said:
    When comparing the $200 difference between the two base models, I think the difference in base storage is quite significant. If 64GB is not enough for you, your only option with the Air4 is to spend $150 more which mostly wipes out the cost difference.
    To me, the difference in storage is at least as significant as other differentiators that seem to get more attention (camera difference, LiDAR, nits...) 

    Bigger storage isn't so important for corporate machines. Price and bang for the buck is the reason the air is the top selling iPad, and this makes it even more so.
    Great spec and feature comparison btw Ai. I can see the Air replacing my 10.5 inch pro in the future.  Cook made it pretty clear in the keynote that there won’t be more changes to full size iPads this year it seemed to me. He referenced that the iPad Pro was updated earlier this year.

    According to yesterday's keynote, Tim Cook mentioned that the base model $329 iPad is Apple's most popular iPad model, not the Air.  The Air is for those that want Pro features at a more affordable price than the iPad Pro.
    chasmthtmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 46
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,828member
    This iPad Air reflects Tim Cook's philosophy of not worrying about cannibalizing your own products. Apple obviously had the 5 nm technology in-hand and ready for market for the iPad Air 4 and made a conscious decision to put it in the next release to hit the market. They could have held back to further differentiate their marketing and sales strategy between the Air and the Pro, but no, they didn't. They did what is best for their customers and absorbed the risk of lost sales of the higher priced product.

    Apple Silicon is on the rapidly rising part of the lifecycle curve and is going to be a tide raiser across all products that it impacts. Apple isn't going to nickel and dime their customers by holding back technology that they know will deliver better value for their customers today in an attempt to maximize their profits tomorrow. The net result is that there will be some specific leapfrogging taking place in some areas, especially CPU technology, and more severely when there is a staggered release schedule between products. The overall trend across all products will be that everything will continue to get elevated across the board over time and new releases but they are not going to hold back and ride their cash-cows for incremental profit deltas across products. 

    Technology companies that sweat the perceived threat of cannibalization and hold back on the release of capabilities that are already in-hand and ready to ship are the ones you should worry about. Apple, under Tim Cook, is not one of those companies. Once competitors get a whiff of what you're holding back on, you are a sitting duck. 
    edited September 2020 pscooter63jdb8167randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 46
    Gaby said:
    @AppleInsider Guys its two separate articles now where you make the mistake of stating the 2020 iPad Air has two speakers. It has the same 4 speaker design as the iPad Pro except they  are only advertised as operating  in landscape
    It does not have the same speaker system as the Pro.  It has a two-speaker system that only produces stereo sound in landscape mode.  Apple's webpage clearly specifies this.  The Air has two speaker audio landscape mode.  The Pro has a 4-speaker audio system (that produces stereo sound in both portrait and landscape modes).  In portrait mode, the two top speakers produce the highs and the bottom speakers produce the lows.
    chasmjdb8167roundaboutnowAlex1N
  • Reply 20 of 46
    So you have an article comparing the 2019 and 2020 Air.  Now you have an article comparing the 2020 Air and 2019 Pro.  Yet completely different information is conveyed in both.  In the 2019 and 2020 Air article, you go on and on about how the 2020 Air is superior to the Pro in every way (but it is not).  Yet this article clearly explains how superior the Pro is compared to the Air, explaining all the differences, but the other article fails to explain how the Pro is actually better than the Air.

    So you somehow claim the A14 is faster than the A12Z, only because one chip has a higher number than the other chip, without even a real-world comparison.  The A14 is the iPhone chip, not the more advanced iPad chip.  The A14 has 4-core graphics.  The A12Z has 8-core graphics.  The Air's graphics will not compare to the performance of the Z chip.  So don't claim the A14 is faster when you have not seen it or done any benchmark reviews.  You can guarantee the Pro will have more RAM than the Air.
    canukstormmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
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