9.7-inch iPad FAQ: Everything you need to know!

Apple has just announced a new version of its 9.7-inch iPad, replacing the aging iPad Air 2. That comes with a moniker change: Instead of "iPad Air 3," the non-iPad Pro model is just called "iPad." The iPad mini lives on as "iPad mini 4," but has been reduced to a single 128GB model (and no processor upgrade).

While the new 9.7-inch iPad won't match the performance of the similarly-sized iPad Pro, it's a nice entry point for the education market and first-time tablet users. Here's everything you need to know about Apple's updates.

So this is a new iPad Air without the iPad Air name, huh?

Exactly. The new 9.7-inch iPad replaces the iPad Air 2 in Apple's tablet lineup — but though it's the same size, it's not an iPad Pro. Apple's newest tablet is a bit cheaper ($329 vs $599 for the entry-level 32GB Wi-Fi model), but it's lacking many of the Pro's keystone features.

What's the difference between the new 9.7-inch iPad and the iPad Air 2?

The biggest change is a processor upgrade: Apple's newest tablet includes the iPhone 6s's A9 chip and M9 co-processor, supplanting the iPad Air 2's A8X chip. It's also a little heavier and bulkier than both the iPad Air 2 and, strangely, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, weighing in at 1.03-1.05 pounds (depending on Wi-Fi vs Wi-Fi + Cellular) with a depth of 0.29 inches — 0.05 more than the iPad Pro.

There's also no laminated display and no DCI-P3 color gamut. That means the screen is like iPad Air 1 rather than iPad Air 2 or 9.7-inch iPad Pro. So, not so much anti-glare and sRGB-only color.

Besides that, the new iPad is relatively identical to its older Air cousin: It has a 9.7-inch Retina display, 8MP rear-facing iSight camera, 1.2MP FaceTime camera, Touch ID sensor, and 10 hours of battery life. You also have the same three color options for the new iPad: Silver, Gold, or Space Gray.

I didn't see you mention the Apple Pencil or Smart Connector.

Yup. Those two features remain iPad Pro-only, as does the 9.7-inch Pro's True Tone and Wide Color (P3) display. Also somewhat strange is that the iPad mini 4 has features the new 9.7-inch iPad lacks — it doesn't sport the laminated display or antireflective coating present on all other iPad models, Pro and Mini.

What else is different between the 9.7-inch iPad and iPad Pro?

By picking up the cheaper 9.7-inch iPad rather than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, you'll be missing out on the quadruple-speaker sound of the Pro model, its A10X chip and M10 coprocessor, Wide Color display with ProMotion refresh technology, 12-megapixel camera with True Tone flash, Live Photos, 4K video recording, 1080p slow-motion recording, increased video stabilization, autofocus recording, front-facing 7-megapixel camera and Retina Flash, LTE-Advanced network, embedded Apple SIM, or rose gold coloration.

Device iPad mini (7.9) iPad (9.7) iPad Pro (10.5) iPad Pro (12.9)
Colors Silver, Gold, Space Gray Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Space Gray Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Space Gray Silver, Gold, Space Gray
Size 8"x5.3" 9.4x6.6" 9.8"x6.8" 12"x8.68"
Capacity 128GB 32/128GB 64/256/512GB 64/256/512GB
Weight 0.65/0.67*lbs 1.03/1.05*lbs 1.03/1.05*lbs 1.49/1.53*lbs
Depth 0.24" 0.29" 0.24" 0.27"
Battery 19.1-watt, 9*-10 hrs 32.4-watt, 9*-10 hrs 30.4‐watt, 9*-10 hrs 41‐watt, 9*-10 hrs
Cellular* LTE LTE LTE Advanced LTE Advanced
Display Retina (2048x1536, 326ppi) Retina (2048x1536, 264ppi) Retina (2224x1668, 264ppi) Retina (2732x2048, 264ppi)
Laminated? Yes No Yes Yes
Brightness 450 nits 511 nits 600 nits 600 nits
Refresh Rate 60Hz 60Hz 120Hz (ProMotion) 120Hz (ProMotion)
True Tone No No Yes Yes
Wide Color (P3) No No Yes Yes
Apple Pencil No Yes Yes Yes
Smart Connector No No Yes Yes
Bluetooth 4.2 4.2 4.2 4.2
Speakers Stereo (dual) Stereo (dual) 4-Speaker 4-Speaker
Touch ID 1st-gen 1st-gen 2nd-gen 2nd-gen
Taptic Engine No No No No
Chip A8 A10 A10X A10X
Motion M8 M10 M10 M10
Rear Camera 8MP f/2.4 8MP f/2.4 12MP f/1.8, P3 color 12MP f/1.8, P3 color
Video (Rear) 1080p (30fps) 1080p (30fps) 4K (30fps) 4K (30fps)
Front Camera 1.2MP f/2.2 1.2MP f/2.2 7MP f/2.2 7MP f/2.2
Video (Front) 720p (30fps) 720p (30fps) 1080p (30fps) 1080p (30fps)

*Only pertains to the cellular model.

How much does this new iPad cost?

The Wi-Fi-only 9.7-inch iPad starts at $329 and comes in two storage capacities: 32GB for $329, and 128GB for $429. Additionally, the cellular model comes in the following configurations: 32GB for $459, and 128GB for $559. Unlike the iPad Pro configurations, there's no 256GB model available.

Okay, so why would I buy a new iPad over an iPad Pro?

While not outwardly stated, the primary market here is clearly education: The new 9.7-inch iPad is inexpensive even at large capacities, making it a potentially appealing choice for educators looking to pitch their administrators on a tablet workflow. But it could also be a great tablet for first-time buyers and those who don't need the iPad Pro's bells and whistles.

On the upgrade side, if you still have an iPad Air 2 and are happy with it, there's no real need to upgrade unless you desperately want the A9 processor. But if you're coming from an older iPad and don't want a Pro-level commitment, the new 9.7-inch iPad is a good alternative.

I heard we also got a new iPad mini?

Well... sort of. Apple did make a slight update to the iPad mini 4, but not the kind most hoped for. The mini retains its aging A8 processor with no speed bump; instead, the only change is to consolidate the model into a single storage configuration: 128GB. The Wi-Fi model of the iPad mini 4 costs $399, while the cellular model costs $529. (Yes: The entry-level mini is now more expensive than the entry-level 9.7-inch iPad.)

When and where can I get one?

The new 9.7-inch iPad will be available on Apple's website on Friday, March 24. Deliveries will begin next week to an Apple Store near you as well as those who order online.


Let us know in the comments.

iPad Buyers Guide


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