We can’t say definitively which tablet is better before we’ve had a chance to properly benchmark and test out the newcomer. The lower price is certainly tempting, and while there are rumblings – and grumblings – about the smaller amount of RAM, there’s a good reason why Apple doesn’t disclose such figures: they’re irrelevant to the average buyer. As long as it performs well for real-world tasks, it’s sure to be another winner.
Price When Reviewed
The iPad Pro is a fantastic tablet, and Apple has just made it even better by shrinking it down to the 9.7in form factor, adding new features and lowering the price. Arguably, it’s a better tablet and here in our iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro 12.9 comparison we’ll highlight the differences and explain what’s new. See also: iPad Pro 9.7 in-depth review.
iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro comparison: Price
The cheapest 9.7in iPad Pro costs £499 from Apple, which is £100 more than previous 9.7in iPads have cost at launch. However, it’s £180 cheaper than the base model from the 12.9-inch range. In fact, the price difference is always £180 regardless of capacity. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.
The iPad Air 2 is now cheaper, so if you do want a 9.7in iPad but don’t need the Pro’s features, then the 16GB version is only £349 from Apple and the 64GB version costs £429. See also: iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Air 2
iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro comparison: Specifications
Here’s a summary of the key features:
9.7-inch iPad Pro
12.9-inch iPad Pro
32, 128, 256GB
32, 128, 256GB
32, 128, 256GB
A9X + M9
A9X + M9
12MP (4K video, Live Photos)
8Mp (1080p video)
5Mp (720p video)
1.2Mp (720p video)
Silver, Gold, Space Grey, Rose Gold
Silver, Gold, Space Grey
Weight (Wi-Fi only)
While the two tablets may seem very similar apart from screen size and resolution, the figures only tell half the story. For a start, early benchmarks have shown that the A9X processor in the new model is underclocked and that it has only half the RAM: 2GB versus 4GB in the 12.9in model.
The 9.7in model has a cleverer screen which Apple calls True Tone. It uses light sensors to adapt not only brightness, but also colour tone to your environment. While the 12.9in model now benefits from Night Shift in iOS 9.3, the new iPad Pro should give you true colours no matter what time of day or night or the kind of lighting you’re working under.
The new display is also brighter and less reflective than the iPad Air 2, but we’ll have to wait and see how it compares in quality until we can see the two iPad Pros side by side, when we’ll also be able to see how their colour gamuts compare.
One feature which the 9.7in display doesn’t have (which you might have anticipated) is 3D Touch. However, it is compatible with the pressure-sensitive Apple Pencil.
The other main difference is that the cameras have been upgraded to the models you get in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus – including the True Tone flash and sapphire crystal lens cover. We had expected the original iPad Pro to get the better cameras, but it seems more sensible on a smaller tablet as not too many people will be disappointed they can’t shoot 4K video on their 12.9in iPad.
Upgraded cameras also come with upgraded features. Here’s what the new Pro has that you won’t find on the larger version:
Photography: Live photos, auto HDR, autofocus with Focus Pixels, 63Mp panoramas.
Video modes: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and 120fps, 720p at 240fps, ‘cinematic’ video stabilisation.
In virtually every other respect, the two tablets have the same internals: the quad-speaker system, dual mics, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2. The one minor difference is in the cellular models where the 9.7in iPad Pro gets LTE-Advanced which supports a few extra bands compared to the 12.9 model that lacks LTE-A. Also, the new model has an embedded Apple SIM.
Bear in mind that, as ever, only the cellular models in both sizes have GPS. Wi-Fi models do not.
iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro comparison: Design
Apart from the physically smaller dimensions, the 9.7in iPad Pro shares its design with the larger model. Buttons, ports and speakers are all in the same places. There’s no mute / lock rotation switch on either model.
The only change is that the 9.7in version comes in Rose Gold, which isn’t an option with the 12.9in model.
iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro comparison: Which is best?
It’s easy to point out the new features and conclude that – given the lower prices – the smaller, newer iPad Pro is clearly better.
However, if you bought a 12.9in iPad Pro, you probably won’t see the 9.7in model as an upgrade. The main advantage of the bigger version is that is has a bigger screen. It’s one of the main reasons why it’s called the ‘Pro’. While you can multitask on the smaller iPad Pro, many people will prefer the larger screen for running two apps at once.
It also offers a bigger canvas for drawing with the Pencil and has a larger keyboard, too. There is a new Smart Keyboard – it costs £129 rather than £139 for the 12.9in version – but has the same layout. That’s no bad thing, and we need to properly test it out to see if – shrunk down to fit on a 9.7in iPad – the keyboard is as usable.
But the flip side of the coin is that the 9.7in iPad Pro is lighter and more portable. And if you don’t need a keyboard, it’s a super-powerful tablet you can take everywhere with you.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch: Specs
- Apple A9X processor with M9 coprocessor
- 32GB/128/256GB onboard storage
- iOS 9 (able to use all iOS 9 tablet features, including Split View)
- LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 2048 x 1536 pixels, 9.7 inches (diagonal), 264 ppi pixel density
- Touch ID fingerprint sensor
- Four-speaker audio
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band with MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.2
- 12Mp (rear-facing) with True Tone flash
- 5Mp (front-facing) with Retina flash
- Smart Connector
- 437g (WiFi-only model) or 444g (Wi-Fi plus cellular)