iPad Air (2019) vs iPad Pro: Is it worth paying more?

Apple’s finally unveiled a new iPad Air. But with over half a decade having passed since the iPad Air 2 hit shelves and Apple having unveiled a new line of iPad Pro tablets, who is the new Air for?

Here to help we’ve created an early comparison of the devices. Make sure to stay tuned though, as this is a very early verdict based on specs, and our experience using the 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. We’ll update this article with a more in-depth comparison when we get the new iPad Air (2019) in for review.

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iPad Air (2019) vs iPad Pro – Design

Looking at the press shots the new iPad Air (2019) looks very similar to Apple’s other iPads. They all feature the same metal chassis and iconic home button on their front.

But look a little closer and you’ll sport a few differences. For starters the iPad Air (2019) is only available in one size, 10.5-inches. This makes it smaller than both versions of the iPad Pro, which is available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch configurations.

All three support keyboard covers, though the differences in size means you’ll have to invest in a new one for the Air, even if you already have one for the current generation iPad Pros – though if you already own a Pro we really can’t see you needing to invest in the new Air so this isn’t a huge deal.

The biggest design differentiator is that the new iPad Air (2019) charges using a Lightning port. This is a minor annoyance as it means you’ll have to lug Apple’s proprietary USB to Lightning cable with you if you want to charge the new iPad Air (2019) on the go. Personally we’d have liked to see Apple use the newer, more common USB C standard featured on its Pro line.

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This also means the new iPad Air (2019) is only compatible with the older Apple Pencil, which charges via the Lightning port, rather than the new Pro pencil which charges by magnetically docking to the newer iPad Pros.

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The iPad Air 2019 looks a lot like a first gen iPad Pro

iPad Air (2019) vs iPad Pro – Specs

The new iPad Air is for the most part a top notch tablet when it comes to hardware and on paper will meet most users needs. But it does come with some compromises when compared to Apple’s more premium iPad Pros.

The screen, for starters, doesn’t feature Apple’s ProMotion tech. The tech lets the iPad Pros run at a 120Hz refresh rate and makes the Pros’ screens feel more reactive and fluid to use than the new iPad Air (2019). The new iPad Air (2019) also has a lower 500 nit max brightness. The iPad Pros have a 600 nit max brightness, by comparison.

Storage options are also less generous on the new iPad Air (2019), which caps out at 256GB of space. The iPad Pros meanwhile top out at a hefty 1TB. Most general users won’t need that much internal storage, especially with iCloud in play, so this is hardly a deal breaker.

Performance and camera tech are the final areas that have seen some cuts. The new iPad Air (2019) runs using an A12 Bionic, while the iPad Pros use the more powerful A12X Bionic. This means the iPad Pros have more powerful graphics and will be better at running games and intensive creative projects, like vector artwork and video editing.

However, the regular A12 is hardly a slowpoke and given the new iPad Air (2019)’s lower 60Hz refresh rate screen, which is significantly less demanding the the Pro’s ProMotion, performance shouldn’t be an issue on any of the iPads for regular users.

On the camera front, the new iPad Air (2019) has a lower megapixel rear sensor than the Pros. Its front FaceTime camera also doesn’t feature the TrueDepth tech seen on the Pros. We can’t sensibly comment how this’ll affect photo quality until we get the new iPad Air (2019) in for testing, but it’ll likely mean it takes worse selfies than its Pro siblings.

You can see a more in-depth breakdown of the new iPad Air (2019) and iPad Pros’ specs in the table below.

Related: What are refresh rates?

Spec iPad Air 2019 iPad Pro 11-inch iPad Pro 12.9-inch
Display 10.5-inch, 2224 x 1668 resolution, 264 ppi, True Tone Display, 500 nits max brightness 11-inch, 2388×1668 resolution, 264 ppi, ProMotion, True Tone 600 nits max brightness 12.9-inch, 2732×2048 resolution, 264 ppi, ProMotion, True Tone, 600 nits max brightness
Dimensions 251 x 174 x 6.1 mm 248 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm 281 x 215 x 5.9 mm
Weight Wi-Fi 456 g / LTE 464g 468 grams Wi-Fi / 468 g LTE 631 g Wi-Fi, 633 g LTE
CPU A12 Bionic A12X Bionic chip A12X Bionic chip
Storage 64GB/256GB 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Camera 8-megapixel, ƒ/2.4 aperture rear camera, 7-megapixel, ƒ/2.2 Facetime front camera 12-megapixel

ƒ/1.8 aperture rear camera, 7-megapixel ƒ/2.2 TrueDepth front camera

12-megapixel

ƒ/1.8 aperture rear camera, 7-megapixel ƒ/2.2 TrueDepth front camera

Touch ID Yes Yes Yes
Apple Pencil Yes Yes Yes
Battery 30.2‐watt‐hour. Up to 10 hours web browsing on Wi-Fi 29.37-watt-hour, 10 hour web browsing on Wi-Fi 36.71-watt-hour, 10 hour web browsing on Wi-Fi
OS iOS 12 iOS 12 iOS 12

iPad Air (2019) vs iPad Pro – Price and availability

You can buy all three iPads now on the Apple store, though the new iPad Air (2019) is by far the cheapest.

The basic 64GB model will set you back £479 while the more expensive 64GB variant retails for £629. By comparison the 64GB, 11-inch iPad Pro retails for £769 and the bottom 12.9-inch iPad Pro costs a staggering £969.

You’ll have to shell out more if you want to grab a folio keyboard case or Apple Pencil with all three.

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Early verdict

The iPad Air has lower specs and older tech than its Pro siblings. But when it costs so much less this is hardly surprising. The hardware is also still more than good enough to meet most users needs. If the new iPad Air (2019) delivers during our full review we can see it being the best iPad for casual office workers and students looking for a tablet that can double up as a note-taking station.