Differences Between the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro

On the surface, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro appear to be the same basic tablet rendered in two different sizes. They can both compete with laptops in terms of processing power, and they both support Apple's new accessories: the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. But once you scratch below the surface, the differences between the two iPads become apparent. And there are some big differences to consider.  

Screen Size and Resolution

The most obvious difference is size.  How much bigger is the 12.9-inch?  The 9.7-inch iPad's screen is 7.75 inches wide when held in landscape mode, which matches the 12.9-inch version's width when in portrait mode.  And the bigger iPad Pro is one inch shy of being twice as tall, which equates to about 80% additional screen.  The bigger screen has a resolution of 2732x2048, which gives it the same 264 pixels-per-inch (PPI) as the 2048x1536 screen on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.  

If you use the new picture-in-a-picture multitasking feature and zoom the video out to the largest size, the resulting picture is about 4 inches measured diagonally on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.  On the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, the picture is around 5.5 inches.  This is the difference between an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 6S.  


Here's where the 9.7-inch iPad Pro really shines—or doesn't. Apple claims the new iPad Pro has the lowest reflectivity of any tablet, which should help its readability in sunlight. The new iPad also has a True Tone and Wide Color display. True Tone alters the warmth of the colors based on the ambient light. This emulates 'real' objects, which reflect ambient light and take on some of its tone. The Wide Color display emits a wider range of the color spectrum. In technical terms, it is capable of DCI-P3 Color Gamut, which is the same level as cinematic cameras. 

The display also contains the same sensors as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which means it is compatible with Apple's new Pencil accessory. So not only do you get an improved display with a wider range of colors, you get to draw on it. 


This might be the biggest overall difference between the two Pro models. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the same 8 MP camera that we saw in the iPad Air 2. 

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro gets a camera similar to what is seen in the iPhone. It is a 12 MP camera with continuous autofocus and capable of shooting 4K HD video. The front-side camera is also improved, going from the 1.2 MP camera found in the 12.9-inch Pro to a 5 MP camera with a Retina Flash, which uses the screen to emulate a flash. 

Not only will this take great selfies, but it also means the video streamed through FaceTime will be clearer, which is important if the person on the other side is watching on a 12.9-inch iPad.

Live Photos

In related news, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro supports "Live Photos".  These are photos that capture a small 1-2 second video along with the still photo.  When you move to a Live Photo in your camera roll, you'll see a small snippet of action just before you snapped the photo.  This produces a neat effect, and if you tap on the photo in your camera roll, you can see the full video.


The new iPad Pro has the same speaker setup as the bigger Pro, with one speaker at each corner of the iPad.  This allows the Pro to adjust the sound based on how you are holding the iPad. It also means you won't ever muffle the sound because you rested the speakers on your lap.  

However, because the speakers are bigger, the 12.9-inch Pro gets a significant jump in volume.  And while the 9.7-inch Pro's speakers are a vast improvement over the iPad Air line of tablets, they don't produce quite as full of a sound as the bigger Pro's speakers.  Again, this is mainly due to size. 


Another interesting difference between the two tablets is the ability to use Hey Siri at any time on the new Pro. The 12.9-inch Pro supports Siri, but only when it is plugged into a power source such as a computer or power outlet. What is Hey Siri? It's the ability to activate Siri purely by voice instead of pushing the Home Button. With the 9.7-inch iPad, it will wake up the iPad from suspend mode even when it is not plugged into anything.


In the processing speed department, the bigger Pro takes the lead. The 12.9-inch Pro is around 10% faster than the smaller Pro. By way of comparison, the bigger Pro is 2.5 times faster than the iPad Mini 2, while the smaller Pro is only 2.4 times faster. 

The biggest speed difference comes in the graphics, where the bigger Pro is 5 times faster than the Mini 2 and the 9.7-inch Pro is only 4.3 times faster, but most of that extra speed is eaten up powering the higher resolution display.


The difference in processing power is slight enough that most people wouldn't notice without running a benchmarking app like Geekbench on the iPad. What may be a bigger difference is the amount of memory for apps. 

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has 4 GB of RAM compared to the 2 GB in the smaller Pro. Theoretically, apps on the bigger Pro will be allowed to use more memory, which means they can deliver more complex features to the tablet. 

In practice, most app developers are going to limit the use of memory to make sure the app runs on most iPads. However, the extra memory will also be helpful when multitasking or when switching back to an app used earlier in the day.

Embedded SIM

The new iPad Pro also has an embedded SIM card. This is basically an Apple SIM that is part of the device itself. What does it mean? 

Mainly, that you don't need to pick out a specific carrier when buying an LTE version from Apple.com or some other non-carrier store. Buying an iPad Pro from a carrier could mean that you get a "locked" version. However, the 9.7-inch Pro also has a removable SIM card slot that can override the embedded SIM, so you shouldn't get locked into a specific carrier.  


Let's not forget the price. The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro retails at $599 for the 32 GB version, which is $200 cheaper than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This $200 price difference moves up the line as you choose more storage or the LTE data connectivity model. 

As this list demonstrates, you aren't simply getting a smaller and cheaper iPad if you go with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. The newest Pro is covered in improved features like the True Tone display and the 12 MP back-facing camera. However, that $200 does buy a huge amount of screen space, with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro almost doubling the real estate offered by the 9.7-inch version.

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