HolidayBuyer's Guide

5 reasons to pick the iPad Pro over the iPad Air 2

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a lot more expensive than the iPad Air 2 -- for at least five reasons.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPad Air 2 can run two apps at the same time, has Touch ID, has a Retina Display, and looks (and weighs) the same as the iPad Pro. Oh, and it starts at $399.

So why would you pick the Pro over the Air 2? It's what's under the hood.

More storage

In order for the iPad Pro to truly replace a laptop, the storage allotments needed to go bigger; and so they did. The 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes in three different storage options: 32GB, 128GB and 256GB.

The iPad Air 2 is only available in 16GB or 64GB models.

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Apple Pencil support

The most obvious reason you'd choose the iPad Pro over the iPad Air 2 is for the Pencil. Unlike the iPad Air 2, the Pro has a display designed to work with the Pencil. With it, you can jot notes, draw, meditate over adult coloring book apps and have one less reason to carry around a dead-tree notebook.

Yes, you can use a regular stylus with the iPad Air, but the accuracy is no where near the Pencil. Its two sensors react to pressure and tilt, giving you the sense that you're using a pencil and paper.

As Scott Stein puts it, the Pencil is "far more accurate than the mushier capacitive styluses you're probably used to trying on an iPad. It's more like Samsung's S-Pen for its phones and tablets, or Microsoft's pen for Surface."

That 'Smart Connector'

Starting with the iPad Pro line, a feature called the Smart Connector automatically pairs any compatible accessory using a magnetic port. That means you don't have to pair a Bluetooth device manually -- the pairing will happen when you "snap in" the accessory.

The Smart Connector also provides power to the accessories; meaning no more bulky batteries in keyboards. For example, Apple's Smart Keyboard and Logitech's Create keyboard are both extremely thin keyboards for the iPad Pro.

Right now, it's not a game changer, but it's only a matter of time before Apple releases more accessories that work with its Smart Connector technology, adding to the iPad Pro's capabilities. No such connectors are found on the iPad Air 2.

4K video shooting, better selfies

Owning the iPad Pro might change your mind about taking photos with tablets.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the same size as the iPad Air 2, but the camera is a huge step up. It has a 12-megapixel shooter on the back and a 5-megapixel shooter on the front. (For comparison, the larger iPad Pro features the same 8-megapixel rear camera, and 1.2-megapixel front camera as the iPad Air 2.)

You can also shoot 4K videos, up from 1080p on the Air 2 and larger iPad Pro.

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Better audio

The iPad Pro has four speakers -- two on the top, two on the bottom when in portrait mode -- compared with the iPad Air's two speakers along the bottom, near the Lightning port. But what makes the iPad Pro's speakers so different is that they adjust as you move and reposition the iPad, in order to provide the best sound quality.

Other features worth noting

There are more reasons why you might pick the iPad Pro over the Air 2.

  • The iPad Pro's A9X chip is a powerhouse compared to the the Air's A8X chip. You'll get clearer, smoother graphics, faster response times and the feeling that the Pencil writes like, well, a pencil.
  • With the M9 coprocessor, Siri is always listening on the iPad Pro, so you can say "Hey, Siri" and she'll respond without you holding down the home button.
  • The new True Tone display feature that dynamically adjusts the hue and saturation of the iPad Pro's display based on the ambient light.

You'll pay a $200 premium should you decide to go with the base iPad Pro, but as you just learned, you're getting more tablet for your money.

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