Forget the iPad Pro, the Air is all the tablet you need

OPINION: Apple this week announced a bunch of new iPads, including the new top-end iPad Pro range with slightly larger OLED screens, a much thinner design – seriously, these are the thinnest Apple products to date – and, of course, the new ultra-powerful 3nm Apple M4 chipset.

But all that high-end tech comes at a steep price. The base 11-inch iPad Pro starts at £/$999, while the 13-inch iPad Pro starts at £/$300 more, at £/$1299 – already a hard pill to swallow when you consider that the only difference between the two is the size of the screen. 

Then there’s the fact that you’ll have to opt for either the 1TB or 2TB variant if you even want the option of adding Apple’s new nano-texture coating to the screen – an extra that’ll also cost you £/$100 more.

It’s worth noting that, even for the same price as a MacBook Air, you’ll still only be getting the iPad Pro – and not even a charger if you’re in the UK. You’ll still need to fork out for the £/$129 Apple Pencil Pro and £/$299-£/$349 (size-dependent) Magic Keyboard if you’re seriously considering using it for work or creative purposes, driving the price up even further.

iPad Pro width
Old iPad Pro vs new iPad Pro

Let’s be honest; for the vast majority of people, it’s not worth it – especially with the new iPad Air range floating around at a much cheaper price point. Granted, the new 11- and 13-inch iPad Airs aren’t exactly cheap at £/$599 and £/$799 respectively, but they’re much more manageable figures than Apple’s top-end tablets.

The Air could be the better choice

First off, with matching 11-inch and 13-inch options available, the iPad Air offers the same screen real estate as its more premium siblings. Granted, they’re Liquid Retina LCD screens and not the ProMotion-enabled OLED panels of the iPad Pro range, but considering most iPads until this point have used LCD panels, it’s not exactly a downgrade that most will notice.

Then there’s processing power to consider; the new iPad Air range sports the desktop-level Apple M2 chipset – the same chipset as the previous-gen iPad Pro range, which we felt – and still feel – is more than enough power for iPadOS, with only a slim fraction of the available apps coming close to utilising the M2’s power. 

iPad Air 11 inch and 13 inch models
iPad Air 11 and iPad Air 13

Yes, the iPad Pro range has an M4 chipset, but considering that most apps can’t even take advantage of the M2, the M4 feels like much of a muchness at this point. Maybe that’ll change with the reveal of the next version of iPadOS at WWDC in June, but right now, it feels pretty pointless. 

The iPad Air, with its desktop-level chip, allows it to offer features not available on the likes of the iPad mini and iPad, including Stage Manager, external display extension support and even Hover Mode with the Apple Pencil, continuing to close the gap between it and the iPad Pro range.

Then there’s the all-important accessory support to consider. Despite being debuted alongside the iPad Pro and not the iPad Air, the new Apple Pencil Pro does work flawlessly with the latest Air range. 

That allows digital artists to utilise the new tech within the stylus like a squeeze action to access an on-screen toolbar, haptic feedback and a built-in gyroscope that captures rotation as well as movement, all without the iPad Pro, and at £129, it’s the exact same price as the previous Apple Pencil. 

Apple Pencil Pro Specs
Apple Pencil Pro features

That’s not quite the case with the second-gen Magic Keyboard, which remains exclusive to the iPad Pro, but you’ll find first-gen Magic Keyboards for the iPad Air range that work just as well. You won’t get the new function buttons or aluminium build, but the core concept of the Magic Keyboard remains unchanged – essentially turning your iPad into a trackpad-equipped laptop.

Let’s go back to those all-important numbers from earlier. If you were to buy a 13-inch iPad Air, stylus and keyboard it’d still cost you £/$1277, but that’s less than the competing iPad Pro. It’s a more positive picture with the 11-inch combo, coming in at a total of £/$1027. 

So, yes, while the iPad Pro boasts the ultimate tablet hardware, you can get pretty damn close for much less with an iPad Air. 

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