iPad Air 4 vs iPad Pro (2021): Which should you buy?
When it comes to sheer value for the price, the sleek iPad Air 4 is still the best tablet you can buy. If you prefer the laptop configuration, this model also works perfectly with the iPad Magic Keyboard.
- Excellent value for the price
- Features a sleek new design and slim profile
- Works with all iPad accessories
- Comes in a variety of fun colors
- Less storage and performance power
- Only comes in one size
- Lacks the latest Apple tech
Best for creators
Prepare to be amazed by Apple's latest advancements in display, processor power, and video calls. This iPad Pro has it all, along with a price tag to match.
- Now running the powerful M1 processor
- Cool new XDR display and Center Stage video calling
- Offers two size configurations
- Features better cameras and FaceID
- It's expensive
- Fewer colors to choose from
Apple has done it again with some jaw-dropping new features on the 2021 iPad Pro. Of course, with great tech comes a big price tag. The question you'll have to ask yourself is, are all those bells and whistles worth the cost when compared to the sleek and affordable iPad Air 4? The iPad Air is also one of the best tablets on the market, and it comes in at a much lower price point.
iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Pro (2021): Key differences
While there are some marked differences between the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the iPad Air 4, the 11-inch iPad Pro and Air actually have many similarities. Both of these models share size, shape, design, and weight. If you start going spec by spec, however, there are some differences here as well.
|Header Cell - Column 0||iPad Air 4||iPad Pro 2021|
|Cost||From $599||From $799|
|Size||10.9-inch||11-inch or 12.9-inch|
|Colors||Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, Sky Blue||Space Gray, Silver|
|Display||Liquid Retina||Liquid Retina XDR|
|Resolution||2360-by-1640-pixel resolution||2388x1668 at 264 ppi (11-inch), 2732x2048 at 264 ppi (12.9-inch)|
|Processor||A14 Bionic chip||Apple M1 chip|
|RAM||4GB||Up to 16GB|
|Storage||Up to 256GB||Up to 2TB|
|Camera||12MP wide back, 7MP front||12MP wide, 10MP extra-wide back, TrueDepth front|
|Ports||USB-C 3.1||Thunderbolt/USB 4 port|
|Dimensions||9.74 inches x 7 inches x 0.24 inch||9.74 inches x 7.02 inches x 0.23 inch (11-inch), 11.04 inches x 8.46 inches x 0.25 inch (12.9-inch)|
|Weight||1 pounds||1.04 pounds (11-inch), 1.51 pounds (12.9-inch)|
The biggest differences between the iPad Air 4 and the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 are the price and the processor. The disparity between the price grows even greater if you compare the iPad Air 4 with the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which can go all the way up to $2,199 depending on which options you pick. You should also look at differences in camera, display, and performance.
iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Pro (2021): Power and performance
One massive change that took place in the 2021 iPad Pro is the processor. The change-over to an M1 processor (the same used in 2020 MacBooks) means that the iPad Pro has some huge computing and performance capabilities. Activities that take up a lot of bandwidth, such as photo and video editing or certain types of gameplay, will be improved by the speed and power of the M1 chip. The A14 Bionic chip included in the iPad Air is not sluggish by any shape of the imagination, but it may not handle some heavier activities as efficiently as the M1.
Since the iPad Pro also has more options for size and storage, these aspects could make a big difference for certain users. With the iPad Pro, you have the option to purchase a larger 12.9-inch screen or upgrade storage capacities to 2TB. Neither of these options is available in the iPad Air, but then, you may not need so much size and space in a tablet.
If you're not working with cumbersome programs or giant file sizes, then these features are probably not all that necessary. If that is the case, the 10.9-inch iPad Air has a perfectly good A14 Bionic processor and up to 256GB of storage, both of which should serve well for the average user.
iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Pro (2021): Design and display
Design-wise, the iPad Air 4 and the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 are almost indistinguishable. They sport the same general size and weight, along with the cool flat-edged shape that is now standard for all new Apple devices as of 2020. The larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the same look and feel; it's just bigger. As for the display, all three of these iPads have different characteristics.
All three configurations have a Liquid Retina display, but that's where the similarities end. The 11-inch iPad Pro produces 600 nits brightness, which is at least 100 nits more than the iPad Air 4. This model also has a blazing fast 120Hz refresh rate, which will be a noticeable improvement over the iPad Air 4 during video playback, gameplay, and scrolling. Now, as for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it's just in a whole different playing field.
In their flagship 12.9-inch iPad Pro model, Apple has created what they call Liquid Retina XDR, which allows it to display extreme dynamic range content that is brighter and exhibits more contrast. This is made possible by a new technology beyond the traditional LCD screen, incorporating a "mini-LED" display technology that packs in 10,000 mini-LEDs and 5.6 million pixels. This creates a more responsive display that will allow creators to make beautiful illustrations and HDR content.
iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Pro (2021): Accessories and more
Regarding accessories, both the iPad Air 4 and the iPad Pro 2021 can work with all of Apple's most popular iPad accessories, namely the Magic Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. That means both of these models can be used in various ways by different users, from typing to drawing. They also share a USB-C port, but there's one important difference.
The iPad Pro 2021 was built with a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C 4 port, meaning that it can also work with many Thunderbolt accessories and cables that were previously unavailable to iPads. This will also make for a more optimized experience when connecting your iPad Pro with other monitors or screens. The Thunderbolt port opens the door to many accessories that are not available to the iPad Air 4, which may prove important to those who use the iPad in place of a computer.
The average iPad user may not use this device for photography, but it's important to touch on the cameras here. Both the iPads have a 12MP camera on the back, but the iPad Pro now has a 10MP extra-wide lens as well. Perhaps even more importantly, the iPad Pro 2021 now has a 12MP TrueDepth camera in the front that can be used for FaceID as well as Apple's new Center Stage technology. This feature allows you to make video calls through an interactive platform that pans and focuses the view on you, the subject, and anyone else in the frame. This could prove to be amazingly useful during FaceTime, Zoom calls, and virtual classes.
Once again, the iPad Pro has many new bells and whistles in its 2021 model, but not every user needs them. If you're not making a lot of video calls with the iPad, then the Air will work just as well to take high-resolution photos and record 4K videos whenever needed.
iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Pro (2021): Which should you buy?
The fancy 2021-edition of the iPad Pro has a lot of cool new features and advancements. The question is, will you use them? If you're an illustrator or content creator, then the responsive XDR screen will provide better graphics and a faster display to support your work. That powerful M1 chip will also be an excellent improvement for anyone using heavy programs, large file sizes, or graphically demanding games. And we could also see why someone who does many Zoom calls or virtual classes would appreciate the amazing Center Stage technology that's now available on the iPad Pro 2021. This model is a great choice if you require these features and a larger budget to work with.
Now, all of those neat features come with a price. The smaller 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, which is already $200 more expensive than the iPad Air. But if you go with the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you could be spending anywhere from $1,099 to $2,199, depending on which storage capacity you choose. And that's not counting the price of accessories! So if you're not using your iPad to do any heavy lifting or extreme gameplay, the iPad Air 4 is still a high-speed machine with beautiful graphics and a sleek design. Especially if you're on a budget, the iPad Air 4 may be the way to go for the average iPad user.
Sleek and simple
For most people, the processor, cameras, and display on the iPad Air 4 are all top-of-the-line and perfectly serviceable. This is the best option for those on a budget.
Bells & whistles
If budget is not an issue, the iPad Pro 2021 is a state-of-the-art machine with all the speed, performance, and extra features you could ask for in a tablet.
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Jaclyn Kilani is a content writer at iMore. She's a longtime Apple addict with a flair for creating (written works, design, photos; you name it!) on her devices. Jaclyn has also worked in the marketing sector for over 16 years, dabbling in a bit of everything from writing to graphic design and digital marketing. In her heart of hearts, however, she is a born writer and an avid reader who adores everything about the written word. Someday she may even churn out a book or two.
Throughout her career, Jaclyn has also developed something of an addiction to all things Apple. Her professional and personal life is enhanced by an ever-growing collection of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches, and even AirTags. Luckily, this expensive habit is of great use to her work at iMore, where she writes with authority on Apple products and the accessories that go with them.