What’s the Difference Between an iPad and an iPad Pro?

Are you interested in teaching with iPads, but wondering what’s the difference between an iPad and an iPad Pro? If you’ve owned or used an iPad in the past, the answer is not immediately obvious. Why should you pay almost double for an iPad Pro, when it looks pretty much the same as a regular iPad? What are the differences between an iPad and an iPad Pro? Is an iPad or iPad Pro best for teachers?

Below, I outline the two major differences between an iPad and an iPad Pro for teachers. Then, I tell you the differences that don’t really matter much. Finally, I tell you which one will be best, given what you will be using it for.

Major Difference #1: Screen Size

So, what’s the difference between an iPad and an iPad Pro? One current main difference between the  iPad and iPad Pro for teachers is the screen size. The iPad now only comes in one size (9.7″) while the iPad Pro’s screens are much larger (10.5″ and 12.9″). If you are looking for the tablet with the most surface area, the iPad Pro (12.9″) is the best choice.

But what if you don’t want the biggest tablet? The 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 9.7″ iPad are virtually identical in terms of usable screen size and display technology. Literally the only difference is the 0.8″ of additional diagonal screen space.

Main Takeaway iPad vs. iPad Pro on Screen Size

If you want to be able to take notes while casting a presentation at the same time, then you will probably want an iPad Pro. If you only plan to show presentations, then you might be fine with an iPad.

Major Difference #2: Apple Pencil Compatibility

So, if the screens and display are pretty much the same, what’s the difference  between an iPad and an iPad Pro? Put simply, it’s Apple pencil compatibility.

With the regular iPad, you can annotate documents. But the way its technology works has the following disadvantages:

  • You annotate using a stylus or your finger.
  • You cannot rest your hand on the screen without making marks. This makes my handwriting less legible.
  • You must switch to annotating mode within an app.
  • To return to typing and/or advance pages, you must remember to switch out of annotating mode. I frequently forget to do this and end up with long pen marks across my page.

The iPad Pro, however, uses bluetooth technology to differentiate between your finger and the Apple Pencil. So, the iPad Pro has the following advantages:

  • You annotate using the Apple Pencil.
  • You can rest your entire hand and arm on the screen while still writing. This is because the iPad Pro uses bluetooth to figure out where the Apple Pencil is touching the screen, but it uses conduction to figure out where your finger/arm is. This makes my handwriting as legible as if I were writing by hand on paper.
  • You do not need to switch into or out of annotating mode to annotate, turn pages, or scroll.

See, for instance, one minute of this video that illustrates how you can draw/annotate with the Apple Pencil.

Main Takeaway on iPad vs. iPad Pro for Teachers on Apple Pencil Compatibility

Here, the iPad Pro comes out miles ahead. If you plan to annotate any type of document (student work, presentations) or use the iPad Pro as a mobile whiteboard, there is really no comparison. You will want an iPad Pro.

Insignificant Differences: Video, Audio, Processor

Even though there are some slight differences between an iPad and an iPad Pro in terms of processor, video, and audio, they do not make a significant differences for teaching and academic purposes.

Video and Camera

If you are planning to use the iPad or iPad Pro mainly to grade student work and as a mobile whiteboard in your classes, then the differences between the two don’t make much of a difference. But, if you plan to take a lot of pictures with your iPad or iPad Pro and aren’t convinced about getting an iPad Pro for the Apple Pencil compatibility, then the video/camera specs might be important. The only significant difference is that the iPad Pro has a 7-megapixel camera, while the regular iPad‘s is only 1.2 megapixels.


Unless you plan to play graphics intense video games the differences in processor are unlikely to matter when it comes to teaching with an iPad vs. iPad Pro.


The main difference here is that the iPad Pro has four speakers, while the regular iPad only has two.  If you will be using the iPad or iPad Pro in the classroom, you will likely “cast” your sound through built-in classroom speakers. So, unless you plan to play lots of audio in a large classroom from the iPad itself then this difference is unlikely to matter.

So, Which one is Best? iPad vs. iPad Pro for Teachers

Choosing between the iPad and the iPad Pro for teachers should depend on how you will use the device.

  • Do you plan to use it to grade student work? If so, I highly recommend the iPad Pro because of its Apple Pencil compatibility.
  • Do you plan to use it as a mobile whiteboard in classes? If so, I highly recommend the iPad Pro because of its Apple Pencil compatibility.
  • Do you plan to use it only to display pre-made presentations (PowerPoint, etc.)? If you plan to do any significant hand writing on these presentations, I recommend the iPad Pro. If you do not plan to write on these presentations, an iPad will suffice.

Want More?

Apple’s website offers a side-by side comparison of all their iPad Pro and regular iPad models.

Or, check out my in-depth review of the iPad Pro for Teachers and academics, my guide on the essential classroom hardware you’ll need for teaching with the iPad pro, and the 6 apps you’ll need for teaching with the iPad Pro.

Ready to take the plunge? Check out the deals on iPads, iPad Pros, and Apple Pencils on Amazon, where prices are lower than even the Apple for Education discount. And if you do go the iPad Pro/Apple Pencil route, you will definitely want this three pack lifesaver of a tool so you don’t lose any part of the Apple Pencil.

Your Turn

What questions do you still have about the differences between an iPad and an iPad Pro for teachers? What’s the difference between an iPad and an iPad Pro that matters most to you? How do you plan to use the iPad or iPad Pro in the classroom? Leave a comment below or email me!

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