Hardware shootout: 9.7-inch iPad (2018) vs. iPad Pro

Apple’s new sixth-generation iPad packs a bunch of tech for just $329.

In addition to supporting Apple Pencil like iPad Pro with the same touch sample rate of 240 Hz, it comes outfitted with improved cameras and the A10 Fusion chip for faster performance, smoother graphics and augmented reality features.

Comparing the 9.7-inch iPad’s official technical specifications with the iPad Pro hardware specifications reveals more than a dozen important differences between the two products.


The quad-core A10 Fusion chip in the new iPad (the same one powers the iPhone 7 series) is clocked at 2.2 GHz versus the 1.4GHz dual-core A9 chip in its 2017 sibling. The iPad Pro models are powered by an enhanced “X” edition of the A10 Fusion chip.

Compared to the Apple A8 part, A10x Fusion is a powerhouse of a chip that delivers 2.5x faster CPU performance and 4.3x faster graphics. Its non-X A10 Fusion counterpart in the new iPad boasts 2x faster CPU performance and 2.7x faster graphics. Geekbench scores indicate that the 9.7-incher has faster multi-core performance than iPhone 7 Plus which has 3GB of RAM.

iPad Pro remains the fastest Apple tablet when it comes to multitasking and running resource-intensive apps, graphics-heavy games and complicated augmented reality environments.


The new iPad has 2GB of RAM while iPad Pro features double that at 4GB. More RAM = better multitasking. For example, the new iPad supports 11’s Split View and Slide Over multitasking modes, but running them in parallel results in the Split View apps being dimmed.

By contrast, all iPad Pro models can run up to four apps simultaneously (two in Split View, one in Slide Over and picture-in-picture video), thanks to having double the RAM.


Both iPad families use Apple’s Retina display technology, but iPad Pros pack in higher-resolution screens at 2,224‑by‑1,668 pixels (10.5-inch iPad Pro) and 2,732‑by‑2,048 pixels (12.9-inch iPad Pro). By comparison, the regular-size iPad has the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution display as all prior 9.7-inch models.

The new iPad lacks advanced display technologies found in iPad Pros such as ProMotion (doubles the refresh rate to 120Hz for smoother scrolling, nicer graphics and better slow-motion video reproduction), support for Apple’s Wide Color for a billion colors versus 16.7 million colors on the 9.7-incher and True Tone ambient color temperature matching.

Thanks to ProMotion technology, iPad Pro gets a significant reduction in screen lag when drawing with Apple Pencil than its new 9.7-inch sibling even though they feature the same Pencil sampling rate of 240 Hz. Specifically, ProMotion reduces Apple Pencil lag on iPad Pros from 40 milliseconds to 20ms.

Moreover, the display in the 9.7-inch iPad lacks antireflective coating and it’s not fully laminated, resulting in visible glare from bright light sources. In fact, the 9.7-inch iPad has significantly more glare on the screen than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Both the new iPad and iPad Pros have 264 ppi screens so even if the display size is smaller, both devices feature exactly the same pixel density.


The f/2.4 rear camera on the 9.7-inch iPad has a five-element lens. It’s capable of taking eight-megapixel pictures and shooting 1080p video versus twelve-megapixel images and 4K video recording on the iPad Pro models. You also don’t get wide color capture, optical image stabilization and True Tone flash on your 9.7-inch iPad.

The improved image signal processor in the A10 Fusion chip gives the rear camera in the new iPad somewhat better low light performance versus its 2017 cousin. The front-facing camera is still an unimpressive 1.2-megapixel part versus a seven-megapixel front camera on iPad Pro.

iPad Pros use the excellent iPhone 7 cameras.

You get a twelve-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera with a six-element lens, optical image stabilization, wide color capture, noise reduction, True Tone Flash and Focus Pixels. As mentioned, iPad Pros feature optically-stabilized 4K video recording at 30 FPS and 1080P recording at up to 120 FPS whereas the 9.7-inch iPad does 1080P at 30FPS and slo-mo video in 720p resolution at 120FPS without optical stabilization.


The 9.7-inch iPad has two speakers that cannot deliver true stereo sound like the four-speaker setup on iPad Pro, no matter how you rotate the device.

Touch ID

iPad Pros use a faster, second-generation fingerprint sensor while both 2017 and 2018 editions of the 9.7-inch iPad come outfitted with the slower, first-generation Touch ID.


The new 9.7-inch iPad supports fewer and slower LTE bands. Specifically, iPad Pro supports LTE Advanced (25 bands) vs. normal LTE (23 bands) on the regular iPad.

Smart Connector

The 9.7-inch iPad doesn’t have the magnetic Smart Connector. It works with Bluetooth keyboards, but not with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. Logitech’s new Bluetooth accessories—the Rugged Case and Keyboard and the $49 Crayon stylus (without pressure sensing)—will be available to education customers later this year and will only work with the 9.7-inch iPad.

Apple SIM

Apple SIM is embedded in iPad Pro models. With the 9.7-inch iPad, you still get Apple SIM but it’s not embedded so you’ll need to pop that SIM card into its built-in nano-SIM slot.

Tidbits: price, storage, colors & more

The two devices also differ in price.

The refreshed iPad starts at $329, the same price point as its 2017 brother, while iPad Pro starts at $649. However, the baseline iPad features 32GB of storage versus 2x storage in the baseline iPad Pro model. Storage options for the new iPad are limited to 32GB and 128GB while iPad Pros come in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB storage flavors.

2017/2018 iPads are 7.5 millimeters thick so they should fit in your existing cases.

Last but not least, all iPad Pro and 9.7-inch iPad models are available in Silver, Space Gray and Gold, but only the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is available in Rose Gold finish.

Now that you’ve checked out our comparison, which iPad is a better buy and why? Are you planning on upgrading your iPad to one of these models anytime soon?

Share your thoughts in the comments section.