iPad Air and Pro have never been as close together as they are today – but what is the difference between the tablets from Apple and which user needs which? A little shopping guide to help you find the right tablet.
The current iPad Air came onto the market in October 2020 and gave the then iPad Pro a lot of steam under the display. With the exception of the processor, camera and refresh rate, the two tablets were on par. A circumstance that Apple also recognized and therefore presented a new version of its Pro model of the iPad just six months later, in April 2021. And it has it all, namely an Apple M1 chip, which also works in the manufacturer’s new MacBooks.
But do tablet users really need that much power or is the A14 bionic chip, which does its job in the iPad Air 2020, sufficient? After all, according to Apple’s recommended retail price, the iPad Air costs a whopping $500 less than the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro. Not an easy question to answer, because – despite the visual similarity – it is by no means the only difference.
iPad Air vs iPad Pro 11-inch vs iPad Pro 12.9-inch
In addition to the processor, the main differences between the iPads are the display, the mobile Internet, the built-in RAM, the speakers and, of course, the price. Because words cannot describe it better, a clear table helps to show the different characteristics.
The article then goes into specific application situations of the iPads and explains which users are affected by the different technical specifications. The price refers to Apple’s recommended retail price on November 5, 2021.
iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: The chip makes the music
230 euros separate the various iPad Air and Pro models from each other. The main difference is of course the processor. In the iPad Air 2020, the A14-Bionic is still a mobile chip that is also used in the twelfth generation of Apple iPhones. The chip is quite powerful, especially since Apple has given it a more powerful graphics unit in the iPad Air than in the iPhones. However, it cannot keep up with the M1 chips of the current iPad Pros. They are also found in iMac and MacBook.
The difference now depends on the benefit, because in theory the M1 processor can easily cope with performance-hungry programs such as Final Cut. The professional editing program from Apple has not yet made it onto the tablet. The reason for this was not only the processor performance but also the too small main memory. And here, too, the iPad Air differs from the iPad Pro. Apple installed a maximum of 6 gigabytes of RAM in the Air – too little for complex programs. Up to 16 gigabytes can be stored in the iPad Pro – for a hefty surcharge. Enough for performance-hungry programs and multitasking.
But does normal consumption need this more performance at all? no If you want to do simple office work, check emails, surf the web or edit PDF files, you don’t need an iPad Pro. The 6 gigabytes of RAM and the A14 Bionic will easily suffice for the next few years. However, if you intend to edit pictures and videos, then the iPad Pro is a better choice. And definitely in the 12.9-inch variant. Why?
iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: HDR only on the Pro
Apple only gives its 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro a Liquid Retina XDR display. The Air and 11-inch version, on the other hand, “only” get a Liquid Retina display. The XDR version is of particular interest to editors who edit HDR or Dolby Vision video material. Only the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro is able to display the wider color range, higher contrasts and higher brightness. But that’s not the only difference in the display: both iPad Pro models have a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hertz, while the iPad Air’s display only has 60 Hertz.
Since video files are not necessarily small and are more likely to be processed by professional users, Apple also gives its Pro iPads Thunderbolt ports. They offer a higher data throughput than the USB-C socket with USB protocol of the iPad Air. Again, the application decides what you need. If you only move text documents or PDF files, you won’t notice the difference. But as soon as you send several hundred gigabytes through the connection, you’ll be thankful for Thunderbolt.
The same applies, by the way, if you want to work on the go and are dependent on a fast mobile line. Both the iPad Air and the iPad Pro offer the option of connecting to the mobile data network via eSIM for a surcharge. With the iPad Air, however, you can only surf the LTE network, while Apple has given the Pro versions a 5G module.
iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Die Camera
On tablets, the selfie camera is mostly used for video calls. With a 12-megapixel resolution, your counterpart sees you a little sharper when you’re sitting in front of an iPad Pro, because the iPad Air’s selfie camera only has a 7-megapixel resolution. But that’s not the only difference: the Pro versions have FaceID. With this, the iPad Pro automatically recognizes your face and decrypts itself without you having to enter the passcode. If you use Apple’s password manager, iPad automatically inserts passwords in the Safari browser using face recognition. Unfortunately, an iPad Air cannot do that. But it offers TouchID – i.e. a scanning function of the finger on the on/off switch of the tablet.
The rear cameras are also different: there is a LiDAR sensor on the back of the Pro models, which can be important for modeling augmented reality content, among other things. If you don’t earn your money with it, you can safely do without it. Otherwise, the Pro models offer two lenses: a 12 MP wide-angle (f/1.8 aperture) and a 10 MP ultra-wide-angle camera (f/2.4 aperture), which offer 2x optical and 5x digital zoom. In contrast, the iPad Air only comes with a 12 MP wide-angle camera (f/1.8 aperture) and up to five times digital zoom.
iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: The accessories
When it comes to accessories, the iPads unite again: they all work together with the second-generation Apple Pencil and there is a Magic Keyboard with trackpad for everyone, or alternatively the Smart Keyboard Folio. However, if you want to watch or listen to films or music on the iPad, it should be said that the iPad Air only has two loudspeakers – the iPad Pro has four.
The iPad Air is the iPad for ambitious private users who want to draw on the tablet with the second-generation Apple Pencil. Office work will be done effortlessly for the next three to four years, if not longer. It’s just as good for a movie night as it is for surfing. Because of the hefty price difference, it remains the top choice for regular consumers compared to the Pro version. However, if you want to professionally edit videos or images on the iPad, you should use the iPad Pro. Only then will you benefit from its performance and the better display.
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