Apple has now added their top-of-the-line Apple silicon M1 chip for the 13-inch MacBook Air into the $929 entry-level iPad Air, which begs the question: Now that the iPad Air has the same chip as the 11-inch iPad Pro, and there are so many other similarities, is it really worth spending the extra $270 on the iPad Pro?
What the iPad Air 5 and the 11-inch iPad Pro have in common
First, let’s talk about the similarities between the new iPad Air and the iPad Pro. The 2020 update to the iPad Air brought the same design language from the iPad Pro, which means no home button, thin bezels, and — more importantly — support for accessories like the second-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard.
The iPad Air now supports 5G, as well (non mmWave, though). The front-facing camera has the Centre Stage feature that makes sure you’re in the frame and centered no matter how much you move around.
When it comes to the display, things are almost the same. You get True Tone, an anti-reflective coating, and a P3 colour display.
What you get for the extra $270 on the iPad Pro
That said, the extra $270 on the iPad Pro does get you some goodies. First of all, the iPad Pro supports Face ID, which doesn’t make it to the iPad Air. Instead, the iPad Air has a Touch ID sensor embedded in the Power button.
And while the display is almost the same visually, the iPad Air doesn’t get the ProMotion high-refresh-rate display. This means no dynamic 120Hz display for you. The display goes up to 600 nits of brightness while the iPad Air only supports 500 nits.
The iPad Pro takes the camera setup to a whole different level. You get access to a two-camera system (wide and ultra wide sensors) along with Lidar support. On the iPad Air, you get a single 12MP sensor.
The iPad Pro also has a better port. While they’re both USB-C, the iPad Pro has a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, which has a massive 40 Gbps throughput. The iPad Air, on the other hand, has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, which has a throughput of 10 Gbps.
It might come down to how much storage you really need
When you pay $270 more for the starting rate, you also end up with more storage. The $1,199 iPad Pro starts with 128GB storage while the $929 iPad Air has just 64GB storage, which is way too little for 2022.
Storage actually matters a lot when buying a new tablet, and we would recommend you upgrade the storage if you’re buying an iPad Air. The 256GB version will cost you $1,159. That’s where things get murky, because now you’re only $U40 away from buying the iPad Pro, which has 128GB storage.
Secondly, the iPad Air tops out of 256GB of storage. If you want 512GB or 2TB storage, you have no choice but to buy the iPad Pro (and pay Apple exorbitant rates — the 2TB version costs $2,849).
Why the iPad Air is still the best option for most users
All that said and done, we still believe that the iPad Air is enough of a tablet for most users, most of the time. If you can do with the 64GB of storage space, even better. Just buy the base $929 model and spend that extra cash on the Apple Pencil or the Smart Keyboard.
The iPad Air also comes in five vibrant colours that the iPad Pro does not — space grey, starlight, pink, purple, and blue.
Only buy the iPad Pro if…
Now that the iPad Air is so good, the iPad Pro is an edge-case tablet. There’s, of course, still a market for it, and if you have some very specific needs, nothing other than the iPad Pro will suffice. But you should go for the iPad Pro only if you absolutely need the following features:
- Face ID
- More than 256GB of storage
- Thunderbolt/USB 4 port
- ProMotion display
If you don’t need those things, buy the iPad Air.
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