In the wake of Apple's spring iPad and education event, I've received a lot of questions about how the base-model 2018 iPad fits in next to the 10.5-inch and second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro line — does giving Pencil support to the base-model iPad eliminate the need for a Pro-level iPad?

In short, no. But why? Here's how the two models compare, and why you'll probably want to stick with a Pro for more high-level work.

Processors & RAM

Let's start with the big one: The 2018 iPad features an A10 Fusion chip and 2GB of RAM, while the iPad Pro line rocks the A10X and 4GB of RAM.

On paper, this might not look like a huge difference: It's half a version number, right? But the A10X is a huge powerhouse of a chip with some incredible graphics power to throw around. In our Geekbench tests, the A10X 10.5-inch iPad Pro walloped its new sibling: There's only a modest 3904 increase over the 2018 iPad's 3254, but on multi-core, the 2017 iPad Pro line hits 9292 to the 2018 iPad's 5857.

Metal (GPU) scores are even starker: In our tests, the 10.5-inch iPad scored 29445 to the 2018 iPad's 13279.

In reality, this means the 2018 iPad will have a harder time than its pro sibling running resource-intensive games, multiple apps, and complicated AR environments. You'll also have a slight restriction on iPad multitasking: The 2018 iPad can have two split screen windows open along with a Slide Over screen and picture-in-picture, but only the Slide Over panel will be in focus. (In contrast, iPad Pro allows focus for all open windows.)

Pencil Support

For the first time, a non-Pro iPad has full Apple Pencil support, which is a pretty great win for people who want easy and great stylus input on a tablet. The 2018 iPad works with the original Apple Pencil: When you draw, the Pencil sends 240Hz (240 impressions a second) to the screen, which renders those line drawings at 60Hz with Apple's line prediction technology "previewing" where you're drawing to reduce the impression of lag. This is the exact same technology used in the original 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch iPad Pro, with no limitations.

But if you go for a 2017 iPad Pro, you'll get a significant reduction in screen lag, which results in a much snappier drawing and writing experience. This tech is called ProMotion; the Pencil still sends data at 240Hz, but the iPad Pro's screen renders it at 120Hz instead of 60Hz. (It effectively reduces Pencil lag from 40 milliseconds to 20ms.)

ProMotion's dynamic refresh technology benefits in places outside the Pencil, too, rendering games with a higher frame rate, filming slow-motion video, and more.

Other Accessories

The iPad Pro line has a special line of accessories that use its Smart Connector; neither the connector nor those accessories have made it to the 2018 iPad.

That said, the 2018 iPad can connect to any Bluetooth accessory (as can the iPad Pro line). So if you're interested in external keyboards, you'll need to consider cases that use Bluetooth or Lightning to connect.

The 2018 iPad will also soon have two accessories available from Logitech (though both are currently restricted to education customers): the Rugged Case and Keyboard, and the Pencil-like Crayon stylus. To my knowledge, these accessories will only work with the 9.7-inch 2018 iPad, so iPad Pro users are out of luck.

If you want access to Smart Connector accessories, the iPad Pro is the best choice; if you don't care or only rely on Bluetooth, you can get by just fine with the 2018 iPad.

Display

Here's another big hardware differentiator: the Retina display. The 10.5-inch and second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro have a number of improvements over the base 2018 iPad's screen:

  • A laminated display, which reduces glare from bright lights and in outdoor settings
  • P3 Wide Color, which displays images and video with a wider color gamut
  • True Tone, which shifts the white balance of the screen depending on where you are to avoid overly blue displays
  • An anti-reflective coating, which further reduces glare
  • ProMotion on the new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which can dynamically adjust the screen from 120Hz to as little as 24Hz.

In real-world use, most users won't actively notice the 2018 iPad's non-laminated display and lack of P3 or True Tone if they've never used a device with those features. If you're used to P3 and True Tone, however, you may find the 2018 screen a bit flat and blue.

You may also want to consider an iPad Pro over the 2018 iPad if you plan to do work outdoors or in harsh lighting, as the iPad's screen glare is significantly more difficult to work through than that of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro's.

Cameras

While I don't advocate iPad photography, I recognize that iPad cameras can be incredibly useful for scouting shots, scanning documents, getting reference material, and FaceTime chats.

In this arena, the iPad Pro completely shuts down the 2018 iPad, which uses an older camera system. The Pros include the same camera setup as the iPhone 7, including a 12MP f/1.8 rear camera with a six-element lens, OIS and Focus Pixels, P3 wide color capture, noise reduction, and a True Tone Flash.

The 2018 iPad has an 8MP f/2.4 system, in contrast, with a five-element lens and none of the features highlighted above. It does have slightly better low-light handling than its 2017 predecessor thanks to a new ISP in the A10 Fusion chip, but otherwise it's dramatically less effective than the 10.5-inch and second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Rear video is also much better on the pros; they offer optically-stabilized 4K 30FPS recording and 1080P recording at up to 120FPS, while the 2018 iPad only offers 1080P video recording at 30FPS (720p for 120FPS slow-motion recordings).

Additionally, the front-facing 7MP f/2.2 camera on the iPad Pro line far outpaces the 1.2MP f/2.2 kit on the 2018 iPad.

In short: If you want a superior camera on your iPad, the pro is the way to go.

Touch ID

A small change, but an important one: the iPad Pro line features the faster second-generation Touch ID sensor, while the 2018 iPad only offers the first-generation mode (like its 2017 predecessor).

Our friends at iFixYouri did a test a few years back comparing the speed of the first- and second-generation sensors:

I also did a (less scientific) test with the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) and the 2018 iPad — in slow-motion! (Ignore the flicker on the iPad Pro at first; it's from LED lights reflected on the back wall.)

If you simply have to have the fastest unlock speed, the Pro will suit you better.

Speakers

There are audio differences between the 2018 iPad and the iPad Pro line, too: The Pros feature a four-speaker stereo setup, which lets you get excellent audio no matter how you rotate your device. The 2018 iPads feature just half that number — there are two stereo speakers that live on the bottom of the device next to the Lightning port.

This may not matter much to you if you don't listen to a ton of music or watch video without headphones, but those who do will appreciate the extra aural capacity of the iPad Pro line.

Capacity

The 2018 iPad is limited to just two sizes: 32GB and 128GB. The Pro line goes for a much bigger starting size — 64GB — and jumps all the way to 512GB for its most expensive model.

In day-to-day use you'll notice this most if you use multiple apps or rely on local storage over cloud-based services; if you don't need space, the 2018 iPad may well be a perfect match. But if you do need the storage, go iPad Pro.

LTE and the Apple SIM

Both the 2018 iPad and iPad Pro line take advantage of Apple SIM, the company's unlocked cellular connector that helps you to connect with your local carriers without having to visit an Apple Store. But their implementation is very different.

The 2018 iPad has a single nano-SIM slot, where its Apple SIM lives; to switch to a different carrier, you'll have to remove the Apple SIM.

In contrast, the iPad Pro line have an embedded Apple SIM along with an empty nano-SIM slot: If you want to switch to a carrier the Apple SIM doesn't support, you can just pop in the card without having to worry about removing (or losing) your Apple SIM.

In addition, the 2018 iPad supports fewer and slower LTE bands than the iPad Pro line (which supports LTE Advanced).

If you plan to pick up a cellular iPad and want the best and widest LTE network options, you'll want an iPad Pro.

Who should get a 2018 iPad?

The 2018 iPad is an excellent entry-level tablet for just about anyone, and Pencil support has made it even better. If you don't need high-end graphics or CPU performance, don't care about a fancy display, find first-generation Touch ID just fine for signing in, don't take a ton of iPad photos or FaceTime, want a Wi-Fi only device, and plan to use Apple Pencil, the 2018 iPad is a great upgrade.

See at Apple

Who should buy iPad Pro?

In brief? Anyone who has need of pro-level features. Whether that's CPU, GPU, faster Pencil rendering, Smart Connector accessories, better cameras, better LTE, better screens, or better security, the iPad Pro line has you covered.

See at Apple

Other questions?

Let me know in the comments and I'll try to help you out.

Updated March 28, 2018 5:07 PM ET: Added ProMotion information under the Display section.

9.7-inch iPad

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