What Is the Difference Between the iPad Pro and the Air?

Choosing a high-end iPad? Know what you are getting

So you're interested in buying a high-end iPad, maybe one of the iPad Pros or an iPad Air. Are you confused about the differences between the 10.9-inch iPad Air and the 11-inch iPad Pro?

Learn more about what differentiates both iPad categories and how iPad Air and iPad Pro models compare.

Customer asking salesperson about iPad Pro and iPad Air

Lifewire / Emily Mendoza

This article applies to the second-generation 11-inch and fourth-generation 12.5-inch iPad Pros released in 2020 and the fourth-generation iPad Air released in 2020.

Model Overview

Apple upgrades its tablets frequently, but it threw customers a curveball when it followed up its initial 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2015 with a 9.7-inch Pro model in 2016. Before the smaller iPad Pro, the iPad lineup was divided into categories based on the physical size of the iPad:

  • The 7.9-inch iPad became the iPad Mini.
  • The 9.7-inch iPad became the iPad Air.
  • The 12.9-inch model received the Pro nomenclature.

Jump ahead to 2020, where Apple sells five models of iPads:

  • iPad Pro, 4th generation, 12.9 inch
  • iPad Pro, 2nd generation, 11 inch
  • iPad Air, 4th generation, 10.9 inch
  • iPad, 8th generation, 10.2 inch
  • iPad Mini, 5th generation, 7.9 inch

Although the sizes decrease as you go down the line, the main differences between iPad Pro and Air models are more about power and price than size.

Overall Findings

iPad Pro
  • Comes in 12.5 and 11-inch models.

  • Offers up to 1 TB of storage.

  • Runs on an A12Z Bionic chip.

  • Features four speakers.

  • Includes a wide-angle camera.

  • Five microphones.

iPad Air
  • Comes in a single 10.9-inch model.

  • Limited to 64 GB RAM.

  • Runs on an A14 Bionic chip.

  • Two-speaker system.

  • No wide-angle camera.

  • Less expensive than an iPad Pro.

The main differences between the two iPad Pro models are size and price. The iPad Pro comes in two sizes, an 11-inch version and the more expensive fourth-generation 12.9-inch model. Otherwise, both versions of the latest-generation iPad Pro share the same specs and the same improvements over the iPad Air (more storage, faster processor, and better speakers and cameras).

The iPad Air comes in a single size, a 10.9-inch model, and comes with impressive specs, but it falls behind slightly in almost every category when compared to the iPad Pro.

Speed: The iPad Pro Is Blazing Fast

iPad Pro
  • Runs on an A12Z Bionic chip.

  • Comes with an embedded M12 coprocessor.

  • Very speedy performance.

iPad Air
  • Runs on an A14 Bionic chip.

  • Chip also features an M12 coprocessor.

  • Slightly slower than an iPad Pro.

The latest generation iPad Pro is fast: PC fast. The iPad Pro models support multitasking in split-screen mode, which is an ideal way to use the extra screen space on the 12.9-inch version. Both the former and the 11-inch model run on an A12Z Bionic chip and have an embedded M12 coprocessor.

The fourth-generation iPad Air is no slouch in the speed category. Its A14 Bionic chip is second in speed only to the iPad Pro, and the Air comes equipped with the same embedded M12 coprocessor.

Productivity: Equal Support for Apple Peripherals

iPad Pro
  • Supports the Smart Keyboard Folio.

  • Compatible with Apple Pencil (2nd generation).

  • Works with the Magic Keyboard.

iPad Air
  • Compatible with the same Apple peripherals.

Both the iPad Pro and iPad Air share support for the latest Apple peripherals, including:

  • Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Smart Keyboard Folio

This compatibility makes either model suitable for business as much as play.

The first-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro debuted with the Smart Keyboard and the original Apple Pencil. Other iPad models didn't initially support the original Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. That soon changed by the seventh-generation iPad and third-generation iPad Air.

Audio Quality: Four Speakers vs. Dual Speakers

iPad Pro
  • Four-speaker system.

  • Fuller sound and less muffling.

  • Good for watching media.

iPad Air
  • Comes with dual speakers.

  • Less dynamic audio quality than an iPad Pro.

If you're interested in enjoying movies with your tablet, the iPad Pro has an advantage over the iPad Air. iPad Pro models contain four speakers versus a two-speaker audio system on the iPad Air. The iPad Pro adjusts the sound based on how you hold it to avoid accident muffling, and the sound is much fuller than the audio quality from the iPad Air.

Camera and Video: iPad Pros Offer Ultra-Wide Shooting

iPad Pro
  • 12 MP and ultra-wide 10 MP rear-facing cameras.

  • Supports ultra-wide 4K photography and videos.

  • Comes with five microphones.

iPad Air
  • No ultra-wide rear-facing camera.

  • Lacks ultra-wide shooting support.

  • Dual-mic system.

  • No advanced camera settings like Portrait mode.

The latest iPad Pros have a rear-facing wide 12-megapixel and an ultra-wide 10-megapixel camera with 2x optical zoom and up to 5x digital zoom. The iPad Air rear-facing camera is also a 10-megapixel camera, but it lacks an ultra-wide lens.

Both iPad Pro models and the iPad Air come with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera, but iPad Pro models deliver higher photo quality with features such as Portrait mode and lighting.

Both iPad Pro models and the iPad Air record 4K video, but the latter lacks ultra-wide shooting ability. As for audio, the iPad Pro has five studio-quality microphones, while the iPad Air has two microphones.

Storage Space: More Room to Grow With iPad Pros

iPad Pro
  • Models start with 128 GB RAM.

  • Storage is expandable to 1 TB.

  • Other increments include 256 GB and 512 GB.

iPad Air
  • Starts with 64 GB RAM.

  • Storage capacity is 256 GB RAM.

The iPad Pro offers more storage than the iPad Air, starting at 128 GB RAM and offering up to 1 TB of storage. The iPad Air starts with 64 GB RAM and expands with up to 256 GB RAM.

Price: iPad Pro Requires a Bigger Investment

iPad Pro
  • The 11-inch model starts at $799.

  • The 12.9-inch model starts at $999.

  • More storage and features for the price.

iPad Air
  • Starts at $599.

  • Fewer features overall than the iPad Pro models.

Both iPad Pro models surpass the capabilities of the iPad Air in many areas. Still, the iPad Air holds its own and is an impressive tablet.

The decision about which iPad to buy may come down to price more than any other factor.

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, priced from $999
  • 11-inch iPad Pro, priced from $799
  • 10.9-inch iPad Air, priced from $599

Final Verdict: The iPad Pro Offers Slightly More

The iPad Pro is an outstanding tablet, but do you need that much horsepower? The extra processing speed is handy for multitasking but won't make streaming a movie on Netflix any smoother. However, the additional speakers will make that movie sound better.

If you want to buy a solid iPad without spending too much money, the iPad Air is an excellent choice. Apple will support it for years to come. While it doesn't have some of the Pro's bells and whistles, you won't be disappointed.

However, if the idea of spending an additional $300 or $400 or more doesn't scare you off, the iPad Pro lineup is the way to go. While the 11-inch iPad Pro is an impressive and powerful tablet, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the ultimate iPad. Once you get used to the bigger screen, anything else seems diminutive by comparison.

Don't overlook the rest of the iPad lineup. The less expensive 7th-generation iPad and smaller 5th-generation iPad Mini provide plenty of bang for the buck, and one of these models may suit your needs.

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