The 9.7 Inch iPad Pro Vs The iPad Air 2; Design, Performance, Photography & More Analyzed

Ramish Zafar
Posted 7 months ago

As Apple’s event today came and went, we saw pretty much what was expected. There was the much hyped about iPhone SE launch, coupled with the smaller iPad Pro, that mimics the iPad Air 2 in nearly every regard except core performance specifications and features. With the launch of the smaller iPad Pro, Apple has effectively killed its 2014 tablet; something that was much overdue, given the lack of a successor last year.

Nevertheless, the iPad Air 2 still has its relative strengths, and should stay an important part of the company’s tablet lineup; for the average user not requiring the performance boosts which accompany the ‘Pro’ lineup; Apple’s significant re-branding of the iPad lineup after tablet popularity saw an overall decline mid-2014.

So how well does the iPad Air 2 stack up against the newly launch 9.7 inch iPad Pro? Take a look below to find out which device should be the one that fits your needs.



Starting from the design of both of the tablets, there’s little that Apple’s changed in this regard. Given the company’s overall preference for minimalism, there’s very little which Apple can change on the iPad lineup. The iPad Pro therefore sees some very simple changes in the form of redesigned antenna lines and overall lighter curves when compared to its predecessor.m

Its the dimensions which make today’s launch even more interesting, as the device measures exactly the same to the iPad Air 2 not only in terms of the diagonal, but also height, width and thickness. Dimensions for both the tablets stand at 9.4×6.6×0.24 inches, so in essence, the 9.7 inch iPad Air can be classified as an iPad Air 2 with revamped internals; in terms of design only.


Both the tablets also weigh the same at 0.96 pounds, so all those extra upgrades which the 9.7 inch iPad Pro comes with don’t seem to add that much weight. The back of both the devices retain a similar approach, with the iPad Pro coming with only one subtle difference in the form of the addition of retina flash, which we’ll talk bout more later.

Safe to say, in terms of design there’s little difference between both the devices, with the main upgrades of today’s launch coming in the form of performance and multimedia specifications. There’s a Rose Gold option that’s there to sweeten the pot, so in the end it all boils down to personal preference.



Coming towards the main part of today’s launch, the hardware specifications of the iPad Pro. The device comes with the Apple A9X on board, a processor origiinally designed to power a much larger tablet, in the form of the 12 inch iPad Pro. Benchmarks run on the tablet and the processor so far have managed to dominate other similar offerings in the market.

But even though the A9X might come with overall increased chip area and 14nm FinFet on board, it still has only two cores, which has show to work in favor of the A8X; Apple chipset for the iPad Air 2. Given that at the time of the A9X‘s launch, the 14nm FinFET was relatively undeveloped, we saw a relatively safer design approach on the chip. Taking a look at some scores from folks over at ArsTechnica we see mixed results between the two chipsets.

Given that the larger iPad Pro comes with 4GB of RAM, it’ll be interesting to see whether Apple chooses to equip the smaller device with a similar amount. We’re expecting RAM to be 2GB in any case but it also depends on whether there’s going to be an iPad Air 3 at all, and in case we don’t get to see another tablet in that lineup, then you should definitely expect 2 GB. Its all speculation at this point however, so we’ll make things clear once devices start to become available.

Taking a look at some official statistics given by Apple, we see that today’s iPad comes with an A9X which under performs when compared to the larger variant, when referenced against the Apple A7. The drop is more noticeable for GPU performance, so do expect design changes in GPU architecture, especially in terms of core clusters as we’ve seen Cupertino tinker with them quite a bit in the past.

The A9X on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro follows its predecessor in terms of GPU customization. The latest tablet processor on the iPad comes with cumulative 12 GPU core clusters, in a variation of Imagination Technologies’ 7XT series chip lineup. Its a graphics powerhouse and such upgrades surely do keep the 12.9 inch iPad Pro’s screen nicely running. So core hardware performance and GPU go towards the iPad Pro, and if you’re looking to run heavy duty apps on your tablets, the A9X tablet should be the one for you.



No matter what criticism its critics might lob towards the company, Apple has still managed to stay consistent to its core beliefs of what the firm believes constitutes a good device. Take a look at the 9.7 inch iPad Pro’s camera and we see that not only does the tablet get an upgrade over the much older iPad Air 2 in terms of camera performance, but it will also outperform the much larger 12 inch tablet as well.

Such an upgrade is logical as you’d expect a fewer amount of users with a 12 inch slate to be interested much in photography. The 9.7 inch screen size is the most favored among its customers, according to Apple and we see today’s iPad Pro come with a 12MP rear camera, coupled with Focus Pixels and True Tone Flash. It also comes with a smaller aperture size, f/2.2, which should add to its performance.


Both of these, particularly the pixels should improve overall image quality in terms of more detail captured and sharper images, regardless of lighting scenarios. Cameras have been seeing consistent upgrades in the Android world, so Cupetino might just bend its own rules over here as well. The front camera on today’s late also sees its resolution bumped to 5MP, consistent with the rest of the upgrades.


Moving towards video recording capabilities, the smaller iPad Pro comes with a serious approach in all segments of camera performance. The smaller slate comes with 4K video, Cinematic stabilization and slow mo video support for 1080p at 120fps. Safe to say, the device is highly geared for photography lovers all around, and we should see it stay at the same specifications for quite a while.

Taking a look at the iPad’s camera upgrades today, we’re even more interested in what approach we’ll see the company take on the iPhone 7 Pro. Its rumored to come with a dual camera on board, so things just might pick up a quick pace this year when it comes to camera upgrades. In a nutshell, if photography’s on the top two things you like about a table, the iPad Pro should be worth looking into.


Display, Accessories & Miscellaneous

Display resolution on the iPad Pro matches the iPad Air 2, with Apple stubbornly choosing to stick with the same resolutions on both the iPhone and the iPad lineup. Resolution should be one feature that should see significant attention from the company, given that photography has seen quite a lot of attention over its recent launches.

In fact, Apple chose to specially mention the iPad Pro’s display resolutions at the launch of the product, with the tablet to come with Wide color and True Tone display. These, according to the company, not only make it 40% less reflective than the iPad Air 2, but also contribute towards improved daylight performance. How this translates into real life performance, we’ll find out soon enough, but as of now, only slight upgrades have made it on board the 9.7 inch iPad Pro in terms of display.


Taking a brief look at wireless connectivity, the 9.7 inch iPad Pro should support faster data speeds when compared to both the iPad Air 2 and the 12 inch iPad Pro. Today’s launch comes with LTE Advanced on board, which should support up to 50% faster cellular connectivity when compared to the 12 inch iPad Pro. It also features an embedded Apple SIM, which might aggravate some carriers out there; as we saw when Apple first pushed the feature with the iPad Air 2 in 2014.

Accessory wise, its the iPad Pro which comes out on top, but all that extra functionality in the form of the Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard and more should cost you just as much. Apple’s reduced the iPad Air 2 for the middle-end, light buyers as of now, and unless you’re an enterprise or professional user with heavy duty needs, as mentioned in the ‘Performance section above, our advice would be to stick with the iPad Air 2.


Pricing, Storage & Conclusion

Just as Apple launched the iPad Pro today, we saw a subsequent price slash for the iPad Air 2, signalling that the device should soon be removed from the company’s roster for good. The iPad Air 2 starts from $399, a complete $200 less than the iPad Pro; there’s good reason for this difference though, as we’ve described above. Storage variants for the devices stand at 32, 128 and 256 GB for the iPad Pro lineup and at 16, 32 and 128 GB for the iPad Air 2 lineup.

Starting price for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro is at $599, which is once again a $200 decrease from the larger tablet. We’d expect 16GB to be sufficient for quite few users out there, given the rate at which software’s becoming advanced, so if you’re heading for the iPad Air 2, then you should consider the 64GB variant for easy usage. But then again, the base 32 GB 9.7 inch iPad should do well for quite a lot of users out there as well, so in terms of storage, its today’s iPad which gets the nod.


To conclude, the launch of the iPad Pro by Apple should manage to sustain interest in the company’s tablet lineup for the next six months at least; when we’re likely to see the fourth generation A10X launched alongside the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Pro’s A10 chipset. Both the tablets follow a similar design language, with the primary differentiation being camera and performance specifications, which should prove to be strong enough to attract a lot of users who prefer a 9.7 inch slate.

So if you’re looking for some top tier performance, facilitated by accessories, then the smaller iPad Pro should be the device for you; given that you find larger screens clunky and don’t want to fork out that much cash for a tablet. But if you’re an everyday user looking for a good tablet experience, the iPad Air 2 should do you quite well too. Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned for the latest.

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