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iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 (2020): Which Original iPad Pro Should You Get?

Are the original iPad Pro tablets still a worthy choice today? Now that the iPad Pro has gone through several generations, older versions have become more affordable while still remaining impressively powerful compared to other tablets. We reexamine the first generation iPad Pro 9.7-inch and iPad Pro 12.9-inch devices to give you our recommendation on which one is better to get.

iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 Tablet Comparison Chart

ModelApple iPad Pro 9.7-inch (Renewed)Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (Renewed)
Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch (128GB, Wi-Fi, Space Gray) 2016 Model - (Renewed) Apple iPad Pro (128GB, Wi-Fi, Gold) 12.9in Tablet (Renewed) 
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Rating
 

 
Display Size9.7″ True Tone12.9″
Resolution2048 x 1536 pixels2732 x 2048 pixels
Pixel Density264 ppi264 ppi
Height9.4″12″
Width6.6″8.68″
Depth0.24″0.27″
Weight0.96 lbs1.57 lbs
System ChipA9XA9X
GPUM9 CoprocessorM9 Coprocessor
RAM2GB4GB
Internal Storage32GB, 128GB, 256GB32GB, 128GB, 256GB
Front Camera5MP1.2MP
Rear Camera12MP Wide, 4K video @ 30 fps8MP Wide, 1080p video @ 30 fps
KeyboardSmart KeyboardSmart Keyboard
ColorsBlack, Silver, Gold, Space GrayBlack, Silver, Gold, Space Gray
Battery LifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
ReleasedMarch 2016November 2015

Design

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch is much larger than the iPad Pro 9.7-inch.

iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 - Original iPad Pro Design
Take a look at the size difference between the iPad Pro 9.7-inch (left) and the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (right).

Size is the most obvious, and perhaps the most important, difference between the iPad Pro 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch. The larger size of course gets you a bigger display and it’s more impactful than you might think. More screen real estate lets you see more, improving some aspects of performance for certain tasks, as we’ll discuss below.

Aside from being roughly 30% larger, the iPad Pro 12.9″ tablet is also 50% heavier than the 9.7″ model. You’ll find the smaller iPad Pro to be more portable in every way. It’s easier to hold in your hands and won’t tire your hands out as fast even if you have to nothing else to prop it up on. It can fit into bags much easier, too. Meanwhile, the larger iPad Pro feels better to use standing in its case or placed on your lap. You’ll want to be more careful handling it especially with one hand.

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Other than size, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch follows the 12.9-inch version closely. We’d note that the larger iPad Pro was launched first, with the smaller version following around 4 months later. They still sport the same aesthetics as the non-Pro versions that came before them so their top and bottom bezels are wider and they still have a physical home button.

You can choose from several colors for the sleek aluminum case of the iPad 9.7 and 12.9. We have to mention just how lovely the finish is, both to look at and touch, though you’ll likely want to protect it with a case. A notable difference there is that slight camera bump on the 9.7-inch that you’d want to keep in mind while handling the tablet. This isn’t an issue on the 12.9-inch though, as its rear camera is flush with the case.

Performance

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch has a better display while the iPad Pro 12.9-inch is slightly faster.

iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 - Original iPad Pro Performance
Editing videos will feel smoother and render faster on the iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

Apple made some interesting hardware decisions when they followed up the iPad Pro 12.9-inch with the 9.7-inch version. First, they improved the display of the smaller iPad Pro, giving it a wider color gamut and a new True Tone feature. This allows the iPad Pro to adjust its white balance to better match the ambient lighting and color temperature around it. Moreover, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is brighter, going up to a max of 500 nits compared to the 400 nits of the iPad Pro 12.9.

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However, it’s not all upgrades as Apple made some compromises for the smaller iPad Pro, perhaps due to the reduced internal space. Though it still has the same Apple A9X chip with embedded M9 coprocessor, its CPU clock is slightly slower at 2.1GHz compared to the 2.2GHz of the 12.9-inch. Even more drastic is that it has half the RAM of it bigger brother, at 2GB vs 4GB.

As such, we can say that the original iPad Pro 12.9″ has a sizable upper hand over the 9.7″ model performance-wise. CPU-intensive apps like video editors, 3D design, etc., will run smoother on it, and its longevity is much brighter with twice the RAM for future iOS updates. Both of these 1st generation tablets can still be updated to the latest iOS version though they won’t be capable of a few advanced features such as some camera effects and AR functions.

Cameras and Storage

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch has better cameras than the iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 - Original iPad Pro Cameras and Storage
You’ll find a better set of cameras and more camera features on the smaller iPad Pro.

Apple apparently decided that the photography capabilities of the original iPad Pro wasn’t good enough. So despite some slight decrease in performance, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is armed with more megapixels both front and back. It has a 12MP Wide camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture compared to the 8MP and ƒ/2.2 of the 12.9-inch, allowing for higher resolution and crisper photos, which you can also enhance with Auto HDR. You’ll also be able to use True Tone flash and enjoy a wider color capture with Live Photos.

Recording 4K videos at 30 fps is possible with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, while the 12.9-inch is maxed out at 1080p HD. You can create well-balanced shots and smooth scenes thanks to its cinematic video stabilization and continuous autofocus, both of which are slightly less effective on the larger iPad Pro. The front-facing FaceTime camera is also improved: a 5.5MP sensor on the 9.7″ vs the 1.2MP on the 12.9″. Needless to say, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is definitely the pick if you’re after a tablet with impressive cameras.

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Storage options for both iPad Pro originals are the same at 32GB, 128GB and 256GB for the Wi-Fi versions. The 9.7-inch Wi-Fi + Cellular variant comes in an additional 32GB size while the 12.9-inch only has the 128GB and 256GB versions.

Battery and Accessories

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch have the same battery life and are compatible with similar accessories.

iPad 9.7 vs 12.9 - Original iPad Pro Battery and Accessories
The Smart Keyboard vastly improves typing on both original iPad Pro models.

There’s a larger battery in the iPad Pro 12.9-inch model than on the 9.7-inch version, but Apple estimates that they result in similar 10-hour run time for both devices. We can assume that the larger display simply needs more power and thus requires more battery capacity. Using a cellular data network connection to browse the Internet or stream videos will impact battery life, reducing run time to around 9 hours for both tablets.

Two must-have accessories for the iPad Pro are the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Both sizes can utilize the 1st generation Apple Pencil without a hitch, while there’s a separate Smart Keyboard size for either of them. One thing that might not be apparent is that you’ll have a much easier time typing on the larger tablet since its keys are bigger and better spaced to match full-size keyboards. It’s a worthy consideration if you’re looking to get this accessory and plan to write up documents with a portable device.

Verdict

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch is recommended for more casual use while the 12.9-inch is better for professional applications.

Because of the extra space afforded by its display as well as the greater ease in typing on its larger keyboard, we’d advise getting the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2015 model) if you want a tablet you can work on. It’s faster for apps that require more number-crunching, and you’ll love its large screen letting you view more, whether it’s data on a spreadsheet or a detail on a reference you’re using for your artwork. It certainly won’t hurt watching movies on the 12.9″ iPad Pro but you’ll appreciate how close of a laptop experience you’ll get with it.

With better cameras and toned-down CPU, the iPad Pro 9.7-inch (2016 model) feels better for casual, daily use. It’s a fantastic device for entertainment, whether it’s games, videos, or ebooks. The smaller size is definitely a plus if you want a tablet to bring outside, and you can easily pull it out for quick snapshots in case your phone’s camera isn’t better. Best of all, you’ll likely find it at a more attractive price while still getting the superior, if smaller, display.

Last update on 2020-08-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.