Which iPad Pro should you buy? 12.9-inch iPad Pro vs. 9.7-inch iPad Pro

12 9 inch ipad pro vs 7 comparison header
Lately, it seems as though every tech company and its mother is looking for a better way to sell tablets to consumers. Apple isn’t alone in the matter, but while other companies are looking at slashing prices and capitalizing on hybrid designs, Apple seems to be taking a different approach. The Cupertino-based tech giant unveiled a 9.7-inch iPad Pro at its March event, which is essentially a pint-sized edition of the heralded iPad Pro.

The newest edition to the iPad lineup isn’t a drastic departure from its like-minded brethren, nor does it even carry a different name. It capitalizes on a 9.7-inch touchscreen and Apple’s A9X chip like its larger counterpart, while managing to pack in a 12-megapixel camera with the ability to shoot 4K video. That same display makes use of Apple’s new True Tone technology, however, which allows the display to automatically adjust its color to better reflect the lighting of the room. It’s also slightly cheaper than the behemoth 12.9-inch model, and will be available in rose gold upon its debut.

That said, how does it stack in other specs when placed alongside the bigger iPad Pro? Check below for a closer look at the hardware.

12.9-inch iPad Pro

Large iPad Pro

9.7-inch iPad Pro

Small iPad Pro
Size 12 x 8.68 x 0.27 inches 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches
Weight 1.57 pounds 0.96 pounds
Display 12.9-inch LED-backlit multi-touch display 9.7-inch LED-backlit multi-touch display
Resolution 2,732 x 2,048 pixels 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
Operating System iOS 9.3 iOS 9.3
Storage 32, 128, 256GB 32, 128, 256GB
SIM Card Nano-SIM Nano-SIM
Processor A9X chip with 64‑bit architecture, M9 coprocessor A9X chip with 64‑bit architecture, M9 coprocessor
RAM 4GB 2GB
Camera Front 1.2MP, Rear 8MP Front 5MP, Rear 12MP
Video 720p HD, 1080p HD 4K, 720p HD, 1080p HD
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, Bluetooth 4.2 Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, Bluetooth 4.2
Apple Pay Yes Yes
Sensors Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor
Battery Up to 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching videos, or listening to music Up to 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching videos, or listening to music
Charger Lightning Lightning
Marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Price $799, or $1,079 with cellular $599, or $729 with cellular
Availability Now Shipping March 31
DT review 4.5 out of 5 Coming soon

Design

While some Apple events result in hardware changes as well as design changes, this is not always the case. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is nearly identical to the 12.9-inch model Apple released in November, aside from the obvious sizing difference. It’s also slightly lighter, given it weighs less than a pound compared to the 1.57-pound build of the larger iPad Pro. It’s smaller on all other accounts — including length, width, and thickness — which is to be expected with the smaller frame. Both Pros showcase beveled edges and a brushed aluminum body, along with edge-to-edge glass, and a physical home button with Touch ID. The new Pro will be available in rose gold, however, whereas the older model is restricted to gold, silver, and space grey.

There some notable differences when it comes to the display, too. While the new Pro utilizes the same 9.7-inch, 2,048 x 1,536-pixel display found on the iPad Air 2, it’s outfitted with a wider color gamut and a few added perks that are designed to improve viewing performance. The glass is supposedly crafted to be 40 percent less reflective and substantially brighter than the display found on its predecessor, and moreover, it utilizes four separate light sensors to measure the ambient light of the room. Apple refers to the latter feature as “True Tone” technology, and its inclusion allows the new Pro to automatically adjust the brightness and color temperature of the display.

Much like its predecessor, the 9.7-inch Pro was built with accessories like the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard in mind, the latter of which has been downsized to match the smaller frame of the new Pro. Apple also announced a compatible lightning-powered SD card reader and a USB camera adapter, rendering the newest Pro just as capable as the former when bundled with the right set of accessories.

Winner: 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Power and processing

A9 ChipInternal hardware and computing power may be the heart and soul of any piece of consumer technology, but Apple isn’t necessarily looking to differentiate the new iPad from the last in that regard. Both Pros make use of Apple’s 64-bit A9X processor and M9 coprocessor, which let you tackle tasks once strictly reserved for dedicated workstations and computers. The efficiency of the architecture allows for up to 10 hours of battery life when surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music. Both also feature 4GB of RAM, along with identical connectivity and the same embedded sensors we’ve come to expect, including a three-axis gyro, a barometer, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, and the aforementioned Touch ID.

Storage capacity is identical as well — each device will be available in either a 32, 128, or 256GB configuration — but the new iPad Pro model has the upper hand when it comes to the camera. The 9.7-inch model comes lined with a 12MP rear camera, with support for 4K video recording, Live Photos, Focus Pixels, dual-tone flash, and a host of other useful tools. The larger Pro still features a 8MP camera and lacks the ability to shoot in 4K, though, even it is apt at capturing 1080p video at 30 frames per second.

However, camera features aren’t terribly important on tablets this large, so it’s almost a moot point.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

Apple products have never been cheap, and while the newest device in the iPad lineup is cheaper, it’s still not fit for those working with a tight budget. Prices for the 9.7-inch iPad start at $600 for the 32GB version, while the 32GB and 128GB models will cost you $750 and $900, respectively. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $800 for the 32GB model, with additional offerings running you $950 (64GB) and $1,100 (256GB). Cellular versions of both sizes will require an additional $130 or so at each price level, but keep in mind that either configuration of the 9.7-inch Pro won’t begin shipping until Thursday, March 31.

Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Winner: 9.7-inch iPad Pro

Conclusion

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is just as capable, if not more so, than its predecessor. It may not be quicker or represent a substantial leap in terms of design, but it boasts a more capable camera and a more intuitive display at lower price point. The only thing the 12.9-inch iPad Pro really offers over the former is, obviously, the added screen real estate. That said, many people likely opt for the Pro because of the hulking display, not necessarily the hardware or software powering the camera and display. Nonetheless, for those who truly feel the need for the additional space, it might be possible to overlook the small improvements to be had with the smaller Pro model.

In the end, it comes down to which size you prefer and how much you’re willing to spend. Both are pretty equally matched in terms of processing power, accessories, and display quality. The 9.7-inch model is definitely cheaper, and it boasts a number of intriguing improvements, including the True Tone display. It’s also more portable, though it may not be the laptop replacement you’re looking for, given its size. It is, however, a great size for a tablet.

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