The addition of Apple Pencil support to the sixth-generation iPad makes the tablet a considerably cheaper option for those needing to use a pressure-sensitive stylus when compared to the iPad Pro range, but there are more differences that need consideration. AppleInsider pits the new iPad against the current 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro models to show what else the extra cost offers consumers.
At first glance, those considering a purchase of an iPad Pro may look at the 2018 iPad as a steal, especially if they are primarily looking to use the Apple Pencil. Just on price alone, the cheapest new iPad at $329 is almost half the $649 price for the cheapest 10.5-inch iPad Pro excluding the $99 Apple Pencil, and is greater than half the price of the lowest-cost 12.9-inch second-generation model.
Simply comparing the device families based on price is ill-advised, as there are a number of other areas consumers must consider before opting for the cheapest option. Some of these differences are obvious, while others require a much closer look.
The main obvious difference between the device ranges is that you do get larger screens in the iPad Pro family than the iPad. The new 2018 model sticks to the tried and tested formula of a 9.7-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2048 by 1536, extremely familiar numbers that have remained static over the years.
As the names suggest, the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are bigger, and this extra space allows for higher-resolution displays to be used. The 10.5-inch screen has a resolution of 2224 by 1668, and the largest 12.9-inch version offers a resolution of 2732 by 2048, with the resolution width the same as the iPad resolution's length.
While the resolutions and sizes differ, Apple has notably kept the pixel density the same across the board. All three tablet screens offer 264 pixels per inch.
The iPad Pro range does add in some extra screen features that the iPad simply doesn't have, including the use of ProMotion technology to raise and lower the refresh rate depending on the user's activities, up to 120Hz when using an Apple Pencil. The True Tone display adjusts the color of the screen when users move to new environments, keeping the image consistent in relation to available lighting, while the wide color display (P3) allows for images to be more vibrant and show more colors to the user.
While the new iPad is a processing powerhouse compared to the previous iPad models, through its use of the 2.22Ghz A10 Fusion, it is simply no match for the iPad Pro models and their use of the Hexa-core A10X Fusion, clocked at 2.39GHz.
The difference in performance between the ranges is exacerbated by the vastly different memory quantities. The new iPad has 2 gigabytes of memory while both iPad Pro tablets use 4 gigabytes, with double the memory making the latter more capable of handling app multitasking than the iPad.
These two differences are reflected in the Geekbench 4 benchmarks, with the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro scoring 3908 and 3903 respectively in single-core testing compared to the 3254 of the iPad. Based on these figures, the Pro models have a 20-percent lead in terms of single-core performance, which some may not believe is that big of an improvement.
Moving on to multi-core testing, the hexa-core nature of the A10X Fusion boosts the scoring of the iPad Pro group to 9287 for the 12.9-inch model, and 9304 for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Though the 5857 scored by the new iPad is admirable when put aside other iPads, the iPad Pro models are approximately 58 percent better than the latest Apple release in this test.
Despite the multi-core disparity, the unclear nature of how symmetrical multiprocessing is employed in iOS for day-to-day iPad use and the relative closeness of the single-core scores means there won't be as much visible difference between the models in everyday usage than one would think. For multitasking and for applications that need as much processing power as possible, the iPad Pro pair continue to be the better option.
Cameras and imaging
Ever since the introduction of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the product line has offered better imaging capabilities than iPads. On the other side, the new iPad is continuing to use the same cameras as its predecessors, complete with their limitations.
The iPad has an 8-megapixel rear camera, one that is capable of capturing 1080p video, and doesn't include a flash. Both iPad Pro models are equipped with a 12-megapixel camera, complete with optical image stabilization (OIS) for better photographs, 4K video recording, and a quad-LED True Tone flash.
The iPad Pro camera also boasts a wider color capture for photos and live photos, a six-element lens instead of five, automatic HDR for photographs, and Focus Pixels for phase detection autofocus.
There is also an upgrade to its slo-mo video support, with iPad Pro models able to capture 1080p footage at 120fps and 720p at 240fps. The iPad is only capable of 720p slow motion video capture at 120fps.
Around to the front, the FaceTime HD camera in the iPad has a resolution of 1.2 megapixels, with the ability to record video at 720p. Again, the iPad Pro version is a 7-megapixel camera with 1080p video, and while the iPad can perform HDR on photos and videos, the iPad Pro camera can do this automatically.
The iPad has a pair of speakers, located at the bottom of the tablet, and provides stereo audio. Again, this is the same as the previous model's configuration, and will be fine for most users.
The iPad Pro instead boasts four speakers, one for each corner of the iPad. Again, they provide stereo sound, but its party trick is to automatically adjust the audio output so that the left and right channels come out of the correct speaker, regardless of its orientation.
Oddly, battery life is not as great a differentiator as you would expect, despite having three different capacities. The iPad has a 32.4 Watt Hour battery, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro sports a 41 Watt Hour unit, and a smaller 30.4 Watt Hour version is included in the 10.5-inch model.
Despite the varying sizes of both battery and screen dimension, the latter being a major consumer of power, Apple claims all three offer up to ten hours of active battery life in the Wi-Fi models.
If you want to connect accessories that require power to work, the iPad Pro's Smart Connector is handy in that it provides both power and a data connection to keyboards and other peripherals via contacts on the side. In a world where Bluetooth keyboards with their own battery exist, this is less useful than you would expect.
For those who care about the appearance of their tablet, there is variation across the board on what colors you can select. All are offered in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, but only the 10.5-inch iPad Pro can be acquired in Rose Gold.
Capacities and cost
Possibly the second-biggest differentiator behind the physical display size, both lines give a variety of storage options, but the iPad Pro collection ultimately has the ability to offer far greater storage than anything else in the iPad range.
On the iPad side, there are two capacities, with the 32-gigabyte $329 base model accompanied by a 128-gigabyte variant for $429.
Both iPad Pro models have the same three capacity options, starting from a higher base level of 64GB and rising to 256GB, topping out at 512GB. The pricing scales from $799 to $1149 for these models, depending on capacity, although discounts can be found at Apple authorized resellers.
If cellular connectivity is also required, that works out to be an extra $130, regardless of capacity and whether it is an iPad or iPad Pro.
For most users, the iPad's capacities are probably more than enough, especially the 128GB version, and the same could be said for the base model iPad Pros. If vast quantities of storage are required, the iPad Pro range is the only option outside of using some form of external storage or using cloud services like iCloud.
Buying a higher-priced iPad Pro could be worth it, depending on the user
The decision of whether to get an iPad or an iPad Pro is a far greater question than one of cost, if more than enough funding is available. In fact, there's quite a few good reasons to go for an iPad Pro, aside from bragging rights for owning the higher-tier tablet.
If you need a tablet for processing-intensive apps, like gaming or video editing, the iPad Pro is your best option. The same can be said if you simply want to use a larger screen, though in that case the purchase would be leaning towards the 12.9-inch iPad Pro than the relatively marginal increase of the 10.5-inch version's screen.
The front and rear cameras are also far better on the iPad Pro, both for still images and for video, but the iPad's imaging capabilities are fine for most people. Given the iPhone's ability to record 4K footage, there's also the consideration of simply using the iPhone to capture footage then transfer it over to the iPad, instead of spending more on an iPad Pro.
Given the arrival of Apple Pencil support on the sixth-generation iPad, do the benefits of the iPad Pro range match up to the extra expenditure? For those who need it, certainly.
For everyone else who just wants to scrawl with the Apple Pencil and are unlikely to care about the other benefits, the new iPad provides a far cheaper way to do what they want. For families where more than one person could benefit from using an Apple Pencil, the low price point even makes it plausible for a household to buy two iPads for roughly the same cost as one iPad Pro.