The four-inch iPhone SE may have been the highlight of the recent Apple unveiling event, but the new iPad Pro was also announced. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro differs somewhat from the 12.9-inch model that was released last year, so here is a breakdown of the significant differences between the two devices.
iPad Pro 9.7 inch vs. iPad Pro 12.9 inch
Obviously the two tablets are considerably different in size, with the new iPad Pro being smaller than the device that was released last year. To sum up the contrast between the two, here are the precise device sizes of the two tablets.
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iPad Pro 12.9: 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm (12 x 8.86 x 0.27 inches) and 713 / 729g (1.57 / 1.59lbs) for cellular/non-cellular
iPad Pro 9.7: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm (9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches) and 444 / 437g (0.98 / 0.96lbs) for cellular/non-cellular
Being lighter and smaller, it could certainly be argued that the new iPad Pro is the more convenient of the two devices.
As was widely predicted, the iPad Pro 9.7 does not feature the heralded 3D Touch system. This means that it does not differ from the existing iPad Pro in this department, but some observers will believe that the consumer electronics giant has missed a trick by not including the pressure-sensitive technology in this device.
Somewhat surprisingly, the iPad Pro 9.7 features a lesser screen resolution than the iPad Pro 12.9 that was released last year. In the run-up to the release of the device it was suggested that 4K resolution could be resident in the iPad Pro 9.7, but this has not turned out to be the reality. Nonetheless, the 2,048 x 1,536 resolution still produces 264 pixels per inch, which is precisely equal to the 2,732 x 2,048 resolution included in the larger iPad Pro from last year.
Apple has stated publicly that the two iPad Pro units have identical processing power, but there is in fact slight variance between the two. Last year’s iPad Pro 12.9 featured an Apple A9X with dual-core 2.26 GHz (Twister) CPU and PowerVR Series 7 (12-core) GPU boosted by 4GB of RAM. The new iPad Pro 9.7 is driven by an Apple A9X with dual-core 2.16 GHz (Twister) CPU and PowerVR Series 7 (12-core) GPU, and crucially has just 2GB of RAM.
This could make a significant difference to the performance capabilities of the iPad Pro 9.7, but it must, of course, be said in mitigation that the smaller tablet will require less processing to power the display.
Camera functionality is hardly a critical aspect of a tablet computer, but Apple has nonetheless decided to upgrade the capabilities of the snapper in the new iPad Pro 9.7. Thus, the camera in its latest tablet has a superior aperture to last year’s release, having been bumped up to 12-megapixels, and now featuring 4K video recording as well. Apple has also improved the selfie-capturing front-facing camera, ensuring that it possesses a five-megapixel lens.
The value of this is debatable considering that tablets make rather awkward photographic devices, but it does nonetheless indicate that the iPad Pro 9.7 has received a boost in this department.
Apple has replicated the quad speaker setup from the iPad Pro 12.9 in the 9.7 variant, and thus there is no discernible difference here whatsoever. However, it must be noted that the sound quality produced by the iPad Pro 9.7 is excellent, and certainly superior to that of the comparably sized iPad Air 2.
Battery and charging
Apple has fitted the iPad Pro 9.7 with a smaller battery, although the corporation insists that the battery life of the two devices is essentially identical. However, Apple has made the rather strange decision of downgrading the USB functionality in the system to USB 2.0, whereas the iPad Pro 12.9 utilized USB 3.0 via its Lightning port.
Capacity and pricing
Another piece of good news regarding the iPad Pro 9.7 is that Apple has ensured that it offers upgraded storage compared to the device that was released last year. The iPad Pro 9.7 comes straight out of the gates with a 256GB version of the tablet, which was conspicuous by its absence when the iPad Pro 12.9 launched last year (although it has been added since).
The pricing of the iPad Pro 9.7 is rather attractive, with each version of the tablet being set at a $200 lower price point than the equivalent from last year’s iPad Pro, as would perhaps be expected considering the smaller size.
The new iPad Pro has been made available in rose gold, and this was an option that was not available with the iPad Pro which launched in 2015. This fits into the general Apple ethos of offering its consumers more options when purchasing devices, as exemplified by the launch of the Apple Watch last year.
The iPad pro 12.9 has only been on sale for six months, but the iPad Pro 9.7 has actually improved on this tablet in several ways, while there are also surprising omissions in its armory. It does seem a particular oversight for the device to only have half the RAM memory of last year’s iPad Pro 12.9, while the downgrading of the USB is also somewhat surprising.
Nonetheless, the slightly improved display, massively superior camera, and significantly cheaper price all ensure that the new iPad Pro will attract many consumers for Apple. It has been suggested in some quarters that the new iPad Pro 9.7 should not have attracted the Pro labelling, considering the relatively low memory in the tablet, and that it is essentially an extremely powerful iPad air variant rather than a new iPad Pro.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a powerful iPad Air; this is essentially the defining device of the tablet niche. But the iPad Pro 9.7 perhaps does not quite deliver what will have been hoped by fans of the Apple tablet range, even if it is an excellent performer and perhaps a slight improvement over the existing iPad Pro 12.9.