When a company unveils a new gadget or product, it is very easy to get swept away in the excitement that comes along with its “newness”. Apple’s event hadn't even finished this past Monday before people were excitedly talking about the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Equipped with many of the same specs as the larger 12.9-inch variant and the ability to connect with both the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories, the smaller and more affordable iPad Pro was exactly what many people were hoping to see come from this event.
At the same time, it is also good to remember that the iPad Pro duo are not the only two iPads on the market. The iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 4 are both still for sale on Apple’s website, and come with a much cheaper price tag than either iPad Pro. The 16GB iPad Air 2 (WiFi only) starts at $399, whereas the 64GB (Wi-Fi only) is now $499. As for the iPad Mini 4, the 16GB Wi-Fi version also starts at $399 (although Best Buy is selling it for $299, which makes more sense as you're losing both screen real estate and processing power) and the 64GB Wi-Fi variant is $499 (again, Best Buy bests this price at $399).
There are plenty of arguments stating that the iPad Pro ends up being a better purchase, but that isn't always the case. The iPad Pro offers Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard compatibility, as well as a more powerful A9X processor, True Tone technology, 12-megapixel iSight camera on the rear, 5-megapixel camera on the front, 4K recording, and higher tiers of storage options (up to 256GB). Despite these fancy features, the iPad Air 2 still has some redeeming qualities of its own.
As previously mentioned, the iPad Air 2 starts at just $399, which is $200 cheaper than the base 32GB model 9.7-inch iPad Pro. However, the more tempting option is the $499 64GB iPad Air 2, which gets you double the 32GB iPad Pro’s storage for $100 less. The iPad Air 2 also has the same amount of RAM as the smaller iPad Pro, as both versions use 2GB of RAM. Fortunately, the iPad Air 2 has the ability to use iOS 9’s suite of multitasking features such as Slide View, Split Screen, and Picture in Picture. For all intents and purposes, the iPad Air 2 should be able to handle multitasking just as well as the iPad Pro.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s A9X processor makes Pro 2.5 times faster than the iPad Air, which sounds fairly significant on paper. But with real world usage, I'm not sure anybody would realistically notice unless you plan to put the two side-by-side. Performance-wise, iPads have a good track record of performing well for years. I'm using an original 32GB iPad Air (released in 2013) on iOS 9.3 to write this article, and its performance is nothing to snuff at in my opinion. In fact, if I had iOS 9’s multitasking features and Apple Pencil compatibility on the original iPad Air I probably wouldn't have any desire to consider upgrading to the Pro at all.
Which brings me back to why the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 may still be a better purchase than the iPad Pro for many people. While the upgraded camera in the Pro is nice, not many people use their tablet for taking photos. The four speaker system also a good addition, but not a necessity for most. Really, what it boils down to is unless you plan on using the Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard, you wouldn’t be missing out on much by considering the older iPad models, which could literally save you hundreds of dollars.