Apple iPad Pro (2020) vs iPad (2019): is the Pro worth the cash?
A classic case of value versus performance
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The iPad has been the go-to tablet for most of us since the very first iPad launched in 2010. But today’s lineup includes a huge range of models, from the entry-level $330 iPad (2019), all the way up to the much more expensive iPad Pro, which starts at $800.
The iPad Pro blurs the line between what a tablet can be, offering better performance than many laptops in a compact, touch-screen design. The entry-level iPad, on the other hand, offers excellent value for the money and an almost identical software experience to the Pro. Now, there’s no denying the iPad Pro is the “better” device. But as mentioned, it’s also a whole lot more expensive. The real mystery is not whether the iPad Pro is better or not, but whether or not it’s worth that extra cash for you.
While most iPad models follow the same design as the entry-level iPad, Apple turned that design on its head with the 2018 iPad Pro—and the 2020 model looks almost identical. The device has an edge-to-edge display with half-inch bezels that look razer-thin considering how big the screen-to-body ratio is. And, in those thin bezels, there’s some pretty high-end tech—the iPad Pro offers Apple’s Face ID, so it’ll unlock without you really having to do anything except look at it. On the back of the iPad Pro, there’s a square camera bump like that on modern iPhone models, with a dual-sensor camera and LiDAR sensor for augmented reality.
The iPad Pro actually comes in two models, with the main difference between them being the screen size. There’s an 11-inch model and an absolutely huge 12.9-inch model, both of which come in Silver or Space Gray. And, as you would expect from a “pro” device, it has a USB-C port on the bottom instead of the Lightning port on offer by every other iPad model.
While the iPad Pro looks modern and classy, the entry-level iPad is by no means ugly. On the contrary, the bezeled look may be aging, but the device still offers a premium look that puts most other tablets to shame. There is a forehead and chin on the device, with a Touch ID button on the bottom, and while it’s not as seamless as Face ID, it’s responsive and easy to use. The 2019 iPad comes in three colors -- Silver, Space Gray, and Gold.
Both of the devices are compact and thin -- both iPad Pro models come in at 0.23 inches thick, while the entry-level iPad is 0.3 inches thick. The 11-inch iPad Pro and entry-level iPad actually have a similar footprint, with the iPad Pro coming in at 9.75 x 7.03 inches and the standard iPad measuring 9.87 x 6.85 inches. Both are highly portable and easy to slot into a backpack or bag, and even with a case, they’re both sleek. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro feels much bigger -- and as a result, it’s probably better served for those who really want or need that extra screen real estate.
While it's close, the Pro's bezel-free design wins the day here.
Our pick: iPad Pro
The display on the entry-level iPad is awesome. It measures in at 10.2 inches, and while the tech behind it (LCD) isn’t as high-tech as some OLED-clad devices, it’s still vibrant, colorful, and gets quite bright. The resolution on the device sits in at 2160 x 1620, which is quite high in a world of 1080p tablets.
But great can always get better. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s kind of the theme of this comparison.
The iPad Pro has an incredibly smooth 120 Hz display, which makes animations and touch feel much more responsive and smooth. For the display nerds out there, the device also has a P3 wide color gamut display, which makes for more natural color reproduction, and the iPad Pro supports Apple’s True Tone technology that helps ensure a more natural look depending on the color of the light in your environment. It’s pretty smart tech.
Ultimately, the vast majority of people will be thrilled with the bright, vibrant display on the entry-level iPad, especially for things like watching movies and looking at photos. But if you really want color accuracy, the iPad Pro is probably the way to go.
Our pick: iPad Pro
Once again, the standard iPad offers excellent performance, but the iPad Pro goes a step further. The 10.2-inch iPad comes with an Apple A10 Fusion chip, and while the chip is a few years old at this point, having first made an appearance in the iPhone 7, it still delivers enough oomph for most basic tasks, some mobile gaming, and so on.
The iPad Pro, on the other hand, has an A12Z Bionic chip, which is quite a bit more powerful, and makes it a better device for professional apps, higher-end mobile gaming, and so on. It’s important to stress that the performance on the standard iPad will be more than good enough for the vast majority of users -- but if getting the best of the best is important to you, the iPad Pro will be the way to go.
Our pick: iPad Pro
All three devices (including the both sizes of the iPad Pro) offer pretty good battery life, though your mileage will vary depending on your use. There’s not much use comparing actual battery capacity considering the differences in processor and display technology, but Apple says all three devices will get you 10 hours of web surfing on a charge, so you should get similar use out of all three.
Our pick: Tie
Accessories and special features
Normally, there’s a similar set of accessories for all devices -- but if you compare the entry-level iPad and the iPad Pro, you’re looking at a pretty different selection. Notably, the iPad Pro is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil, and the new Magic Keyboard, which essentially turns the iPad into a 2-in-1 with close to a laptop experience. It’s a great accessory, and while it’s (really) expensive, for some it will be worth the cash.
The entry-level iPad isn’t compatible with either of these accessories. You can get a smart keyboard case, but it’s a little different from the Magic Keyboard in that it has a kickstand and as such really only works on a desk. And, if you want an Apple Pencil, you’ll need the first-gen Pencil. That’s not necessarily a huge deal, considering they perform similarly, but you won’t get the wireless charging and more natural feel of the second-gen Pencil if you go for the entry-level iPad.
The entry-level iPad doesn’t offer much in the way of special features—but the iPad Pro offers a few. For example, the iPad Pro has Apple’s Smart Connector for communicating with accessories like the Magic Keyboard. And, it has a LiDAR sensor on the back, which is used for augmented reality features. The LiDAR sensor isn’t all that useful yet, but that may change over time, especially if the iPhone adopts it.
Our pick: iPad Pro
The 2020 iPad Pro is better than the entry-level device in pretty much every way we’ve discussed so far, but that’s not necessarily a surprise. When it comes to the iPad lineup, you get what you pay for — and if you want that extra performance and all those awesome features, you’ll have to pay a lot. While the entry level iPad starts at $329, the 11-inch 2020 iPad Pro starts at $799, and if you want the 12.9-inch model, you’re going to have to shell out an even more expensive $999 or more.
There’s little denying it — the iPad Pro is expensive. For some, the price is justified, but others won’t have the budget for an $800 tablet, or need the extra features for that matter.
Our pick: 10.2-inch iPad
Winner: iPad Pro
The iPad Pro is, hands down, the winner here. Not only that, but it goes a step further — being arguably the best tablet money can buy. It has better performance, a better display, better accessories, and more.
But that’s not at all to say that the entry-level iPad isn’t a great product. In fact, if you want a solid tablet and don’t need the pro-level features the iPad Pro offers, it’s absolutely worth buying. It’s a great tablet for things like browsing the web, watching Netflix, playing mobile games, and so on.