In 2017, Apple released two types of iPad – a Pro edition with 12.9-inch and brand-new 10.5-inch size – and a budget edition 9.7-inch iPad named simple “iPad”. It looks like Apple wants to separate iPads for professionals known as “iPad Pro” and for common customers as “iPad” – without “Pro” in name. I personally own 12.9-inch 2017 iPad Pro and I love it, it’s the best tablet for me and it works great with my iMac. But both editions are using the same iOS 11, so what’s the “pro” in iPads for professionals?
CPU and GPU:
Heart of all iPads is their SoC, which includes CPU and GPU. iPads Pro use the newest super-fast A10X Fusion, while iPad is using A9. This older SoC is also present in iPhone 6S, so it looks pretty outdated. As you may notice, it’s A9, not A9X, so it even does not outperform iPad Pro from 2015, which was equiped with A9X. iPad Air 2 uses A8X, which is little slower that A9. Interesting is, that Augmented reality introduced with iOS 11 has as minimum set chip A9, so if you are interesting in AR, don’t get iPad Air 2 over iPad 2017. iPads with A9 got dual-core CPU, while iPads Pro got six cores CPU. And as for GPU, difference is much bigger. If you are just casual user, who uses iPad to browse web, chatting at social networks and watching movies, A9 won’t limit you. If your iPad is your work device and you need to do advanced tasks or using apps like Affinity Photo, consider to get Pro.
All 2017 iPads got beautiful Retina display, but big differencies are present. Classic iPad got display from iPad Air (first generation), which does not include anti-reflexive coating and it’s not fully laminated. Another issue is brightness – you won’t see anything at sunny days. I had iPad Air in past and I know what I’m saying. 2017 iPads Pro are still not perfect, but I can use them even under direct Sun.
And that’s not all. 2017 iPads Pro benefit from ProMotion technology, so display is at 120 Hz refresh rate. Classic iPad is still at 60 Hz. Another features reserved for Pro class are Wide color display (P3), HDR technology with 600 nits of brightness, True Tone display and custom-designed antireflective coating.
Taking photos and videos is funny with iPads, especially with 12.9-inch sized one. But it does not mean, that it’s impossible. 2017 iPads Pro got the same camera as got iPhone 7, so you can enjoy advanced features like Quad-LED True Tone flash, Wide color capture and, the most interesting, shooting into RAW. Classic 2017 iPad got old camera, quality of photos is very poor and no flash is present. If you like to take photos with iPad, get Pro class.
Another issue is with recording videos. 2017 iPads Pro are capable of recording in native 4K at maximum of 30 FPS, 1080p at 60 FPS or slo-mo at 120 FPS and at 720p, you can create amazing 240 FPS slo-mo videos. Classic 2017 iPad only can record 1080p at 30 FPS and at 720p, an option for 120 FPS slo-mo video is offered. All iOS devices with SoC A10 Fusion/A10X Fusion and higher can shoot photos into HEIF and to capture videos using HEVC compression. As for 2017 classic iPad and its A9 chip, you can’t capture in HEIF and HEVC on this device.
2017 iPads Pro can enjoy wi-fi connection speed up to 866 Mbps and 450 Mbps via LTE. Classic iPad got the same wi-fi speed, but LTE is limited to 150 Mbps.
Smart connector, Apple Pencil and speakers:
Every iPad Pro got Smart Connector for Apple-designed hardware and also for 3rd party accessories. These accessories do not need battery – a Smart Connector will power them from iPad’s battery. Smart Connector is exclusive to Pro class, so do not find it on classic iPads.
Another gear from Apple is hi-end stylus called simple Apple Pencil. Like Smart Connector, it only works for Pro iPads, because it need special layer on display. Of course, there are 3rd party styluses that work with any iPad (or even iPhone), but if you want Apple Pencil, you have to get an (any) iPad Pro.
And last feature worth to look at are speakers. All iPads Pro got 4 speakers system, while classic iPad got only two at bottom side. If you like to watch movies in your bed, you will be much happier with iPad Pro. And I’m not counting better display, especially on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. With that huge size, you will fall in love with watching movies on tablet.
If you are about to get an iPad, I hope that this comparison helped you in deciding which iPad is right for you.
Update 1st – 28. April 2018: new generation of “budget” iPad was released, known as iPad 6. Main differencies are support for Apple Pencil and upgraded SoC from A9 to A10 Fusion. Also, with A10 SoC you can shot HEIF photos and record HEVC videos.