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iPad Air 2019 vs. iPad Pro 2017: An Upgrade Or A Downgrade?

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Apple has just taken the wraps off the new 10.5-inch iPad Air 2019, alongside the new iPad mini 2019.

It's considered to be the successor to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro 2017, but whether it's an upgrade or a downgrade is a different matter.

iPad Air 2019 vs. iPad Pro 2017

The iPads have the same 10.5-inch fully laminated Retina display with True Tone technology and a 2,224 x 1,668 resolution and 264 ppi. They also share the same dimensions of 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches, though the iPad Pro is a touch heavier — the iPad Air weighs at 1 pound (Wi-Fi only) or 1.02 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular), while the Pro is at 1.03 (Wi-Fi only) or 1.05 (Wi-Fi + Cellular).

The two pretty much look the same as well. They've got the same bezels, which are on the thick side, and more or less the same, sleek appearance. They both have a headphone jack, a Lightning port, and a Home button with Touch ID too. Touted as productivity machines, they're also compatible with a smart keyboard and the first-generation Apple Pencil.

As for battery life, the two promise to keep the lights on for up to 10 hours of mixed use over Wi-Fi or 9 hours over Wi-Fi and cellular.

Now that the similarities are out of the way, the primary differences between the iPad models lie in the processor, speakers, display technology, camera, and connectivity.

The new iPad Air has an A12 Bionic chip, and it's a pretty significant boost in performance compared with the iPad Pro's A10X processor. Connectivity-wise, it has a better Gigabit-class LTE and Bluetooth 5.0, as opposed to the iPad Pro's LTE Advanced and Bluetooth 4.2. Both still have 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

At this point, the new iPad Air is shaping up to be a worthwhile upgrade from any perspective, but it does have a couple of disadvantages too.

That said, the iPad Pro has four speakers, a ProMotion display that delivers a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz, and a better 12-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash and optical image stabilization. Meanwhile, the new iPad Air has only two speakers, a 60 Hz refresh rate, and an 8-megapixel camera without an LED flash or OIS, though it doesn't have a camera bump, which is a plus. The two have the same 7-megapixel sensor on the front, for the record. In addition, the former has 4 GB of RAM, while the latter, whose RAM hasn't been officially revealed yet, could have only 3 GB of RAM — that's according to a Geekbench benchmark, which hasn't been determined whether it's referring to the iPad Air 2019 or the iPad mini 5.

One big defining factor here is the price. The new iPad Air starts at $499 for the Wi-Fi only model and goes all the way up to $629 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular variant. On the other hand, the iPad Pro had a starting price of $649 for the Wi-Fi model and $779 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular version. Both are available in 64 GB and 256 GB storage configurations, but only the iPad Pro had a 512 GB option. In short, the new iPad Air is significantly cheaper.

Color options for the iPad Pro included Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold. The iPad Air comes in the same Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, but not in Rose Gold, though its Gold option appears to be a mix of the iPad Pro's Gold and Rose Gold.

So Is It An Upgrade Or Not?

Considering the A12 Bionic chip and improved LTE and Bluetooth connectivity, the iPad Air is technically an upgrade in performance. However, when it's weighed against its so-called predecessor's ProMotion display and higher speaker count, it's arguably a downgrade in some ways.

If the question here were whether it's worth trading up the iPad Pro for the iPad Air, then it would have to be a no — based on what can be gathered at the moment, that is. "Upgrade" in this context is a spec bump to the A12 Bionic processor, Bluetooth 5.0, and Gigabit-class LTE, and it begs the question: Are they worthwhile to fork over at least another $499 and lose the ProMotion display and two speakers? If money's no object, the answer could be different, though, but then the current iPad Pro would be the better choice that way.

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