New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?
Wait, so what's this new iPad Air about and how does it compare to the iPad Pro or regular iPad?
Here's a quick and easy rundown:
It fills a midway price niche
Thus far, you've had a very limited choice with iPads. Either you go for the $330 entry-level iPad, or you shell out the hefty $800 to get into iPad Pro territory. Users that wanted something better than the basic iPad but didn't want to go overkill with an iPad Pro weren't given much choice besides for going for old stock models or second hand units.
The returned iPad Air starts at $500 for 64 GB of storage and fills that gap. It's slightly more expensive than the base tablet and offers hardware improvements where they matter, without going into the Pro's super-expensive territory.
iPad Air vs regular iPad improvements and features
Refreshed design, thin and light chassis
The new iPad Air looks a lot like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro of 2017, meaning it has thinner side bezels and kind of a more modern look, while the regular iPad's design is kind of dated.
The "Air" in iPad Air has always stood for a thin and light device — the new Air is 6.1 mm thick, just like the iPad Air 2 from back in 2014, making it noticeably thinner than the 7.4 mm iPad 9.7. The new Air also weighs 464 g, making it lighter than the 478 g iPad 9.7, but unfortunately not as light as the iPad Air 2 with its 437 g.
The entry-level iPad 9.7 has an Apple A10 processor inside of it — the same SoC that powered the now aging iPhone 7. The new iPad Air has a brand-new Apple A12 humming inside — the chip that you can find in the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.
Side note — the iPad Air is still not to be considered as powerful as an iPad Pro. The latter has the slightly upgraded Apple A12X processor, which is still superior, at least in theory and raw benchmarks. Whether or not the software you can find on the App Store uses this power to its potential is a different question.
The last time we saw Apple's anti-glare coating applied to a more modestly-priced iPad was in 2014, with the iPad Air 2. Since then, the magical finish has been exclusive to the rather pricey Pro line.
Well, no more. Anti-glare is back and you can have it on the $500 iPad Air. No, the iPad 9.7 still can't have it!
Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil
Apple's Smart Keyboard folio that works with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro will also be compatible with the new iPad Air, which is pretty neat... if you happen to have one laying around.
The regular iPad still can't "talk" to Apple's keyboard. This one is limited to only working with Bluetooth keyboards.
iPad Air vs iPad Pro: what features are missing?
So, you might still be wondering "OK, but is there anything I will be missing out on if I go for an iPad Air, instead of the iPad Pro line?". Well, yes... here we go:
We've loved the Apple ProMotion technology since we saw it on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro — it allows iPad Pro displays to refresh their content with frequencies of up to 120 Hz, making for a super fluid, super responsive and satisfying experience. The iPad Air doesn't have that — it'll stick to the good old 60 Hz, which is still good unless your eyes have been spoiled by owning an iPad Pro over the last couple of years.
No quad speakers
The iPad Air specs page claims that it has stereo speakers — this is not exactly true. See, you do have two speakers, and they probably play a left channel and a right channel independently. However, both of these speakers are located on one side of the tablet, just under the home button. So, as far as your ears are concerned, both left and right channel will be coming from one direction, therefore no "real" stereo sound will be perceived.
The iPad Pro line has a quad speaker setup, which allows for more spacial expansion and slightly louder volumes.
No Face ID
The new iPad Air still sticks to good ol' Touch ID home button philosophy. We wouldn't say that's bad or anything, but if you happen to want Face ID on your new tablet, the Pro line is still your only choice.