iPad Air vs Pro: What Are the Differences?

The latest iPad Air and iPad Pro models share a lot of commonalities. At first glance, it would seem the two perform similarly. 

The iPad Air is significantly cheaper, making it seem, at least initially, like the better option for those purchasing an iPad. In reality, the two iPads function very differently.

So how does someone determine which iPad model suits their needs? 

Read on as we examine the specs of the iPad Air vs. Pro. We will highlight the unique features of each and review the functions they have in common. We will also help users understand their features to make the best purchasing decision.

The iPad Air Vs. Pro

iPad Air vs Pro: What Are the Differences?

One of the most obvious differences between the two iPad models is the cost. While the two models share several operating features, the iPad Air is substantially more affordable than the iPad Pro. The difference is more than $300.

So what else sets these two machines apart? First, let's examine their similarities.

The iPad's Shared Features 

Both iPads run off the iPad OS16 operating system, which has cutting-edge features and built-in apps. 

The two iPads have 4K video capabilities and share the same 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera. They both offer automatic image stabilization as well.

The iPad Air and iPad Pro models both require a USB-C connector and 20w USB-C power adapter, which are both included at the time of purchase.

There are other minor similarities. Both models use TrueTone display and support the second generation of Apple Pencil. Also, both iPads have anti-reflective coating as well as a fully laminated display. 

But even with these similarities, the iPad Pro uses advanced technology. While it may seem that the two iPads function similarly, the iPad Pro offers many more features, particularly in the 12.9" display model. Users should consider these features and the dramatic difference in price, to determine which model is right for them.

iPad Air vs. iPad Pro Features

iPad Air vs. iPad Pro Features

At first glance, it may seem difficult to compare the specs of the two iPads. We will examine the two models in this iPad Air guide and iPad Pro guide.

We will take a closer look at the unique features of each iPad and compare the way they function. Here are the many differences between the two releases.

1. The iPad Pro Is Faster Than the iPad Air

In the past, iPad Pro and iPad Air have often run off the same type of processor chip. The newest iPad Pro runs off the brand new M2 chip technology.

This is one of the largest differences between iPad Air and iPad Pro.

The M2 chip comes with an 8-core 3.49GHz CPU. It also offers up a 10-core GPU that allows for faster graphics. It houses 16GB of unified memory, which is more than 50% more bandwidth than the M1 processor can hold. 

The 10-core GPU also has a 16-core neural engine that runs at 15.8 trillion operations per second. That is roughly 40% faster than that of an M1 chip. 

The iPad Air is still operating off of the M1 chip.

2. The iPad Air Does Not Have as Much Storage

The iPad Air stores significantly fewer data than the iPad Pro. 

iPad Air models have two storage options, 64GB or 256GB. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro offers up to 2TB of storage with a wider range of options. It can be purchased in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB.

This should come as no surprise as the iPad Pro offers additional features that the iPad Air does not, which will require additional storage as well. But if storage matters to a consumer's decision-making process, this should not be overlooked. 

3. The iPad Pro Display Is More Sophisticated

The iPad Air display screen is much smaller than the iPad Pro models. The iPad Air has a 10.9-inch display screen. The iPad Pro is available with an 11-inch display screen and a 12.9-inch display screen.

While that may not seem like a big difference, it is important to note that the iPad Pro display also runs on more advanced technology. This is particularly true of the 12.9-inch model.

The iPad Air continues to use a liquid retina display. The 11-inch version of the iPad Pro functions with the same liquid retina display. But the 12.9" version uses a new liquid retina XDR technology.

This display reaches a higher peak brightness than before, making movies, graphics, videos, and images more vivid and realistic. Liquid retina XDR offers a higher dynamic range between the darkest blacks and whitest whites using organic compounds to transmit its light. 

The XDR display in iPad Pro reaches a brightness of 1000 nits with a max full screen and peaks at 1600 nits with HDR content.

4. The iPad Pro Has a Second Camera

Both iPads have a 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, but the iPad Pro now has a second camera. 

The new camera is a 10MP f/2.4 ultra-wide angle camera. Both cameras are capable of shooting 4K videos. 

The iPad Pro offers 2x optical zoom. But it also offers 5x digital zoom.

5. The iPad Air Offers More Color Choices

If aesthetics are a priority, consumers may gravitate towards the more affordable iPad Air. The iPad Air comes in several shades, whereas the iPad Pro does not.

The iPad Air can be purchased in blue, pink, purple, space grey, and starlight shades. The iPad Pro only comes in two generic shades—silver and space grey.

It is important to note that the overall industrial look of the iPad Pro is slightly sleeker, with a curved design. But if color allows a user to feel more connected to their device, the lack of color choices in the iPad Pro should be a consideration.

6. The iPad Pro Offers Better WiFi and Bluetooth Capabilities

Previous releases of iPad Air and iPad Pro connected to WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 technologies. The current iPad Air continues to connect that way, but the iPad Pro has had some upgrades.

The new WiFi 6E technology in iPad Pro allows access to a new 6GHz band. The technology is more reliable and should increase the productivity of WiFi.

The iPad Pro also upgraded its Bluetooth technology to 5.3, making frequency collisions less frequent. These advances result in increased reliability and consistency with the Bluetooth connection.

7. Improvements to Apple Pencil

Both the iPad Air and iPad Pro support Apple Pencil 2nd generation. But the new iPad Pro takes the technology one step further.

The iPad Pro also supports Apple's new pencil hover feature. The feature allows users to preview their mark up to 12mm above the screen before drawing or taking notes.

This is a smarter and more productive way to use Apple Pencil. It gives users more control and makes the experience feel more personal.

8. The iPad Pro Offers New Security Features

The new iPad Pro uses 3D sensors to run Apple's Face ID technology. As such the elite model supports additional security features like facial recognition. 

The iPad Air does not support Face ID. Instead, it continues to use Apple's Touch ID security system to unlock.

Security isn't the only thing that Face ID impacts on the iPad. Because of facial recognition, iPad Pro users can authorize and process payments through their iPad using their faces. Meanwhile, iPad Air users will continue to use Apple's Touch ID system.

9. Apple's LiDAR Scanner

In addition to supporting facial recognition, the iPad Pro has a high-tech LiDAR scanner that the other iPad models do not have. LiDAR scanners send out dots in the form of lasers to measure depth.

The infrared dots map out distances measured by the scanner's sensors. This technology ultimately photographs objects and dimensions and determines the space around its subject. 

LiDAR scanners are similar to the TrueDepth camera technology used to map faces for Apple's Face ID. But the scanners can map up to 5 meters away. The technology allows the iPad Pro to create realistic maps of objects, or create 3D models.

10. Smarter Photo Technology for the iPad Pro

In general, the iPad Pro uses smarter photo technology. In addition to the arrival of its second camera, the iPad Pro uses Smart HDR4 (high dynamic range) technology for photos.

The iPad Air is not quite as advanced. It still uses HDR3 technology for its photos. HDR4 sets the stage for higher resolution and vivid color in images and videos. 

The iPad Air and iPad Pro both use TrueTone display, an adaptive flash system. But iPad Pro is now offering a brighter flash. This will ultimately increase the quality of iPad Pro photos captured in low-light settings.

The iPad Pro also offers lens correction.

11. Improved Portrait Mode

The portrait mode for iPad Pro includes advanced bokeh, depth control, and lighting effects to record higher-quality portraits, Animoji, Memoji, and Face ID files. And while the iPad Pro offers 2x optical zoom, the iPad Air only has digital zoom capabilities.

The depth control and lighting effects improve Apple's portrait mode on iPad Pro. This technology resulted in the iPad Pro offering up several portrait-related features that the other iPads can't.

Animoji and Memoji allow Apple to track facial expressions in real time while replacing the user's face with a fun avatar. Animoji is Apple's motion emojis, created using clever, often adorable animals. Memoji allows users to create a personalized avatar that looks like them and uses the avatar in the same way as Animoji.

Portrait mode in the iPad Pro offers natural, studio, contour, stage, stage mono, and high-key mono effects. 

12. ProRes and ProRes RAW for iPad Pro

One of the biggest advances for the iPad Pro is its higher-bandwidth video decode engine. The iPad Pro encodes and decodes images and video files quickly.

That's why the iPad Pro now supports ProRes and ProRes RAW options. 

ProRes is a codec technology supporting professional-grade video editing by isolating individual frames so they can be edited without impacting other frames.

ProRes RAW stores multiple duplicate images shot with different exposures to isolate them. This process gives editors full creative control while expanding the range of photo values. In addition to contrast and exposure, users can easily alter balance, color, and sharpness.

The iPad Pro shoots ProRes video in 4k/30fps with audio zoom. 

13. The iPad Pro Uses Apple's ProMotion

The iPad Pro is now using the highly-anticipated ProMotion display from Apple. 

ProMotion display allows display quality to ramp up or down, depending on the user's activity and needs. For example, the display function will speed up if a user is playing a high-graphic video game, but slow down if they are away from their phone, or doing something that requires fewer visuals.

ProMotion allows users to preserve and extend the battery life of their iPad by using less power when not required. This advancement is unique to the iPad Pro and has not been included in other iPad models.

The iPad Pro has a 120Hz refresh rate.

Differences in Audio Technology

differences in audio technology ipad

Audio is another area that differs dramatically between iPad Air vs. Pro.

This is true when it comes to audio input as well as output. The microphone system and the speaker system are both impacted.

iPad Speaker Technology

While the iPad Air features stereo speakers, the iPad Pro uses a four-speaker audio system.

This system makes audio sound fuller and more dynamic in the iPad Pro. All four speakers will play bass. The sound also adjusts in response to how the iPad Pro is held.

Naturally, the four speaker system also paves the way for a louder sound. After all, the iPad Pro has twice the number of speakers as the iPad Air.

iPad Microphones and Recording

ipad microphone and recording

Microphone technology differs greatly between the iPad Air and iPad Pro as well. 

The iPad Air offers a dual microphone system. This is sufficient for anyone 

recording using two voices. In addition to video and audio calling or FaceTime, this system works for podcasting, interviews, and live streaming.

With the iPad Pro, there is a five-studio quality microphone technology. The additional microphones capture a wider range of sound. The microphones also offer a range similar to that of studio microphones. 

The iPad Pro also records audio in stereo mode, which the other iPad models cannot do. This allows for a more professional and realistic sound in the post-production process. It is also a preferred way to record music. 

Unlike iPad Air, iPad Pro offers audio zoom capabilities. This means a user can change the direction of the audio. This is typically done through spacial filtering.

The iPad Pro Connection Capabilities 

While all iPads support USB-C connectors, the iPad Pro also supports Thunderbolt/USB 4.

Thunderbolt increases the speed at which data can be shared. Thus, any additional device connected through the Thunderbolt connector can access the high speed of the iPad Pro. 

Adding the Thunderbolt connection means that iPad Pro users can easily connect to large monitors and external servers or storage while increasing their data transfer speed by 4x the efficiency.

The iPad Air Is Significantly Cheaper

So, just how big is the price difference between the iPad Air and the iPad Pro? In truth, it is significant.

Before adding cellular options, the iPad Pro starts at $799, and the iPad Air starts at $599. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,099 for Wi-Fi and raises to $1,299 for Wi-Fi capabilities.

There is no question the iPad Pro offers features that far surpass that of the iPad Air. But the difference in cost is significant. For most users, that price difference will prompt some serious reflection.

Beyond the cost, the most obvious differences between the two iPad models are the iPad Pro's M2 chip, storage capabilities, Liquid Retina XDR, the second camera, and ProRes/ProRes RAW features. But there are also some smaller variations that should be considered.

Those variations include the difference in display, ProMotion technology, color variation, the brighter TrueTone flash, Face ID, Thunderbolt, audio, and Apple Pencil.

Choosing an iPad

choosing an ipad

 

Ultimately, users need to examine these specs before deciding which iPad to buy. While the price difference may not seem worth it to some, others may see the value in the additional features of the iPad Pro. This is particularly true for anyone using their iPad for creative work.

The iPad Pro offers advanced editing tools like ProRes and ProRes RAW, the LiDAR scanner, the new Apple Pencil Hover technology, advanced portrait mode technology, and 2x optical zoom. These characteristics may seem valuable to those who like to create. 

Those who value additional security in their device may find value in the Face ID technology of the iPad Pro over the Touch ID in the iPad Air. And someone looking to take advantage of the efficiency iPad Pro offers by connecting to other devices may find the Thunderbolt cable valuable. Others will appreciate the ProMotion feature if they are looking to extend their iPad's battery life.

If visuals and audio are not as important, users looking to scroll and work on their iPad may see no value in the additional features the iPad Pro offers. Some users may prioritize the sleek look of the variety of colors the iPad Air comes in.

Users need to consider their needs and workflow and determine their priorities in finding their next iPad.

Protecting the New iPad

Regardless of which iPad users decide to purchase, it is important to purchase the proper accessories to protect them. A high-quality protective case is one of the most important purchases a user can make to maintain the quality of their iPad.

When shopping for a case, users should look for one that is durable and has been drop-tested. Look for cases made from TPU material, so the case absorbs any shock rather than the device. TPU is a type of plastic that is durable, heat resistant, and highly elastic.

Cases should be scratch resistant and easy to clean, so blemishes do not frequently compromise the retina display panel on the case.

A good-quality case should also have accurate cutouts to provide easy access to all cameras and ports. Finding a case with a kickstand can help users use their iPad from various angles.

Finally, it is best to look for a case with a reasonable warranty. That way, if anything goes wrong, it can be easily replaced.

Comparing iPad Pro and iPad Air Features

After comparing iPad Pro and iPad Air features, it's clear that the iPad Pro has features and technological advances that outweigh that of the iPad Air. The iPad Pro uses sophisticated technology that advances its speed, storage, display, audio, and visuals. But with such a wide gap in the cost, users may still be wondering if the iPad Air is a better buy.

By using this guide to see the iPad Air vs. Pro specs, consumers can make an informed decision and purchase the iPad best suited to their priorities.


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