iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Professional (2021): What’s the distinction?

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple’s latest iPad is right here within the type of the fifth-generation iPad Air. It’s an excellent pill. So good, in actual fact, it’s giving me a hint of buyers remorse for paying $2,000 for my 2021 iPad Professional. 

There are a whole lot of similarities between the 2 tablets. Each of them: 

  • Run iPadOS 15.4
  • Use Apple’s M1 processor
  • Have USB-C ports for charging and transferring knowledge
  • Have an identical show dimension because the smaller iPad Professional
  • Include the FaceTime digital camera’s Middle Stage characteristic. 

With so many options in widespread, there must be variations to justify the value completely different between the

$599 iPad Air


$799 11-inch iPad Pro

and the

$1,099 12.9-inch iPad Pro,

right? Right! Let’s take a closer look. 


The iPad Air only has two storage options. The base model is 64GB, with an upgrade option of 256GB. The 64GB model isn’t nearly enough in 2022. 

Both iPad Pro models are available in the same storage allotments. You can pick between storage amounts of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB. 

The amount of storage you need is based on how you use or plan to use your iPad. But with the iPad Air, you’re almost forced into buying the 256GB option for $749, which is very close to the $799 starting price of the 11-inch iPad Pro. 


The amount of memory in an iPad determines when apps are put to sleep in the background, or how often you have to refresh a Safari tab after it hasn’t been used for an extended amount of time. 

Apple rarely talks about the amount of memory in its iPad line, with the lone exception being the 2021 iPad Pro. You can pick between an iPad Pro with 8GB or 16GB of memory, but that decision is also based on the amount of storage you buy. If you want 8GB of memory, stick with storage under 512GB. Anything over that mark will come with 16GB of memory. 

Also: iPad Air (2022) review: So good I almost regret buying my iPad Pro

As for the iPad Air, you’re caught with a single possibility: 8GB of reminiscence. 

Personally, I’ve seen a noticeable distinction between my iPad Professional with 16GB of reminiscence and different iPads with much less reminiscence. For me, the key takeaway is that apps keep operating within the background longer. Nonetheless, I’d wager 8GB is normally greater than sufficient for many customers. 


The show know-how variations between the Air and the Professional aren’t insignificant. 

The iPad Professional line has a quicker refresh fee of as much as 120Hz (referred to as ProMotion), the next max brightness degree, and the bigger iPad Professional makes use of mini-LED know-how for a greater image. Should you care about show high quality, the iPad Professional is the higher selection for you. 

The iPad Air’s Liquid Retina show measures 10.9-inches and is an LED panel. It has a decision of 2360×1640, with True Tone assist and 500nits of whole brightness. 

The smaller iPad Professional has an 11-inch Liquid Retina Show that’s decision is 2388×1668, with True Tone, ProMotion, and a max brightness of 600 nits. 

The bigger iPad Professional has a 12.9-inch mini-LED show with 2,596 full-array native dimming zones, a 2732×2048 decision, ProMotion, True Tone, SDR max brightness of 600 nits, XDR brightness of 1,000 nits max for full display, or 1,600 nits peak for HDR content material. 

The USB-C port

If you already know something about USB-C ports, you already know the final rule is that not all USB-C ports are created equal. There are far too many alternative requirements for the one connection that I’ve a tough time maintaining with all of it — and it’s my job to just do that. 

For the iPad Air, Apple added USB 3.1 Gen 2 to the USB-C port. Meaning you’ll see speeds of as much as 10Gbps when transferring recordsdata, or you possibly can join the iPad Air to an exterior monitor with assist for decision of as much as 6K. 

The iPad Professional providing has a USB-C port, as effectively, however with assist for Thunderbolt and USB 4. Meaning you stand up to 40Gbps throughout file transfers (because of USB 4), and assist for a similar 6K decision when related to an exterior monitor. 

Should you do a whole lot of file transfers between your iPad Professional and exterior storage or a digital camera, you then’ll profit from the newer USB connection know-how. However, to be trustworthy, the iPad Air’s velocity isn’t a dealbreaker. 

5G connectivity

One other space the place the iPad Air lineup differs from the iPad Professional is relating to the kind of 5G connectivity it helps. Each iPad Professional tablets assist 5G’s Sub6 and mmWave know-how, whereas the iPad Air solely helps Sub6. 

For the common individual, the dearth of mmWave on the iPad Air is a non-issue. 

See: Apple iPad Pro (2021) review: Impressively powerful, but the hardware is only part of the story 

Sub6 5G networks are just a bit quicker than present LTE networks, with decrease latency and extra bandwidth for extra customers, whereas mmWave 5G know-how offers you the community speeds you see touted in commercials of as much as 2Gbps. Nonetheless, these speeds are solely achieved in very particular situations. 

Don’t base your iPad shopping for choice on which taste of 5G the iPad helps. 

Lastly, the value

The value is among the largest differentiators between the three fashions. The iPad Air is priced between the bottom iPad and the iPad Professional, so it could make of sense for it to be the iPad of selection for individuals who need a pill for extra than simply watching Netflix and searching the online. 

Right here’s the pricing breakdown for the iPad Air and each sizes of the iPad Professional. Take into account, nonetheless, that every one three iPads work with the

$129 second-generation Apple Pencil

, and have

keyboard options

that range in price from $299 for the iPad Air and 11-inch iPad Pro, to $329 for the larger iPad Pro. Those accessories raise the overall price of your investment in Apple’s tablet, should you need them.

Price comparison

iPad Air 11-inch iPad Pro 12.9-inch iPad Pro
Wi-Fi Only
64GB $599 N/A N/A
128GB N/A $799 $1,099
256GB $749 $899 $1,199
512GB N/A $1,099 $1,399
1TB N/A $1,499 $1,799
2TB N/A $1,899 $2,199
64GB $749 N/A N/A
128GB N/A $999 $1,299
256GB $899 $1,099 $1,399
512GB N/A $1,299 $1,599
1TB N/A $1,699 $1,999
2TB N/A $2,099 $2,399

If you max out an iPad Air with all of the accessories, the total cost comes close to the base model 11-inch iPad Pro. 

So, then you’re left asking yourself whether you want an iPad with a better display and a faster USB-C connection, with more base storage. For me, even though the

iPad Air

does everything I need from Apple’s tablet, I don’t regret buying my

iPad Pro

. A year later, it’s still the best iPad I’ve ever owned.

Also: How to use an iPad Pro to power your home office 

However for almost all of individuals, the show and USB-C variations are one thing that gained’t make or break the expertise, and thus, the iPad Air is the most effective choose. 

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