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The iPad Air is now available in two size options, just like the iPad Pro. Yet after a significant update to the iPad Pro that introduces a thinner design and OLED displays, how different are the two product lines and which should you buy?

iPad-Pro-2024-vs-iPad-Air-2024-Feature.jpg

The introduction of the fourth-generation iPad Air in September 2020 brought the device much closer to the iPad Pro in terms of design, and with the most recent model, the iPad Air gained the same M2 chip and Apple Pencil hover support as the previous iPad Pro, bringing them even closer together. The latest iPad Pro models introduced a large number of significant new changes, such as the M4 chip, OLED displays, and a higher price point, and it means that the high-end iPad models are now further differentiated from the iPad Air than before.

Should you consider purchasing the iPad Air to save money, or do you need the high-end features of the iPad Pro? Our guide answers the question of how to decide which of these two iPads is best for you.

iPad Air (M2, 2024)iPad Pro (M4, 2024)
Liquid Retina display
LED backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
Ultra Retina XDR display
Tandem OLED
ProMotion technology for refresh rates up to 120Hz
11-inch model SDR brightness: 500 nits max
13-inch model SDR brightness: 600 nits max
SDR brightness: 1,000 nits max
XDR brightness: 1,000 nits max full screen, 1,600 nits peak (HDR content only)
Nano-texture display glass option on 1TB and 2TB models
‌M2‌ chip (5nm, N5P)M4 chip (3nm enhanced, N3E)
8-core CPUUp to 10-core CPU
Hardware-accelerated ray tracing
Hardware-accelerated H.264 and HEVCHardware-accelerated 8K H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW
ProRes encode and decode engine
AV1 decode
100GB/s memory bandwidth120GB/s memory bandwidth
8GB of memory8GB or 16GB of memory
Improved thermal design with graphite sheets and copper
Touch ID in top buttonTrueDepth camera system for Face ID
Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High-Key Mono)
Animoji and Memoji
LiDAR scanner
Adaptive True Tone flash
Rear ambient light sensor
ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 256GB capacity)
ProRes video recording up to 4K at 60 fps with external recording
Two microphonesFour studio-quality microphones
Audio zoom
Stereo recording
Landscape stereo speakersFour speaker audio
Weight: 462 grams or 617 gramsWeight 444 grams or 579 grams
Depth: 6.1 mmDepth: 5.3 mm or 5.1 mm
USB‑C connectorUSB‑C connector with support for Thunderbolt / USB 4
Supports Magic KeyboardSupports Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (M4)
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB storage
Available in Space Gray, Starlight, Purple, and BlueAvailable in Space Black and Silver
Price starting at $599Price starting at $999


Overall, the iPad Air is the better option for the majority of users, simply on the basis of value for money. For most people, the additional $400+ needed to buy the iPad Pro is not justified to get the likes of Face ID, four-speaker audio, and a ProMotion OLED display with refresh rates up to 120Hz.

Some iPad Pro features, such as LiDAR, up to 16GB of memory, and Thunderbolt connectivity are only practically useful to a small niche of users and most will never use some of these high-end capabilities. Many features such as Audio zoom and stereo audio recording may not be meaningfully utilized by many users.

Professionals who have a clear use case for needing larger amounts of RAM and storage, a matte display, Thunderbolt connectivity, and OLED for HDR content will clearly benefit from buying the iPad Pro. That being said, "prosumer"-style customers who simply want the best iPad will enjoy features such as 120Hz ProMotion for smoother scrolling and gaming, deeper blacks and more vivid colors with the OLED display, and the Adaptive True Tone flash for document scanning, even if they are not necessary.

Beyond these individual circumstances, the iPad Air is the best value for money and will be more than ample for most users' needs. With the iPad Air, users can get a modern all-screen design, the M2 chip, practical features like USB-C and 5G connectivity, and compatibility with the core Apple accessories for a price well below that of the iPad Pro.

Article Link: iPad Air vs. iPad Pro Buyer's Guide: 30+ Differences Compared
 
Last edited:

Orange Bat

macrumors 6502a
Mar 21, 2021
878
2,444
The problem with the Pro is 2 fold: it‘s not just the cost of the iPad Pro itself, but also the cost of the keyboard. If, like me, you are coming from an older Air (and you want a keyboard), then the cost is the iPad plus the keyboard. It’s the same problem with the 13 inch iPad Air, also. An extra $350 on top of the $799 for the 13 inch Air is what made me stick with the 11 inch iPad Air rather than a 13 inch Air or the Pro. At this point the keyboard has become a necessity for me and I can’t justify the cost of a new keyboard right now. Apple seriously needs to think of a way to lower the cost of their overpriced keyboards as I imagine many others are in my shoes as well.
 

TechnoMonk

macrumors 68000
Oct 15, 2022
1,864
2,660
The problem with the Pro is 2 fold: it‘s not just the cost of the iPad Pro itself, but also the cost of the keyboard. If, like me, you are coming from an older Air (and you want a keyboard), then the cost is the iPad plus the keyboard. It’s the same problem with the 13 inch iPad Air, also. An extra $350 on top of the $799 for the 13 inch Air is what made me stick with the 11 inch iPad Air rather than a 13 inch Air or the Pro. At this point the keyboard has become a necessity for me and I can’t justify the cost of a new keyboard right now. Apple seriously needs to think of a way to lower the cost of their overpriced keyboards as I imagine many others are in my shoes as well.
There are cheaper keyboard options outside of Magic Key Board. In the end you get what you pay for, my MKB on M1 is as good as new. My Family’s iPad Pro had cheaper keyboard, they are on the second one. There are plenty of options, each have their own pros and cons.
 

TechnoMonk

macrumors 68000
Oct 15, 2022
1,864
2,660
I'd love to see a comparison of the new M2 iPad Air to the old M2 iPad Pro. I suspect that buying used or discounted, you might be able to get more storage and other features for a similar price. I'm just not sure how all the specs compare.
If I was in the market, I would probably grab an M2 iPad Pro on discount. better screens/build, and more options.
 
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ttyRazor

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2019
239
380
I'm not a Pro user - I don't edit videos or do graphic design, for example. But I highly value a great display, and would love to watch videos and movies on the new OLED display. Struggling to decide if it's worth the additional cost.
I’ve been spoiled by the ProMotion display on previous iPad Pros, so it’d be hard to go back. Sticking with my M1 iPad Pro for longer, I guess.
 

repoman016

macrumors 6502
Mar 28, 2017
274
644
Ohio
The problem with the Pro is 2 fold: it‘s not just the cost of the iPad Pro itself, but also the cost of the keyboard. If, like me, you are coming from an older Air (and you want a keyboard), then the cost is the iPad plus the keyboard. It’s the same problem with the 13 inch iPad Air, also. An extra $350 on top of the $799 for the 13 inch Air is what made me stick with the 11 inch iPad Air rather than a 13 inch Air or the Pro. At this point the keyboard has become a necessity for me and I can’t justify the cost of a new keyboard right now. Apple seriously needs to think of a way to lower the cost of their overpriced keyboards as I imagine many others are in my shoes as well.
Won't the gen 1 keyboard still work with the new iPads? If not, that sucks
 

CrzySxyCl

macrumors newbie
Jan 26, 2022
19
40
I have a quandary. Use a 64GB 3rd gen iPad Pro and am considering upgrading. I frankly don’t use all the heavy lifting abilities but love the speakers and display. And I rarely remove it from the MK. If I go for the Airi can keep the MK. Getting the M4, I’d want the new keyboard. Yeah, first world problems I know. But is the Air a decent enough upgrade? Thoughts?
 

Zmonsters20

macrumors newbie
Sep 19, 2014
27
7
Will the new iPad Air last as long as my 2017 10.5 Pro? One of the reasons I want to go Pro again.
 

klasma

macrumors 603
Jun 8, 2017
5,968
16,764
The problem with the Pro is 2 fold: it‘s not just the cost of the iPad Pro itself, but also the cost of the keyboard. If, like me, you are coming from an older Air (and you want a keyboard), then the cost is the iPad plus the keyboard. It’s the same problem with the 13 inch iPad Air, also. An extra $350 on top of the $799 for the 13 inch Air is what made me stick with the 11 inch iPad Air rather than a 13 inch Air or the Pro. At this point the keyboard has become a necessity for me and I can’t justify the cost of a new keyboard right now. Apple seriously needs to think of a way to lower the cost of their overpriced keyboards as I imagine many others are in my shoes as well.
If you only need the keyboard stationary and don’t necessarily need the trackpad, then using a third-party stand plus keyboard is much cheaper and better. In particular, a stand can position the iPad closer to eye height than with a Smart Connector-attached keyboard.
 

tomtad

macrumors 68000
Jun 7, 2015
1,881
4,910
Base iPad keyboard has function keys

iPad Air keyboard doesn't have function keys

iPad Pro keyboard has function keys


Can someone make sense of this?
 
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jb310

macrumors regular
Aug 24, 2017
137
319
The real difference is that when people see you using an iPad Pro instead of the Air, they'll know that you're a person with exquisite tastes.

Wear an Apple Watch SE? You probably have the Apple Watch Hermès, complete with a leather watch band from some company no one else has heard of.

$0.99 iCloud plan? You've got the most expensive $37.95 Apple One plan, the kind you can share with family. Maybe you don't even have a family, you just like operating at this level.

McDonald's McChicken sandwiches? You only eat chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A, because your palette is that discerning.

.....or so I assume that's the real reason to get an iPad Pro over the Air. Despite the $400 difference in price, there's not really much of a difference in the user experience. 🤷‍♂️
 

klasma

macrumors 603
Jun 8, 2017
5,968
16,764
Base iPad keyboard has function keys

iPad Air keyboard doesn't have function keys

iPad Pro keyboard has function keys


Can someone make sense of this?
The iPad Air keyboard is the old Pro keyboard, which predates both of the other two.
 
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