Since my post last week about the big iPad, I've received quite a few emails from people asking which 9.7 inch iPad they should buy. Apple has now taken the iPad more in the direction of the Macs where there is a standard model and a pro model. I think it's a good move for the iPad and gives Apple the freedom to stretch out a bit with the pro models.
Now there are two 9.7 inch iPads: the iPad Air 2, which is a little long in the tooth but still a very good iPad, and the iPad Pro. So if you want a 9.7 inch iPad, which way do you jump?
Going in, I'd say that neither one is a bad choice. (Buying the iPad mini 2, which is remarkably still for sale, *is* a bad choice.) The starting point is the cost difference. Comparing pricing isn't as easy as you'd think as a result of the way Apple configures the storage. The 9.7" iPad Pro starts at $599 for 32GB and jumps $150 to $749 for 128GB. The iPad Air 2 with 64GB is $499. So for an additional $100 you jump to an iPad Pro but only get half the storage. Let's pretend 32 GB is enough for you. In that case, what exactly are you getting?
The iPad Air 2 features an A8 processor and the iPad Air Pro features an A9. That's one extra "A". While the iPad Air was ahead of its time when first released, it's now approaching a few years old and if you're looking to hold onto your iPad for awhile, that A9 processor will make your iPad more viable a few years down the road.
Having used an iPad with Pencil support and a Smart Connector for a few months, I can't imagine going back. Smart Connector keyboards always "just work" and I can't help but think Apple has more in mind for that connector than just keyboards.
Also, the Pencil is great. Event though I'm not much of an artist, I use the pencil every day for work. Also, the pencil is relatively new. I can only imagine what sorts of uses there will be for it in the future.
There's a 12MP sensor (and 5MP FaceTime camera) in the 9.7 inch iPad Pro. If you're shooting movies and pictures with your iPad, the improved camera is a big deal.
Better Color and Sound
I'm definitely curious about the new True Tone display. This feature will be a big deal for some and not so much for others. The speakers are also noticeably better. I was playing a movie in my bedroom with the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and my family complained it was too loud ... from another room. That never happened with any prior iPad.
Not Everything is Better
As mentioned above, unless you're willing to go up to the 128GB model, going with the iPad Air 2 gets you more storage. Also, both 9.7 inch iPads have the same amount of Ram, 2GB.S
I think the Pencil and faster processor make the iPad Pro compelling. Budget would be an excellent reason to move down to the iPad Air 2 but if you can swing it, I think the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil are going to be pretty great for several years to come.