A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about possibly selling my 2018 iPad Pro to raise some money for the new miniLED version that most analysts and leakers expect to arrive in a little over a month. It actually just sold yesterday on Swappa, but I actually put it up for safekeeping right after writing that article.
The first reason for no longer carrying my iPad Pro around and using it was pretty straightforward. I didn’t want to take the chance it could be damaged in some way before it sold. I’ve had it for over two years with no major issues, but you never know, right? Why tempt fate.
The other reason I left it at home was to get on with what I wrote about in the previous article linked above. I’ve been using a 12.9″ iPad Pro with little to no interruption since 2016. What would it be like to downsize to a smaller iPad with a little less power for a month or so? There’s no way to know without making the move for a while.
So far, life without the big iPad Pro isn’t bad. The current-gen iPad Air is a really solid stand-in for most tasks I use a tablet for. The smaller screen is a little tougher on my eyes, but it isn’t too much of a step down. The biggest downgrade is that you lose a step with multitasking. The 12.9” Pro can show the tablet views of two apps side by side, but the 11” iPads can’t. This isn’t the end of the world in the short term, but it is one reason why I will end up back with the larger size soon.
The other major shortcoming of the Air in this comparison, at least for me, is media playback. The screen is good enough, but the sound quality falls pretty short of what an iPad Pro’s quad speakers can deliver. I’m noticing this right now because I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the road over the last month (with more to come over the next 4 weeks), so I use my iPad a ton for streaming content while sitting in a hotel room in the evenings.
There are a couple of other small complaints. I like the Air’s implementation of TouchID, but I find Face ID to be more convenient for unlocking a tablet quickly. Even though I don’t use them a ton, the cameras on the iPad Air are just ok. Also, while the screen is fine for viewing, I do miss the buttery smoothness of ProMotion when using the Air, especially with the Apple Pencil. It’s all enough that I definitely notice where the Air doesn’t quite measure up.
The good news is that, despite these areas where the Air doesn’t measure up spec-wise, it still fills in admirably in place of a 12.9” iPad Pro. I’m typing this article on my Air and Logitech Folio Touch keyboard case and I have no complaints. Using a kickstand to prop this keyboard case isn’t as convenient as the Magic Keyboard’s cantilever hinge, but it does allow for almost limitless positioning. The backlit keyboard is just as good as Apple’s and the media viewing and drawing mode (shown above) is something the Magic Keyboard can’t match. As for the Air itself, it’s just as capable and snappy as my Pro when it comes to this basic task.
In fact, the iPad Air is perfectly adequate for this and everything else that I use my Pro for. Whether I’m writing with the Apple Pencil, typing up emails and notes for work, watching streaming video, or using it as a secondary monitor on the road, it does a fine job. As I said in some of my earlier review articles on the Air, it should be considered the default iPad for most buyers today and will be a great choice for the majority of them.
All that said, while I have no complaints using the Air as my main iPad for the next month or two, there’s no way I would pass on the new 12.9” Pro when it arrives. I love the larger screen size for several reasons and there’s no way I would give it up by choice. This temporary arrangement is just fine, but I will be very happy to put my money down when the new iPad Pros go up for preorder.
I held onto my Magic Keyboard, as it will almost certainly be compatible with the new iPad Pro models. However, one thing I would LOVE to see is Logitech release their Folio Touch keyboard case for the 12.9” iPad Pro. As much as I like the Magic Keyboard, the Combo Touch looks like it would be a better fit for the way that I work. I’ve been using it a lot more with my iPad Air and it’s a really versatile keyboard case that adds more protection.
As I said in the title, the iPad Air is a suitable stand-in for the iPad Pro. Even for a jaded tech enthusiast like me, it’s a more than solid substitute. But that’s still the limits of the Air for me. It’s a great secondary tablet. It will fill the next month just fine, but it also reminds me why I will still be buying the new 12.9” iPad Pro at release.