If you’re in the market for a high-end tablet with power features that are bound to give your productivity a big boost, Apple’s iPad Pro is the tablet to get. Or is it?
The 2021 iPad Pro models turned heads when they dropped, thanks in no small part to the fact that they’re now powered by Apple’s awesome M1 chip. And of course the iPads Pro were first out of the gate with Apple’s striking edge-to-edge tablet design, powerful cameras, terrific displays, and other key features. But the 2020 iPad Air also has an edge-to-edge design and has many power features of its own–while costing a little bit less than its Pro stablemates.
Can’t choose between the iPads Pro and Air? That’s what we’re here to help you do today, so read on and get #TechAssured!
Design-wise, there’s not much difference between these iPads, most especially between the 11” Pro and the Air. Both showcase Apple’s celebrated industrial flat-edged and near-bezel-free design that the iPhone 12 lineup has also picked up. The Air, however, is available in more colors: Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Green, and Rose Gold, vis-a-vis the Pro’s more sedate Silver and Space Gray color choices.
Although the Air has a smaller display than the smaller Pro, 10.9” to the Pro’s 11”, the two models are nearly identical in size and weight. The Pro is 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm, whereas the Air is 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm–only a smidgen thicker–and weight-wise they’re nearly identical at 466g for the Wi-Fi Pro (470g for the 5G version) and 458g for the Wi-Fi Air (460 for the 4G version). Of course, the 12.9” Pro is appreciably larger and heavier at 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm, and 682g (Wi-Fi) and 684g (5G).
A key area of design differentiation is as regards authentication. While the iPads Pro both feature Face ID, just as the iPhone 12 does, through their TrueDepth camera arrays embedded in the top bezel, the Air features Touch ID–but a different sort that involves a fingerprint scanner hidden in its top button.
In terms of display tech, the iPad Pro pulls ahead of the Air.
While both the 11” Pro and the Air feature powerful and beautiful fully laminated Liquid Retina LED displays (264 pixels per inch) with anti-reflective and oleophobic coatings, and the advanced screen technologies P3 Wide Color and True Tone, the 11” Pro is able to get brighter than the Air (600 nits to the Air’s 500 nits) and also showcases ProMotion tech which allows for up to 120Hz refresh rates. A boon for gamers, video editors, and other power users.
But it’s the range-topping 12.9” Pro that has the true cutting-edge display, an even more striking mini-LED affair that can reach up to a whopping 1,600 nits of peak brightness, affording its users the power to view and edit HDR and Dolby Vision content, among other power benefits.
The camera setup of these power tablets is another significant area of difference.
While they all feature 12MP wide main cameras, the iPads Pro both have 10MP Ultra Wide lenses as well (conferring the ability to optically zoom out 2x), boast True Tone flash for true-to-life illumination, and also come with LiDAR scanners for improved Augmented Reality performance.
All three are also quite capable on the video front. They can manage 4K and 1080p HD video recording, possess 3x video zoom, have slow-motion video support for 1080p recording, and also have time-lapse video with stabilization. The Pro models, however, have extended dynamic range when recording video.
As for the front-facing lenses, the Air has a 7MP FaceTime HD camera, whereas the Pros have a 12MP TrueDepth camera and an Ultra Wide camera with such features as 2x optical zoom out, and Portrait Lighting and Portrait Mode to help take really striking selfies. Additionally, the Pros also have a new feature known as Center Stage that intelligently keeps users centered in the frame even when they move around.
There apparently isn’t much to choose from between these tablets as regards battery life.
All three tablets, according to Apple, can give users up to nine hours of web browsing over cellular connections, or 10 hours of video streaming over Wi-Fi. This, thanks to their battery capacities of 18.93Wh for the Air and 28.65Wh for the Pro models.
Other Specs and Features
To wrap up, let’s see how these tablets stack up against each other in other crucial areas.
The Air is powered by Apple’s A14 Bionic chip with Neural Engine, which is no slouch, but the Pros are of course powered by the M1 chip (with the next-gen Neural Engine to boot).
Curious about speaker setups? The Pro models have four speakers, whereas the Air has just two (along its bottom edge).
In terms of storage, the Air can be had in 64GB and 256GB variants, whereas the Pros comes in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB versions.
As far as connectivity goes, while Wi-Fi is of course available across the board, only the Pro models come with 5G connections; the Air makes do with a 4G LTE connection. As for physical connectors, all three tablets have Apple’s Smart Connector and a USB-C port, but only the Pros’ ports support Thunderbolt and USB 4.
Lastly, in case you’re wondering about accessories to help you sharpen your productivity even further, all three tablets are compatible with Apple’s 2nd-gen Pencil as well as the Smart Keyboard Folio and Magic Keyboard.