When can you get away with jacking up the new iPad Air 3's price by US$100 over its predecessor? When you call it a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, that's when! Apple today took the wraps off its new tablet, bringing the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's increased productivity focus to the classic iPad and iPad Air screen size.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is essentially last year's iPad Pro, only with the iPad Air's smaller 9.7-inch screen size (along with its smaller overall tablet size). Or, looking at it another way, it's an iPad Air 3 that costs $100 more than you'd expect. Take your pick.
Either way, the $599 and up iPad Pro 9.7 has some of the key specs of its big Pro brother, including powerful A9X system-on-a-chip, 32 GB base level storage (it also offers 128 GB and, for the first time, 256 GB memory options) and Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support. Like the iPad Air 2, it weighs 437 g (0.96 lb) and has that 9.7-inch screen along with 2,048 x 1,536 resolution (264 PPI).
That display has a new feature this time around that attempts to mimic the look of paper reflecting natural light. Rather than an absolute color balance that remains constant no matter your environment, the "True Tone Display" (borrowing some marketing terminology from Apple's Dual LED flash) adjusts display hue based on readings from ambient light sensors. This is similar to desktop and mobile apps like f.lux, which do the same thing based on time of day. Using real-time data from ambient sensors should be an improvement on the accuracy of those applications.
The new iPad Pro ups its big brother's camera specs, getting what appears to be the same sensors as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. That may be overkill for a tablet camera, but if you want to hoist a huge slab of glass and aluminum for your shots, you should get some impressive results.
As we mentioned, the smaller iPad Pro starts at $599, which is $100 more expensive than its real predecessor, the iPad Air 2. Apple just essentially jacked up the price of the iPad Air lineup, and is justifying it by changing its name (though, in fairness, its 32 GB base storage is double what the $499 tier in the iPad Air series gave you). And that price doesn't include the Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard, which, if you want to use it as a faux laptop with stylus support, will add $99 and $149, respectively.
For the complete iPad Pro 9.7 package, that's a grand total of $847. Or, $52 less than a MacBook Air.
The new iPad Pro goes up for pre-order on Thursday, March 24, and will be available on March 31.