As a preface, I’ll say that I’ve owned both sizes of the iPad Pro, an M1 and an M2. For those who own the 11″ and prefer it, respect. This is not me telling you you’re doing it wrong.

But I am making a case here for those stuck in the decision for why, for my uses, only the 12.9″ makes sense.

I began with the 12.9″ M1 and tried an 11″ M2 two years later. At first, the smaller size of the 11″ felt great to carry around and I wondered if it’d replace the larger one in my daily usage.

Over time, though, I kept finding that every time I went back to the 12.9″ it just felt so comfortable and luxurious. Especially for use on a desk with a keyboard, but also on the couch.

I got curious, and started making mental notes of which situations one iPad felt better to me than the other. For a week or two I alternated, basically picking one each day and using it most of the day while the other one sat on a shelf, and took note of my experiences day after day.

There were certainly things the 11″ iPad Pro felt a bit more comfortable for, such as:

  • Reading ebooks
  • Sketching on the couch with the Apple Pencil
  • Reading forum threads or emails

But as I looked at the list it struck me that none of those things actually required an iPad Pro to enjoy. Any iPad would do, even the iPad Mini.

And then it became even more telling when I took note of the things I kept reaching for the larger 12.9″ to do:

  • Photo editing and even just looking at my photos afterward (that XDR screen!)
  • Writing at a desk
  • Doing design work
  • Multitasking writing and research windows (or anything Stage Manager)
  • Working in Apple Notes
  • Creating a home screen with productivity widgets laid out the way I like
  • Watching YouTube or other video
  • Family Facetimes or business Zoom calls
  • Drawing with the Apple Pencil on a table

The 12.9″ iPad Pro also feels more distinctly… Pro/Exclusive.

The 12.9″ iPad Pro is the one that actually feels Pro, since its luxurious size and XDR screen make doing actual “pro” tasks a lot more comfortable.

The things that the smaller screen size were better for aren’t demanding activities, so all that “pro” power was wasted.

The 11″ iPad Pro feels like a slightly better iPad Air, and that’s it.

The 11 inch model’s screen resolution (1668 x 2388) is essentially identical to the iPad Air (1640 x 2360), and while it does offer 120hz for more fluid motion (which isn’t nothing) the nits and contrast are also basically the same as the Air.

Whereas the larger one feels legitimately like another class of iPad.

With a higher screen resolution of 2048 x 2732, twice the nits of the Air (1000), and the awesome HDR display, the 12.9″ iPad offers you noticeable features you simply can’t get on any other model.

Same for the quad speakers

…which seem to make a much bigger difference in loudness and richness on the larger iPad than the 11″. Technically the 11″ iPad Pro also has more speakers than the Air, but it doesn’t seem to add up to a very different audible experience.

The On-Screen Keyboard Makes A Real Difference, Too

I’d begun of course with the 12.9″ iPad and its keyboard, which impressed me with how the keys were spaced. And that it had a dedicated number row.

12.9" iPad Pro's on screen keyboard layout

Later, when I tried the 11″ iPad Pro, I was surprised by the difference in keyboard.

While the bigger iPad’s keyboard felt distinct and unique, not at all like my iPhone, the 11″ iPad keyboard was laid out exactly like a larger version of the iPhone’s keyboard. It was the same as every other iPad.

11" iPad Pro keyboard layout is a clone of all other iPads

The increased gap between keys lowers my typing speed and leads to more typos, and having to toggle an extra key for the number row is annoying. And since this is the same keyboard as every other iPad, it doesn’t give you that feeling that you’re using something unique or top of the line.

The Screen Size Matters More (To Me) Than M1/M2. Case In Point…

I decided to stick with my older M1 12.9″ and give the newer 11″ M2 iPad to my wife. Normally I’d be a sucker for the newer processor and want the latest hardware, but I didn’t find the performance difference between the M1 and M2 very noticeable, even for web design and photo editing projects.

The extra horsepower of the M2, such as it was, wasn’t nearly as important as the size difference between 11″ and 12.9″.

And Since An M1 Is Still So Viable, Consider the iPad Air

If you think the 12.9″ is just too big and you really want something smaller, you could probably opt for the cheaper iPad Air instead. It will be the same size and screen basically as the 11″ iPad Pro, and you aren’t spending the extra money on more than you need.

The iPad Air (as of writing this) now comes with an M1 processor, meaning it will have pretty similar raw performance to an iPad Pro in a lot of things. Previously the iPad Pro was the only way to get this powerful chip in a tablet, but now that this has changed, it makes a lot of sense to consider your use cases for a tablet.

In Summary…

I feel like for a lot of people, if you prefer the smaller 11″ size an iPad Air is probably plenty. Especially since the Air now features the M1 chip, so it too has a lot of power behind it.

If you’re a person who wants a real workhorse of an iPad to do professional tasks or use it in place of a laptop, the 12.9″ is the only way to fly in this man’s opinion.

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