iPad vs iPad Pro: Which is the best tablet for you?

Weighing the decision between a regular iPad and the Pro model? Here’s what to consider.

After a long history of devices with varying stats and improvements, the iPad line now consists of three distinct models: Mini, iPad, and Pro. We’ve gone over which model is best for your life, but I’ve had a number of questions from folks who specifically want to know whether they should go for a standard iPad or an iPad Pro.

Specifically: What does an iPad Pro get you that you can’t enjoy with a regular iPad or iPad mini?

Do you want everything iOS 11 has to offer?

All shipping iPad models will get iOS 11 when it launches this Fall, but the iPad Pro line will have a tiny leg up on its siblings in how it relates to multitasking.

Drag and Drop, Multitasking, and Split View in iOS 11: Everything you need to know!

From our FAQ:

Because of RAM limitations on [the iPad mini and standard iPad], you can pull up a maximum of two Split View apps with both in focus; you can also pull up to two Split View apps, one Slide Over app, and a Picture-in-Picture video all on the same screen, but only the Slide Over app will be in focus.

In contrast, the iPads Pro:

… [have] 4GB of RAM, allowing [them] to pull up a maximum of two Split View apps, one Slide Over app, and a Picture-in-Picture video all on the same screen; all will be in focus.

In other words, you’ll be able to interact with more content simultaneously on an iPad Pro. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro gets an even bigger boost here: It’s the only iPad in Apple’s line that lets you view two iPad-sized apps side-by-side in Split View.

Do you draw, write, or annotate?

If you think you’ll ever want to write, sketch, or make annotations on your tablet, buying an iPad Pro and Pencil is the best decision you can make. I’ve tested over 80 styluses since the iPad’s launch in 2010 and drawn on all manner of digital tablets, and nothing comes close to the Pencil and iPad Pro.

Annotation may not appeal to the average user at first, but I’m surprised how often I use it: I use it to sign digital documents, make edits to photos, draw plays over still shots of roller derby footage, and add information to screenshots.

Combine the iPad Pro’s already powerful annotation options with iOS 11’s upcoming Markup features, and you’ll be able to add writing or drawing on just about anything on your screen. If that appeals to you, you need an iPad Pro. I wouldn’t recommend a standard iPad and a third-party stylus unless you expect to never draw or write on the screen.

How to use Apple Pencil: The Ultimate Guide

Do you care about a better screen?

The iPads Pro don’t just have better screens than those on the iPad and iPad mini — they’re also more functional and interactive, too.

Of the three options, the standard iPad actually has the worst screen: While all iPads have pixel-dense Retina displays, only the mini and Pro lines are laminated with anti-reflective coating; both help users see the screen better in brightly-lit conditions (like outdoor activities).

The Pro line goes far beyond these basics, however, including a Wide Color display for truer, deeper reds and blacks; True Tone sensors to intelligently white balance the iPad’s screen; and ProMotion, which makes scrolling, gaming, and drawing look incredible.

If you care about the way your content looks, an iPad Pro is the way to go.

Are you going to run high-end apps and games?

One of the biggest advantages in the new iPads Pro is arguably internal: Apple’s A10X processor and included 4GB RAM can outperform a MacBook, making even the most graphically-intense tablet task shine. The iPad Pro is faster at rendering 3D graphics in games and edits on photographs, and can run just about any iOS app you can think of without lag or delay.

If your primary use for an iPad centers around Netflix watching or idle browsing, you likely won’t need the power the iPad Pro provides. If you want to play any high-end game titles or work on any graphically-significant projects, it’s the iPad Pro life for you.

Do you use the iPad for photography?

While my bias against the iPad as a primary photography machine is fairly well-known among regular iMore readers, I concede that it does have its applicable uses, especially among those in the previs or filmmaking industries. If you’re interested in using the iPad’s hardware for something beyond the occasional FaceTime chat, you’ll want the iPad Pro’s excellent 12-megapixel iSight rear camera and FaceTime HD front camera.

How to take photos on an iPad that don’t suck

Do you need a physical keyboard?

While all iPad models can connect to Bluetooth keyboards if you want to take advantage of a quicker writing experience, the iPad Pro models both offer keyboards with a Smart Connector, which allows users to automatically connect or disconnect to a keyboard with a click — no external battery charging or Bluetooth connectivity needed.

That said, there aren’t many Smart Connector keyboards out there beyond Apple’s own options, and Bluetooth keyboards are still quite robust and workable on the standard 9.7-inch iPad. (But seriously, don’t buy an iPad mini keyboard case — the keys are unworkable. Just connect a full-sized bluetooth keyboard instead.)

Best Cases for the New 10.5-inch iPad Pro

Best keyboards for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Do you need more storage?

The standard iPad and iPad mini top out at 128GB of storage; the iPad Pro line, meanwhile, starts at 64GB and ramps all the way up to 512GB. You may not need 512GB of storage — most don’t — but the Pro’s median 256GB model is smartly priced, giving you a ton of storage for what you pay. It also gives you a lot more freedom in how many multimedia files and projects you store on your device.

Which iPad storage size should you get?

Who should get an iPad

If you’re looking for a great tablet for reading and viewing content, the iPad is in its prime and more affordable than ever. Starting at just $329, it’s a perfect beginner tablet for just about anyone looking to get into large multitouch screens.

See at Apple

Who should get an iPad Pro

If you plan to use Apple’s tablet to get work done, regularly play high-end games, or sketch, get an iPad Pro. Starting at $649, it not only provides the display space and the accessories necessary to do more complicated work, but it grows with you, providing the speed and features when you need them but not overwhelming you when you don’t. It’s the perfect computer for those who want something a little different than what a Mac can provide.

See at Apple

Questions?

Still debating? Let me know in the comments.

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