Hold on – isn’t Apple iPad Pro up to the 11-and-12.9-inch Gen 3, 2019 version. Why did I buy the iPad Pro Gen 2 instead?
Honorary Gadgeteer Arjun Krishna Lal, Penguin-published author and tech journalist recently broke from his Windows bias and bought an iPad Pro. His journey of discovery is curious. If you are considering buying an iPad – of any type – read why he chose the iPad Pro Gen 2 despite all of Apple’s marketing influence. He writes.
You might be tempted to get hold of the
chronologically newer iPad Pro Gen 3, iPad Air (2019) or the even cheaper
entry-level iPad (2019). However – and Apple doesn’t really want to tell you
this – the iPad Pro Gen 2 models offer the best overall value, in terms of
price, features, and power.
And the 10.5-inch iPad Pro Gen 2 is still sold at Officeworks for $649 for the 64GB Wi-Fi Gold or Space Grey version. Not $1,299 for the 11-inch and $1,529 for the 12-inch, 64GB, Wi-Fi iPad Pro Gen 3 versions. In fact, if you are an astute shopper, Apple has factory refurbs at even less again.
If you’re in the market for many of the same
reasons as I am, the iPad Pro Gen 2 is a compelling choice.
I need a tablet with a detachable keyboard and mouse/stylus control
I had some precise requirements to help narrow
my tablet search.
I did not need an uber-powerful
primary compute platform, just a secondary portable device to take care of
lightweight tasks like WordPress and Netflix
It had to have a decent battery
I did not want to spend too
much on it
The first point – my main driver is not
needing it as primary compute platform. My Windows high-end gaming and video
production PC has large 27-inch monitor with a GeForce RTX 2070 Super and a
6-core Ryzen5 1600. If you want speed and power, you get a Windows PC and ramp
I challenge any iOS or Android tablet to claim
to be more powerful or have better graphics than a Windows 10 PC. You see,
Apple wants you to think the iPad Pro is a desktop solution with its Smart
Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil – but it is not.
I strongly considered a Windows Surface Go
Remember that I did not need a primary
Initially, I thought that the 10-inch Surface Go (review here $599/839 for 64/128GB Wi-Fi) would be a great fit because I could reuse Windows software and all the peripherals. Its Pentium Gold processor may not be the fastest, but it runs a full-fat version of Windows 10 (after you update from Windows 10S). And, it is a competent media consumption tablet.
It is for people that want Windows on the
go in a small form factor. Otherwise, in the Windows world, my choice is much
more expensive 12.3-inch Surface Pro.
About to click on ‘buy’ when a thought came
to me, “If I just need a device for writing and watching Netflix, did it have
to be Windows?”
Getting past the Windows bias (and that is
hard), I set out to see if an iPad (any model) could conceivably do all I
needed. Admittedly so could an excellent Samsung Galaxy Tab A at $499/699 for
32/128GB – even more so now with the close collaboration between Microsoft and
Sure, the iPad Pro is more expensive than
the Surface Go. And, both needed a detachable keyboard and mouse for productivity
(iPadOS now enables mouse support on the iPad).
Something, that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ drew me
towards the obsolete but still available iPad Pro Gen 2. I guess I am writing
this to convince myself it the right choice.
Why didn’t I buy a newer iPad Pro Gen 3?
Value is part of it, and the iPad Pro Gen 2 was obsolete well before I bought mine. Apple introduced the iPad Pro Gen 3 in 2019, along with two budget-mind offerings, the iPad Air and the (just) iPad. All these devices have either an A12 processor or the more powerful an A12X.
The iPad Pro Gen 2 has an A10X. Surely a
bigger number is always better? That’s not always the case and nowhere is that truer
than with some Apple products.
Is the A12 in the 2019 iPad Air really that powerful?
The latest iPad Pro Gen 3 has an Apple A12X
SoC (system on a chip).
According to Apple, this is currently ‘the most
powerful chip it has ever made’ including the A13 in its latest iPhones.
Let’s qualify that – the Apple A-series SoC
is an ARM-based chip and we don’t really know what is inside. Certainly, on synthetic
benchmark tests, it appears to outperform Android flagships using ARM SoCs from
Qualcomm et al. But frankly synthetic benchmarks are not about raw speed but the
SoC’s interaction with the other hardware and the operating system.
We know for sure that iOS and the A-series
SoC are efficient but comparing disparate hardware on Android, iOS, macOS and
Windows – well it is all a numbers game that objectively, we will not play.
The A12X has an eight-core Vortex/Tempest
CPU paired with a seven-core GPU. It delivers roughly twice the performance of
the A12 GPU found in the iPhone XS line and the lower-end iPads.
While the A12 is no slouch, it’s
considerably behind the A12X. And this is precisely why the second-gen iPad Pro
makes so much sense as a purchase.
Old is Gold: The iPad Pro Gen 2 A10X is veryfast
iOS developers use the latest-gen iPhone as
their target platform. If you want an optimal experience, you’ll need an iOS
device that performs on par with the latest iPhone. Anything more powerful is unnecessary.
Considering that the A10X is two Generations
older, it should be a good bit slower than the A12. But in practice, most of
the time it is faster.
For starters, Apple beefed up the A10X’s
GPU to the point that it consistently outdoes the A12 in graphics workloads.
And while the processor is theoretically slower, thermal throttling on iPhones
means that the A10X-equipped iPad Pro Gen 2 will provide far better long-use
Put two and two together you’ll see that
the iPad Pro Gen 2 is faster than the A12-equipped iPad Air and iPad 2019.
Point of interest: Apple released these two
new iPads this year. That’s a critical point. It means that they don’t expect
A12-class hardware (and the A10X by extension) to be obsolete until 2020 at the
From my experience, gaming performance on
the iPad Pro Gen 2 is exceptional. Titles like Fortnite and PUBG run at maximum
settings without breaking a sweat.
So, you’re not losing out on performance by
getting the IPad Pro Gen 2. You are, however, gaining access to a whole bunch
of features missing on the Air and iPad 2019.
It’s the Pro Features, dummy!
There’s a reason Apple calls the iPad Pro line the “Pro”
series. The iPad has come a long way since 2010 and the time when it was just
an oversized iTouch. Back then, memory constraints, chipset limitations, and
the built-in iOS restrictions meant that the iPad could be never much more than
a simple media consumption device. Since then, Apple’s chipset engineers caught
up with, then flew right past Intel in the mobile SoC space.
Moving the iPad upmarket: From iTouch Plus to MacBook replacement
Using those synthetic benchmarks (and taken with a larger grain
of salt), the iPad Pro Gen 2 is faster than the MacBook Air (2017) and its cheaper.
Perhaps this has prompted Apple to reposition the iPad Pro
as laptop replacement. The iPad Pro is meant to be a productivity device
that’ll do many of the things your MacBook can do. But comparing a MacBook with
an Intel CPU, USB-C, Thunderbolt and different ‘bus’ construction with an
oversized iPhone is plain wrong.
Sure, there are a lot of things the iPad Pro can do that
can’t do and visa versa – hello Apple Pencil, we’re
looking at you.
Thanks to the Pencil (Gen 2), the iPad Pro is a device for
creatives. But when if ever will we get a MacBook with a touch screen (the answer
appears to be ‘never’ as Apple tries to force us to iPadOS for touch).
And with the iPadOS
version of Photoshop arriving in a few months, you have more bases covered. Of
course, the older Pencil (Gen 1) works with the “regular” iPads, too, so what
else makes the iPad Pro special?
Apple Pencil and ProMotion: A Marriage Made in Heaven
ProMotion (Apple’s 120Hz screen refresh rate) is one of those things that you must see to believe. And its 600 nits and DCI-P3 colour gamut with HRD is very good.
is smooth to start with. But at 120 Hz, the experience becomes fantastic.
There’s so little input latency that the screen almost feels like an extension
of your hand. Just scrolling through the interface is a joy on its own. And
again, back to the Pencil, ProMotion is a big deal for creatives.
Input latency is the single factor that can make or break
your experience with a stylus. If there’s too much latency, there’s lag, and
you don’t feel like you’re using an actual pencil.
There is a day and night difference between using the
Apple Pencil (Gen 2) on iPad Pro Gen 2 compared to the new Apple Pencil (Gen 1)
on the iPad Air or the iPad 2019. The older iPad Pro Gen 2 delivers a much more
This isn’t the only display difference. The iPad Pro Gen 2
is HDR-certified – you can watch HDR content on Netflix and Prime Video in all
Yes, there’s still a headphone jack (MIA from Gen 3)
As an audiophile, I’ve spent a lot more than I’d like to
admit on high-end audio gear. Sound quality matters to me. Apples decision to
get rid of 3.5mm headphone jacks on phones and now iPads has me hitting my head
against the wall.
We’re a long way from the point at BT SBC midrange
wireless audio sounds anywhere near as good as my trusty cabled Sennheiser 598s
or AudioTechnica MSR7s.
Apple started this whole ugly trend, so it’s not surprising
that the iPad Pro Gen 3 lacks a headphone jack. The second-gen Pro does have one
and its paired with one of the best built-in mobile DACs space. You don’t need
dongles or extra equipment to get great audio from
the second-gen Pro. You just need to plug your headphones in.
The iPad Pro Gen 2: It is all you need
Yes, the iPad Pro Gen 3 is newer. It has a faster processor, higher resolution screen and Face ID. It also has the Gen 2 Apple Pencil, which features a second programmable function along with other improvements.
If you’re looking for a productivity device, for me, there’s little difference between the Gen 2 and Gen 3 iPad Pro series. However, working creative artists would be best placed with the latest iPad Pros, as they are considerably more powerful and capable.
Similarities between the models include:
Both have a keyboard/mouse/pencil/ (However, the pencil is Gen 1 – the Gen 2 pencil is only supported on current 11 inch iPad Pro and 12.9 inch iPad Pro 3rd generation)
Both have ProMotion, HDR and Retina video screens for video consumption
Audio quality is arguably better on Gen 2 courtesy of the headphone jack and DAC
While games might run better on Gen 3, there are no titles in the App Store that cause the second-gen Pro to fall flat.
Considering all this, and the fact that the iPad Pro Gen 2 costs way less than the iPad Air (from $799), it’s really a no-brainer. However, if having the latest product is important, the Air is still a solid, albeit more expensive, option.