iPad Pro or iPad Air 2?

Fraser Speirs on choosing between the new iPad Pro 9.7-inch and the iPad Air 2 for the classroom:

I have to be honest and say I don’t find this an easy call. My future-proofing paranoia says iPad Pro. My budgeting spreadsheet says that the iPad Air 2 is good enough for the next 3 years.

My problem is that, processor performance aside, many of the Pro features just aren’t that important to us.

While my needs are a lot different to Fraser’s, there is still a lot to take from his analysis here. As I mentioned previously, I am on the market for a new 9.7-inch iPad. After Apples Monday event, I was left with two choices:

  • 128Gb iPad Pro 9.7-inch
  • 64Gb iPad Air 2

The advantages of the Pro over the Air 2 are obvious: Pencil support, better speakers, True Tone display, upgraded processor and Smart Connector. Of those five features, only one of them is important to me - the upgraded processor.

The iPad Air 2 carries an A8X chip which delivers 1,800 Geekbench points in the single-core test and 4,500 in multi-core. The Pro carries a A9X chip which delivers 3,000 Geekbench points for single-core and 5,100 in multi-core. Both tablets have 2Gb RAM which surprised me. If the Pro had 4Gb like its bigger brother it would make this choice a lot easier.

For me an iPad is mainly an entertainment device. Something I can use to browse the web, social media, play games and watch movies. I don’t particularly need or want to get any work done on it. That pushes me closer to the Air 2. The price difference is also significant. €879 for a 128Gb Pro and a 64Gb Air 2 for €549. That’s a huge difference. I don’t think it makes sense to spend that kind of money on a Pro unless you plan on using it to get work done.

The one thing putting me off the Air 2 is the fact that it is a 2014 device. It goes against everything I’ve learned about buying tech to get a device that is a year and a half old. By the time September comes, it’ll already be onto its second major iOS update, iOS 10. That’s not good news when I plan on keeping this tablet for at least three years. But I think the Air 2 is unique in the fact that when it was released it was notably overpowered. Many reviewers at the time were scratching their heads over why Apple would create such strong hardware, but not make use of it with the software. iOS 9, which brought true multitasking, answered that question. That gives me some comfort that it should still have at least two years of good life in it. As Fraser concludes:

After Writing all this, I’m still not that sure. What I do think, though, is that I’m a lot more comfortable now with the option of going to the iPad Air 2 instead of the 9.7” iPad Pro. If we have the budget, we’ll go Pro. If not, I don’t think the Air 2 will be a bad choice at all. It’s still a great iPad.