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
RAM 2GB LPDDR3 2GB LPDDR4 4GB LPDDR4
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
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  • Hal422 - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    I tried the 12" iPad Pro with the Logitech Keyboard. Other than adding some weight to it they complement each other like family.

    I really like the paring, the functionality was remarkably like a laptop.

    Having had the new Macbook for a while, I almost could not tell the difference except for the OS differences.

    That aside, I am enjoying the 9.7' very much. It makes the iPad Air seem kind of kulnky in it's performance.

    The screen size is identical to the iPad Air, as the Matt screen protector fit fine when switching them.

    I really wish Logitech would reproduce the Logi Create for the little guy.

    The sound on the 9.7" is at least 3 times as loud as the iPad Air, and very welcome.
    The sound was deeper and better defined on the 12" Pro for the obvious size reasons.

    I use the little iPad Pro daily and am trying to figure out who would best like to have my old iPad Air.

    I am trying to like the Apple Pencil but there are some "Loss of Connection" issues and the Battery life lasts only around 2 days. There is no way to tell how low the battery on the Apple Pencil is getting until it quits on you. Come on Apple, you can show it with your Magic TrackPad. It would be nice to have an on and off switch on the Pencil as well.

    I find myself using an old fashioned capacitive rubber stylus as it is always ready to use.

    I have enough Win 10 devices to compare it to but Windows 10 is too buggy and nosey to use.

    For my money I'm sticking with Apple for work and play.
    Reply
  • alexb1 - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    I got the 12.9" iPad Pro at work, and I absolutely HATE IT! It has ZERO use case for anyone who doesn't wanna draw on the iPad, and the size alone makes it completely poitnless. IF I wanted to carry a larger device with keyboard, WHY would I pick this iPad pro vs. a MacBook? or a Surface? There's zero added business value. iPad's selling point was its portability, ease of use, getting to your data quickly and not needing a keyboard... ALL of that is negated in the 12.9" ridiculous size.

    Now, I might get this iPad Pro, IF it was cheaper, as the price is absolutely outragous! Specially when someone add the Pencil and keyboard cost to it. It should have replaced Air 2, and should have been $100 cheaper and then it'd be the iPad of choice. It still doesn't offer any compelling reason for me to get rid of my iPad Air.
    Reply
  • ragingfighter - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I agree there are definitely a lack of reasons for even me to consider an upgrade. If you have a generation one or two of the iPad Air you really don't need this device and less if you're opting for the better camera the under the hood performance increases and/or the true town display technology If you can live without this features this is definitely not for you. The assessories are or something that I do not consider too much. I consider it it's still a tablet and anything else is additional bogging down the base price Reply
  • ragingfighter - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I have sampled this tablet and I think it is really good I put it through its paces and it does keep up in general quite well. That being said though I still think you are an owner of the iPad Air generation one or beyond this is not necessarily an absolute need to upgrade. Unless if your iPad is your primary portable device which in some cases there are people that have them in this manner and have no laptop then you'll want the absolute best power and either you or go for this model or the higher 12.9 inch model. In this generation it's a conflict thing thing as this is why their first generations that introduce and actually larger iPad than the 9.7 in this generation it's a conflict thing thing as this is why their first generations that introduce and actually larger iPad than the 9.7 tier. If you are an iPad owner that has an iPad generation four or below and this may something to consider or even a second-generation iPad Air 2 myself I still think if you can get the iPad Air generation one for a good price it's more than I wore the tablet and you can save money beyond all the other models if you can pick it up for good price. You take a look at the upgrade path and it's Swithin mid tier of what apple has in their upgrade line iOS 10. Still have some time in it and it's still a very where the tablet. I don't think you could go wrong either way with that one or beyond Reply
  • eivoei - Monday, July 18, 2016 - link

    【UK ONLY】Selectec iPad Pro 9.7 Leather Case 100% FREE GIVEAWAY, in exchange for your honest review with photos or video. Anyone interested?
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    Reply
  • Byte - Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - link

    Contrast and black levels seem a lot lower than 12.9 iPad Pro, the colors make up that much difference? Also how does it compare to the Samsung sAMOLED on the Tab S2? My friend recently got one and its just gorgeous compared to my Air2. AAFES has the 128GB for sale for $439, kinda makes it hard not to snap up at that price. Reply
  • thefrustumblog - Sunday, December 11, 2016 - link

    In my opinion, "The biggest plus of the iPad Pro is the Apple Pencil and its biggest downside is iOS". Check out my review of the newest iPad Pro at http://thefrustum.com/blog/2016/12/10/ipad-pro-201... Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - link

    No Reply

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