iPad Air v iPad Pro – which one is right for you?
At the recent spring, Apple Event, among all the goodies on show was the latest version of the iPad Air. This year, it now comes packed with the M1 chip inside. That is the same chip that you’d find in the Mac mini, MacBook Air and 24 – inch iMac. And of course, this iPad’s big brother, the iPad Pro. This brings me to the point of the blog. Which is the right for you?
At its most basic price, this iPad Air represents great value for money. For £569 this is an amazingly compact, powerful, mobile device. Much of the basic design is as last years. You still have a 10.9 – inch, backlit LED, True Tone display with up to 500 nits of brightness. The screen has thinner bezels as before, not as thin as the iPad Pro, but thinner none-the-less. And many of your existing accessories such as the Magic keyboard and pencil will still work on this model. And to further separate it from the Pro’s, you have a new, fun Blue colour as well. Again, camera wise, it is all very similar to the 2021 iPad Air with a 12MP Ultra-Wide front camera, 122° field of view ƒ/2.4 aperture set-up, which supports Centre Stage. This camera has still not been moved though, and when the iPad is in its landscape orientation, the camera remainson the short edge. Surely, that must soon be due for change. The rear camera, has one less camera than the Pro and also no Lidar scanner. Again, we find the same, unchanged battery, that being the 28.6‐watt‐hour rechargeable lithium‑polymer battery as per last year, which gives 8–10 hours of general use.
Performance, connectivity & sound
Before, productivity may have been a consideration to come in to play between the Air & Pro, but that is no longer the case. Both now have the same M1 Chip inside. It is not as if the Air has a binned version. No, the chips are both the 8 core CPU/8core GPU, 8 GB of memory chips. So, whatever tasks you wanted to perform, they would be carried out identically on either iPad. The connector on the iPad Air is a basic USB-C, whereas on the iPad Pro you’ll get a Thunderbolt, USB 4 connector with up to 40Gb/s of speed. And on the iPad Pro, you would be treated to two extra speakers, it having four in total.
iPadOS remains limited. With All this power now on-hand, you would expect more creative, high-end apps such as Final Cut Pro to now be available. Who knows what we may get at June’s WWDC, but for now, the options are still limited. But oddly, one of the iPads drawbacks, it’s lack of true multi-functionality, happens to be a strength in some situations. For instance, writing on a Mac, can easily lead to distraction as it is so easy to have so many apps and screens open at once. Although on an iPad you can multitask, it is not the same experience, and when you want to focus, it can truly come in to its own.
So, now, with the basic iPad described, we start to look at the tough decision that you will need to make, when deciding upon whether the iPad Air is for you or not. Smaller, user-based features, such as the lack of Face ID on the iPad Air, may bother you for instance. The Touch ID works just fine and is only a minor inconvenience in unlocking, but Face ID just seems smoother. Depending upon your usage, the display may be one factor that could sway your decision. If we were to look at the iPad Pro 12.9 – inch for instance, it comes with an XDR, mini LED display with up to 1600 nits peak brightness and a 120 Hz refresh rate Pro Motion panel. It also has a P3 wide colour range as well. All of that may be of both use and concern if you are an artist who regularly uses this device for work. The fluid feel of the pencil, on the screen, is second to none. But that is not really the iPad I am comparing the iPad Air to. The 12.9 version starts at very close to twice the price of the iPad Air at £999. It is the smallest of the iPad Pro that really does come ever so close in spec, and the main difference comes down to one thing. That being storage.
How much space?
The biggest problem you’ll face with the iPad Air, will be storage. Until the release of this iPad, no M1 product had less than 128 GB of storage. The basic £569 version of this iPad, though, comes with 64 GB. I wrote about this recently, and it just seems ridiculous that 64 GB is actually still on the options list. Download a game or movie, and your brand-new device, would be pretty much at its limit. On the iPad Air, there is no half-way house. You jump from the standard 64 GB right up to 256 GB and an extra £150.
And here is where it gets tricky. As I said at the beginning, at £569 this iPad represents amazing value. But, at some point, you will have to look at features versus storage. With the 256 GB iPad Air, you will be at £719. For £30 more, you could have an 11.8 – inch iPad Pro with 128 GB of storage. Not only that, you’ll have better speakers, better display, Face ID and the faster Thunderbolt USB-C connector too. All that for £30 more! Granted, you’d only have half the storage of the iPad Air at this point, but, still, I think I know where my money would go.
Look, all iPads now are great, from the Mini upwards. It really comes down to what your workflow is, and how you intend to use your device. But I thought if you were about to add an iPad to your cart, then just being aware of the facts, may be worth knowing. If a great value, budget tablet is what you are after, then the new iPad Air is for you. For me, though, the future proofing, and long-term benefits of iPad Pro would just be too alluring. What about you, though? Which tablet takes your fancy and why?
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Originally published at https://www.talkingtechandaudio.com/blog on March 29, 2022.