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Does the new iPad Pro 2021 offer enough to guarantee an upgrade from last year’s iPad Air, or should you stick with the Air for now? Let’s compare the two Apple tablets and find out!
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iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Air 4 price, colors, sizes and storage
The new iPad Pro 2021 is priced at $ 799 for the 11-inch Wi-Fi only model and $ 999 for the basic Wi-Fi and Cellular model. The 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro is priced at $ 1,099 for the Wi-Fi model and $ 1299 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Also, the new 2021 M1 iPad Pro in particular comes in new white in addition to black. And unlike previous iPads, the new iPad Pro Cellular models support 5G connectivity.
iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Air 4 design and display
In terms of design, the 2021 iPad Pro and iPad Air 4 are roughly the same when viewed from the front. Both have a premium, slim metal and glass construction, but the Pro has slightly smaller frames and of course – its 12.9 version has a new mini-LED XDR display. At the back, the differences between the two tablets are more visible: the iPad Pro has a large camera module that includes a flash, a LiDAR sensor, and a very wide camera next to the main camera. The iPad Air, on the other hand, has one rear camera and nothing else.
The 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s new mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display was arguably its biggest, most anticipated update. Thanks to this mini-LED technology, the 2021-inch iPad Pro screen of 2021 has significantly better contrast compared to the previous iPad, which resembles OLED. Both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch iPad Pro models also feature a very smooth 120 Hz screen refresh rate, making them feel faster and smoother. The resolution of the 11-inch iPad Pro is 2388 x 1668, which is very slightly higher than the Air 4, as would be expected for the former slightly larger screen.
The iPad Air 4 includes an IPS LCD film with a refresh rate of 60 Hz and a resolution of 2360 x 1640 pixels. Its display is nowhere near bad as it still has high contrast, color and good sharpness. Especially when watching movies in the dark, as this screen is not a mini-LED XDR, blacks are not as tonal as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Air 4 performance
The 2021 iPad Pro will run specifically on Apple’s M1 chip, which can also be found in newer Mac books and iMacs. This means that the 2021 iPad Pro will offer better performance than any previous iPad before it (especially multi-core). In addition to the 8GB RAM option, the M1 iPad Pro also comes with a model with a huge 16GB of RAM.
The iPad Air 4 is powered by an Apple A14 Bionic chip and 4GB of RAM. It is already powerful enough for things like editing videos, browsing the desktop, complex drawing in Procreate applications, and so on. Unless coming iPadOS 15 is a major update that brings something new only to M1 iPads, the iPad Air 4 handles iPadOS well so far and won’t lose any software features from the new Pro models.
A notable downside to the iPad Air 4’s less than ample 4GB of RAM is that sometimes while browsing, certain tabs may refresh when you leave them and return to them later because your tablet is running out of memory. It’s not an important thing that most users even notice, but I personally remember that a few Reddit tabs are open and typed messages (but not yet published), I just lose all because of the tabs I typed when I went back to them, which gets me to rewrite everything. Basically, more iPad Pro RAM means less chance of this. And with the high-end 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a full 16GB of RAM, something like this is unlikely to even happen.
iPad Pro 2021 vs iPad Air 4 speakers
Like its predecessors, the new iPad Pro 2021 has four speakers, two more than the iPad Air 4. But in our experience, the new 11-inch iPad Pro may not sound much better than the Air 4, only louder because it has two extra speakers.
However, the 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro sounds significantly louder and lower than the Air 4, so if you value speaker quality, upgrade to the iPad Air 4 12.9 inch 2021 iPad Pro is worth it.
In any case, both the 2021 iPad Pro and iPad Air 4 offer excellent sound quality and stereo separation, as both have speakers on both sides, unlike the budget iPad. The iPad Air 4 still has significantly better speakers than most, if not all, affordable Android tablets.
iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Air 4 camera
iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Air 4 accessories and USB port
Both the new 2021 iPad Pro and iPad Air 4 support the same iPad cases and accessories because the two tablets are about the same size. Apple Smart Keyboard Folio, Apple Pencil 2 and the like can use both tablets. However, it’s worth noting that Apple has released a new Magic keyboard specifically for the new iPad Pro, so when you buy iPad Pro 2021 keyboard cases, it is best to get the latest available.
Both the iPad Pro 2021 and iPad Air 4 also have a USB Type-C port for charging and accessories, but the iPad Pro port also supports Thunderbolt, which means the M1 iPad Pro has up to a 6K external display product, among other things.
iPad Pro 2021 vs. iPad Air 4 battery
Apple claims that both tablets last up to 10 hours of continuous use, and in our testing this is true. In fact, they can sometimes last longer. Students and professionals who use the 2021 iPad Pro or iPad Air 4 for school or work can easily use their tablet all day until they need to charge it.
Both the 2021 iPad Pro and iPad Air 4 feature a meter-long USB Type-C charging cable and a 20W power supply.