Tim Cook took the stage in Chicago last week to unveil a host of education initiatives from Apple. Leading the announcements was a new $329 iPad with Apple Pencil support. This new iPad replaces last year’s model at the same price-point, and joins two iPad Pro models in Apple’s lineup.

So, how does the new 9.7-inch iPad compare to the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models? Read on to find out…

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Following the unveil of the new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models at WWDC last year, we walked through the differences between each, as well as how they compared to Apple’s 5th generation 9.7-inch iPad.

Not a whole lot has changed this year, but as we see the iPad Pro become cheaper with regular sales at retailers such as Best Buy, the lines may start to blur for consumers – especially now that all three feature Apple Pencil support.

Display

Both the iPad Pro models feature the same display, using Apple’s True Tone display technology as well as ProMotion technology and a reflective coating.

True Tone adjusts color temperature based on the room environment, while ProMotion dynamically adjusts the screen’s refresh rate from 24hz to 48hz to 120hz depending on use patterns. Apple touts that ProMotion helps maximize battery life and performance.

Meanwhile, the 6th-generation 9.7-inch iPad lacks both ProMotion and True Tone technologies. While this isn’t necessary a huge discrepancy, it would be noticeable if you were to move from a model with the features, down to the 9.7-inch model.

Moving on to display resolution, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro features a 2224 x 1668 resolution, while the 12.9-inch model comes in with 2732 x 2048, both equating to 264 pixels-per-inch. The 9.7-inch model features a 2048 x 1536 display, which due to the smaller display, comes out to the same 264 PPI.

Another minor difference in display technology comes in the physical construction. Both iPad Pro models feature a fully laminated display, whereas the 9.7-inch model does not. This means the iPad is slightly easier to repair than the iPad Pro, but as iFixit noted in its full teardown, it’s still not easy.

Ultimately, the display is clearly an area where Apple made some sacrifices with the 6th-generation iPad in terms of getting the price down. However, with the same PPI, the $329 model is nothing to slouch at for the price.

Specs

As you would expect, you definitely get a bit more power inside the iPad Pro models than you do in the 9.7-inch iPad.

Both the 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro models feature hexa-core A10X Fusion processors with 64-bit architectures. You also get Apple’s M10 compressor alongside a twelve-core GPU. On the other hand, the 9.7-inch model is notably less powerful with an A10 Fusion chip, though you do get the same embedded M10 coprocessor.

While the 9.7-inch model is still not as powerful as the iPad Pro, things are closer this year than they were last year, when the 9.7-inch iPad featured an A9 chip with an M9 co-processor.

The power inside the iPad Pro is part of what gives it that “Pro” branding, so it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that there’s still a discrepancy when compared to the 9.7-inch.

One thing to note is that we’ll likely see new iPad Pro models within the next 6 months, which will make for an even starker difference in terms of performance between devices.

Another area where the iPad Pro models have a leg up is in sound quality. Both iPad Pro variants feature a four speaker setup, but the 9.7-inch model features a standard dual speaker system with stereo speakers at the bottom.

Lastly, the 9.7-inch iPad features a first-generation Touch ID sensor, while the iPad Pro models feature the second-generation sensor.

Battery

This year’s 9.7-inch iPad features the same battery as last year. You get a 32.4-watt-hour battery, which Apple says should get you up to 10 hours of battery life on Wi-Fi and 9 hours with cellular.

Meanwhile, the 10.5-inch model features a slightly smaller 30.4-watt-hour battery, which Apple again says should net you about 10 hours of battery life on WiFi and 9 hours on cellular.

It’s interesting that the 10.5-inch iPad Pro ultimately features a smaller battery than the 9.7.inch iPad, but nevertheless Apple doesn’t seem to think you’ll notice battery life that is better or worse on either model.

At the top of the line is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a 41-watt-hour-battery. Apple again says you’ll get 10 hours of life (9 on cellular).

One important thing to point out here is that the iPad Pro models feature support for fast charging when using USB-C cables and a 29W power brick. The 9.7-inch model, however, does not because it does not use USB 3.0 connectivity, which features faster data transfer speeds.

Size

The 6th-generation iPad is the same in size as its predecessor, coming in at 7.5mm thick and 1.3 pounds. As we noted last year, that’s 20 percent thicker than the iPad Air 2 and slightly heavier.

However, when compared to the iPad Pro models, the 9.7-inch iPad is right in line. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro comes in at 1.03 pounds and the 12.9-inch at 1.49 pounds. As far as dimensions go, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is 250mm tall and 174.1 mm wide, whereas the 12.9-inch is 305.7mm tall and 220.6mm wide.

The 9.7-inch iPad is 240mm tall and 169.5mm wide, which is really where you see the benefit of the smaller bezels on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. You get nearly an inch more screen size, yet the overall footprint is just 10m taller and 5mm wider.

Cameras

If taking photos on your iPad is something you’re into, the iPad Pro models have the clear leg up with 12MP rear cameras, 4K video, and 7MP front cameras. Here’s all the tech inside each camera:

  • 12-megapixel camera
  • ƒ/1.8 aperture
  • Digital zoom up to 5x
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Six‑element lens
  • Quad-LED True Tone flash
  • Panorama (up to 63 megapixels)
  • Sapphire crystal lens cover
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • Autofocus with Focus Pixels
  • Tap to focus with Focus Pixels
  • Live Photos with stabilization
  • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
  • Improved local tone mapping
  • Body and face detection
  • Exposure control
  • Noise reduction
  • Auto HDR for photos
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Burst mode
  • Timer mode
  • Photo geotagging

As far as that 4K video support goes, you get features such as slow-mo support, time-lapse capabilities, and more:

  • 4K video recording at 30 fps
  • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
  • 720p HD video recording at 30 fps
  • Optical image stabilization for video
  • Optical zoom at 2x
  • Quad-LED True Tone flash
  • Slo‑mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240 fps
  • Time‑lapse video with stabilization
  • Cinematic video stabilization (1080p and 720p)
  • Continuous autofocus video
  • Body and face detection
  • Noise reduction
  • Take 8-megapixel still photos while recording 4K video
  • Playback zoom
  • Video geotagging

Lastly, the front-facing FaceTime camera supports 1080p video, Live Photos, and more:

  • 7-megapixel photos
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Retina Flash
  • ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
  • Auto HDR
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Body and face detection
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Burst mode
  • Exposure control
  • Timer mode

The this year’s 9.7-inch iPad is virtually identical to last year’s model. The only change Apple notes on its Technical Specifications page is support for body detection, in addition to face detection.

Camera

  • 8-megapixel camera
  • Live Photos
  • Autofocus
  • Panorama (up to 43 megapixels)
  • HDR for photos
  • Exposure control
  • Burst mode
  • Tap to focus
  • Timer mode
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • Backside illumination
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Body and face detection
  • Photo geotagging

Video Recording

  • 1080p HD video recording (30 fps)
  • Slo‑mo (120 fps)
  • Time-lapse video with stabilization
  • Video image stabilization
  • Body and face detection
  • 3x video zoom
  • Video geotagging

FaceTime HD Camera

  • 1.2-megapixel photos
  • Live Photos
  • ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Retina Flash
  • 720p HD video recording
  • Backside illumination
  • HDR for photos and videos
  • Body and face detection
  • Burst mode
  • Exposure control
  • Timer mode

Storage & Color

If you base your iPad pick on color, the 10.5-inch model is your best bet as it comes in silver, gold, space gray, and rose gold. Meanwhile, the 12.9-inch model comes in silver, gold, and space gray. Finally, the 9.7-inch is available in silver, space gray, and so-called “new” gold – or a gold that is slightly brighter than the gold of other iPad Pro models.

Both iPad Pro models are available in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, while the 9.7-inch is available in 32GB and 128GB. Thus, if you need a lot of space, you better look at the Pro models.

Price

While some people were hoping for an even cheaper 9.7-inch iPad this year, that didn’t come to fruition. The device still starts at $329 for 32GB of storage and increases to $429. Adding cellular capabilities bumps those prices to $459 and $559, respectively.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro starts at $649 for 64GB of storage and increases to $749 and $949 for 256GB and 512GB, respectively. The cellular models start at $779 for 64GB, $879 for 256GB, and $1,079 for 512GB.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for 64GB, $899 for 256GB, and $1099 for 512GB. For cellular connectivity, you’re looking at $929, $1,029, or $1,229.

Wrap up

In comparison to its other product lineups, Apple’s line of iPads is relatively straightforward. The 9.7-inch model offers the lowest barrier of entry, but you sacrifice some performance, display, and camera technology. Meanwhile, the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are true powerhouses, though there are likely upgrades coming at some point this year.

It’s hard to argue against the 9.7-inch iPad at this point. With Apple Pencil support now in tow, it reaches an entire new audience of users. Our own Jeff Benjamin praised the device in his review, which can be seen below.

What do you think of Apple’s iPad lineup? Is there a model that sticks out to you? Let us know down in the comments!


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