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 3rd-generation 11-inch and fifth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pros released in 2021 and the 5th-generation iPad Air released in 2022.

Model Overview

In 2022, Apple sells five models of iPads:

  • iPad Pro, 5th generation, 12.9 inch
  • iPad Pro, 3rd generation, 11 inch
  • iPad Air, 5th generation, 10.9 inch
  • iPad, 9th generation, 10.2 inch
  • iPad Mini, 6th generation, 8.3 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 12.9 and 11-inch models.

  • Offers up to 2 TB of storage.

  • Runs on Apple M1 chip with 16-core Neural Engine.

  • Features four speakers.

  • Pro camera system: Wide and Ultra-Wide cameras.

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

  • Limited to 256 GB of storage.

  • Runs on Apple M1 chip with Apple Neural Engine.

  • Two-speaker system.

  • 12MP wide camera.

  • No Ultra-Wide lens.

  • 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 12.9-inch model. Otherwise, both versions of the latest-generation iPad Pro share the same relative specs and improvements over the iPad Air (more storage, faster processor, and better speakers and cameras).

The 5th-generation iPad Air comes in a single size, a 10.9-inch model and has impressive specs, but it falls behind slightly in almost every category compared to the iPad Pro.

Speed: The iPad Pro Is Faster

iPad Pro
  • Runs on Apple M1 chip.

  • Has 16-core Neural Engine.

  • Speedy performance.

iPad Air
  • Runs on Apple M1 chip.

  • Has Apple Neural Engine.

  • Slightly slower than an iPad Pro.

The latest generation iPad Pro is fast—PC fast—but the iPad Air isn't far behind. 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 12.9-inch and the 11-inch models run on an Apple M1 chip and have a 16-core Neural Engine.

The 5th-generation iPad Air is no slouch in the speed category. It is also equipped with the Apple M1 chip and an Apple Neural Engine, making it second in speed only to the iPad Pro.

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.

Audio Quality: Four Speakers vs. Dual Speakers

iPad Pro
  • Four-speaker system.

  • Fuller sound and less muffling.

  • Good for watching media.

  • Five studio-quality microphones.

iPad Air
  • Comes with dual speakers.

  • Less dynamic audio quality than an iPad Pro.

  • Dual microphones.

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 accidental muffling, and the sound is much fuller than the audio quality from the iPad Air.

The five studio-quality microphones on the iPad Pro are vastly superior to the two microphones on the iPad Air for calls, video recording, and audio recording.

Camera and Video: iPad Pros Offer Ultra-Wide Shooting

iPad Pro
  • Wide and Ultra-Wide rear-facing cameras.

  • Supports 4K videos.

  • 2x Optical zoom out

  • 12MP TrueDepth front-facing camera.

iPad Air
  • Wide rear-facing camera.

  • Supports 4K videos.

  • No advanced camera settings like Portrait mode.

  • 12MP FaceTime HD front-facing camera.

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 12-megapixel camera, but it lacks an ultra-wide lens.

Both iPad Pro models and the iPad Air come with a 12-megapixel front-facing camera, but the iPad Pro TrueDepth camera delivers 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.

Storage Space: More Room to Grow With iPad Pros

iPad Pro
  • Models start with 128 GB capacity.

  • Storage is expandable to 2TB.

  • Other increments include 256 GB, 512 GB and 1TB.

iPad Air
  • Starts with 64 GB of storage.

  • Maximum storage capacity is 256 GB.

The iPad Pro offers more storage options than the iPad Air, starting at 128 GB and offering up to 2 TB of storage. The iPad Air starts at 64 GB and expands up to 256 GB of storage.

Price: iPad Pro Requires a Bigger Investment

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

  • The 12.9-inch model starts at $1099.

  • 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 is priced from $1099.
  • 11-inch iPad Pro is priced from $799.
  • 10.9-inch iPad Air is 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 it won't make streaming a movie on Netflix any smoother. However, the additional speakers 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 9th-generation iPad and smaller 6th-generation iPad Mini provide plenty of bang for the buck, and one of these models may suit your needs.

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