iPad Pro vs iPad Air: Which Is the Best Graduation Gift?

May 17, 2021

Today’s students rely on technology for all things related to their work. Some students prefer to use computers, some prefer tablets, and some prefer a good mix of both. But if you’re someone looking to add a gadget to a student’s mix of equipment, a good pick that’d touch on both convenience and performance would be Apple’s iPad models. With flexible usability and a multifunctional setup, the iPad models are the perfect gift for a graduate just starting into their post-school career.


What are the hottest iPads right now?


iPad Pro


The California tech giant’s April 2021 event gave Apple fans a peek into what’s in store for them. Apple announced new upgrades for their iPad Pros, amping processing performance up by using M1 chips and better touchscreen technology in the recently announced models. 


These two upgrades made the iPad Pro look more appetizing to both casual and avid users - more powerful processors would mean increased productivity, and that increased productivity would be accommodated perfectly by the touchscreen technology upgrade.


Aside from new chips and better screens, Apple finally gave in to the consumer demand, which is the release of 5G-capable iPad Pros. Although Apple fans are aware of the implications of this upgrade on their carrier plans, who wouldn’t want a faster connection paired with a powerful processor?


iPad Air


A relatively cheaper and lighter alternative to the iPad Pro is the iPad Air. They come with A14 chips as the new iPhones do, but function relatively similar to the iPad Pro. The Airs, however, didn’t get the same M1 chip and 5G capability upgrade. This is a good thing for people who are comfortable with the Air’s current capabilities relative to its affordable price.


Which one would be better for students?


Picking the right one for a student finishing up school and heading into a new career would require you to answer some questions related to usage and preference. What kind of activities will the graduate use the iPad Pro or Air for? How long would they use the iPad? Lastly, what’s your ideal price range?


If you’re aware of your grad’s device and gadget usage (favorite device? Favorite apps?), you’ll have an idea of which iPad model to buy them. If they’re finishing up high school using Microsoft Office for school work and communicating with their peers, you’re better off going with the iPad Air, both price- and comfort-wise.


But if the student is wrapping up a Bachelor’s degree - and perhaps playing with upper-level hobbies like graphic design or coding - they’re better off with the iPad Pro for its processing power and bigger screen size options. They can still work just fine with an iPad Air, but if they have application needs that are more than the power Microsoft Office requires, the iPad Pro is the ideal choice. For instance, most companies use a combination of office and productivity tools that do require a bit more juice - apps like Slack, Teams, Zoom, and Airtable come to mind.


Battery Life


We know battery life is a concern, so let’s jump in. All iPad Pro models can last up to 10 hours while a user surfs the web or streams videos on Wi-Fi, and up to 9 hours on a cellular data network. 


The iPad Air doesn’t sit far away from that range, lasting the same hours on both Wi-Fi and cellular data network for the same activities.


Apple Pencil Compatibility


While both the Pro and Air work with the Apple Pencil, the Pro fares better in terms of use. The iPad Pro allows the Pencil to charge by connecting to the iPad Pro. The same feature is non-existent in the iPad Air.


If your future graphic designer or product manager won’t be using the Apple Pencil enough to need it to remain juiced up, this isn’t much of an issue. But if they use apps that benefit from sustained Apple Pencil use, such as drawing and note-taking applications like Procreate, the iPad Pro’s compatibility with the Pencil is a good feature to consider.


Display Size


In terms of display sizes, the iPad Pro wins with its 12.9-inch model. This is also one of the good points about the Pro you should consider. Everyone would benefit from a bigger screen, but that would mean a heavier work unit to lug around on a work commute. If your grad is now in a #WFH career, this may be irrelevant!


If the person who’ll be using the iPad doesn’t mind the weight, they can go with the Pro, but if weight is a concern, the Air is a good choice in terms of mobility.


Final Thoughts


Both models are perfect for basic productivity needs for recent graduates in a variety of fields of work, but if you’re looking to use either model as a computer, be prepared to lower your expectations. Why? Because neither model is specifically engineered to be used as a computer. 


There’s just so much computers can do that iPads can’t. The closest iPad model to computers is the iPad Pro, but why not just get yourself a computer if that’s what you’re looking for in terms of performance? Considering the cost of Apple products, this may indeed be a better option.


The iPad Pro is the more powerful model, but that comes with a hefty price tag for some buyers. Consider your gift recipient - what will they be doing with it in their new career? You may just arrive with the Air as your pick. In terms of maximum productivity through the power of Apple’s iPads, the Pro is always the better choice. It’s the bulkier one in terms of processing power, screen size, and compatibility. The iPad Air comes at a cheaper price tag, but you shouldn’t expect the same features you’d get from the Pro.


So what’ll it be? That’s for you to decide - but we hope this breakdown helps you shop for your recent college graduate. And from us at FixIT Mobile to them, congratulations on making it through!