iPad Pro vs iPad Air: What do you get or give up?
7 mins read

iPad Pro vs iPad Air: What do you get or give up?

M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air

The current iPad Air has the majority of features found in the 2021 iPad Pro like an M1 chip, ultra wide front camera with Center Stage, 5G connectivity, and more. However, the 2022 M2 iPad Pro has the most advanced features and greatest performance in an iPad – but is it overkill? Follow along for a breakdown of all the similarities and differences between the 11″ M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air as we await the 2024 iPad launches in March.

2/26/24: After no new iPads launched in 2023, we’re expecting Apple to update its tablets as soon as March.

In the meantime, here’s a refresher on what’s included with the current M2 iPad Pro and M1 iPad Air with our detailed comparison below.

The 2022 5th-gen iPad Air blurred the line between the mid and high-end iPads, giving many people the incentive to go with the Air that starts at $200 (or more) below the $799 11-inch iPad Pro. 

Then the iPad 10 arrived last fall which blurs the line even further as it takes many of the popular iPad Air features and puts them into the $449 entry-level tablet.

But when it comes to the mid and high-end, you’ve got multiple choices with the M2 and M1 iPad Pro vs iPad Air. For all the comparison charts below, the 11″ M2 iPad Pro is on the left, 11″ M1 iPad Pro is in the middle, and M1 iPad Air is on the right.

11″ M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air


The main performance difference is the upgrade from an M1 to M2 chip for the new iPad Pro.

That delivers up to an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (10-core vs 8-core), and a 2x boost in memory bandwidth from 50GB/s to 100GB/s.

But three other advantages the iPad Pro holds over the iPad Air – in this category – are Thunderbolt support, 16GB RAM on the 1TB and 2TB models, and more storage options.

Note: 128, 256 and 512GB models have 8GB RAM, 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB RAM.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro M1 iPad Air
Chip M2 M1 M1
CPU cores 8 8 8
GPU cores 10 8 8
Neural cores 16 16 16
Storage 128GB – 2TB 128GB – 2TB 64 or 256GB
RAM 8 or 16GB 8 or 16GB 8GB
Cellular 5G 5G 5G (but no mmWave)

However, the vast majority of users will likely find the iPad Air with an M1 and 8GB RAM to be more than powerful enough for years to come.

Thunderbolt and 16GB RAM with the iPad Pro will likely only be tempting for professionals or those who aren’t price-sensitive.


M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air display

With the iPad Air screen, you’re getting a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and P3 wide color. It’s almost exactly the same Liquid Retina display as the 11-inch iPad Pro (ok, technically 0.1″ smaller 😅). Both displays are fully laminated and have Apple’s anti-reflective coating.

The biggest differences are you only get ProMotion (up to 120Hz refresh rates) with the iPad Pro display and you only get Apple Pencil Hover with the M2 iPad Pro.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro M1 iPad Air
Display 11″ 11″ 10.9″
Resolution 2388 x 1668 2388 x 1668 2360 x 1640
PPI (pixels per inch) 264 264 264
Display brightness 600 nits 600 nits 500 nits
True Tone
P3 wide color
ProMotion (120Hz)
Anti-reflective coating
Liquid Retina Display
Apple Pencil Hover

Meanwhile, HDR brightness up to 1600 nits is only available on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, not the 11-inch Pro or 10.9-inch iPad Air.

Connectivity and accessories

iPad Magic Keyboard

iPad Magic Keyboard

iPad Magic Keyboard

Apple Pencil gen 2

Apple Pencil gen 2

Apple Pencil gen 2

iPad Air works with all the same great Apple accessories as the iPad Pro. That includes the second-generation Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard, and Smart Keyboard Folio.

iPad Air uses Touch ID as opposed to the iPad Pro coming with Face ID.

Two other small upgrades with the M2 iPad Pro are Bluetooth 5.3 and WiFi 6E support.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro M1 iPad Air
2nd-gen Apple Pencil support
Magic Keyboard support
5G ✅ (but no mmWave)
WiFi 6
WiFi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3 5.0 5.0
USB-C ✅ USB 4 ✅ USB 4 ✅ 3.1 Gen 2
Touch ID
Face ID

Like the iPhone SE 3, the iPad Air doesn’t get mmWave 5G support with its cellular models. But as mmWave is the rarest version of 5G coverage to find, that’s probably not an issue for most people.

Splash of color

M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air colors

If the color of your next iPad is an important piece, you’ve got five options with the iPad Air. It comes in space gray, starlight, pink, purple, and blue.

The iPad Pro only comes in space gray and silver.

iPad Pro vs iPad Air battery life

The M2/M1 iPad Pro and iPad Air all have the same battery life:

  • 10 hours of web or video use on WiFi
  • 9 hours of web use with cellular

Storage and price

Here’s a breakdown of the price differences (MSRP) between these tablets. It’s not exactly apples to apples since iPad Pro and Air have different storage options, but you can save some significant cash with the iPad Air (also thanks to iPad Air being discounted sometimes).

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro M1 iPad Air
64GB WiFi $599
64GB + cell $749
128GB WiFi $799 $799
128GB + cell $999 $999
256GB WiFi $899 $899 $749
256GB + cell $1,099 $1,099 $899
512GB WiFi $1,099 $1,099
512GB + cell $1,299 $1,299
1TB WiFi $1,499 $1,499
1TB + cell $1,699 $1,699
2TB WiFi $1,899 $1,899
2TB + cell $2,099 $2,099


M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air camera

You get a solid rear single camera with the iPad Air that includes the same 12MP wide lens that is found on the iPad Pro. It shoots 4K video at the same fps as the Pro too.

However, with the iPad Pro, you’ve also got a 10MP ultra wide lens plus the LiDAR Scanner, and the True Tone flash.

The iPad Air comes with the same ultra wide 12MP lens with Center Stage support as the iPad Pro.

The main difference is the M2 iPad Pro’s ability to shoot ProRes 4K video at up to 30 fps.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro 2022 iPad Air
12MP wide lens
10MP ultra wide lens
Smart HDR 3
Smart HDR 4
4K video
ProRes video up to 4K 30 fps
Extended dynamic range
Slo-mo video
Rear camera flash
TrueDepth camera with Face ID
Ultra wide 12MP front camera
2x optical zoom out
Center Stage auto-tracking
Stereo recording

A couple of smaller differences – the iPad Pro front camera features support for Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, and Animoji/Memoji while the iPad Air front camera does not.

And when it comes to speakers, you’re getting four-speaker audio with the iPad Pro while the iPad Air has a two-speaker system.

M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air conclusion

M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air conclusion

Why buy iPad Pro?

If you know you’ll often be pushing your tablet to the limit, the iPad Pro delivers the top-performing package with up to 16GB RAM and 2TB storage, 120Hz ProMotion display, Thunderbolt support, and the ability to capture ProRes 4K video, all powered by the M2 chip.

The M2 iPad Pro is available at Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, BH Photo, and more.

Why buy iPad Air?

When considering all the similarities, the iPad Air is likely going to be the best choice for most people. It’s got a price of around $200 less than the iPad Pro while including most of the premium iPad Pro features.

Read more 9to5Mac in-depth comparisons:

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