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iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7, or how Apple killed the iPad Air

RIP iPad Air: Although you can still buy the iPad Air 2 direct from its store, Apple effectively just killed off the Air line with its new iPad Pro 9.7. In a iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7 face-off, the Pro is an undeniable victor, and here’s why.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: At a glance

Device iPad Pro 9.7 iPad Air 2
Screen size 9.7-inch 9.7-inch
Screen resolution 2048×1536 (264ppi) 2048×1536 (264ppi)
Storage options 32 / 128 / 256 GB 16 / 64 GB
Processor A9X A8X
Accessories Pencil, Keyboard N/A
iSight camera 12MP (4K video) 8MP (1080p video)
FaceTime camera 5-megapixel 1.2-megapixel
Price From £499 From £349

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Design

Both the iPad Air 2 and the Pro 9.7 sport a very similar look and feel. They’re both 9.7-inch tablets with a skinny 6.1mm frame – in fact, their dimensions are basically identical. And at 437g, they’re quite comfortable to clutch in one hand for extended periods.

You can pick up the iPad Air 2 in Silver, Gold and Space Grey, while the Pro comes in all of those colours plus Rose Gold (basically pink).

Read next: iPad Pro 9.7 vs iPad Pro 12.9, which is best?

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Screen and media

This is where the two tablets begin to differ.

The iPad Air 2’s 9.7-inch screen is still pleasingly sharp (packing in 264 pixels-per-inch) and boasts realistic colours, as well as solid viewing angles. However, while the iPad Pro 9.7’s display is just as sharp, it’s also significantly brighter and less reflective, making it much easier to see when you’re on the move. There’s support for a wider colour range too, stretching to the edges of the colour gamut.

On top of that, Apple’s new True Tone tech promises excellent white balance that actually changes depending on the ambient lighting around you. Whether this actually makes a difference to image quality remains to be seen, of course.

Then we have the iPad Pro 9.7’s quad speaker setup, which offers impressively powerful and accurate audio. If you want to kick back with a movie, the Pro will happily fill a small room with sound. The iPad Air 2’s basic rear-mounted speakers are decent, but nowhere near as powerful.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Features

Both iPad tablets sport a TouchID fingerprint sensor for secure unlocking and Apple Pay support, and they both happily run iOS 9 too. However, there are a few features found on the iPad Pro 9.7 that you won’t see on the iPad Air 2.

For a start, the iPad Pro offers 128GB and 256GB storage options on top of the standard 32GB model. By contrast, the iPad Air 2 starts with a measly 16GB of storage, and the only other option is 64GB. That 16GB fills up way too fast once you begin installing apps, and you’ll really want to upgrade to the 64GB model for a frustration-free experience.

The Pro also supports Apple’s new accessories, the Pencil stylus and the excellent Keyboard cover. It’s therefore much better suited to creative users and business users who want to smash out emails and documents on the move.

If you want cellular connectivity, the iPad Pro is again the winner with LTE-A support. The iPad Air 2 is LTE compatible, but there’s no support for LTE Advanced. The iPad Pro 9.7 also has an embedded Apple SIM (known as an e-SIM) which makes hopping between operators easier.

Finally, the Pro also offers hands-free “Hey, Siri,” support, something missing from the iPad Air 2. This is only a minor addition however and most users probably won’t even bother with it; after all, its main application is while driving, making it a feature better suited to the iPhone.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Performance

The iPad Air 2 sports Apple’s A8X processor and M8 GPU, which provides slick performance to this day even when running the latest games. However, the new iPad Pro 9.7 is a significant step beyond with the mighty A9X and M9 GPU, which is powerful enough to edit two 4K videos side-by-side.

If you’re after the best possible performance and serious future-proofing, the Pro 9.7 is the one for you.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Battery life

We haven’t had a chance to fully test the iPad Pro 9.7’s battery, but reports show that it should last just as long as the iPad Air 2 when it comes to everyday performance as well as non-stop video streaming; expect nine to ten hours of playback on either device.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Cameras

The iPad Pro 9.7 is a big upgrade over the iPad Air 2 when it comes to camera tech too.

Apple used it ageing 8-megapixel iSight camera in the iPad Air 2, which still captures decent-looking pics but has since been superseded by its new 12-megapixel lens, found on the iPad Pro 9.7. This boosts detail levels and captures better low-light shots, while also bumping video resolution to 4K.

More usefully, the iPad Air 2’s 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera has been improved for the Pro 9.7 and the new 5-megapixel lens proves much better for video calls. Just make sure you don’t use FaceTime when you’re suffering after a big night out, because every line and saggy bit of flesh will be captured in high definition.

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Pro 9.7: Price and verdict

The only advantage that the iPad Air 2 has over the identically-designed iPad Pro 9.7 is its lower price. However, while the Air 2 starts at just £349, that’s for the piddly 16GB model. For a frustration-free experience (especially around iOS update time) you’ll need to stump up for the 64GB model, which costs from £429. Considering the 32GB iPad Pro 9.7 starts at £499, you might as well bump up your budget by the remaining £70 and get a much better tablet.

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