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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  • The Garden Variety - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    For the love of god: Stop it. Stop putting spaces between the end of your sentence or clause and your punctuation. I realize the French in particular insist on doing this because, well, they're French, but that doesn't change the fact that for written English it is completely and entirely wrong. If you want to be taken seriously, be serious. Write like you care, not like a third grader. English not your first language? Fair enough, but then consider this your first step toward being taken more seriously in your communication.
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    The question mark with spaces on both sides reminds me of the conditional operator in C :)
  • kurahk7 - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Keep in mind that each of these publications only have a sample size of one, and that there are variances between the same products. Because of that, Displaymate might have received an iPad with a slightly worse calibration/panel than Anandtech and vice versa for the Surface.
  • BadSimian - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Displaymate on the iPad Pro's screen - "It is by far the best performing mobile LCD display that we have ever tested, and it breaks many display performance records."
  • Deelron - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    "Since departure of Anand, Apple product reviews look like PR marketing speech, although the tests and content itself of the review do not match the speech"

    Amusing since so many reviews by Anand on Apple products had the exact same refrain in the comments.
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Huh? Apple's CPUs have been years ahead of the ARM stuff available for Android for...years. Swift was a nice A9+ just like Krait, but since the year after (2012) their CPUs have just been massively far ahead...and yet I STILL hear comments like this that seem completely unaware of that.
  • zepi - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Amoled doesn't mean infinite contrast in practice, only in pitch black test environment. In real life blackest signal is (reflectance) x (ambient light), not zero. Due to this, in high ambient light new iPad has better blacks than any amoled display on the market.

    And actually, if we go to signal processing maths and measurements, we could start drawing comparisons from them. No one in their right mind would try to argue that 16-bit CD quality audio has infinite dynamic range, even though it is very easy to sample total silence in form of zero signal value to a musical track.

    Also music volume is not considered to be infinite, but the value is compared to arbitrarily defined human hearing threshold and converted to logarithmic decibels with 0 meaning non-zero value at the lowest level human ear can measure.

    One pretty reasonable comparison point for amoled contrast might be using the quantization error at lower end of the brightness. Ie: something along the lines of set brightness of display to max, display uniform pictures of gray at RGB(1,1,1), measure this brightness in lumens, divide by two (this is quantization error for lowest measurable signal) and then use this as a divisor for the highest recorded value for RGB(255,255,255). Depending on gamma, dividing by two gives wrong results, but for linear display this would be ok.

    Infinitely linear displays are available ACME shop just next to frictionless bearings and other such very handy things...
  • UtilityMax - Monday, June 6, 2016 - link

    I suspect iPad Pro is compared with the flagship android smartphones because Android tablet hardware sucks. Just have a look at the Galaxy Tab S2 or the Pixel C.
  • tecsi - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Any chance of including iPad Air benchmark numbers as many of we iPad Air owners want to understand the performance gains we can expect.

    I assumed I could just look at your iPad Air 2/iPad Air reviews to get those numbers there, but apparently your benchmarks are different as the iPad Air 2 Kraken 1.1 numbers were different in the two reviews.

    Please let us know if you can do this.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - link

    Unfortunately we do not have the original Air, so we are unable to generate any new numbers for it.

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