iPad Pro 2018 vs iPad 2018: which of Apple's new tablets is the best buy?

Apple has more new tablets to consider – here's how they stack up against each other

iPad vs iPad Pro

Apple just unveiled some powerful new iPad Pros, but before you think about splashing the cash on these updated models, don't forget the entry-level iPad – it also got a refresh this year, back in March, and may well be the better value buy for your particular needs.

To help you decide, we've put the updated 2018 iPad up against the updated 2018 iPad Pros in all the areas that matter, from internal specs to external finish. Our comparison should give you a clear idea of which of these excellent Apple tablets is right for you.

iPad Pro 2018 vs iPad 2018: design


iPad (2018)

Ever since the iPad line was launched in 2010, it has produced devices that ooze style, and these two (or three) iPads are no different. There is a distinct difference though: the 2018 iPad represents the old-school design, while the 2018 iPad Pros are very much the future of the Apple tablet in terms of appearance.

The 9.7-inch iPad, with a  2,048 x 1,536 pixel (264 ppi) display is very recognisably an iPad. Its back curves up to meet the front, the rather chunky bezels and Home button are all present and correct, and it features a Lightning connector port. It's also worth pointing out that it's available in gold as well as silver and space grey.

The 11-inch (2,388 x 1,668 pixels, 264 ppi) and 12.9-inch (2,732 x 2,048 pixels, 264 ppi) iPad Pros, meanwhile, are flatter and more rounded, with displays that push right into the corners. The bezels have shrunk, Face ID has replaced the Home button, and USB-C has replaced the Lightning port. Your two colour choices are silver and space grey.

iPad Pro 2018 vs iPad 2018: specs

iPad Pro

iPad Pro (2018)

In terms of raw specs, the new iPad Pros win out: they have the faster A12X Bionic processor with extra performance and added AI capabilities, rather than the A10 model – although that A10 is no slouch and will handle most apps perfectly well. In fact we'd say the specs of the iPad Pros are really overkill for all but the most demanding apps and games, even if they're more future proofed than the basic iPad.

The iPad Pros feature 12MP rear cameras capable of 4K video recording, whereas the iPad sticks with 8MP and 1080p. Wi-Fi and cellular options are available across the board, but the basic iPad only gives you 32GB or 128GB as internal storage options – for the iPad Pros, that gets expanded to 64GB, 256GB, 512GB or a whopping 1TB (if money is no object). The iPad Pros have four speakers rather than the two of the iPad, as well.

As has been the case since the iPad Pro line first appeared in 2015, it's a question of what you're going to do with your tablet – the iPad Pros have better specs, there's no doubt, but you might not get chance to use all that power. For emailing, social networking and Netflix, the cheaper iPad is still going to perform just fine.

iPad Pro 2018 vs iPad 2018: features


iPad (2018)

We've already mentioned that the new iPad Pros introduce Face ID to the iPad tablet for the first time, in the absence of any Home buttons. They also work with the new, wirelessly charged, magnetic Apple Pencil – the standard iPad sticks with the first-generation Apple Pencil, as well as generic Bluetooth keyboards (Apple makes special Smart Keyboard Folios for the iPad Pros).

iOS 12 is present and correct on all these iPads, of course, with the recently introduced dock and the ability to run two app side by side if you need to. Files can now be dragged straight into apps or even between apps, and all of the iPad-specific functionality that comes with iOS 12 is available on all these tablets.

Apple says battery life is the same across the iPad and the iPad Pros – up to 10 hours of web surfing on Wi-Fi, and up to 9 hours of web surfing on a cellular connection. Finally, there are a few screen features exclusive to the iPad Pro line worth mentioning: True Tone (dynamic white balance adjustments), ProMotion (dynamic refresh rate adjustments) and a wider colour gamut too.

iPad Pro 2018 vs iPad 2018: verdict

iPad Pro

iPad Pro (2018)

From everything you can read above it's obvious that the iPad Pros are the better tablets in most categories – but they're also bigger, and more expensive. The entry-level iPad essentially does everything the iPad Pros can, but at a lower price – it starts at £319/$329 rather than £769/$799.

By all means splurge on the iPad Pro models if you want to, but bear in mind you can get some very decent laptops for a similar price (and don't forget to factor in the extra cost of an Apple Pencil and a keyboard cover, if you need them). If all you're going to do on your new Apple tablet is sift through your email and see what your friends are up to on Twitter and Facebook, then you're probably better off with the entry-level iPad.

The way that we've seen the iPhones and iPads evolve, the 2018 standard iPad may well be the last of the Apple tablets to use the traditional iPad design before Face ID takes over completely. If you're thinking about picking one up, consider how attached you are to that design or whether you'd rather wait for a full redesign in a year or two's time.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.