Hardware

How Apple's 2017 9.7" iPad better fills the gap between iPad mini and iPad Pro models

Apple's introduction of new iPad models and changes to the popular iPad mini 4 on March 21, 2017 caught people by surprise. Fortunately, many business users will benefit.

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The new 9.7-inch iPad boasts a faster CPU and co-processor than its iPad Air 2 predecessor.

Image: Apple Inc.

Although some forums and rumor sites suggested new models from Apple were imminent, the company surprised many people on March 21, 2017 when it took its online store offline for "maintenance," a move that previously often coincided with product releases. This time was no different.

When the store returned, 32 GB iPad mini 2s and 4s and 32 GB and 128 GB iPad Air 2s were gone. In their place? A new 9.7-inch iPad and 128 GB iPad mini 4s, the latter priced $100 less than the day before.

SEE: Apple's iPad refresh: 4 things business users need to know (TechRepublic)

The new 9.7-inch iPad (which is listed with no additional moniker—just iPad) takes the place within Apple's tablet lineup formerly occupied by the iPad Air 2. The iPad Air 2 was powered by the Apple A8 CPU and M8 motion co-processor, sported a 9.7-inch display (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), and measured 9.4-inches high by 6.6-inches wide by 0.24-inches deep. The Wi-Fi model weighed .96 pounds.

The new iPad possesses the same 9.7-inch (diagonal) footprint, 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution, and 264-pixels-per-inch specification. However, the new iPad packs a faster A9 CPU and M9 co-processor, but at a slight expense to overall size: 9.4-inches high by 6.6-inches wide by 0.29 inches deep and 1.03 pounds for the Wi-Fi model.

With Touch ID, an 8-megapixel camera, and FaceTime video support—the same as with the iPad Air 2—the new iPad shares many similarities with its predecessor. Users incensed by Apple's elimination of the headphone jack on iPhone 7s will be happy to know the new iPad retains the popular 3.5mm port.

What Apple has done, essentially, is replace the iPad Air 2 with a faster model. Don't look to use the Smart Keyboard or Apple Pencil with the new iPad—Apple's site only lists the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch iPad Pros as compatible with those accessories. But users who can do without those components will find the new 9.7-inch model an appropriate compromise between the smaller 7.9-inch iPad mini 4 displays and the more expensive 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch displays offered with the iPad Pro models.

iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi 32 GB models sold for $399 ($499 for 128 GB versions); iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular models were $529 for the 32 GB version and $629 for 128 GB models. The new iPad offers businesses lower costs, another benefit for users who can do without the Pros' keyboard and stylus: $329 for 32 GB Wi-Fi models, $429 for 128 GB Wi-Fi editions, $459 for 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular models, and $559 for 128 GB W-iFi + Cellular versions.

Clearly, Apple is trying to prompt existing iPad customers to upgrade, while also enticing potential new buyers. For now, standard business users requiring a faster tablet with a mid-range (9.7-inch) display are the winners.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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