iPad Pro vs. iPad Air 2: sizing up Apple's new 9.7-inch tablet

How Pro should you go?

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Apple today announced a much-anticipated addition to its 9.7-inch tablet lineup — except the new device isn't called the iPad Air 3. Instead, the company is classifying the tablet, the first in Apple's flagship size group since 2014's iPad Air 2, as an iPad Pro. It's just a little smaller than the gargantuan 12.9-inch iPad Pro released last fall, and it comes equipped with all the same perks: Pencil and Smart Keyboard compatibility, four-speaker audio system, and boosts to RAM and processor speed.

That still begs the question: Is this new iPad Pro a viable alternative to a more traditional 2-in-1 like Microsoft's Surface, and where does it stack up against the cheaper iPad Air 2 or the high-end iPad Pro? Now that Apple has made a definitive move to classify its tablets as it does its laptops — with Air and Pro tiers — it's become a little easier to differentiate between the many choices. However, there's still a good amount of ambiguity over what each iPad is capable of, where it truly excels, and where it falls flat on its face. This is where numbers can come in handy.

In the chart below, we put the iPad Pro mini up against its larger counterpart and some of its closest third-party competitors. On the one side, there's other tablets including the iPad Pro released last fall and 2014's iPad Air 2. On the other side are 2-in-1's like Microsoft's Surface 3. Specs rarely, if ever, tell a full story. But specs can help you determine whether the tablet you're interested in is really capable of being more than a consumption machine.

Correction: An earlier version this article misstated the RAM amount on the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It is 2GB, not 4GB. We regret the error.

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