Apple iPad Pro vs iPad Air 2 head-to-head

Apple supersizes its tablet

Update: our full iPad Pro review is here and Apple's latest tablet is not only its biggest yet, but also its strangest

Apple claims its latest iPad is the biggest news in iPad since iPad'. As was heavily leaked before its launch, the iPad Pro is the biggest iPad yet with a 12.9in screen. The iPad Pro will arrive in November with prices starting at $799 with UK pricing yet to be confirmed.

Naturally, Apple claims the iPad Pro is the most capable and powerful iPad we've ever created' and, looking at specifications on paper, this appears to be the case.

Screen

The iPad Air 2, which hasn't been replaced by a newer model, has a 9.7in screen with a 2048x1536 resolution with a pixel density of 264ppi.

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The iPad Pro's 12.9in screen doesn't sound that much bigger, but it is its width is the same height of the iPad Air 2's screen. This is no accident as the iPad Pro's screen and iOS 9's new multitasking features were apparently designed in tandem. It's supposed to allow you to run two iPad apps side-by-side simultaneously in portrait mode without having to resize them.

Interestingly, the iPad Pro's touchscreen doesn't appear to have the much rumoured Force Touch feature from the Apple Watch and the MacBook, but it is apparently even more sensitive than it was before. It also apparently has variable refresh technology so parts of the screen only refresh when something actually changes on screen which should help with conserving battery power.

The iPad Pro has a much higher resolution of 2732x2048 pixels which means it has the same pixel density of the iPad Air 2 at 264ppi.

Weight and casing

Apple's iPads have been growing lighter and lighter with the iPad Air 2 coming in at 437g (the WiFi-only model). The iPad Pro appears to be a hefty porker at first glance, weighing 712g, although this is around the same weight as the original iPad and similarly-sized Android and Windows tablets.

Despite its increased weight, the iPad Pro isn't that much chunkier than its smaller counterpart. It's 6.9mm thick compared to the Air 2's 6.1mm. There aren't any new colours though all iPads are available in the same grey, white or gold.

Extra features

Both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro share the same wireless connectivity options and Touch ID fingerprint reader. They also share the same new multitasking features coming in iOS 9, although the iPad Pro gains a couple extra features not found on the Air 2.

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Unsurprisingly, the iPad Pro's onscreen keyboard is the same size as an actual physical keyboard. Plus, as mentioned above, its bigger screen means two iPad apps can be shown side-by-side at full size in portrait mode.

The iPad Pro does have plenty of new extra hardware features not found in its smaller counterpart though. There's a four-speaker stereo sound system which not only means it's louder than the somewhat tinny Air 2, but should have a bigger sound stage and a more balanced sound too.

As rumoured, the iPad Pro gains a new keyboard case accessory there hasn't been an official external keyboard for the iPad since the very first, original Apple tablet. The case has a woven fabric cover and connects to the iPad Pro using a Smart Connector that's only found on the 12.9in tablet. Surface Pro fans will get a sense of dj vu - it attaches magnetically and carries both power and data. It will cost an extra $169 though which isn't cheap (UK pricing to be confirmed).

Another optional extra for the iPad Pro is Apple Pencil or stylus. Apple claims it's pressure, angle and orientation sensitive with very low latency. According to Cupertino, the Pencil has precision that gives you the ability to touch a single pixel' and can be used simultaneously with your fingers. Interstingly, it charges via the iPad Pro's Lightning port which raises the question of how you charge both your iPad and its stylus simultaneously. The Apple Pencil will cost an extra $99 separately (British pricing to be determined).

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Third-party developers are apparently already working on Apple Pencil compatibility, with stylus support coming in Microsoft Office apps and various Adobe apps.

Processor and ports

The iPad Air 2 was the first iOS device to have a triple-core processor the 1.5GHz Apple A8X. It was paired with 2GB of memory.

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As expected, Apple didn't disclose how much memory comes in the iPad Pro or how many cores its processor has, but the new A9X processor is apparently twice as fast as the A8X. It's allegedly powerful enough to edit three streams of 4K video simultaneously which is quite a feat.

Both the Air 2 and Pro have a Lightning port, but there's no sign of the USB-C port which was rumoured to be coming to the iPad Pro.

Battery life

Somewhat surprisingly, Apple claims that the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro will have the same battery life 10 hours of internet usage. Naturally, we'll run the iPad Pro through our full suite of battery life tests as soon as it's available this November.

This article was first published on 09/09/2015 and has since been updated.

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