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iPad Pro Q&A - Updated July 12, 2016

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What are all the differences between the 9.7" iPad Pro and 12.9" iPad Pro? Which is best for me?

No doubt many would take a quick look at the 9.7" iPad Pro models -- the 9.7" iPad Pro (Wi-Fi) and 9.7" iPad Pro (Wi-Fi/Cellular) -- next to the 12.9" iPad Pro models -- the 12.9" iPad Pro (Wi-Fi) and 12.9" iPad Pro (Wi-Fi/Cellular) -- and determine that the difference is size.

Although size is one important difference between these iPad Pro models, there are a number of other important differences that are not nearly as obvious. In fact, some of these more subtle differences may be the deciding factor for you to choose one device or the other.

9.7-inch iPad Pro, 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (12.9" iPad Pro & 9.7" iPad Pro)

External Design & Color Differences

The 9.7" iPad Pro and 12.9" iPad Pro share external designs in the same style with gently rounded sides and corners and both have dual microphones and dual sets of stereo speakers. However, the larger model is larger -- 12.0 inches by 8.68 inches compared to 9.4 inches by 6.6 inches -- as well as heavier -- a bit more than a pound and a half compared to just under a pound for the smaller models.

It wasn't that long ago that a portable device that only weighed a pound and a half would have been amazing, but some users no doubt will prefer the lighter device these days.

9.7" iPad Pro Color Options - Silver, Gold, Space Gray, Rose Gold
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (9.7" iPad Pro Color Options)

Both models are available in black and "Space Gray," silver and white, or gold and white, but the smaller 9.7" iPad Pro also is available in a pink-tinted "Rose Gold" color option.

Accessory Support Differences

Both iPad Pro models support the Apple Pencil (A1603, US$99), as an optional purchase. This input device provides a variety of pressure-sensitive sketching and drawing options.

Apple Pencil
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Apple Pencil)

Both iPad Pro models also have a "Smart Connector" that provides connectivity for optional an Apple Smart Keyboard, but the Smart Keyboard for the smaller model is smaller and the one for the larger model is larger, naturally. The smaller keyboard is US$149 and the larger one is US$169.

Based on hands-on experience, EveryiPad.com found both keyboards to be usable, and significantly better than typing on glass, but those who do a lot of typing no doubt will prefer a notebook with a "real" keyboard. Typing on the larger keyboard also tends to be faster and more accurate.

Display Differences

Both iPad Pro models have a multitouch-capable LED-backlit display with the same 264 ppi pixel density and antireflective coating, but the smaller display, with a native 2048x1536 resolution actually is higher quality than the larger display with a 2732x2048 resolution.

This is because the smaller 9.7" iPad Pro has a "wide color display" (DCI-P3 color gamut) as well as introduces a new "True Tone" feature that evaluates the color temperature and ambient brightness of your surroundings and dynamically adjusts the display's white balance to match.

Camera Differences

The iPad Pro models both are awkward to use as handheld cameras, but Apple has begun marketing them more for semi-professional business use with tripods or other mounts as well as for practical photography of paper forms and other documents to turn into PDF files.

Based on hands-on use, EveryiPad.com has found the iPad Pro models, and earlier ones, to be quite useful for completing paper forms more quickly as well as creating easy "scans" of paper documents.

Both the front-facing "FaceTime HD" camera and rear "iSight" camera are substantially better quality on the smaller 9.7" iPad Pro than the larger 12.9" model.

FaceTime HD Cameras

The FaceTime HD camera on the smaller model supports larger images and has a new "Retina Flash" that is intended to provide better selfies:

  9.7-inch iPad Pro
9.7" iPad Pro
12.9-inch iPad Pro
12.9" iPad Pro
Megapixels: 5 MP 1.2 MP
Aperture: f/2.2 f/2.2
Video: 720p 720p
Backside Illumination: Yes Yes
Burst Mode: Yes Yes
Retina Flash: Yes No


iSight Cameras

The rear-mounted "iSight" camera on the 9.7" iPad Pro is much better than the one on the 12.9" iPad Pro, supporting 4K video (rather than just 1080p) as well as other mostly improved hardware and software features:

  iPad Pro 9.7-inch
9.7" iPad Pro
iPad Pro 12.9-inch
12.9" iPad Pro
Megapixels: 12 MP 8 MP
Aperture: f/2.2 f/2.4
Video: 4K 1080p
Panorama: Yes (63 MP) Yes (43 MP)
Burst Mode: Yes Yes
Video Zoom (3X): Yes Yes
Slo-mo Video: Yes (1080p) Yes (720p)
Video Stabilization: Yes (Cinematic) Yes


Ultimately, both cameras on the 9.7" iPad Pro are significantly better than the cameras on the 12.9" iPad Pro and represent a significant boost for the camera quality of the iPad line in general. However, note that the rear iSight camera does "bulge" a bit from its housing on the smaller 9.7" model, but is flush on the 12.9" one and some detail-minded users seem to find this "bump" on the smaller model unacceptable.

Identification Differences

Although it is easy to differentiate these iPad Pro models when they are sitting side-by-side, it is not easy to visually distinguish iPad models in general and visual identification is not a good method for differentiation overall.

Instead, one of the best methods for external identification is via Model Number. Model numbers are provided in tiny type toward the bottom of the back of each iPad:

iPad

Model No

iPad Pro 9.7" (Wi-Fi Only)

A1673

iPad Pro 9.7" (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1674

iPad Pro 12.9" (Wi-Fi)

A1584

iPad Pro 12.9" (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1652

EveryiPad.com's Ultimate iLookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app available for iOS 5 or later, Android, and Kindle Fire -- also can precisely identify these iPad models by Order Number (referred to as "Model" within the iOS "Settings" app under General > About), and their Serial Numbers, too.

Internal & Connectivity Differences

There are a number of internal and connectivity differences between the 9.7" iPad Pro and the 12.9" model:

  9.7-inch iPad Pro
9.7" iPad Pro
12.9-inch iPad Pro
12.9" iPad Pro
Clockspeed: 2.1 GHz 2.2 GHz
Processor Type: Apple A9X Apple A9X
Processor Cores: Two Two
Architecture: 64-Bit 64-Bit
Coprocessor: Apple M9 Apple M9
RAM: 2 GB 4 GB
Original Storage (GB): 32/128/256 32/128
Current Storage (GB): 32/128/256 32/128/256
Wi-Fi Support: 802.11ac 802.11ac
LTE Support: 23 Bands 20 Bands
Apple SIM: Embedded Included
Lightning Connector: USB 2 USB 3


Most notably, the cellular-capable 9.7" iPad Pro has better LTE support than its larger counterpart (both support bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, and 41, but the smaller model packs "LTE Advanced," which adds bands 12, 27, and 30). The smaller cellular-capable model also has a new "Embedded SIM" (in addition to a Nano SIM slot) that could make it easier to switch between mobile data providers in the future.

On the other hand, the larger 12.9" iPad Pro models have a modestly faster processor, a massive twice as much RAM, and as first noted by photographer Jeff Carlson, the Lightning connector connects at USB 3 speed rather than USB 2, which means data transfer from the larger model from a SD card or to a computer is much faster.

Although the larger 12.9" iPad Pro has a larger 38.5 watt-hour battery and the smaller 9.7" iPad Pro has a smaller 27.5 watt-hour battery, Apple estimates that all of these models provide up to 10 hours of runtime surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music and the cellular capable models provide up to 9 hours of runtime surfing the web using a cellular network.

iOS Support Differences

The 12.9" iPad Pro originally shipped with iOS 9.1 and the 9.7" iPad Pro with iOS 9.3, but both are capable of fully supporting the most recent version of the operating system (iOS 10) with the exception of the "Health" related features that the iPhone line supports.

It also is worth noting that the iPad Pro models support Apple Pay, but only within apps and not in retail stores.

iPad Pro Comparison Chart

The above differences between the 9.7" iPad Pro and the 12.9" iPad Pro -- as well as US pricing details -- are summarized below:

  iPad Pro
9.7 " iPad Pro
iPad Pro
12.9" iPad Pro
Introduced: Mar 2016 Sep 2015
Clockspeed: 2.1 GHz 2.2 GHz
Processor: Apple A9X Apple A9X
Coprocessor: M9 Motion M9 Motion
RAM: 2 GB 4 GB
Orig. Storage (GB): 32/128/256 32/128
Current Storage (GB): 32/128/256 32/128/256
Display Size: 9.7" 12.9"
Resolution: 2048x1536 2732x2048
True Tone: Yes No
4G/LTE Internet: 23 Bands 20 Bands
Wi-Fi (802.11): a/b/g/n/ac a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth: 4.2 4.2
Front Camera: 5 MP 1.2 MP
Rear Camera: 12 MP 8 MP
Video Recording: 4K 1080p
Camera Bump: Yes No
Touch ID: Yes Yes
Apple Pay: Yes Yes
Apple SIM: Embedded Included
SIM Card: Nano Nano
Original iOS: iOS 9 iOS 9
Maximum iOS: iOS 10 iOS 10
Color Options: Silver
Gray
Gold
Rose Gold
Silver
Gray
Gold

Battery: 27.5 W Hr 38.5 W Hr
Height: 9.4 in. 12.0 in.
Width: 6.6 in. 8.68 in.
Depth/Thinness: 0.24 in. 0.27 in.
Weight: 0.96-0.98 lb. 1.57-1.59 lb.
Smart Keyboard: Small Large
Apple Pencil: Yes Yes
Orig. Price (Wi-Fi): US$599
US$749
US$899
US$799
US$949
Orig. Price (LTE): US$729
US$879
US$1029
US$1079
Current Price (Wi-Fi): US$599
US$749
US$899
US$799
US$949
US$1099
Current Price (LTE): US$729
US$879
US$1029
US$1079
US$1229


For pricing in dozens of countries, see the "Global Prices" on the specs page for each iPad as well as the "By Global Original Prices" section of EveryiPad.com.

So, which iPad Pro is best for me?

Ultimately, both iPad Pro models are fast, capable devices that as Apple's own marketing proclaims rival "most" portable PCs.

The iPad Pro models were created with the intention of being used as a full fledged computer and definitely could serve as the only computer for many users. In fact, for creative uses that involve more drawing (or basic image or video editing), and less typing, the iPad Pro might even be better than a typical notebook Mac or PC for those who like the iOS. Of course, the cost of these iPad Pro models also rivals a MacBook or MacBook Air, as well.

If you have decided you want an iPad Pro rather than a notebook computer, choosing between the 9.7" iPad Pro and 12.9" iPad Pro may prove to be difficult.

However, the larger 12.9" option is best if (1) a larger display, (2) the option of a larger, easier to use keyboard, (3) faster performance, (4) faster data transfers thanks to USB 3 support, and (5) twice the RAM -- which likely means it will be usable longer with possible better iOS support in the future -- are most important to you.

The smaller 9.7" option is better for you if you place more value on having (1) a better display, (2) better cameras (and 4K video support), (3) the option of more advanced and faster cellular connectivity, (4) a smaller and lighter housing, and (5) a lower price tag.

You might even decide to get the smaller 9.7" option because you really want your iPad Pro in "Rose Gold" or alternately get the larger 12.9" option because you feel quite passionate about having a flush-mounted camera on the back. It very well could come down to a little detail that nudges your decision one way or another.

Of course, if price is the most crucial concern, any number of iPad models on the used market should be evaluated, as well.

Site sponsor PowerMax sells all new 9.7" iPad Pro and 12.9" iPad Pro models as well as a huge selection of used iPad models free of sales tax.


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