In late 2015 Apple launched a tablet that they called the iPad Pro. It had been rumored for quite some time, and it had a number of features that differentiated it from other iPads. The most notable was its 12.9" display, which has a width equal to the height of Apple's 9.7" iPads, allowing it to use two essentially full sized iPad applications at the same time in a split screen view. In addition to its massive display, the iPad Pro came with two accessories that had not existed for any prior iPad. It seemed that in Apple's eyes the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard really defined what made the iPad Pro worthy of the "Pro" name.

Meanwhile, the launch of the iPad Pro came and went, and there was no news of a successor to Apple's iPad Air 2, which had just turned one year old. I thought that this move may have had to do with Apple not facing much competition in the tablet market. On the other hand, with iPad sales down it wouldn't generate much excitement to keep selling the same tablet for a second year.

After the launch of the iPad Pro the rumor mill continued to churn out new info, and there were whispers of a so called "iPad Air 3" coming in early 2016. Later, the story became that Apple was actually planning another iPad Pro to take the place of the iPad Air 2 as Apple's flagship 9.7" iPad. In the end it turned out that Apple did exactly that, and along with bringing the specs of the larger iPad Pro to a smaller size, the smaller iPad Pro comes with some surprises of its own. Below you can view the current state of the iPad line now that Apple has two devices called the iPad Pro.

Apple iPad Family


Apple iPad Air 2 Apple iPad Pro 9.7" Apple iPad Pro 12.9"
SoC Apple A8X
3 x Apple Typhoon @ 1.5GHz
Apple A9X
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
Apple A9X
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
GPU PowerVR 8 Cluster Series6XT PowerVR 12 Cluster Series7XT
NAND 16/64/128 GB WiFi: 32 / 128 / 256 GB
WiFi + Cellular:
32 / 128 / 256 GB
WiFi + Cellular:
128 / 256 GB
Display 9.7" 2048x1536 IPS LCD 12.9" 2732x2048 IPS LCD
Gamut sRGB DCI-P3 sRGB
Size and Mass 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm
437g WiFi, 444g LTE
305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm
713g WiFi, 723g LTE
Camera 8MP Rear-facing
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
12MP Rear-facing
f/2.2, 1.22 micron
8MP Rear-facing
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2 5MP Front-facing f/2.2 1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2
Battery 27.3 Wh 27.5 Wh 38.5 Wh
Launch OS iOS 8 iOS 9
Cellular Category 4 LTE + GPS/GNSS in Cellular SKU
Other Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, Apple Lightning, Smart Connector on iPad Pro
SIM Optional NanoSIM
Current Price

16GB: $399

32 GB: $599
128 GB: $749
256 GB: $899
32 GB: $799
128 GB: $949
256 GB: $1079 (LTE)

The 9.7” iPad Pro has the same core industrial design that Apple’s iPads have used since the launch of the iPad Air. The back is almost entirely flat, curving up quickly near the edges and meeting the cover glass with a shiny chamfered edge. Like the 12.9” model, the 9.7” iPad Pro changes things up by moving to a four-speaker audio setup, which requires holes drilled on both the top and bottom of the chassis. Interestingly, the 9.7” iPad Pro uses asymmetrical speaker grilles, with the bottom two being larger than those of the 12.9” model, and the top being smaller. This is likely due to the more constrained space inside the chassis. As for the speakers themselves, the audio quality did seem to be a step down from the larger iPad Pro, but it’s still miles ahead of anything else that I’ve seen on a tablet of this size and a significant improvement from the iPad Air 2.

The 9.7” iPad also comes with some changes of its own. The camera now has a hump, which will undoubtedly upset those who focus heavily on the uniformity of the design. There was no good way to improve upon the iPad Air 2’s camera within a 6.1mm chassis without putting a hump, and as we’ll see later, the camera in this iPad Pro is a huge improvement over Apple’s other iPads. While the hump is there, with such a large chassis the angle it makes with a flat surface is so small that the tablet doesn’t rock back and forth when using it on a table, which is extremely important to ensure the usability of the Apple Pencil.

Apple has also changed up the antenna design. Going back to the first iPads, the cellular models have sported a plastic RF window at the top of the chassis to allow for RF propagation. With the 9.7” iPad Pro, Apple adopts a similar antenna design to that of the iPhone 6 and 6s, where the top now has a metal segment for the antenna with insulating plastic lines surrounding it.

I think this is a significant upgrade to the design of the cellular model for a couple of reasons. Aesthetically it simply looks better, as the plastic inserts weren’t color matched and so they stood out from the rest of the aluminum back cover. They also weren’t always aligned perfectly, and so at the edge between the plastic and the aluminum you could feel a noticeable seam due to the plastic being either at a higher or lower level than the chassis. The new antenna design eliminates both of these issues, and brings the 9.7” iPad Pro as close as it can get to an unbroken aluminum unibody when also having to support cellular networking.

Beyond the changes with the camera, speakers, and antenna on the cellular model, the 9.7” iPad Pro has the same design as the iPad Air 2. They share the same mass and dimensions, and as I mentioned before the core ID is the same. Whether or not Apple could improve upon the design further is up for debate, but they don’t really have any true competition in this space and so they’ve been able to maintain their design lead by making iterative improvements on the original iPad Air design. That design still works very well, and so I don’t see much reason to change things up significantly just for the sake of saying you have a new design.

System Performance


View All Comments

  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    Whew, finally! Looks like is was worth the wait though. :P Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    I sold my iPad mini 4, just to get one of these, as I'd previously owned the Air 2 and I simply couldn't justify the extra cost. Sure, of course, it is a nice device, but all I did was launch SimCity Builit (Which didn't seem to load faster) and mess around. For all serious tasks I have the Surface Pro 3.

    It's a lot... for not a lot really. Plus, seeing as the Surface line was initially blasted for not including a stylus/keyboard, it's annoying that Apple sell them for MORE (I think) than the MS versions.

    The charts do not include the Surface pro 4 for screen quality. Selective information?

    All in all, although nice, it simply wasn't worth the cash (to me).
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    The Surface Pro 4 technically doesn't use the same display tests in all cases, such as GMB, as we use a reduced pattern set for mobile. I can add the results that are comparable to the charts. I think as far as size and price go the Surface 3 is the more relevant comparison though, and that was there. Reply
  • dsumanik - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    Gimme a break chester, this is apple's latest and greatest tablet and should be compared head to head with microsoft's latest, on all fronts. That's what apple was shooting for with this product.

    In fact,

    In apples very own keynote they raved about the amount of PC user's that were ditching desktops for an iPad, which is ridiculous because anyone owning a 7 year old PC is not going to be looking to spend 360 bucks just for a keyboard and stylus... LOL!
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    I'm not sure exactly what your complaint is here. The Surface 3 is a much closer touch point in almost every aspect except for performance. But regardless, we have our online Bench where you can always compare any device and I've even done it for you:

    The larger iPad Pro was compared to the Surface Pro 4, as it should be. We keep an online database though so if you want to do any extra comparisons its very simple. Bench is a link at the top of the page.
  • nikon133 - Thursday, June 02, 2016 - link

    It is being marketed as a "Pro" line product... thus it should be compared to other Pro tablets.

    I haven't read article yet... but I'm presuming tablet runs on platform comparable to larger iPad Pro. I don't think that screen size alone should be the differentiating factor. HP Elitebooks come with screens from 12 to 15.6", for example... can't recall anyone saying that 12" Elitebook is not a business-class laptop just because it is smaller?
  • dsumanik - Sunday, June 05, 2016 - link

    The complaint is that there is inherent apple bias in the that article has extended to the benchmarks.

    The surface pro 4 may very well be inferior. But this "review" is deceptive. Why not just follow Apple marketing guidelines and compare the ipad pro to "5 year old pc's everyone is leaving for iPad".

    Why not just put a single benchmark of a 486 laptop and call it the best?
  • Vigilant007 - Sunday, August 07, 2016 - link

    I can understand not being happy with facets of the review. Chalking up your concerns to "you're a horrible person" isn't the most constructive line of dialogue.

    It looks like your response was nicely responded to. I'd encourage more discussion instead of tin foil hat guttural response. I think we get it from your responses that your using global stereotypes to paint a picture that everything is inferior to what you have.

    All of that said, I haven't been a fan of the Microsoft Surface line till this generation. There's a certain rhythm of finally "getting it" in terms of fit and finish that I don't think Microsoft has had in hardware till this year. The Surface Pro and SurfaceBook are both impressive devices. If what I wanted as an individual could be served by the Windows ecosystem (phone through tablet) I would be giving it a much more serious look.

    Apples attitude towards user experience and hardware has been, and still is to a certain degree incredibly different then Microsoft and most other OEMs. You can call it "bad" as much as you want, and that's your right to do so. I have a few iPads in my house, and got one for my little brother to use in college. They are arguably the best overall tablet on the market from hardware onto ecosystem.

    Thanks for peeing in the punch bowl because someone doesn't agree with you hence becoming a "horrible person".
  • KPOM - Wednesday, June 01, 2016 - link

    It's $260 for the keyboard and pencil. Reply
  • dsumanik - Sunday, June 05, 2016 - link

    not in canada, they gouge us. $360. Reply

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