iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2 comparison: What's the difference?

Apple on Wednesday showed off its new addition to the iPad line-up, and as predicted it's called the iPad Pro, a more powerful tablet with a bigger screen to rival the likes of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. But how does it compare with the iPad Air 2 and do you really need the extra screen estate and power? Find out in our iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2 comparison.

Also unveiled at Apple's 9 September event was the new iPhone 6s and Apple TV.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2: Price & availability

The iPad Air 2 is available to buy now after being unveiled by Apple at a special event in October 2014. It didn't get an update at Apple's 9 September 2015 event that saw the launch of the iPad Pro (the iPad mini got an update, too). We're not expecting to see a new iPad Air until next year now, as it's likely that Apple will want to focus on pushing the iPad Pro for now.

The iPad Pro is going to be available in November, and so far we've only been given US pricing, which is as follows:

32GB WiFi-only model: $799
128GB WiFi-only model: $949
128GB WiFi plus Cellular model: $1,079

That's a lot more pricey than the iPad Air 2, which is priced starting at £399 or $499.

16GB WiFi-only model: £399/$499
64GB WiFi-only model: £479/$599
128GB WiFi-only model: £559/$699

16GB WiFi plus Cellular: £499/$629
64GB WiFi plus Cellular: £579/$729
128GB WiFi plus Cellilar: £659/$829

We'll bring you UK pricing details as soon as they're announced, but it looks like the price difference will be pretty significant so it'll be worth taking some time to decide whether you really need the extra features provided by the iPad Pro.

Plus, if you want to add in the Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro to make it more of a laptop replacement, it'll cost you an extra $169. And for the stylus, which Apple has called Apple Pencil, you're looking at another $99.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2: Design & build

The first thing you'll notice about the new iPad Pro is that it's pretty huge. It has a 12.9in display compared with the 9.7in of the iPad Air 2. That makes its screen bigger than some of those found on Apple's MacBooks, and some of those MacBooks are priced at lower prices than the iPad Pro, so it'll be interesting to see how the new iPad affects sales of Apple's Macs when it arrives.

Overall, with that 12.9in screen, you're looking at a 308 x 221mm tablet with a witch of 6.9mm (which is impressively thin for a device of that size) and a weight of 713g.

That's compared with the iPad Air 2's 240 x 170mm dimensions, 6.1mm thickness and 437g weight.

Aside from that, there's not much visually different about the iPad Pro. It has the same rounded corners and stylish aluminium casing, available in Gold, Silver and Space Grey.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2: Hardware & specs

Taking a closer look at the displays on these two iPads, you'll find that they both offer the same 264ppi pixel density as one another, making both 'Retina' by Apple's standards.

That's thanks to 2732 x 2048 pixels for the iPad Pro and 2048 x 1536 pixels for the iPad Air 2.

Inside the new, more powerful iPad Pro is the new A9X processor paired with an M9 motion co-processor, while the iPad Air 2 has an A8X and M8 motion co-processor. Both are super-speedy, but Apple says that, compared with the A7 processor found in the original iPad Air and iPad mini 2, the A8X CPU is 1.4 times faster and 2.5 times faster when it comes to graphics. The iPad Pro's A9 processor's CPU is said to be 2.5 times faster than the A7 and 5 times faster graphics performance.

We'll have to wait until we've spent more time with the iPad Pro to determine just what that means in the real world, but we know that it's going to be powerful enough to run two apps side by side without a struggle. It's designed for productivity, creativity and gaming, as shown off by representatives from Microsoft (yes, you read that right) and Adobe at the keynote.

That said, the iPad Air 2 is still a really powerful tablet, and with iOS 9 (coming 16 September) it too will be able to run apps side-by-side. They'll be on a smaller display and there could be some slight performance issues if the apps are particularly power-hungry, but on the whole it's going to be sufficiently powerful for most users.

It doesn't, however, have the option of that aforementioned Smart Keyboard made by Apple (but there are plenty of third-party keyboards available), and won't work with the Apple Pencil, so it might not quite be able to replace your laptop. The iPad Pro has the potential to, and we'll be experimenting with just that as soon as the iPad Pro launches.

When it comes to cameras, both iPads in this comparison offer exactly the same capabilities. We're still not keen on using a tablet as a camera, particularly not a 12.9in tablet, but if you do want to you'll find a 1.2Mp FaceTime HD camera on the front capable of 720p HD video, and an 8Mp snapper on the rear with auto-focus, a f/2.4 aperture and 1080p HD video.

Both iPads offer Touch ID beneath the home button, and connectivity features are the same. You'll get 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, 4G LTE options on some models with a Nano-SIM card slot, Lightning connector for charging and a battery that's designed to last for up to 10 hours of web surfing on WiFi or 9 hours on a mobile data network.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2: Software

Both the iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 run iOS 9, which is Apple's new version of its mobile operating system coming out on 16 September. You can find out more about iOS 9 by following the links below.

iPad Pro: Specs

  • Apple A9X processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB / 128GB onboard storage
  • iOS 9 (able to use all iOS 9 tablet features, including Split View)
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 2732 x 2048 pixels, 12.9 inches (diagonal), 264 ppi pixel density
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band with MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 8Mp (rear-facing) and 1.2Mp (front-facing) cameras
  • 307.7x220.6x6.9mm
  • 713g (WiFi-only model) or 723g (Wi-Fi plus cellular)
  • Apple A9X processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB / 128GB onboard storage
  • iOS 9 (able to use all iOS 9 tablet features, including Split View)
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 2732 x 2048 pixels, 12.9 inches (diagonal), 264 ppi pixel density
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band with MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 8Mp (rear-facing) and 1.2Mp (front-facing) cameras
  • 307.7x220.6x6.9mm
  • 713g (WiFi-only model) or 723g (Wi-Fi plus cellular)

OUR VERDICT

We can't offer a full verdict on which iPad is better until we've spent more time with the iPad Pro, but we think that the more powerful tablet is going to appeal to a reasonably small number of people who are willing to pay the extra for the additional screen space and more powerful processor. We'll be bringing you a full, in-depth review of the iPad Pro soon and a more detailed comparison between the two flagship Apple tablets will be right here when the iPad Pro launches in November.