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mj_

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May 18, 2017
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I'm considering to replace my 2018 iPad 6th gen that I use as couch computer in the living room. It still works great but can get rather sluggish sometimes when browsing the web or, most dramatically, multitasking between two or more apps simultaneously (e.g. Amazon and Safari).

I am torn between the new M1-powered iPad Air 5th generation and the A12X-powered iPad Pro 12.9 3rd generation. Both of these are going to set me back around $600 (the Pro is available for $629 on the Apple Refurbished store) so basically, it's going to be either a blazingly fast yet small 11" iPad Air (M1) with 8 GB of RAM for great multitasking or a slightly slower yet larger 12.9" iPad Pro (A12X) with 4 GB of RAM but a 120 Hz display, better and more speakers, and a larger display in return. In terms of storage the 64 GB base model will be more than enough for my need as my current 6th gen iPad has 32 GB, most of which has never been used. And while I would like to continue using my Chinese knock-off 1st gen AliExpress Apple Pencil from what I can tell both of these will only support the 2nd gen Apple Pencil, is that correct?

99% of my use are as a couch computer in the evenings in the living room. I use it for browsing the web, checking/sending short emails, media consumption (Netflix, Prime, YouTube), FaceTime about once to twice a week, online shopping (Amazon, eBay), etc. Occasionally I need to put my handwritten signature on a PDF for which I use above mentioned knock-off Apple Pencil and the iPad instead thereby avoiding the unholy trinity of printing, signing, and scanning. I have never ever played any games on the iPad, I don't listen to music, I don't use any creativity or "pro" tools and applications other than occasionally using Office 365 to read or perform minor edits to Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, and the only times it ever leaves the house is when I go on vacation and decide to take the iPad instead of my laptop. Occasionally, I do use the iPad as second screen connected to my MacBook Air, which happens more frequently in summer when I can actually work in my backyard.

I am undecided between the two. I am leaning towards the larger iPad Pro but am slightly worried that given its advanced age of four years and its hardware limitations (A12 chip, 4 GB of RAM) it might get cut off by Apple rather soon.

Which one would you pick given my use case?
 

jdb8167

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Nov 17, 2008
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slightly slower yet larger 12.9" iPad Pro (A12X) with 4 GB of RAM but a 120 Hz display
You can get 6 GB RAM with the 1 TB version if you can find one. All 2020 (A12Z) iPad Pros have 6 GB RAM.

Edit: I'm seeing 4th Gen 12.9" iPad Pros with 128 GB storage (and 6 GB RAM) on the Apple refurb store for the same price as the 256 GB iPad Air at $749. I'm skeptical if anyone can really see a difference between an M1 and an A12Z on an iPad Pro except in very limited cases. So it depends on whether or not you value the iPad Pro extras and the extra screen real-estate of the 12.9" iPad Pro.
 
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rui no onna

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Oct 25, 2013
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I expect Apple will continue supporting the 2018 iPad Pro well past the stage when you feel it become sluggish.

With that said, you find the 2018 iPad 6th gen lacking now. Chances are you'll find 4GB RAM iPads in the same boat 3-4 years from now. The question is are you okay upgrading your iPad again after 3-4 years or do you prefer something longer lived?
 
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mj_

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May 18, 2017
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There is absolutely no way I am spending any more than around $600 so neither the 1 TB 2018 for $1,049 Refurbished nor newer iPad Pro models for $749 are an option. In fact, I would much rather spend nothing all and continue using my current iPad for many years to come but alas, it is getting annoyingly sluggish.

I expect Apple will continue supporting the 2018 iPad Pro well past the stage when you feel it become sluggish.

With that said, you find the 2018 iPad 6th gen lacking now. Chances are you'll find 4GB RAM iPads in the same boat 3-4 years from now. The question is are you okay upgrading your iPad again after 3-4 years or do you prefer something longer lived?
Excellent point, and another worry of mine. In the past, I have only ever replaced an iPad when it became too sluggish to use. Coincidentally, this seems to happen more or less every three to four years: iPad 2 in 2011, replaced by iPad Air in early 2015, replaced by 6th gen iPad in mid 2018, and now roughly four years later I am once again looking to replace it. The iPads I bought were always current models and never lasted more than four years tops so the fact that the iPad Pro I am looking at is already over three years old does worry me a lot.
 

rui no onna

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Oct 25, 2013
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Excellent point, and another worry of mine. In the past, I have only ever replaced an iPad when it became too sluggish to use. Coincidentally, this seems to happen more or less every three to four years: iPad 2 in 2011, replaced by iPad Air in early 2015, replaced by 6th gen iPad in mid 2018, and now roughly four years later I am once again looking to replace it. The iPads I bought were always current models and never lasted more than four years tops so the fact that the iPad Pro I am looking at is already over three years old does worry me a lot.

The 2018 6th gen you got is roughly similar in performance to the 2015/2016 iPad Pros. Even if it was a current model, its CPU/RAM was from 2016.

I expect the 2018 iPad Pros to have similar useful life remaining compared to the recently released iPad 9th gen.
 

MrSky

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Mar 8, 2022
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the extra ram and M1 cpu should give the Air 5 at least a year or 2 longer on the IOS support cycle than then 2018 iPad pro.

Also do you normally hold the ipad while reading or browsing and bring it here and there around the house? If so then you would wan the Ipad Air because holding an 12.9 can get pretty heavy after a while.
 
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mj_

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May 18, 2017
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I expect the 2018 iPad Pros to have similar useful life remaining compared to the recently released iPad 9th gen.
Based purely in specs I was hoping that the Pro would last me a year or two longer than the 9th gen iPad. It does after all have two extra performance cores (4 vs. 2), a ~20% faster GPU, and most importantly 33% more RAM (4 GB vs. 3 GB). If that were the case I could justify spending more on the Pro. If not the 9th gen iPad would be a no-brainer at just $329, and I would be incredibly hard pressed to justify spending double that just for the larger display.

the extra ram and M1 cpu should give the Air 5 at least a year or 2 longer on the IOS support cycle than then 2018 iPad pro.
I would expect at least three years to be honest. After all the M1 Air is four years younger than the 2018 Pro. But you might be right, who knows. Plus, based on my past experience I no longer think the iOS support cycle is going to be the deal breaker here. It is much more likely going to be performance, and the Air’s M1 and more importantly 8 GB of RAM will probably go a very long way compared to the Pro’s A12X with just 4 GB of RAM.

Also do you normally hold the ipad while reading or browsing and bring it here and there around the house? If so then you would wan the Ipad Air because holding an 12.9 can get pretty heavy after a while.
I never carry the iPad around the house or hold it in my hands while using it. I’ve head it in a Zugu case pretty much since day one and it is always either resting on my lap when I’m sitting on the couch or outside in my backyard (like for example right now while I am typing these words), on the table, or the floor when my toddler is FaceTiming her grandparents. I find it too cumbersome to hold while in use.
 
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rui no onna

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Oct 25, 2013
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Based purely in specs I was hoping that the Pro would last me a year or two longer than the 9th gen iPad. It does after all have two extra performance cores (4 vs. 2), a ~20% faster GPU, and most importantly 33% more RAM (4 GB vs. 3 GB). If that were the case I could justify spending more on the Pro. If not the 9th gen iPad would be a no-brainer at just $329, and I would be incredibly hard pressed to justify spending double that just for the larger display.

I dunno if iOS 15 is just super buggy but 3GB feels like it’s barely enough right now. I get reloads galore on 3GB. My mini 6 with A15/4GB is only slightly better. It’s tolerable but I’m not particularly fond of the experience now and things are bound to get worse 2-3 years down the line. For my usage (mostly web browsing, reading, GoodReader and occasional Excel), I tend to see more benefit from faster single-core than having more cores so I usually just ignore multi-core scores, too.

However, the fact that you’re still using a 6th gen obviously means you have more patience than I do so maybe the 2018 Pro could last you as long as you’re estimating.
 

henry72

macrumors 68000
Jun 18, 2009
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New Zealand
I would pick the M1 Air if you're planning to keep it for at least 5 years. I also like the 10.9/11" form factor better than the 12.9". Also centre stage is great for FaceTime.

I think Apple is planning to release some apps or features specifically for M1 iPad :)
 
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Digitalguy

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Apr 15, 2019
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I expect Apple will continue supporting the 2018 iPad Pro well past the stage when you feel it become sluggish.

With that said, you find the 2018 iPad 6th gen lacking now. Chances are you'll find 4GB RAM iPads in the same boat 3-4 years from now. The question is are you okay upgrading your iPad again after 3-4 years or do you prefer something longer lived?
This is one of the rare times where I don't completely agree with your predictions... ?
I don't think the 2018 will ever become sluggish, but reloads will definitely increase (maybe to a point where they start becoming extremely annoying)
Here are my predictions:
2018 pro gets at least until iPadOS 19 (2025), and maybe one or 2 more. By then I don't expect 4GB devices with A12X to become sluggish by then, but I expect them to reload a lot like the 2018 iPad 6 did in 2018....
3 GB device will instead be the new 2GB... So I do expect both the iPad 8 and 9 to become sluggish at the end of their life.

I expect the M1 SOC to get a 10 year life support on both Macs and iPads from the date it was first released (2020). So 2030 (or 2031) for any M1 device, air 5 included.
 
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Isamilis

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Apr 3, 2012
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There is absolutely no way I am spending any more than around $600 so neither the 1 TB 2018 for $1,049 Refurbished nor newer iPad Pro models for $749 are an option. In fact, I would much rather spend nothing all and continue using my current iPad for many years to come but alas, it is getting annoyingly sluggish.


Excellent point, and another worry of mine. In the past, I have only ever replaced an iPad when it became too sluggish to use. Coincidentally, this seems to happen more or less every three to four years: iPad 2 in 2011, replaced by iPad Air in early 2015, replaced by 6th gen iPad in mid 2018, and now roughly four years later I am once again looking to replace it. The iPads I bought were always current models and never lasted more than four years tops so the fact that the iPad Pro I am looking at is already over three years old does worry me a lot.
Another “solution”. Have you tried wipe the iPad and start as new (don’t update the iOS)? Perhaps it will solve the sluggish issues.
 

Digitalguy

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Apr 15, 2019
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Another “solution”. Have you tried wipe the iPad and start as new (don’t update the iOS)? Perhaps it will solve the sluggish issues.
that won't change anything, as you cannot go back to previous versions of the OS
 

Isengardtom

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2009
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I would first check and see if the increased size is something you like. There's a big weight difference to consider.

Apple pencil is indeed version 2 on both
 

rui no onna

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Oct 25, 2013
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This is one of the rare times where I don't completely agree with your predictions... ?
I don't think the 2018 will ever become sluggish, but reloads will definitely increase (maybe to a point where they start becoming extremely annoying)
Here are my predictions:
2018 pro gets at least until iPadOS 19 (2025), and maybe one or 2 more. By then I don't expect 4GB devices with A12X to become sluggish by then, but I expect them to reload a lot like the 2018 iPad 6 did in 2018....
3 GB device will instead be the new 2GB... So I do expect both the iPad 8 and 9 to become sluggish at the end of their life.

I expect the M1 SOC to get a 10 year life support on both Macs and iPads from the date it was first released (2020). So 2030 (or 2031) for any M1 device, air 5 included.

True, perhaps sluggish isn't quite the correct term but I expect it could be more prone to occasional freezes when switching between apps and tabs.

Like I mentioned, I get annoyed by reloads now on 15. Granted, not quite to the "extremely" point just yet.
 
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jdb8167

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Nov 17, 2008
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Is it worth upgrading from the 2018 11 inch iPad Pro to the iPad Air 5.
If your 2018 iPad Pro doesn’t feel slow or sluggish for what you use it for, you would be giving up several features for a lessor iPad with a faster SoC. No ProMotion. Instead of 4 speakers, only two. TouchId instead of FaceId. Back camera has a flash on the iPad Pro.

You do get double the RAM in the iPad Air compared to the 2018 iPad Pro.

Edit: If 5G is important to you then that in my mind is the most likely reason to move from the 2018 iPad Pro to the new iPad Air.
 

Digitalguy

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Apr 15, 2019
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True, perhaps sluggish isn't quite the correct term but I expect it could be more prone to occasional freezes when switching between apps and tabs.

Like I mentioned, I get annoyed by reloads now on 15. Granted, not quite to the "extremely" point just yet.
Yeah, freezes could be possible at some point, even though I think they'll remain occasional at worst on a 4GB device with a 8 core CPU, even in 4-5 years, when the 2018 pro will be cut from support, but even just reloads, when too many, can be extremely annoying and I see it in my 2018 12.9 even on iPadOS 14. I might even leave it on 14 just for this reason, unless 16 gives me some compelling reason to upgrade. Instead I'll probably upgrade my 11in, since it has 6GB RAM and reloads are less frequent.
At this point I force myself to leave no more than 1-2 tabs open on the 4GB devices and if need to do more I switch to one of my other devices....
 

OCS12

macrumors member
Oct 3, 2012
94
94
Sheboygan, WI USA
Is it worth upgrading from the 2018 11 inch iPad Pro to the iPad Air 5.
I just did almost the exact opposite. Sold my Air 4 and bought a 2018 11 iPad Pro. Better in every single way, but that’s for my usage. I only use my iPad for streaming video, navigation on my boat, and emails for the most part. Everything just seems to work better for what I do. I’ve only had it a few days, but I’m coming around to why they called it “pro”.
 

rui no onna

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Oct 25, 2013
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Yeah, freezes could be possible at some point, even though I think they'll remain occasional at worst on a 4GB device with a 8 core CPU, even in 4-5 years, when the 2018 pro will be cut from support, but even just reloads, when too many, can be extremely annoying and I see it in my 2018 12.9 even on iPadOS 14. I might even leave it on 14 just for this reason, unless 16 gives me some compelling reason to upgrade. Instead I'll probably upgrade my 11in, since it has 6GB RAM and reloads are less frequent.
At this point I force myself to leave no more than 1-2 tabs open on the 4GB devices and if need to do more I switch to one of my other devices....

Lol, I can't do just 1-2 tabs. Less than 20 is the best I can do.

That said, I don't really multitask on 4GB and the pages I open there, I don't mind too much if they reload (no forms).
 
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mj_

macrumors 68000
Original poster
May 18, 2017
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Austin, TX
So to summarize my options are:

1) An iPad Pro 12.9 that will last for 4-6 years for $629, or between $157 and $105 per year.
2) An iPad Air M1 that will last for 5-7 years for $599, or between $119 and $86 per year.
3) An iPad 9th gen that will last for 3-4 years for $329, or between $110 and $83 per year.

Whichever way I look at it the Pro is by far the most expensive option while the 9th gen and Air are similar in cost per year. It boils down to whether or not the benefits of the Pro over the Air are worth the premium.

I am at this point also seriously considering to keep the current 6th gen iPad and learn to live with the lags. After two days of research I can now say that I don’t really care for any of the newer iPad’s, Air’s, or Pro’s features so the only improvement I would really benefit from is performance, and I’m not sure that it‘s worth spending that much money on.
 
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darngooddesign

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Jul 4, 2007
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Atlanta, GA
I'm skeptical if anyone can really see a difference between an M1 and an A12Z on an iPad Pro except in very limited cases.
That depends on whether you consider photo editing a limited case.

I tested the Previous Air 4 against the M1 iPP and the Pro updated Lightroom edits faster, which is useful for seeing before and after differences, and generated a screen full of thumbnail previews faster. The difference was slight, but it was there.
 
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