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New iPad (2017) vs 9.7-inch iPad Pro: What’s the difference?

Editor’s note: Apple just announced a new 9.7-inch iPad for 2018, with an A10 Fusion chip and support for the Apple Pencil. We’ll be updating this feature as soon as we’ve had a good chance to compare it with the previous model and the iPad Pro. Watch this space.

New iPad 2017 vs iPad Pro 2016: Apple isn’t shy about launching 9.7-inch tablets, but which of its latest slates is the best? We compare the specs and tell you what you need to know.

Apple dropped a surprise announcement on us in March 2017, revealing a brand new 9.7-inch iPad as its first major product launch of the year. The tablet is the effective successor to the iPad Air 2, but it’s arguably facing more competition from Apple’s existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Both tablets are slick and powerful, but which one is right for you? I’ve rounded up the key differences between the two devices, so you can work out how you want to spend your money.

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In this article, I’ll answer the following questions:

  • How do the designs differ?
  • How do the new iPad and iPad Pro specs compare?
  • Which tablet is better value for money?
  • Should you buy the new iPad or the iPad Pro?

Short on time? Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a summarised version of this article.

Related: iPad Pro 2

new ipad 11New iPad 2017

New iPad (2017) vs 9.7-inch iPad Pro Design: What’s the difference?

The good news is that both devices look largely identical, with the same approximate form factor, and Apple’s unmistakeable aluminium unibody iPad aesthetic. All the usual buttons (Touch ID, volume controls etc.) don the front and sides, and there’s a camera on the front and back of both tablets.

The key differences are minor. For instance, the new iPad is marginally heavier than the iPad Pro, weighing in at 469 grams (or 478g for cellular), compared to the iPad Pro’s 437 grams (or 444g for cellular).

ipad pro 17iPad Pro

The new iPad is also 1.4mm thicker than the iPad Pro, which may be down to the larger battery.

The screen panel on the new iPad is also slightly different, as it doesn’t have anti-reflective coating, nor does it support a wide colour gamut. The new iPad’s display also lacks True Tone support – that’s the feature that dynamically adjusts your screen’s colour balance based on data from the ambient light sensor. We will know more about what sort of difference this makes when we review the new iPad.

It’s also worth noting that the iPad Pro has a solid line-up of accessories, including the Apple Pencil (£99) and the Smart Keyboard (£149), which connects through the Smart Connector – a feature not included in the new iPad. If you’re looking for a tablet to replace that old laptop, the iPad Pro is the better pick.

New iPad (2017) vs 9.7-inch iPad Pro Specs: Which tablet is the most powerful?

Both tablets are on fairly equal footing when it comes to the display; they use the same(-ish) 9.7-inch panel with an identical screen resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. That works out at a respectable 264ppi, and should offer a crisp, clear image at normal viewing distances.

But when it comes to raw specs, the new iPad starts to fall behind. For instance, the new iPad uses a slower Apple A9 chip than the Apple A9X chip found in the iPad Pro. The A9X is an evolution of the iPhone 6S’s A9 processor, and runs at a faster 2.16-2.26GHz clock speed (compared to the A9’s 1.85GHz).

The A9X chip also features a more powerful 12-core variant of the PowerVR Series7XT GT7600 GPU, which means you’ll get better performance while gaming from the iPad Pro.

new ipad 13New iPad 2017

The camera setup on the new iPad is also far less impressive than what we’ve seen from the iPad Pro. For a start, you’re getting a smaller 8-megapixel image resolution from the main, rear-mounted camera on the new iPad, while the iPad Pro gets a higher-resolution 12-megapixel camera. It’s important to note that this simply means the iPad Pro takes bigger pictures, but not necessarily better pictures.

Where the real difference lies is in the aperture; the iPad Pro uses a wide f/2.2 aperture for the main camera, which trumps the f/2.4 aperture on the new iPad’s camera. Aperture describes the size of hole that allows light into your lens; the lower the number, the bigger the hole, and thus more light reaching your lens. Having a wider aperture should make the iPad Pro more versatile than the new iPad in terms of photography. Still, both these apertures are narrow when compared to high-end phones.

It’s a similar story with the secondary camera – what Apple calls the ‘FaceTime’ selfie cam. The new iPad offers a dinky 1.2-megapixel image and an aperture of f/2.2, compared to the 5-megapixel (f/2.2) shooter on the iPad Pro. This resolution disparity means your selfies and video calling will be much more limited in terms of the maximum detail possible on the new iPad. Still, 1.2-megapixels is enough to get video calling done, so don’t let this put you off buying a new iPad – the iPad Air 2 has the same setup, for reference.

iPad Pro 9.7 13iPad Pro

There’s not much else in the way of difference between the devices. Although the new iPad has a slightly larger battery, it offers the same 10-hour battery life as the iPad Pro. And both tablets feature Touch ID fingerprint sensors, Lightning ports, and models with optional cellular connectivity.

The only other real difference is that while the new iPad only comes in 32GB and 128GB variants, there’s an additional 256GB model with the iPad Pro.

For a full spec comparison, check out the table below:

New iPad (2017) iPad Pro (2016)
Screen 9.7 inches 9.7 inches
Display Resolution 2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264ppi) 2,048 x 1,536 pixels (264ppi)
Dimensions 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm
Weight 469 / 478 grams 437 / 444 grams
Chipset Apple A9 Apple A9X
Storage 32GB / 128GB 32GB / 128GB / 256GB
Primary Camera 8 megapixels, f/2.4 12 megapixels, f/2.2
Secondary Camera 1.2 megapixels, f/2.2 5 megapixels, f/2.2
Connectivity Wi-Fi (LTE optional) Wi-Fi (LTE optional)
Charging Cable Lightning Lightning
Fingerprint Scanner Touch ID Touch ID
Battery 32.4Wh (10-hour life) 27.9WH (10-hour life)
Colours Space Grey, Silver, Gold Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold

New iPad (2017) vs 9.7-inch iPad Pro Price: Which tablet is better value for money?

So, is the new iPad good value for money when compared against the similarly-sized iPad Pro?

Well, the new iPad will retail from a budget-friendly £339/$329, while the iPad Pro costs a far more hefty £549/$599. So if you have a hard budget of £400 or less then there’s only one real choice.

Related: Best tablets

new ipad 3New iPad 2017

However, it’s clear that the new iPad isn’t as hardware-capable as the iPad Pro when it comes to the screen, the processor performance, or the camera, which may put off those looking for the bleeding edge of specs.

Regarding value, it’s hard to justify spending £500+ on a tablet, so you’ll really only want to be picking up the Pro model if you’re going to be using it all the time. The iPad Pro range is intended for people who want to get work done, while the new iPad is almost certainly being targeted at people who just want a tablet for the occasional Netflix binge on a train.

We know that the iPad Pro is a good tablet, and the new iPad is probably going to be decent enough too, considering it’s using tried-and-tested components and software. So rather than thinking “which is better value?”, ask yourself if you’re willing to spend an extra £200 for the improvements that the iPad Pro offers.

iPad Pro 9.7 5iPad Pro

New iPad (2017) vs 9.7-inch iPad Pro Summary: What’s the difference?

Here’s a brief overview of the key differences between the new iPad (2017) and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Design: Both iPads look largely the same, although the new iPad is marginally thicker and heavier. It also has a slightly less impressive display panel. You also get an extra colour option: Rose Gold.

Specs: The iPad Pro is undoubtedly the superior tablet, featuring a faster processor, more storage options, and better cameras.

Price: Apple’s new iPad is a relative steal at £339/$329, while the more powerful iPad Pro will set you back £549/$599.

Value: If you’re looking for productivity, the iPad Pro is the best choice, but you’ll have to consider whether it’s worth paying an additional £200 for the improved hardware and design based on your own budget.

Related: New iPad vs iPad Air 2

What do you think of Apple’s new iPad? Let us know in the comments.

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