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iPad Pro 11 vs 12.9: M1 and M2 are great, but which size should you buy?
Apple's iPad Pro is the most capable model of its tablet lineup, but should you buy the standard 11-inch size or go big with the 12.9-inch? We've broken down the top buying reasons for each model below.
Apple's iPad has come a long way since its debut back in 2010. Now there are the standard iPad, the lightweight iPad Air, the compact iPad Mini, and the most capable model, the iPad Pro. Content creators, digital nomads, and professionals will most likely be drawn to that last member of Apple's convoluted tablet lineup, being able to take full advantage of the Pro's superior M1 or M2 silicon, ultra-bright display, and wealth of software features such as Hover Mode thanks to premium add-ons like the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil.
If you have your mind set on the iPad Pro, the follow-up question is, should you buy the 11-inch model or the 12.9-inch?
On paper, the dimensions don't sound too far apart. But if you've ever gone hands-on with the flagship tablets -- which I recommend you do to get a feel of things -- then you know that one is more like a traditional-sized tablet and the other is an emphatically large slab.
Clearly, size is the biggest difference between the two, but I've listed several more key reasons below that you should consider before deciding on which configuration to buy.
iPad Pro 11-inch
iPad Pro 12.9-inch
11-inch Liquid Retina LCD display (2,388 x 1,668) with ProMotion
12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (2,732 x 2,048) with ProMotion
Don't get it twisted, both iPad Pro sizes are shockingly thin (about 0.25 inch) and can be easily tucked into any backpack sleeve, but the smaller 11-inch is much easier to hold and weighs about half a pound less than the 12.9-inch model.
If you plan on traveling with the iPad from home to the office to local cafes, then the more portable footprint of the 11-inch Pro should be a big consideration.
In fact, if you're upgrading from an existing iPad, whether it's the Air, the Mini, or the vanilla model, then you'll find yourself right at home with the 11-inch form factor. And its M1-based performance will be noticeably better.
2. You'd like to save at least $300
Is it considered free money if you save yourself from spending more? Either way, opting for the 11-inch iPad Pro instead of the 12.9-inch model, on average, will save you about $300. The main difference between the two -- and, spoiler alert for one of the reasons to buy the 12.9-inch model instead -- is the brighter mini-LED display on the larger iPad. But is a higher nit count worth $300 more? The answer really depends on how you're going to use the tablet, but for most people, it's a resounding "No."
It's very likely that if you're buying an iPad, let alone a Pro, you'll snag one of Apple's keyboard cases as well. Whether you're eyeing a full-function Magic Keyboard or a minimal folio case, you'll be spending $20-$50 less for accessories made for the 11-inch model.
How are you planning to use the iPad Pro? Are you a graphics designer who thrives on Photoshop? Do you edit raw 4K videos every other day of the week? If you consider yourself a power user, then the larger iPad Pro should serve you better than its smaller alternative. Not only does the 12.9-inch model give you a wider display on which to visualize your graphics, video timelines, and multi-window layouts, but it's also noticeably brighter, with a peak brightness of 1,600 nits.
The superior visual output is thanks to Apple's Pro Display XDR, an assembly of mini LEDs spread underneath the glass to create more dimming zones. Basically, you can expect one of the best-performing high dynamic range (HDR) displays on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
2. You want a larger keyboard to type on
Hear me out: The typing experience on any keyboard case you buy for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be better than that for the 11-inch model. This is because every case will very likely have a larger palm rest and trackpad to cover up the 12.9-inch iPad's display when closed shut.
While keyboard cases will be more expensive for the larger iPad, as mentioned before, typing on one that was made for the 12.9-inch iPad should be less cramped and generally more comfortable. For traveling typists, that reason alone could justify the premium.
It's a question that's been asked since the iPad's debut, whether or not it can replace a laptop. To answer: Yes, to some degree. Thanks to software improvements and better multitasking features on iPadOS, the iPad Pro, more than ever, can replace a laptop. ZDNET's own Jason Cipriani has written plenty of articles on his iPad experiences doing just that.
However, you should know that there are still plenty of pro-grade services and programs that require a desktop or laptop to run, most of which are not optimized for the iPad's operating system.
Do I need an iPad Pro?
Apple's non-Pro iPads have gotten much more capable over the years thanks to the integration of the company's own silicon, but the iPad Pro is still the one to buy if you're a professional user or creative.
I'd advise any potential shopper to visit a local Apple store and demo the lower-end iPad models first, and if none of them satisfy your work needs, move up to the iPad Pro.
What is the best iPad Pro for drawing?
Both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros support the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, which is arguably the best tool for digital content creation. That said, the best iPad Pro for drawing depends on whether you prefer a more portable canvas or one that has more screen real estate. For artists, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with its bigger and brighter display, should generally serve better, especially if you draw outdoors.
What is the best iPad Pro for students?
For most students, the 11-inch iPad Pro is the better choice. It's easier to carry around than the 12.9-inch model and cost $300 less, no matter which storage configuration. Both models come with 5G and LTE support if you want to use the tablet on the go or your school's Wi-Fi is clunky, so the differences to note here are portability and price.