Apple iPad 9.7 (2017) vs Apple iPad Air 2: What’s the difference?

Apple’s new tablet is cheaper, brighter and more powerful – but is that all?

22 March 2017
by Stuff Staff

The Air is dead. Long live the iPad. As with the MacBook, it seems Apple is wont to streamline its product labels by shaving off their distinguishing elements.

Meet, then, the Apple iPad: a 9.7-inch device almost identical to the iPad Air 2.

So, besides the name, what’s the difference? And is it worth ditching your Air 2 in favour of this new machine?

Read on for a spec-for-spec comparison.

WHAT’S NEW?

Perhaps predictably, given the lack of pomp about the launch, this update to the iPad is relatively slim on major changes.

The biggest upgrade is to the processor: the 9.7-inch iPad gets Apple’s A9 chip, up from the A8X on the iPad Air 2. This should mean speedier, more efficient performance that’s closer to the power delivered by the A9X in the iPad Pro models.

Elsewhere, the screen is still a 9.7-inch Retina number, as on the iPad Air 2, albeit the new iPad’s display is brighter – though by how much remains to be seen. That’s probably one for a hands-on side-by-side.

Whether to accommodate that new chip or to make it a little sturdier, the updated iPad is also marginally deeper – at 7.5mm, up from 6.1mm on the iPad Air 2 – and 32g heavier.

WHAT’S THE SAME?

Besides the above, almost everything else about the new iPad – on paper, at least – is identical to the iPad Air 2.

It serves up the same tried-and-tested design, with the same camera tech and same features. It’s got iOS 10 on-board and it comes in 32GB and 128GB capacities, just like the iPad Air 2.

Touch ID and Apple Pay are there, too, as they were before, alongside a 10-hour battery life that matches the iPad 2 hour-for-hour.

Really, then, it’s a relatively minor upgrade to an established, popular model that sold well for Apple – and will probably continue to under its new guise.

WHAT’S THE COST?

And that’s particularly likely, given the pricing. A 32GB Wi-Fi version of the new iPad will set you back US$350 when it launches for sale on Friday (March 24).

That’s a saving over the equivalent iPad Air 2. Similarly, a 32GB Wi-Fi and cellular model of the new iPad will cost you US$490, which is cheaper than an iPad Air 2 with the same specs.

So it’s cheaper, brighter and more powerful than the iPad Air 2 – and closer to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro than ever.

How it sells remains to be seen, particularly with speculation growing that a new iPad Pro 2 could be on the horizon, which would certainly explain this trimming of the iPad line-up. Watch this space.

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