Apple unveiled several new devices at an event in March 2016, one of which was the update to the iPad Air 2, only it doesn't sit in the Air range. Instead, the latest 9.7-incher comes in the form of a smaller iPad Pro.
We have put the specs of the iPad Pro 9.7-inch against the iPad Air 2 to see what the differences are and what changes have been made for Apple to introduce a smaller Pro, rather than the next-generation Air.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Design
- Both devices have the same size and weight
- iPad Pro 9.7 comes in additional rose gold colour
- iPad Pro 9.7 adds four-speaker setup and Smart Connector
The Apple iPad Air 2 measures 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm and weighs 437g. It comes in three colours and it features Touch ID within the Home button. It's thinner than the original Air, lighter, and it offers a solid design that is lovely.
The Apple iPad Pro 9.7 has the same design as the larger iPad Pro including a four-speaker setup, a Smart Connector and compatibility with the Apple Pencil. This is why the new 9.7-inch iPad falls within the Pro family rather than the Air.
On first glance, the iPad Air 2 and the new iPad Pro look very similar, but there are plenty of differences when you look a little closer. There is little wrong with the iPad Air 2 in terms of design, but the small tweaks in the Pro 9.7 are welcome.
The new 9.7-inch device measures 240 x 169.6 x 6.1mm and weighs 437g, which makes identical in size and weight to the iPad Air 2. Touch ID is once again featured within the Home button, offering support for Apple Pay but the new model comes in four colours rather than three, adding rose gold to the line up. Overall, the iPad Pro 9.7 is a thin, light, well-proportioned and well-balanced tablet.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Display
- Both have 9.7-inch displays
- Apple Pencil compatibility in the iPad Pro 9.7
- Brighter, less reflective display on iPad Pro, plus True Tone technology
The Apple iPad Air 2 sits in the middle of the iPad line up when it comes to size. It has a 9.7-inch display in comparison to the 7.9-inch screen of the iPad mini and the 12.9-inch size of the larger iPad Pro.
The iPad Air 2 has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, which means it offers a pixel density of 264ppi. That's the same as the original Air but the Air 2 comes with an anti-reflective screen, as well as a bump in contrast and colour. The latter aren't hugely noticeable but the anti-reflective technology makes a big difference and overall the Air 2's display is great.
The iPad Pro 9.7-inch has both the same size and resolution of the iPad Air 2 but it offers several improvements over the Air 2. The iPad Pro 9.7 comes with a brighter and less reflective surface, a wider colour gamut and a new technology called True Tone. Some of these technologies are less noticeable than others like they are with the iPad Air 2 and original iPad Air but the True Tone technology is great, adapting the colour and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment.
The new device also offers Apple Pencil compatibility like the larger iPad Pro while the iPad Air 2 doesn't so if you want to draw on a smaller iPad, you'll be wanting the iPad Pro 9.7-inch rather than the Air 2.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Camera
- iPad Pro 9.7 has higher resolution front and rear cameras
- Flash available for front and rear on iPad Pro
- iPad Pro 9.7 is capable of recording 4K video
The Apple iPad Air 2 features a 1.2-megapixel front camera, coupled with an 8-megapixel rear camera. As tablets aren't as commonly used for taking shots as smartphones, this is more than adequate. It's the same cameras as found on the iPhone 5S which means that while the iPad Air 2's cameras are good, they aren't as good as the iPhone 6S and therefore the iPad Pro 9.7.
The iPad Pro 9.7 offers the same cameras as the iPhone 6S. There is a 12-megapixel rear sensor capable of 4K video recording and a 5-megapixels front-facing snapper. A True Tone flash is also present on the rear, the first iPad to do so, and a Retina flash has also been added to the front, again like the iPhone 6S.
Regardless of what you think about using an iPad as a camera, the iPad Pro 9.7 is a great performer and while the iPad Air 2 also performs well, the new model is the better option if you want to become a tablet photographer.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Hardware
- More storage options with iPad Pro
- Faster processor with iPad Pro
- Better sound quality with iPad Pro
The Apple iPad Air 2 comes with the A8X chip and the M8 motion co-processor. This is supported by 2GB of RAM and there are internal storage options of 32GB and 128GB with no microSD support, as is the way with all Apple devices.
The iPad Pro 9.7-inch includes a faster and newer processor, in the A9X which is the same as in the larger iPad Pro. This means a nice improvement in performance for the smaller iPad Pro in comparison to the iPad Air 2 and the extra speed is noticeable with demanding apps. The new 9.7-incher is as quick and fast as tablets come.
In terms of storage, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch comes in 32GB, 128GB and 256GB options, for both Wi-Fi and Cellular. Again, there is no microSD support. The iPad Pro 9.7 also offers enhanced audio capabilities over the iPad Air 2 thanks to its four-speaker setup. It offers a much more rounded sound compared to the slightly tinny audio produced by the Air 2 and it's great for everything from watching movies to FaceTiming.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Software
- Both run iOS 10
Both the Apple iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro 9.7 run on iOS 10, meaning the software experience will be almost identical across these two models.
The new model does offer some additional features thanks to the Apple Pencil compatibility and camera improvements, but on the whole, you'll get the same experience.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Price
- iPad Air 2 is £170 cheaper
The Apple iPad Air 2 starts at £379 and goes up to £499, depending on which storage capacity you choose and whether you opt for Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and Cellular.
The iPad Pro 9.7 on the other hand, has a starting price of £549, stretching to £849 for the highest storage capacity and Wi-Fi and Cellular.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2: Conclusion
The iPad Air 2 is a great tablet, but based on the specs and our experience, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is better. It brings a number of improvements over the Air 2 including sound, Apple Pencil compatibility, camera and processing power.
The iPad Pro 9.7-inch is the same size as the iPad Air 2 but it brings all the characteristics found on the iPad Pro, with even a few improvements there too.
The iPad Pro 9.7 is Apple's highest specced tablet yet, but it does come at a price compared to the iPad Air 2 so which one you choose will depend on what you want from your Apple tablet and how much cash you have to splash.