iPad Pro, iPad, and iPad mini 4: What are the differences?

Roman Loyola
22 March, 2017
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When Apple released a new iPad on Tuesday, the company also simplified the iPad lineup: instead of four iPad models, there are now three. This makes it easier to decide which iPad to buy, though there are still a lot of factors to consider. Let’s take a look at the major features you should think about when picking an iPad.

Size

If you want to carry your iPad around with you, then size is an important consideration. Here’s a breakdown of each iPad.

12.9” iPad Pro 9.7” iPad Pro iPad iPad mini 4
Screen size 12.9” 9.7” 9.7” 7.9”
Height 12” 9.4” 9.4” 8”
Width 8.7” 6.6” 6.6” 5.3”
Depth 0.27” 0.24” 0.29” 0.24”
Weight (Wi-Fi)  1.57 lbs. 0.96 lbs. 1.03 lbs. 0.65 lbs.
Weight
(Wi-Fi & Cellular)
1.59 lbs. 0.98 lbs. 1.05 lbs. 0.67 lbs.

Screen

Just looking at the iPads, it’s difficult to discern any difference in the screens besides their sizes. All of the iPads use LED-backlit displays with Multi-Touch support and fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. But there are a few features that are found in some models and not in others that may not be obvious.

12.9” iPad Pro 9.7” iPad Pro iPad iPad mini 4
Fully laminated display Yes Yes No Yes
Antireflective coating Yes Yes No Yes
P3 wide colour support No Yes No No
True Tone support No Yes No No

If colour accuracy and detail is vital to your work, then you want the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with its P3 wide colour and True Tone. If you really want the bigger screen of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you won’t get the P3 support, but there is a way to use iOS’s Night Shift to act like True Tone.

The iPad lacks the laminated display and antireflective coating found in the other iPads, so you might have issues with glare. You might consider an iPad mini 4 instead, especially if you plan to be outdoors a lot, or if you are going to use the device where lighting is influential in the environment, like a photo studio.

Smart Connector

ipad pro smart keyboard

The iPad Pro is the only iPad outfitted with a Smart Connector, which is used to connect devices like keyboards.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard uses the Smart Connector to connect to the iPad Pro. The Smart Keyboard for 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $169 (available on Amazon), and the SmartKeyboard for 9.7-inch iPad Pro is $149 (available on Amazon). Third parties like Logitech also make keyboards that use the Smart Connector.

You can still use a keyboard with the iPad and iPad mini 4, but since these iPads don’t have a Smart Connector, Bluetooth is used to connect to a keyboard. So, you can use any Bluetooth keyboard, but you may want to get a keyboard case that’s designed specifically for the iPad or iPad mini 4 for extra comfort.

Apple Pencil support

ipad pro pencil notes stock2

In case you’re not that familiar with Apple’s iPad models, the iPad Pro is the only device that can be used with the Apple Pencil ($99; available on Amazon), a pen-like input device. You can still use your fingers to interact with the iPad Pro, but the Pencil provides the precision needed for creative work, or for people who want to write using an instrument.

You can find a third-party stylus that can be used with the iPad and iPad mini 4, though they may not function like the Apple Pencil. Some styluses are made for specifically for writing, while others are for sketching.

Photo camera

If still photos are a priority for you, then you probably want the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It has a few major features (noted below) that the other iPads don’t have.

12.9” iPad Pro 9.7” iPad Pro iPad iPad mini 4
Resolution 8 megapixels 12 megapixels 8 megapixels 8 megapixels
Aperture ƒ/2.4 ƒ/2.2 ƒ/2.4 ƒ/2.4
Live Photos No Yes No No
True Tone flash No Yes No No
Wide colour photo capture No Yes No No
Autofocus Yes Yes, with Focus Pixels Yes Yes
Tap to focus Yes Yes, with Focus Pixels Yes Yes
Panorama up to 43 megapixels up to 63 megapixels up to 43 megapixels up to 43 megapixels
HDR photos Yes Auto HDR Yes Yes

Video camera

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is also the more capable video camera. In fact, its specs outpace the other iPads by a wide margin. Major differences noted below.

12.9” iPad Pro 9.7” iPad Pro iPad iPad mini 4
Resolution 1080p 4K 1080p 1080p
Slow-motion 720p/120 fps 1080p/120 fps
720p/240 fps
720p/120 fps 720p/120 fps
Video stabilisation Yes Yes (Cinematic) Yes Yes
Focus Tap to focus Continuous autofocus Tap to focus Tap to focus

FaceTime camera

Since iPads are used more and more for video conferencing and selfies, the FaceTime camera is an important consideration. As with photos and video, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has the best specs.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a 5-megapixel FaceTime camera, while the other three iPads are a 1.2 megapixels. Also, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes equipped with a Retina Flash to make sure you are properly illuminated. There is no flash in the other iPads.

Processor

The iPad Pro is the top performer with an A9X chip. The chip in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is slightly slower that that one in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, so it doesn’t overheat in the smaller form factor.

The iPad has a A9 processor, which is same model number as the processor in the iPhone 6s. Though it’s not as fast as the A9X, it’s a boost over the A8X chip that was in the iPad Air 2.

The iPad mini 4 comes with the slowest processor of the lineup, an A8. It’s the compromise you make to get the smaller form factor and a reasonable price.

Rose Gold

rose gold ipad pro

And finally, after considering everything listed above, there’s the one thing that could change or confirm your decision: the Rose Gold factor. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the only iPad available in Rose Gold. If that’s the colour you absolutely must have, then that’s the iPad for you.

All iPads are available in gold, silver, and space grey.

3 Comments

3 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Ralph says:

    When opening the link from Macworld email to read more about the iPad Pro etc differences, much of the information on the right hand side of the screen is obscured by unwanted and/or irrelevant advertisements. How can that be cleaned?

  2. Don Munro says:

    Wake up editor! Could we please have a copy that doesn’t have a Telstra ad plastered across the iPad Mini (I think) details?

  3. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    Apologies. Fixed

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