New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?
There's a new iPad in town, and it's an iPad Air! Apple has somewhat silently resurrected a beloved line of its tablets with very little fanfare — just a press release and a new page in the Apple Store.

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


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

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


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

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.

Powerful hardware


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.

Anti-glare coating


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

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


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

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.

But worry not, all iPads from the current lineup will support the Apple Pencil (the first generation, keep that in mind!).

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:

No ProMotion


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


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

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.

iPad Pro 11 is still thinner and lighter


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

If you want that super thin, super light-feeling device, the Pro 11 still beats the iPad Air by a bit. But also, the Pro 11 doesn't feature a headphone jack and has some bending issues... So, is it a pro or a con? Oh, yes, the new iPad Air still has that archaic 3.5 mm jack.

No USB Type-C


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

The universal USB Type-C is still exclusive to the iPad Pro line. If you go for the new Air, you will have a Lightning connector for your charging or accessory needs. That's not necesarrily bad — there are tons of iPad accessories made with Lightning in mind, not so many for the USB Type-C.

No Apple Pencil 2 support


The Apple Pencil 2 has cool magnets inside and can attach itself to your iPad Pro, charge wirelessly, and it has a cool touch area on the side that allows you to activate features by tapping on the Pencil. Unfortunately, the lower-tier iPads, the new iPad Air included, only support the old generation Apple Pencil, which has no touch area and charges by plugging into your tablet's Lightning port.

Camera


New iPad Air vs iPad 9.7 vs iPad Pro: what's the difference?

Obviously, Apple kept the best, meanest camera for its best, meanest tablet line. The iPad Pro has these cool new 12 MP cameras that, combined with the power for the A12X, take some great photos. The iPad Air has a modest 8 MP camera, which may not be as awesome. But you know what? The iPad Air also has no ring and no bump around its camera module! So, that might just as well be a plus, depending on your personal priorities.

Related phones

iPad Air (2019)
  • Display 10.5" 1668 x 2224 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A12 Bionic, Octa-core, 2490 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 8134 mAh

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8 Comments

1. ph00ny

Posts: 1986; Member since: May 26, 2011

How well does A12 perform compared to A11x and A12x? I'm thinking of picking one up just for gaming

2. whatev

Posts: 2115; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

The A11X doesn’t exist

6. ph00ny

Posts: 1986; Member since: May 26, 2011

Sorry meant to say A10X found in first gen ipad pro

7. whatev

Posts: 2115; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

I think the A10X has a better gpu, and it’s still really fast, I think the 10.5 pro is a better option for the screen and camera, the only drawback is that it will be supported for less years than this new 10.5 iPad

3. paul.k

Posts: 283; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

The A12 is fine, don't worry about it. The thing to consider is whether a new iPad Air is the better buy over an old iPad Pro 10.5 (which has quad speakers)

4. OneLove123

Posts: 792; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Sorry, I cant watch YouTube and Netflix with black bars all around it. That's why I love my new tab s4.

5. vgking9699

Posts: 89; Member since: Mar 01, 2019

Yet you are ok with games and other apps being stretched out cuz they aren’t designed for the tab s4 aspect ratio

8. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2252; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

The S4 uses a 16:10 aspect ratio which still means it shows black bars. Case in point: https://www.androidguys.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-S4-video-1024x576.jpg

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