Apple’s new iPad Pro vs. New iPad Air vs. iPad: Why are there so many?

(The Wall Street Journal, Apple)
(The Wall Street Journal, Apple)


A thinner Pro! A bigger Air! A cheaper basic iPad! And don’t forget Mini! A guide to Apple’s overwhelming tablet offerings.

Apple on Tuesday announced new iPads, bringing the number of models up to 3,578.

Fine, six. But still.

There are two pricier iPads Pros with bright OLED screens, a thinner design and next-generation chips to enhance onboard AI performance. The iPad Air gets upgraded chips, colors and cameras—and a larger 13-inch option alongside the 11-inch one. Both updated lines will be available May 15.

The recently redesigned regular iPad sticks around, for $100 less, and the Mini is also still there, unchanged.

Oh, and there are now three (!) iPad Pencils: an Apple Pencil Pro for the new Pro and Air, plus the two older options.

Funnily enough, this is Apple actually trying to streamline the options. It pulled a cheap, old-design iPad out of its consumer lineup.

Over the years, when I’ve asked Apple executives why there are so many models, the answer is always consumer choice. Analysts say the same. “From a market perspective, there’s an option for everyone," explained Carolina Milanesi, a technology analyst with Creative Strategies.

That’s probably true, especially now, but good luck finding that right option without a Ph.D. in iPads. Luckily, I have one. The trick is understanding each line and remembering that they differ on three Ps: price, portability and power.

Let’s review, from most to least expensive.

iPad Pro, starting at $999

The iPad Pros are Apple’s most powerful and most pricey “tablets," if you can even call them that. At this point, when you pair them with the new $299-and-up Magic Keyboard, they’re full-fledged laptop replacements.

In fact, Apple raised the price of each size by $200, so you’re now definitely paying laptop prices.

You have your choice of 11- or 13-inch OLED screens. And we’re not just talking about any screens. Ultra Retina XDR. Tandem OLED. Nano-texture glass. Apple’s got lots of marketing terms to describe them. I saw them in person and they really are bright and beautiful.

And man, are these tablets thin. The company says that this 13-inch iPad Pro, with a thickness of 5.1mm, is the thinnest Apple product ever. It’s even thinner than the old, super tiny iPod Nano.

That Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has a function key row and an expanded touchpad. The iPad Pencil Pro has haptic feedback. When I squeezed it, it vibrated and brought up on-screen shortcuts.

All the new Pros are powered by Apple’s own M4 chip, which the company says is 4x faster than the previous iPad Pro with M2 and 10x faster than the original iPad Pro. The big sell? AI. AI. AI. In fact, Apple said the term at least seven times in the presentation.

The company said the M4’s neural processing unit (aka “NPU") makes it more powerful than any “AI PC today." The question is, what kind of AI tasks will this actually be better at? Apple showed off some video- and photo-editing tricks but I wasn’t able to compare to older models in my short time with the device.

Unlike Google and Microsoft, Apple has yet to introduce any generative-AI software tools. We expect that at its annual software conference in June. You know, I’d be happy with the iPad just getting the Calculator app!

iPad Air, starting at $599

I am sure you too have pondered one of the world’s greatest mysteries: Who is the iPad Air even for? Apple finally answered that…kinda.

They’re for people who want the “advanced features of an iPad Pro at a more affordable price," John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, said in Tuesday’s presentation.

It makes sense then that the iPad Air now comes in 11- and 13-inch sizes like the Pro, yet starts at $599. In fact, at $799, the 13-inch iPad Air might be one of the best options for people who had iPad Pro sticker shock. (The bigger Pro was $1,099—now it’s $1,299.)

The Air doesn’t have those fancy Pro OLED screens, but they’re still plenty nice and they’re powered by M2 chips.

And hallelujah! Apple finally moved the selfie camera to the longer landscape edge. That is, when you hold the tablet on its side, the camera is centered. (It did the same for the new iPad Pro models, too.)

If you’re wondering about battery life, it’s unchanged across all the new models.

The basic iPad, starting at $349

Finally, the biggest news of the day. At least for parents like me who just want an affordable tablet for kids.

The 10th-generation iPad with a 10.9-inch display had been $449 since its launch in October 2022. Now, it’s $349.

It has a similar styling to the Airs—bright colors, a USB-C port for charging and no old-school home button. No fancy M-chips here—just an old A14 Bionic, but that’s more than enough for basic gaming, streaming YouTube, reading emails and more.

The $329 9th-generation model, which had that home button and a Lightning connector, is only available for the education market. RIP, Lightning.

iPad Mini, staring at $499

Tim Cook made a super-quick mention of the iPad Mini, last updated in September 2021. Apple only updates Mini models every few years, but given the $499 starting price, this one is starting to feel outdated.

Minis are best for reading and videos—two of my colleagues will give up their Minis only when you pry them from their dead hands. Since these tablets don’t need all the processing power, they should have a price to match.

Write to Joanna Stern at

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