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iPad Air vs iPad Pro: A tale of two great iPads, but which is best for you?

The iPad Air and iPad Pro both have tons of power, but which is right for you?
By

Published onApril 12, 2023

Apple iPad Air (2022)
MSRP: $599.00
Check price
Positives
Sleek, premium design
Colorful display
Blistering performance
Negatives
Pitiful 64GB base storage
Display only 60Hz
Expensive (but great) accessories
The Bottom Line.
The iPad Air (5th generation) is a mild upgrade over its previous generation, but remains uncontested as the best sub-flagship tablet you can buy. If you’re rocking any pre-2020 iPad and don’t want to go Pro, this is the one to get.Read full review...
Apple iPad Pro (2022)
MSRP: $799.99
Check price
Positives
Classy design
Dazzling XDR display
Ridiculously strong performance
Booming quad speakers
Improved connectivity
Apple Pencil hover a delight for digital artists
Negatives
Fancy display only on larger model
Stage Manager needs work
Limited pro-grade apps
Relatively slow to charge
Awkward front camera
Expensive accessories
The Bottom Line.
Laptop-beating performance and subtle quality-of-life improvements cement the iPad Pro M2 as the most powerful, feature-packed iPad to date. The lack of flashy upgrades does shine a harsh spotlight on iPadOS 16's fumbled multitasking features and the continued dearth of "pro" apps means a lot of the tablet's raw power remains untapped. But if you want the very best iPad — no matter the caveats or the cost — the 2022 iPad Pro won't disappoint.Read full review...

If you’re looking for a high end iPad experience, the most obvious option is the iPad Pro. The Pro is meant for real productivity with its Mac class processor and larger sized display options. Don’t discount the iPad Air, though. Though it isn’t quite as fast, it is smaller, lighter, and still packs enough power to get things done. In this iPad Air vs iPad Pro comparison we take a closer look at the two tablets to see which one is right for you.

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: At a glance

Curious about how the iPad Air and iPad Pro compare? Here's a quick summary of the key differences:

  • iPad Pro has Face ID vs Touch ID on the iPad Air
  • The iPad Pro has larger screen options than the iPad Air
  • The iPad Pro has better display technology and more brightness than the iPad Air
  • The iPad Pro has a faster SoC than the iPad Air
  • The iPad Pro has options for more RAM and storage than the iPad Air
  • The iPad Pro has a dual camera vs the iPad Air's single camera setup
  • The iPad Pro has four speakers vs two found on the iPad Air

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Specs

Apple iPad Air (5th gen)Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Display
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
10.9-inch Liquid Retina LCD
2,360 x 1,640 pixels
264ppi
500nits
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
11-inch Liquid Retina LED
2,388 x 1,668 pixels
264ppi
ProMotion (120Hz refresh rate)
600 nits max
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
12.9-inch mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR
2,732 x 2,048 pixels
264ppi
ProMotion (120Hz refresh rate)
1,000 nits max full screen, 1,600 nits peak (HDR content only)
Processor
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
Apple M1
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Apple M2
8-core CPU
10-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Apple M2
8-core CPU
10-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
RAM
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
8GB
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
8GB
16GB (1TB and 2TB storage models only)
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
8GB
16GB (1TB and 2TB storage models only)
Storage
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
64GB
256GB
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
128GB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
128GB
256GB
512GB
1TB
2TB
Camera
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
Main:
12MP camera
ƒ/1.8 aperture

Front:
12MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Main:
12MP camera
ƒ/1.8 aperture

Secondary:
10MP ultrawide, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 125° field of view

Front:
12MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Main:
12MP camera
ƒ/1.8 aperture

Secondary:
10MP ultrawide, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 125° field of view

Front:
12MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Battery
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
28.9Wh
Rated for 10 hours
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
28.65Wh
Rated for 10 hours
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
40.88Wh
Rated for 10 hours
Headphone jack
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
No
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
No
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
No
Dimensions
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm
Weight
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
Wi-Fi: 461g
LTE: 462g
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Wi-Fi: 466g
LTE: 468g
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Wi-Fi: 682g
LTE: 684g
Ports
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
Smart Connector
USB-C
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Smart Connector
Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Smart Connector
Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s)
Colors
Apple iPad Air (5th gen)
Space Gray, Pink, Purple, Blue, Starlight
Apple iPad Pro M2 (11-inch, 4th gen)
Space Gray, Silver
Apple iPad Air (12.9-inch, 6th gen)
Space Gray, Silver

The iPad Pro and iPad Air share several design elements, including general aesthetics, battery life, and the use of laptop class Apple M chips. That said, the Pro trumps the Air in almost every other way. Even the chipset is faster.

The Apple iPad Pro opts for the latest Apple M2 processor versus the older Apple M1 on the Air. Apple says the M2 has a GPU with 25 percent faster performance, while the CPU is 18 percent faster. The Neural Engine on the M2 is also reportedly 40 percent faster.

The powerful chipsets are backed by 8GB of RAM, but the iPad Pro also offers optional models with 16GB of RAM. There’s either 64GB or 256GB of storage on the Air, with the base Pro starting at 128GB, with optional variants that include up to 2TB of storage.

The M1 and M2 aren’t going to offer that much of a difference when completing most of your day-to-day tasks. That said, combining the improved processor with added RAM and storage will make for a more future proof device.

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 vs iPad Pro M1
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The 10.9 inch iPad Air and 11 inch iPad Pro have similar sizes, and both are Liquid Retina LED displays. You won’t notice a major difference between the two, though the latter is about 100 nits brighter. The real star is the 12.9 inch iPad Pro with its Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED panel. This display has an impressive max brightness of 1,600 nits. If you plan to use the tablet outdoors, it’s obvious the Pro is the better choice — at least if you are considering the 12.9 inch screen.

As for other notable differences, let’s start with how you log in. If you’re a fan of Face ID, you’ll only find it on the iPad Pro. The Air sticks to Touch ID integrated into the top button. The iPad Pro also has a few small improvements like Wi-Fi 6e vs Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3 vs 5.2, and a few changes to the camera setup, which we’ll discuss further down in this comparison.

Apple is pushing 5G as an option on both tablets but if you have a network with mmWave support, you’ll want the iPad Pro. The iPad Air sticks to the more common sub-6GHz 5G band.

If accessories matter, you’ll be happy to know both work with the Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Keyboard Folio. Apple Pencil (gen 2) support is also available on the tablets, though only the iPad Pro supports the new Hover functionality. This lets you see a preview of where the stylus will touch the screen and makes it easy to adjust your brush strokes before you commit to them. As you can imagine, this feature is mostly built with artists in mind.

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Size comparison

The iPad Pro and iPad Air look quite similar at first brush. This is especially true when comparing the iPad Air to the 11 inch Pro, as the two tablets have a similar footprint. Still, all models of the iPad Pro are heavier and bulkier than the Air, so if thin and light are important factors to you, that might be a sticking point.

Those who want more colors are going to prefer the Apple iPad Air as it offers choices of Space Gray, Pink, Purple, Blue, and Starlight. The Pro sticks to the classic Space Gray and Silver colorways.

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Camera

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 camera
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

iPads aren’t meant for photography, especially since holding a tablet can be a bit awkward. Still, it’s nice to have the option in a pinch. The main rear camera is the same 12MP f/1.8 shooter for both. However, the Pro adds a f/2.4 10MP Ultra Wide lens. You’ll take decent enough photos in the right lighting regardless of which iPad you use. However, the Pro does have the advantage of time-of-flight LiDAR. This depth info helps the iPad create sharper images. The dual lenses also make quality bokeh effects possible in Portrait Mode.

Although AR is still in its infancy, this will change in the coming years. If you think AR is something you’d find yourself interested in, the Pro’s LiDAR makes for a better experience here too.

Whether using it for video conferencing or taking selfies, the front camera on a tablet is typically used more often than the rear. So how do the iPads handle here? The quality of both cameras is decent enough. One complaint is how they are mounted. While the new iPad (10th gen) uses a horizontal front camera setup, these two tablets line things up vertically. This is a bit awkward to use for video conferencing. You’ll pretty much look like you’re staring into space to others on the call.

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Battery and charging

Apple iPad Pro M2 2022 ports
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Apple’s iPad series has pretty consistent life across the line, averaging around 10 hours for most basic tasks on every current iPad, including these two. Just remember that gaming, video editing, and other intensive tasks will wear down the battery faster.

The two tablets have 20W chargers in the box, though both are also compatible with third party 3oW chargers for slightly faster speeds. As it stands, it’ll take 2 hours and 30 minutes to charge the Air and Pro from empty, and about 30 minutes less with a 30W charger.

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: Price

  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi only, 64GB): $599
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi only, 256GB): $749
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 64GB): $749
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB): $899
  • iPad Pro (M2, 11-inch, Wi-Fi): $799-$1,899
  • iPad Pro (M2, 11-inch, Cellular): $999-$2,099
  • iPad Pro (M2, 12.9-inch, Wi-Fi):  $1,099-$2,099
  • iPad Pro (M2, 12.9-inch, Cellular): $1,299-$2,399

The iPad (10th gen) has been available since October 2022, while the iPad Air is a bit older as it launched in March 2022. The cheapest iPad Air begins at just $599, but in reality, it’s not worth purchasing unless you have very modest needs. 64GB of storage will fill up fast. It is possible to make this model work if you’re willing to keep apps to a minimum and closely monitor storage.

In most cases, we’d recommend opting for the 256GB iPad as you’ll have more space to work with and still will pay $50 less than the cheapest iPad Pro (which only comes with 128GB of storage). If your heart is set on the iPad Pro, will 128GB of storage be enough? Actually, yes. While you might still have to pay more attention to storage space, this is much more manageable than the base iPad. Just remember video editing and other functions can take up a lot of space, so you might want to connect some form of external storage via USB-C when performing those tasks.

iPad vs iPad Air: Which should you buy?

apple macbook air m2 vs ipad pro
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The iPad Pro is a better fit if you’re looking for a true laptop replacement. It has a faster USB-C port for accessories, a better display, more storage options, and up to 16GB of RAM. That doesn’t mean the iPad Air isn’t good for productivity. The Apple M1 and 8GB of RAM will be more than capable of video editing, photo editing, and other similar business tasks.

Would you rather buy an iPad Air or iPad Pro?

37 votes

Are you not looking to replace your laptop but want a bit more power for situations where you don’t want to lug your computer around? The iPad Air will save you money over the iPad Pro and is perfectly suited as a backup computer. The iPad Air is the perfect middle ground for iPad users who want something affordable and portable yet with enough power that you can get real work done when the need arises.

See price at Amazon
Apple iPad Pro (2022)
1%off
See price at Amazon
Apple iPad Air (2022)
6%off

iPad Air vs iPad Pro: FAQ

Neither the iPad Pro or the iPad Air offer waterproofing. In fact, no iPad does. Your only choice is to get an iPad case that can protect your phone from the elements.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to get an iPad Pro if Face ID is important to you. The iPad Air sticks to Touch ID, integrated into the top button.

Apple has removed headphone jacks from all its latest iPad. The only iPad that still offers it is the older 9th gen iPad, which is still available in most markets.

No, but it is possible to add the function with an adapter. Just remember actual performance will vary with this solution.

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