Two things strongly come to mind when I think of the iPad Pro in general. First, man am I rooting for it to become a true replacement for a laptop. Second, deciding between the 11″ and 12.9″ versions of the iPad Pro is tough.
They seem like the same device at different sizes. In many ways that’s exactly what they are. But that roughly two inch screen size difference really turns each one into a different animal — more so than I’d expected when I got my first one.
That first foray into the iPad Pro was the M1 12.9″ model. I talked about that experience in detail here, and on YouTube.
When used on a desk or a stand, the 12.9″ iPad Pro is a beast. I use a 13″ MacBook Pro for work also, so it’s impressive to see and hold a tablet with a laptop screen. Better, actually, since this version of the iPad Pro has the HDR screen as well as 120hz motion.
The visual experience on it is phenomenal. Class leading.
On a stand and paired with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, for probably 75% of my professional work as a writer, SEO, and photographer the iPad Pro is a very capable all-around machine.
Especially when you use a standard 11″ iPad. Don’t get me wrong; I am impressed at how viable the 11″ still is for serious work when on a stand. I’ve been doing just that for the last couple weeks.
But each time I switch my peripherals back to the big 12.9″ one and throw that bad boy on a stand I’m like, “Damn this is more comfortable.”
But choosing between the 11 inch and 12.9 inch iPad Pro is more complex than that, I find.
While on a desk, sure, 100% the bigger iPad Pro is what you want. But when you’re using it as an iPad (rather than an extra portable laptop) the 12.9″ can feel bulky and difficult to hold one-handed for any length of time.
When I’m sitting on the couch, I need to put a knee up to support it a bit for any lengthy reading or for watching YouTube. Same for reading ebooks, and that part is a shame since I don’t feel like the extra screen size really improves the book experience.
The smaller 11″, on the other hand, carries a bit better.
The larger iPad weighs 1.5 pounds, which is 50% heavier than the 11 inch’s 1 pound weight. This is noticeable when you hold them in the hand, especially used one-handed.
Putting the 11 inch iPad on the counter while you’re washing dishes or making some food fits more easily to everything else you have going on. And sitting on the couch or as a passenger in a car is definitely a more seamless experience with the smaller size.
Used in portrait mode, the 11″ iPad Pro is very book-like in form and reads well. And for FaceTime calls, it’s far easier to maneuver the iPad if you’re walking around the house with who you’re talking to.
(In my case, taking the iPad off the counter and following my son or the dog around while on family Zoom calls.)
When I’m going to be out for the day the 11″ iPad fits far better into my pack, even with a good case on it.
Sure, the 12.9″ does fit in most backpacks, but I find there’s still a difference between what will fit and how easily and comfortably it slides in and out of a pack.
Pro Users Are Split Between Sizes
Despite some bloggers claim that no professional tech reviewers actually use the 11 inch iPad Pro, I’ve seen plenty of tech YouTubers showcasing their 11 inch iPad workflow. In many cases, they’ve made it clear they’ve also used the 12.9 inch.
All the same, those who do video editing or different types of draw/painting with the Apple Pencil seem partial to the larger iPad.
On Reddit there’s a popular distinction made about the two sizes: If you don’t have a MacBook that you use alongside your iPad, get the 12.9″. If you do have a MacBook and the iPad will be a companion device, get the 11″.
It’s a good starting point when you’re not sure, but is perhaps an oversimplification for some.
M2 vs M1 In An iPad
It’s worth noting that I had an opportunity to snag the 11″ M2 iPad Pro this year, so it’s newer and more powerful than my 12.9″ iPad with the M1.
Despite Apple’s reports that the M2 has 40% better graphics performance, as well as far better neural processing, a lot of people predicted the difference wouldn’t be that noticeable on an iPad. I would have to agree with that.
One is probably better future-proofed with the M2, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple making such big improvements to the neural processing hint at new features to come in an iPadOS update.
But as I’ve swapped back and forth between the 2 iPad Pros, the main difference that really hits is the size.
It seems like the difference between having an 8GB or 16GB RAM version of an iPad Pro matters more than moving from M1 to M2. Memory intensive apps like photo editors, art creation, and video editing allow more layers (photos) and more active effects (video) with the 16GB variant.
That’s a hard limit that depending on your usage may be crucial.
The M1 iPad Pro can already edit 4k video no problem, as well as 33 megapixel raw photos from my camera.
In this way, Apple may be kind of a victim of its own success with how powerful the M1 is.
It’s good enough that people can realistically get several years out of it on a device. The 15% CPU improvement of the M2 is just not significant enough to matter, and only the most hardcore of pro tasks — like perhaps 8k video editing or working with gigantic 3D CAD models — would likely benefit from the 40% improved graphics performance.
And again, those super resource-hungry tasks would likely benefit at least as much from 16GB RAM from 8GB.
So Which Makes More Sense For Me?
It’s a really tough call, to be honest.
There’s something undeniably luxurious about using the 12.9″ iPad Pro, and I find myself wanting it to be the clear win that I’d use all the time.
But I have to concede: it was the 11″ that got me bringing an iPad with me to restaurants, to meetings, and to coffee shops. I don’t fly often so I can’t comment on the difference in experience there, though Max Tech has said that the 12.9″ is too bulk for tray tables.
What people say is true: if tech is too bulky or heavy you’ll leave it at home more often, and it’s better to have something you’ll willingly bring everywhere.
I know some people aren’t bothered by the larger iPad Pro and still prefer it.
But in deeply considering this for myself, here are some arguments that compelled me toward the 11 inch version:
- Yes, the 12.9″ is nicer for desk use. But if you’re at a desk anyway, both iPads can use an external monitor for much larger viewing. If you’re doing that, the screen size difference is far less relevant.
- Yes, the 12.9″ has an HDR screen which is nice. But for regular work and not HDR video, I don’t notice much of a difference. There’s some, for sure, on photos, but enough to outweigh the loss in portability? Eh..
- Plus, if I’m at a desk a lot in a day, there’s no reason not to use my 13″ M1 MacBook Pro instead.
- At the end of the day, it’s an iPad. Desk use is cool with a stand and keyboard, but to me the real test of its usefulness is what you can do on the go, or on a couch.
The bigger 12.9″ screen feels luxurious, sure.
The 11″ is just so much more versatile and feels better in the hand. And if it had the same HDR capabilities? That would really even them up.
M2 iPad Pro vs. M1
I like to offer a point of view I haven’t seen shared elsewhere any time I can in reviews. But in this case I’m afraid I have to concede to a point that’s been said already: The M2 is not enough of a performance boost over the already very powerful M1 to justify the upgrade in and of itself.
If you already have an M1 iPad Pro, save your money.
For me the transition was meaningful mainly because I was going from a 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro to an 11″ M2 iPad Pro, and ended up initially thinking the 11″ was more useful. But like I said earlier, that has more to do with the physical size than anything.
If you have an iPad that’s several years old, or particularly if you’ve never tried an iPad Pro before, the M2 model is a very capable device and worth a look.
In that case Wi-Fi 6e, the new pointer features, increased memory bandwidth, and the latest chip very likely offer you a big jump forward from what you’ve been using.
Hope this has been helpful.
And if you are thinking of getting one, consider supporting me as a thank you by clicking my affiliate link below. It costs you no extra to purchase your iPad this way, but I will receive a small commission.