iPad Pro Vs iPad Air: What’s New In 2024?

iPad Air 2024 vs iPad Pro 2024

After nearly two years, Apple has finally refreshed its iPad lineup with a thinner iPad Pro and a new iPad Air. The new tablets are priced starting at $999 and $599 respectively and are already available for preorder before their May 15th release date.

These updates aren't just minor spec changes. Apple has introduced an OLED display to the iPad Pro for the first time, along with a new M4 chip. Additionally, Apple has included a 13-inch Air model in the lineup, offering both 11-inch and 13-inch options. 

With support for the same styluses, including the Apple Pencil with USB‑C and the upcoming Apple Pencil Pro, users now have more choices for larger tablets suited for both work and play.

While the iPad Air and iPad Pro share some similarities in appearance, they have significant differences internally. While the iPad Pro boasts a remarkably thin design and impressive OLED display, is it truly worth the extra $400 if your needs are primarily for entertainment?

To aid in your decision-making process, we've compared the technical specifications of both tablets and emphasized the key distinctions, allowing you to make a well-informed choice. Additionally, stay tuned for our comprehensive reviews of both tablets in the near future.

Cost and storage options

When choosing between an iPad Pro and an iPad Air, price is a major deciding factor.  For Wi-Fi models, the 11-inch iPad Air starts at $599, while the 13-inch starts at $799. If you need cellular connectivity, expect to pay $749 for the 11-inch cellular iPad Air and $949 for the 13-inch cellular model.  

In terms of storage, both iPad Air models offer a significant improvement over the previous generation by starting with 128GB, with the option to expand up to 1TB if needed.

In contrast, the Wi-Fi versions of the 11-inch iPad Pro start at $999 and the 13-inch model at $1,299, with their cellular counterparts starting at $1,199 and $1,499 respectively. Both base models also come with 256GB of storage, double that of the latest Air, and can be upgraded to 2TB.

Appearance and screen features

Apart from the pricing distinctions, Apple's latest tablets vary in design and display technology. While we haven't extensively tested the tablets yet, our initial impressions of the iPad Pro highlight its remarkable thinness and lightness, weighing even less than the iPad Air.

Unfortunately, the Pro model offers fewer color options, available only in black and silver, compared to the latest iPad Air, which offers additional colors like dark gray, light purple, starlight gold and light blue.

While both the iPad Pro and iPad Air share two size options, 11-inch and 13-inch, the iPad Pro gets a significant display upgrade with the new Ultra Retina XDR display. This technology utilizes two OLED panels to deliver superior brightness.  

The iPad Pro can achieve a full-screen brightness of 1,000 nits for both SDR and HDR content, with an even higher peak brightness of 1,600 nits for HDR content.

Compared to the LED display on the iPad Air, the iPad Pro offers superior contrast and deeper black levels thanks to its OLED display (available in both 11-inch and 13-inch sizes).

This translates to a better viewing experience on the iPad Pro with improved image quality and reduced blooming, a visual defect where bright areas bleed into darker areas. 

Additionally, the 1TB and 2TB iPad Pro models can be purchased with a nano-texture glass option to further minimize glare.

Beyond the display technology, the iPad Pro (available in 11-inch and 13-inch sizes) boasts ProMotion technology with a 120Hz refresh rate, a feature absent on the iPad Air. This translates to a smoother experience for scrolling and gaming on the iPad Pro. 

Artists who use the Apple Pencil will also benefit from the increased responsiveness of the ProMotion display.

Processing capabilities

The iPad Pro (available in 11-inch and 13-inch sizes) packs a more powerful M4 chip compared to the M2 chip found in the iPad Air. Apple boasts a 50% improvement in CPU performance with the M4, likely outperforming the M2 iPad Air as well. 

The 1TB iPad Pro gets an even faster 10-core M4 chip, a first for iPads. Interestingly, despite the increased power, Apple claims the M4 chip consumes less power than the previous-generation M2.

In addition to enhanced CPU performance, the M4 model boasts a more powerful Neural Engine, claimed by Apple to be 60 times faster than the first one introduced in the A11 Bionic model in 2017. 

It is also capable of 38 trillion operations per second (TOPS), indicating the number of mathematical calculations it can solve per second. However, this number is still lower than Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite's 45 TOPS chip, which is set to debut in Windows laptops soon.

The new iPad Pro features GPU upgrades, offering hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading to assist game developers in enhancing complex scenes. Additionally, the M4 chip introduces support for Dynamic Caching technology to the iPad for the first time. 

This technology optimizes the tablet's memory usage for each task, thereby improving the performance of professional applications and games.

Additional items

Both the new iPad Air and iPad Pro are compatible with various Apple accessories. Surprisingly, neither supports the second-generation Apple Pencil. However, they do support the Apple Pencil (USB‑C) released last year and the new Apple Pencil Pro. 

This means owners of both the Pro and Air can enjoy the features of the new Apple Pencil Pro, including Find My support, haptic feedback, and squeeze gestures. 

Additionally, with the inclusion of the M2 chip in the iPad Air, artists can now utilize the hover feature previously exclusive to the iPad Pro, allowing for the preview of line strokes made with the Apple Pencil before marking the screen.

The iPad Air is compatible with Apple's current Magic Keyboard, now called the Magic Keyboard for iPad Air (M2). However, it does not support the upcoming Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro (M4). 

Therefore, only iPad Pro owners can use this high-end aluminum keyboard, which is lighter and thinner than previous models. The newer keyboard also boasts a larger, more responsive trackpad, two color choices, and several additional features, including a row of function keys.

Regarding additional accessories, Apple has reintroduced the Smart Folio cover for both the iPad Air and iPad Pro, offered in sizes suitable for 11- and 13-inch models. However, the Smart Keyboard Folio, which is a more affordable option lacking a trackpad, is not available for the newest models. 

Nonetheless, technically, you could still utilize the 11-inch version with the sixth-generation iPad Air.

Audio and camera features

The iPad Air includes two stereo speakers and microphones, while the iPad Pro boasts a quad-speaker system and four microphones. If it's similar to its predecessor, this implies that the new Pro models will offer superior audio quality compared to the iPad Air, producing louder and richer sound. 

Coupled with the OLED display mentioned earlier, this suggests that the iPad Pro will likely continue to be the top choice for watching movies on a tablet.

Lastly, Apple has relocated the front-facing cameras on both tablets to the longer edge, enhancing the experience of video calls in landscape mode. Additionally, both tablets are equipped with 12-megapixel f/1.8 cameras. 

However, only the iPad Pro includes adaptive True Tone flash, which helps eliminate shadows from scanned documents.