In late 2015 Apple launched a tablet that they called the iPad Pro. It had been rumored for quite some time, and it had a number of features that differentiated it from other iPads. The most notable was its 12.9" display, which has a width equal to the height of Apple's 9.7" iPads, allowing it to use two essentially full sized iPad applications at the same time in a split screen view. In addition to its massive display, the iPad Pro came with two accessories that had not existed for any prior iPad. It seemed that in Apple's eyes the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard really defined what made the iPad Pro worthy of the "Pro" name.

Meanwhile, the launch of the iPad Pro came and went, and there was no news of a successor to Apple's iPad Air 2, which had just turned one year old. I thought that this move may have had to do with Apple not facing much competition in the tablet market. On the other hand, with iPad sales down it wouldn't generate much excitement to keep selling the same tablet for a second year.

After the launch of the iPad Pro the rumor mill continued to churn out new info, and there were whispers of a so called "iPad Air 3" coming in early 2016. Later, the story became that Apple was actually planning another iPad Pro to take the place of the iPad Air 2 as Apple's flagship 9.7" iPad. In the end it turned out that Apple did exactly that, and along with bringing the specs of the larger iPad Pro to a smaller size, the smaller iPad Pro comes with some surprises of its own. Below you can view the current state of the iPad line now that Apple has two devices called the iPad Pro.

Apple iPad Family


Apple iPad Air 2 Apple iPad Pro 9.7" Apple iPad Pro 12.9"
SoC Apple A8X
3 x Apple Typhoon @ 1.5GHz
Apple A9X
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
Apple A9X
2 x Apple Twister @ ~2.2GHz
GPU PowerVR 8 Cluster Series6XT PowerVR 12 Cluster Series7XT
NAND 16/64/128 GB WiFi: 32 / 128 / 256 GB
WiFi + Cellular:
32 / 128 / 256 GB
WiFi + Cellular:
128 / 256 GB
Display 9.7" 2048x1536 IPS LCD 12.9" 2732x2048 IPS LCD
Gamut sRGB DCI-P3 sRGB
Size and Mass 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm
437g WiFi, 444g LTE
305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm
713g WiFi, 723g LTE
Camera 8MP Rear-facing
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
12MP Rear-facing
f/2.2, 1.22 micron
8MP Rear-facing
f/2.4, 1.1 micron
1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2 5MP Front-facing f/2.2 1.2MP Front-facing f/2.2
Battery 27.3 Wh 27.5 Wh 38.5 Wh
Launch OS iOS 8 iOS 9
Cellular Category 4 LTE + GPS/GNSS in Cellular SKU
Other Connectivity 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, Apple Lightning, Smart Connector on iPad Pro
SIM Optional NanoSIM
Current Price

16GB: $399

32 GB: $599
128 GB: $749
256 GB: $899
32 GB: $799
128 GB: $949
256 GB: $1079 (LTE)

The 9.7” iPad Pro has the same core industrial design that Apple’s iPads have used since the launch of the iPad Air. The back is almost entirely flat, curving up quickly near the edges and meeting the cover glass with a shiny chamfered edge. Like the 12.9” model, the 9.7” iPad Pro changes things up by moving to a four-speaker audio setup, which requires holes drilled on both the top and bottom of the chassis. Interestingly, the 9.7” iPad Pro uses asymmetrical speaker grilles, with the bottom two being larger than those of the 12.9” model, and the top being smaller. This is likely due to the more constrained space inside the chassis. As for the speakers themselves, the audio quality did seem to be a step down from the larger iPad Pro, but it’s still miles ahead of anything else that I’ve seen on a tablet of this size and a significant improvement from the iPad Air 2.

The 9.7” iPad also comes with some changes of its own. The camera now has a hump, which will undoubtedly upset those who focus heavily on the uniformity of the design. There was no good way to improve upon the iPad Air 2’s camera within a 6.1mm chassis without putting a hump, and as we’ll see later, the camera in this iPad Pro is a huge improvement over Apple’s other iPads. While the hump is there, with such a large chassis the angle it makes with a flat surface is so small that the tablet doesn’t rock back and forth when using it on a table, which is extremely important to ensure the usability of the Apple Pencil.

Apple has also changed up the antenna design. Going back to the first iPads, the cellular models have sported a plastic RF window at the top of the chassis to allow for RF propagation. With the 9.7” iPad Pro, Apple adopts a similar antenna design to that of the iPhone 6 and 6s, where the top now has a metal segment for the antenna with insulating plastic lines surrounding it.

I think this is a significant upgrade to the design of the cellular model for a couple of reasons. Aesthetically it simply looks better, as the plastic inserts weren’t color matched and so they stood out from the rest of the aluminum back cover. They also weren’t always aligned perfectly, and so at the edge between the plastic and the aluminum you could feel a noticeable seam due to the plastic being either at a higher or lower level than the chassis. The new antenna design eliminates both of these issues, and brings the 9.7” iPad Pro as close as it can get to an unbroken aluminum unibody when also having to support cellular networking.

Beyond the changes with the camera, speakers, and antenna on the cellular model, the 9.7” iPad Pro has the same design as the iPad Air 2. They share the same mass and dimensions, and as I mentioned before the core ID is the same. Whether or not Apple could improve upon the design further is up for debate, but they don’t really have any true competition in this space and so they’ve been able to maintain their design lead by making iterative improvements on the original iPad Air design. That design still works very well, and so I don’t see much reason to change things up significantly just for the sake of saying you have a new design.

System Performance
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  • UtilityMax - Friday, June 3, 2016 - link

    Wrong. Those are not tablets. Those are ultrabooks, but with a removable keyboard, and very lousy as "tablet".
  • NonSequitor - Friday, June 3, 2016 - link

    You have stated this several times in the comments. What is your definition of tablet? Is it size? The Surface Pro 4 is smaller than the iPad Pro 12.9 in two dimensions, though it is thicker. Is it weight? It's about 10% heavier than the iPad Pro 12.9. If you add in the keyboards and pens for each the weight difference drops to under 3% (1074g vs 1098g). So what makes these a lousy tablet?
  • UtilityMax - Friday, June 3, 2016 - link

    Tablet, something I can comfortably hold and use without a keyboard. The iPad Pro 12 is also a pretty lousy as a tablet.
  • Amandtec - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    Without ability to plug in a mouse I can't use it for office work. Therefore I need a laptop as well. Therefore I am not buying an iPad Pro.
  • phexac - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    "Without ability to plug in a mouse I can't use it for office work. Therefore I need a laptop as well. Therefore I am not buying an iPad Pro."

    Well, this is called a "tablet." Welcome to 2016.
  • nikon133 - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    It is called iPad Pro. Pro, by default, advertises usage within professionals' needs, a.k.a. work related scenarios. I think the whole naming is wrong. These devices should have been named just "iPad", as opposite to iPad Air. I think "Pro" was added only to try steal show from likes of Surface Pro and other x86 tablets. Pure marketing, very little footing in reality. Classic Phil Schiller.
  • blackcrayon - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    The footing in reality was probably the massively faster A9X, smart connector, and the Pencil support, which pros can and do use for their jobs.

    It's a silly argument anyway, I can do "pro" tasks on an iPad 1 if I want, as my job requires plenty of ssh and command line administration. But leave it to the Apple whiners to complain about Apple's name for a product they wouldn't buy no matter the name.
  • Galatian - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    Still completely puzzled how nobody calls out Apple on the price gauging. This is essentially what the iPad Air 3 should have been, when you look at past evolutions, so they essentially just pushed the price up. This coupled with the fact, that they eliminated the probably most bought storage size (64 GB), means that anybody who wanted to get an 64 GB Air 3 now has to pay 300€ more.

    Luckily they decreased the price of the iPad Air 2, so that is now a very strong contender for a good tablet, that is merely meant as a consumption device.

    I understand that there are people out there who need a pencil or perhaps even a good camera (although I would think that most people owning an iPad Pro would also have a iPhone), but the amount seems to be so small, that it feels like Apple just needed to add a few things to differentiate this "half" Pro (as in: not even the big chip) from the iPad Air 2.
  • trewtrew - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    I think Apple has realized that people only upgrade their iPad's every 5 years or so. A bunch of people still rock the original iPad and I think the most common iPad is still the iPad 2. So they raised the price $100 but the way I look at it that includes at least 5 years of software updates.
  • Genxxx - Thursday, June 2, 2016 - link

    Have use this for a couple of weeks, if u wan an 'IPAD', yes this is the best u can get.
    But if u r thinking to do something more like the 'pro' name suggests, don't buy this. It can't even group some photos and PDFs together without 3rd party app and with lots of restrictions.
    U have to work around this or that on simple functions, namely no folder system is the biggest let down.
    Excels, word, autocad, PDFs, bmp, they think separate all files are the best way to manage ur iPad.

    For the screen, the left top corner is dimmer than the rest. Since my first purchase have faulty charger and error on charge, they changed a new one by waiting for a week. Then the second unit camera has a fur inside the lens, so they made me wait for a week and give me a new one. All three unit has this dimmer corner, so I don't think this is the best screen around. Open a blank white app and u can notice this clearly.

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