In the past, if you wanted a more advanced iPad, you needed to buy the iPad Pro. It was the only way to experience the Apple Pencil and the magical Smart Connector. The problem was, the iPad Pro has always been expensive—the 12.9-inch model starts at $799. Throw a few accessories on top of that and the price jumps to $1,000 or more.
Apple’s cheap 9.7-inch iPad fixes that, and offers a great argument as to why you shouldn’t buy either of Apple’s more expensive models. For just $329, consumers get a device that offers similar functionality to the iPad Pro at a fraction of the cost. Add in a few accessories and you still come in under Apple’s cheapest 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which starts at $649.
Adding Pencil support to the iPad is a smart move on Apple’s part. The accessory is widely regarded as one of the best tablet accessories around, great for jotting down notes and drawing. It makes it more broadly appealing. What makes the Pencil special is its ability to sense pressure; press hard for thicker lines and lighter for thinner ones. It’s an essential and important tool, even if its method of charging is laughable.
The fact that the iPad takes advantage of the Pencil’s capabilities means you don’t need the extra power or display technology of the iPad Pro. The value of the 9.7-inch model is simply too good to pass up. Whether you want a larger 12.9-inch display is up to you, but we’ve found that 9.7 inches is plenty for getting things done.
And don’t worry about the iPad’s specs, which fall below the iPad Pro’s. You’ll be able to edit photos and videos, create documents, and more without a problem. The iPad’s 2GB of RAM, 8-megapixel camera, 10 hours of battery life, and A10 Fusion chip are enough for most people.
However, there are a few tradeoffs. You don’t get the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector or the ability to run three apps on the same screen. (The iPad can only run two apps at once, which is still good.) Neither feature is enough to justify spending twice as much on the iPad Pro.
While the 9.7-inch iPad is a great reason not to purchase an iPad Pro, there are other factors, too. It’s been almost a year since both iPad Pro models were refreshed, so we should expect new versions soon. There have been reports Apple is preparing big updates, including a cleaner design and the addition of Face ID.
The onus is on Apple to make the iPad Pro worth the extra money. For most people, there’s no significant reason to purchase an iPad Pro over the iPad, unless you truly need the extra screen real estate. The iPad is just as capable and matches the iPad Pro where it counts, like design, battery life, and performance.
It may still be too expensive for the education market, but for just $329, the iPad could be poised to become one of Apple’s best-selling device in 2018. After never pulling the trigger on the iPad Pro because of its high price, I’m tempted to get the iPad and a Pencil. I can’t be the only one.