All of Apple's new hardware announcements
Apple replaces the iPad Air with a new tablet. And we're getting a red iPhone that raises money to fight HIV/AIDS.by Iyaz Akhtar
When Apple introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro on March 21, 2016, it seized the mantle of . The spitting image of the celebrated iPad Air 2, this smaller sibling of the original iPad Pro brings to the table a marvelous combination of form factor perfection and cutting-edge specs. Noteworthy features include a blazing fast processor; killer cameras (front and rear); an enhanced, antireflective display; and support for Apple's Pencil and Smart Keyboard. With a near-perfect balance between tablet power and portability, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is pricy, sure, starting at $599 -- but also the new gold standard in the tablet category.
That noted, the iPad Air 2, the progenitor of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro design, remains arguably the better value. As of September 2016, the 32GB iPad Air 2 costs $200 less than the 32GB iPad Pro and has virtually everything a conventional user needs in a tablet. With a keyboard accessory, it's a great portable writing tool -- unlike the iPad Mini 2 and Mini 4, which are both just a tad too small for keyboards. Its screen is well-suited to watching movies. And it handles multitasking a bit better than the Mini 4.
As Scott Stein suggests in his review of the iPad Pro, this may be why Apple put the "Pro" in the iPad Pro -- these high-performance models are not for everyone. Yes, they're fast -- and especially great for creative professionals who are going to use their Pencil add-ons. But the upgrades come with a hefty price tag, and many folks would be better off spending that amount of money on a nice laptop.
Given this, the iPad Air 2 is still the Goldilocks in Apple's tablet lineup. We awarded it a CNET Editors' Choice in October 2014, and we heartily re-endorse it now, more than two years later.
Perfect size for reading, writing and viewing
The real reason I recommend the Air 2 over all other iPads is it strikes the perfect balance between a reading/playing/viewing tablet and something a bit more productive. It can be carried pretty easily in one hand and feels like reading a softcover book. Magazines and feature articles look good on its screen. Movies -- even letterboxed ones -- look sharp. But it's big enough to do some work on. Apps run side-by-side in splitscreen (Split View) mode work well, and with a keyboard attached it's a solid portable writing machine. My favorite case right now is Belkin's QODE Ultimate Pro -- it offers protection, a great backlit keyboard and two different tilt angles. With one of these on, the iPad Air 2 is nearly a tiny laptop without a trackpad, and a great emergency device to always have on me.
Even after weeks with the larger iPad Pro, the Air 2 seems fine to me. It even seems cozier and a lot more portable.