Ever since Apple came out with the larger-than-the-MacBook, 12.9 inch iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, sensible folks around the world have been wondering – when will Apple release a smaller version of the iPad Pro? Now we have an answer in the 9.7 inch iPad Pro . At first glance, it might just look like a scaled-down version of the bigger Pro. But as you know, the devil is in the details. And in this case, there are many minor ones to consider.
First Of All: iPad Air 3 or Baby Pro?
The 9.7 inch iPad Pro (or the iPad Pro 9.7 inch) has a bit of an identity crisis. And it’s not limited to its own name. Apple itself uses different versions of 9.7-inch iPad Pro across its website.
The 9.7 inch iPad officially marks the iPad line as no longer simple. The first question is, what exactly is the 9.7-inch iPad Pro?
It’s a bit of both. So what you call it depends on you. Or what we as a community agree.
1. True Tone Display
This is a first for the iPad line. The 9.7 inch iPad Pro’s body contains sensors that are able to read the color temperature of the iPad’s surroundings. And based on the environment you are in, the iPad is able to make the display cooler or lighter. This is another implementation of the Night Shift feature but instead of the time of the day, the feature uses built-in sensors to adjust the color temperature.
For example, if you’re sitting beside the fire, with a yellow light around you, the iPad Pro’s screen will switch to a warmer color temperature instead of blasting cold blueish light.
— Kenny Tang (@kenshin03) April 1, 2016
Also, the Baby Pro’s screen is much easier to see in sunlight. Both these technologies are exclusive to the Baby Pro and are missing from the 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
Other than that, it’s business as usual. The 9.7 inch screen has the same resolution as the iPad Air 2 – 2048 x 1536 pixels and 264 PPI.
2. 12 MP Camera With The Camera Bump
This model also gets the iPhone 6s’s 12 MP camera and it can shoot 4K videos. Compared to the bigger iPad Pro’s 8 MP camera, this is a big upgrade.
But this considerable (and maybe not entirely necessary) upgrade comes with a downside. The camera bump a lot of us have come to hate with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s series. But here’s the good news, lying flat, the iPad Pro doesn’t wobble and lays flat on the table. Here’s some proof below.
Here is the answer to the 'does the camera bump make iPad Pro wobble on a table' question (no) pic.twitter.com/G84qOwxGSf
— Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) March 22, 2016
3. A9X Processor
The smaller iPad Pro is the same beast as its big brother. It sports the same A9X processor as the bigger iPad Pro (although it’s underclocked), 12 core graphics, along with the M9 motion co-processor.
4. 2 GB RAM
One thing that’s going to disappoint enthusiasts is that it only has 2 GB of RAM, instead of 4 GB of the bigger iPad. Now granted, the smaller iPad has quite a bit less pixels to push. And the iPad Air 2, with the same amount of RAM can easily pull off split-screen multi-tasking.
So even for normal productivity use, with two apps side-by-side, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro shouldn’t be a problem.
Although, if you’re planning on doing a lot of 4K video editing, or using apps with live rendering features, you can, of course, expect a drop in frame rates and the increased processing time.
5. A 256 GB Option
This is the first time an iPad is being offered with a 256 GB storage tier. Of course, you’ll have to fork over $899 for the Wi-Fi version and $1029 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model.
6. Bigger Bands
The 9.7 inch iPad Pro supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi along with MIMO technology (multiple-in, multiple-out) that supports up to 866 MBPS transfer. If you’ve got the LTE model, you get the super fast 300 MBPS LTE Advance support as well.
7. Embedded Apple SIM
This is another first for the iPad. If you go for the cellular model, you’ll get the embedded Apple SIM. You’ll also have an empty SIM slot if you wish to add your own SIM card.
Apple SIM, if you’re not aware, lets you easily switch between plans and carriers while you travel in different countries (up to 90 countries supported). You can do all this without even switching or signing up for a new SIM card.
Matthew Panzarino over at TechCrunch has a detailed explainer of just how embedded Apple SIM works.
8. Live Photos
Because the Baby Pro has the iPhone 6s camera, it also supports Live Photos (again, something the bigger iPad Pro doesn’t). To view Live Photos, you’ll have to long press on a photo as there’s no 3D Touch on the iPad Pro.
9. 5 MP Front Facing Camera With Retina Flash
The iPad Pro is going to be great for clicking the selfies. Some pretty big selfies. The camera module has been upgraded to 5 MP, the same as the iPhone 6s and there’s also now the Retina Flash.
10. Smaller Smart Keyboard Cover
What makes a Pro, pro?
In the iPad’s case, it’s the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard Case. Almost everyone who uses an iPad Pro agrees that its utility is far diminished without buying these two accessories.
The Smart Keyboard case, while doesn’t turn the iPad Pro into a MacBook replacement, it does offer a full sized keyboard with comfortable keys. It’s something you can comfortably use if you’re going to be typing a lot.
It’s not the same with the smaller iPad Pro. The keyboard is missing an entire row of function keys (that gave you important OS related shortcuts), action keys have been squashed down and the keys, in general are smaller. This is no longer a full sized keyboard. And early reviews say it’s not as comfortable to write as its bigger cousin.
11. The Same Apple Pencil
The Apple Pencil has been called the best tablet stylus yet.
And it’s just as good on the Baby Pro as it is on the bigger iPad Pro. And thanks to the Baby Pro’s smaller form factor, you’ll be able to sketch comfortably even when there’s not enough space around.
12. USB 2.0 Transfer Speeds
At the event, Apple made a big deal about the Lightening to USB Camera Adaptor that lets users both charge the iPad and use a USB accessory at the same time. It’s a great accessory for photographers who want to use the iPad to edit photos and videos.
The only problem is that the new, 9.7 inch iPad will transfer files at USB 2.0 speeds while the faster 3.0 speeds are reserved only for the bigger 12.9 inch iPad.
But first, Do You Need An iPad Pro?
This article is quickly turning into a comparison between the Baby Pro and it’s big brother. So before going any further, let’s take a step back and decide, do you even need an iPad Pro? And if you do, what role will it fulfill?
First, if you’re looking at the iPad Pro as a replacement for your Mac, you’re mostly going to be disappointed. Not because it’s impossible to get work done on the iPad (far from it), but because iOS just doesn’t allow for the same flexibility as OS X. There’s no file system. So you’ll have to fake one by using Dropbox or iCloud Drive. This also makes transferring files between apps harder and computers. And depending on what your work is, you just can’t get some dedicated Mac and Windows apps on the iPad.
I for example, can’t get Sketch or Adobe’s upcoming XD app on the iPad Pro. While I’d love to switch to the iPad Pro as my primary computer (the Pencil for designing is really tempting), I just can’t, because the software isn’t there.
But that doesn’t rule out everyone. If you’re lucky enough that your work life depends on generic, barebone apps, you can certainly pull off the iPad Pro lifestyle. If all you’re going to be doing is answering email, doing research, writing, managing Excel spreadsheets or even some light video editing and some niche professional drawing/illustration work, the iPad Pro might be for you.
And its simplicities, in both the software and the hardware will free your mind and help you focus on more important things – like working.
So Which iPad Pro Is For You?
Now that you’ve read the above features and you know the differences between the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and the 9.7 inch version, you might be wondering, should you go with the smaller one? And looking at the features alone, it’s not an easy choice. So let’s look at it from the use case perspective.
If you’re going to be using the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement – your primary computer – I think you should go for the bigger iPad Pro. The extra screen real estate is great for multi-tasking, the extra performance will come in really handy as well.
If you’re going to use the iPad Pro more as a tablet, then you should opt for the smaller iPad Pro compared to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it is not only more portable, it is significantly lighter (437 grams vs 713 grams 12.9-inch iPad Pro) which will make it a lot easier to hold for a long time.
Instead, if you’re not sure if the iPad Pro is going to be your only companion, and you just want to test the waters. Maybe try and shift some of the work to the iPad, bit by bit, the Baby Pro is the best way to do it. Pick the base model, the Pencil and Smart Keyboard if you can, and give it a shot.
Also, if you are appalled by the 12.9 inch version’s size, the answer is clear.