iPad Pro 9.7 Vs iPad Air 2 – Is It Really The “Laptop Replacement” That Apple Mentioned?

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“iPad Pro is more than the next generation of iPad — it’s an uncompromising vision of personal computing for the modern world. It puts incredible power at your fingertips that leaps past most portable PCs. It makes even complex work as natural as touching, swiping or writing with a pencil. And whether you choose the 12.9-inch model or the new 9.7-inch model, iPad Pro is more capable, versatile and portable than anything that’s come before. In a word, super.” This is the description you will see on the iPad Pro at apple.com.

“We believe that iPad is the perfect expression of the future of personal computing.” says Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple at the introduction of the new iPad Pro 9.7 last week. This is the kind of words you are going to hear from the CEO of Apple. Humble but at the same time revealing to the world a huge ambition.

“There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad! These people could really benefit from an iPad Pro.” Philip Schiller, the senior vice president of Apple mentioned when he introduced the iPad Pro.

All these words you hear makes you go, “Wow are you serious? That’s just amazing, can’t wait to get one!” But is it really the “Super Computer” that Apple has mentioned? Even if the people who own those old PCs are interested in getting the iPad Pro, there are still a lot of reasons to doubt that the iPad Pro will be the next generation of personal computing. Doubters like me are ready to expose the hopes in that vision. There is no doubt that the iPad Pro is currently the best iPad, but can it really do all things you do on your PC? Are you curious to find out the truth about the iPad Pro? If you are, without further a do let me give you a in depth explanation about the iPad Pro.


Firstly, let’s talk about the price of the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro starts at $599 for the 32GB, $749 for the 128GB and $899 for the 256GB. So let’s compare to the price of the iPad Air 2 which is just reduced. The price of the iPad Air starts at $399 for the 16GB and $499 for the 64GB.

Since Apple has set up the storage options for these models differently (32GB Pro 16GB 64GB Air 2), but overall you’re looking at about $150 in difference. Not to mention if you’re  going to use the iPad Pro like a computer, 32GB is probably not enough. You will want to upgrade to the 128GB model  which cost $749. That’s not all, you will also want to buy the Smart Keyboard for $149 and maybe the Apple Pencil for $99.

That’s a total of $997 already for the iPad Pro. That’s not just normal computer pricing, it’s actually more expensive than many Windows PCs or Chrome books. If you’re going to invest that kind of money, you better know what is there for you.


That is where the “Pro’ part comes in. The difference between the iPad Pro and the iPad Air is almost like the difference between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. They can both do the same things, but the Pro is just faster. Finding out “how Pro is Pro” means you have to consider a constellation of features, and they don’t map exactly to what’s available on the bigger, 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Apple’s product naming strategy is confusing, but it’s got nothing on the feature.

The iPad Pro 9.7 has the same screen size as the iPad Air 2. However, the iPad Pro screen display is much better, with 22% brighter and 40% less reflective than the iPad Air 2. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry. The 9.7″ iPad Pro has a great new feature called True Tone that adjusts the colour of the screen, which is not available on the 12.9″ iPad Pro.

It also comes with a 12-megapixel camera12 with a top video resolution of 1080p and the concomitant camera bump, which is better than the iPad Air 2 and the 12.9″ iPad Pro. So it’s good if you’re going to be shooting video with an iPad.


Another thing new about the iPad Pro is the screen. There is this “True Tone Display”

So what is the True Tone Display? Philip Schiller explains it all.

There are hidden sensors on the face of the iPad that detect the colour temperature of the room and automatically adjust the color temperature of the screen.

The idea is that it’s supposed to make your screen act more like a physical piece of paper. When you look at a white sheet of paper in yellow light, you’re actually seeing a more yellow color tone, which is easier on your eyes. I mean if you’re a graphic designer you’re going to be turning True Tone off as you need accurate color representation. But for normal use, giving up a little bit of color fidelity for a nicer-looking screen is great.


How about the battery life of the iPad Pro? The battery is the same as the iPad Air 2, Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‑Fi, watching video, or listening.

How about the processor? The 9.7″ iPad Pro has the same A9X processor as the 12.9″ iPad Pro, but with a 2GB of RAM instead of 4GB. I hope that this iPad should be fast enough and powerful enough to act as a stand-in for the stuff you do on your computer. But I don’t think it quite gets there. The 2GB of RAM? I don’t think is quite enough to have a ton of Safari tabs open and be responsive while running another app alongside it.

The bigger issue is that iOS isn’t quite ready for computing tasks. Safari still feels more like a mobile browser than a desktop browser, for one thing. For another, two apps at once is great but somehow I always feel like I need one more on the screen. That’s to say nothing of the limitations that iOS still places on users and developers: you can’t pick default apps for key things like email or web browsers, you don’t have an easily accessible file system, and too many apps feel like stripped-down versions of their desktop equivalents. And sometimes, really, you just want to plug some USB thing into your computer without having to worry about adapters.


How about the Smart Keyboard? 

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The Smart Keyboard is the $149 accessory that attaches directly to the Smart Connector on the bottom of the iPad Pro. Apple has done some clever things with the design to make it thin, light, and durable. There are effectively no moving parts inside it, for example, it just uses the custom fabric weave to provide feedback to your fingers. On a desk, it’s as good as typing on a 9.7-inch iPad as you’re going to get.

I think the core typing experience is great, the rest isn’t. The Smart Cover only works at the one single angle, so you can’t put it on your lap like MacBooks. And other Bluetooth keyboards have both backlights and specialized function keys for things like music playback and volume which the Smart Keyboard doesn’t. So as much as it’s good to type on it, I think the best move is to wait and see if a better keyboard from a third-party becomes available.

And the Apple Pencil?

pencil_social

The Apple Pencil is great too, it works exactly like it does on the bigger iPad Pro. I still wish that it was a little more like the Microsoft Surface Pro Pen so it won’t rolls around on the table. But it’s incredibly responsive and accurate, works for shading at an angle, and is just all-around fun to use.


Conclusion – It’s an awesome iPad, but it’s still not a “Laptop Replacement”

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 6.22.32 PM

Back when Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPad, he said that it was a “third category of device, something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone.” And it still stays. The iPad is its own thing. Maybe the iPad will eventually be a “Laptop Replacement” in the future? But not now.

Now, Apple wants to say that this third category is the next category, the thing that can replace your laptop. And the new iPad Pro is powerful enough and portable enough to make a compelling case that it could happen, someday. I don’t think it’s there yet, but it’s not because of the hardware. The hardware is stunningly, amazingly good. Instead, I just don’t think that iOS can make the case for replacing Windows or OS X.

But just because the iPad Pro isn’t a great computer, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great iPad. In fact, the iPad Pro is the best iPad right now. But if you aren’t sure that you need all those “Pro” features, the iPad Air 2 is still a great iPad, besides you can save a ton of money. Because if you’re interested in an iPad, your decision comes down to two things. What size screen do you want and how much are you willing to spend to try out Apple’s vision for “the future of personal computing?”

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16 Comments on "iPad Pro 9.7 Vs iPad Air 2 – Is It Really The “Laptop Replacement” That Apple Mentioned?"

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Crystal Mallison-Schwert
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What an amazing product! This will have to be my next purchase. Thank you.

Jeff
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I am impressed with your website and your product review, you have done a very good job with both be proud and I will be back soon.

Roger
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Jeff,

Another VERY informative post!

My closest Apple store is an hour and three-quarters drive from my home. SO, I don’t get there frequently!

Seeing the ads for the new iPad Pro — stunning visual display, “replace” my laptop, Smart Keyboard — both my wife and I (long-time Apple users) thought perhaps this would be our next purchase.

I still haven’t had a chance to visit my Apple store, so your post was most interesting.

The screen adjusting color based on temperature does sound awesome. BUT I do like to have “a ton of Safari tabs open” all at the same time (I even have a second monitor attached to my MacBook Pro and have 2 Safari windows open constantly!), so the computing strength is essential to me. And though I do like the Smart Cover (rather than trying to type on the screen), but I often have it in my lap, so the one angle issue IS a problem for me.

Thank you so much! I will keep checking back for more information, especially when I am in the market for my next Apple computer! (Maybe an iMac?)

Roger

Vicky
Guest

I have one of the older iPad versions and like you say it’s great but will not replace the laptop. When on the road the iPad just does not compare with the laptop. It’s great for other things though and I use it a lot. The extra keyboard is good but not great…

Enjoyed your review, a lot of great information here, thank you!

Vicky

Sue
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I am still on the fence with Apple. To date, I am still a Windows/Android fan. Apple keeps putting out some interesting hardware, but it always seem to fall just a tad short in comparison. The new iPad Pro seems to be in that same boat.

Thanks for the great review, it really did solidify my gut feeling that it still isn’t time for me to invest in an Apple device just yet!

Julius
Guest

Detailed review, thanks. But to put it simply, would you seriously recommend this for work? I’m looking for a light and mobile laptop that’s for work on a website. Budget is around 1000 bucks.

Alexey
Guest

Hey there it’s Alexey. I liked the article, it was a good read. And the video was awesomely relevant too. I am not a big fan of ipads though, and never used and apple smartphone. But there are all pretty the same. My mom loves to use her ipad to I think I will buy her this one for her Bday.
Thanks for the share 🙂

Andrew
Guest

Third category device huh? I’d say that fits tablets and iPads better than anything. Every company in the tech race is trying to come out with laptop replacements, and it doesn’t seem any of them meet that just yet. That being said, Apple makes quality products to be sure.

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