Comparing the four current iPads: iPad Pro vs. iPad and iPad mini 4
While Apple has yet to deliver a new high-end iPad this year, the company did add a new budget-friendly tablet to its line. With this latest member of the family (and the retirement of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 2), it's a good time to compare the features and specs of the four iPads Apple sells today.
For this comparison guide, we're including the following tablets:
- iPad Pro 12.9
- iPad Pro 9.7
- iPad (2017)
- iPad mini 4
For each category, the devices are presented in the above order and also labelled for easy sizing up.
If this image suggests that the two 9.7-inch iPads are small, that's just an illusion: The 12.9 iPad Pro is simply enormous. We think the 9.7-in range is still, just as Steve Jobs envisioned years ago, the best size for most people.
The iPad mini line may be on its way out soon, as large-screen smartphones became the norm soon after Apple introduced its mini-tablet line in late 2012. And that monstrous 12.9-in iPad Pro is going to make the most sense for those who use it as a laptop replacement and demand maximum screen real estate.
Naturally the huge iPad Pro 12.9 is also the heaviest. The most notable item here is that the iPad Pro 9.7 is 7-percent lighter than the standard iPad.
Aluminum unibody designs permeate the iPad line.
Color options are the same, apart from the rose gold option offered for the iPad Pro 9.7.
The two iPad Pros have Apple's "smart connectors," which let you attach the Apple Smart Keyboard just by snapping it into place. It's a separate purchase, ringing up for $170 (12.9) or $150 (9.7).
While their setup isn't quite as dead-simple, you can use third-party Bluetooth keyboards with all iPad models.
The two Pros are also the only to support Apple's art-focused stylus, the Apple Pencil. It's a $99 separate purchase.
The screen of the hulking iPad Pro 12.9 is 77-percent bigger than the 9.7 iPads'. And the iPad mini 4's display is 34-percent smaller than its 9.7-in counterparts.
The iPad mini 4 has the highest pixel density, but considering you're likely to hold it closer to your eyes (being a smaller device), you shouldn't see much of a difference in regular use.
True Tone Display
The iPad Pro 9.7 has a nifty feature that senses the color ambience of your environment and automatically adjusts the display's white balance to match it, making its whites look white no matter what setting you're in. It isn't dramatic enough a difference to warrant choosing the Pro 9.7 for that alone, but it's a subtle perk if you're already considering that model.
One of the bigger compromises in the standard iPad is that it lacks Apple's anti-reflective display coating, first introduced in 2014's iPad Air 2. You'll see more distracting glare if you try to use it in or near sunlight.
With Apple axing the iPad mini 2, all of the company's iPads now have Touch ID fingerprint sensors.
The two iPad Pros have the best performance, but the new iPad should hold its own for a budget device. The iPad mini 4's A8 chip (first seen in 2014's iPhone 6) won't be unusably slow, but is growing a bit long in the tooth.
The larger iPad Pro has the most RAM, with the remaining three sticking with 2 GB.
The only iPad that doesn't give you some choice on the storage front is the iPad mini 4, which currently only ships in one generous 128 GB tier. (It originally came in 16 GB and 64 GB options as well, but Apple has since upped its storage while maintaining the same otherwise-tough-sell price.)
You can buy any of the iPads in either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi with LTE models. The caveat is that the cellular version of the 12.9-in iPad Pro is only sold in 128 GB and 256 GB tiers.
Despite different battery sizes, Apple estimates the same 10 hours of web, music or video use (over Wi-Fi) for all four.
The iPad Pro 9.7 has the best cameras, though we think most customers will do just fine with a mediocre camera in a tablet. (Especially if those iPhone 6s-era cameras are contributing to the Pro 9.7's US$599 starting price – we'd prefer tamer cameras and a cheaper price tag.)
The iPad Pro 9.7 is also the only iPad with a built-in flash.
The iPad Pros have an extra pair of stereo speakers, for a more immersive listening experience for things like videos and games.
All four run iOS 10.
The new iPad is the only one that isn't at least a year old. Rumors are pointing to refreshed iPad Pros with nearly bezel-less displays arriving sometime this year.
While the two iPad Pros are easily the best of the bunch, you also have to pay a healthy chunk to get them. The 9.7-in model starts at $100 more expensive than any of its same-sized predecessors, while adding questionable luxuries like iPhone-level cameras. And remember: If you want their keyboard or stylus accessories, you'll be paying even more.
On paper, the new iPad looks like a relative bargain – and it will be for some people. But keep in mind you miss out on the latest display tech (including anti-reflective properties) and its size and weight hark back to Apple's late-2013 model.
For more, you can read our reviews of the four iPads: