iPad Pro 11″ vs 12.9″: Which One Should You Buy?

In this article, I discuss the tough choice between iPad Pro 11″ vs 12.9″ and how I recently decided which one to buy.

Over the past year, I‘ve been receptive to the siren call of the newest iPads. I almost bought an iPad Air but I managed to resist, telling myself that new iPad Pro models would be released soon. About a month ago, Apple did just that.

They were released amidst a pandemic. Hence, I resisted a little longer; after all, I’m not exactly going anywhere.

Nevertheless, a few days ago I relented. “Fine, Apple, you win. I’ll buy your damn iPad Pro”, I murmured to myself with a smile.

Sadly, I’m a maximizer and tend to overthink large purchases such as this. So the question shifted from “should I get an iPad?” to “which one?”. iPad Pro 11” or 12.9”?

iPad Pro 11″ vs 12.9″

Both the iPad Pro 11” and its larger 12.9” counterpart have a raison d’être, as I’ll illustrate in a moment. So deciding which iPad Pro to buy was anything but trivial for me. Mind you, we are admittedly well past first world problem territory, but figuring out which one to buy was still a tough decision to mull over. You might be struggling to decide between the 11″ and the 12.9″ version yourself.

One is not clearly better than the other. It’s all a matter of your needs and usage and, at least for me, both have a lot of appeal.

Still, I made my choice and ordered one this morning, along with a second-generation Apple Pencil and an OtterBox Symmetry Series 360 Case. Once the “world resumes”, I might order a Magic Keyboard case too but for now, I’m home 24/7 and my Bluetooth wireless keyboard (a Logitech K380) will more than accommodate my needs.

Without further delay, I’m going to list the advantages of the iPad Pro 11”, those of the iPad Pro 12.9”, how they fare for my use cases, and finally which one I bought.

Why buy the iPad Pro 11″

  • It works well as a second device. If you already have a laptop, the 11” complements it nicely.
  • It’s very portable.
  • When used as a tablet, it’s lighter and more comfortable to hold. It can even be held with one hand.
  • Highly relevant to my case, but it fits in my existing satchel (a Tumi Organizer Travel Tote) that I absolutely love.
  • It’s cheaper than the 12.9” model and its accessories are cheaper as well.
  • It’s a better device for “regular” books that are not textbooks or technical in nature. In my case, acquiring this device would enable me to sell my existing BOOX Nova Pro 7.8 E-Reader. Though I like that e-reader, so maybe this point is not exactly a pro.

Why buy the iPad Pro 12.9″

  • Its large screen is a beauty to behold.
  • In split-screen mode, it allows showing two iPad sized apps rather than two oversized iPhone windows like the 11” version does.
  • With the Magic Keyboard case, it can act as a replacement for my personal laptop if it were to die.
  • It’s better at multitasking and productivity in general thanks to its larger screen. There are few apps that don’t benefit from the extra room (Instagram, I’m looking at you).
  • It’s better at creative tasks. Drawing, photo editing, video editing, all benefit from the extra space.
  • It’s easier on the eyes, particularly if your vision isn’t perfect.
  • It has a full-sized keyboard should you decide to buy a keyboard case. The keyboard cases for the 11″ tend to have smaller keys and/or cramp their keys to fit in the limited amount of space.
  • It can show programming and mathematics books in full size since the screen is not much smaller than the equivalent paper versions of the same books.
  • In landscape mode, it offers enough space to take notes and read a book at the same time.
  • There aren’t any cheap(er) iPad models in the same size range, unlike the 11″ which has comparatively sized cheaper alternatives in the iPad Air and even the basic iPad model. How is this a pro? It’s not a pro, per se, but it weighed massively on my decision making. If I invest a lot of money in getting an iPad Pro 12.9″ now, I can always buy a smaller second device for cheap, should I need a more portable tablet on the go. I could even opt for an iPad Mini at that point. However, if I were to buy an iPad Pro 11″ now and realize later on that I need a larger screen, I will be out of luck, as there are no affordable giant iPads. So I’d have to buy a second iPad Pro or deal with the hassle of selling my existing one and then buying the larger version.

My iPad use cases

Let’s briefly talk about the most common use cases for me. These are not very novel uses, so I expect many readers will have similar scenarios and needs.

Watching movies in bed: Provided you have a case propping it up, the iPad Pro 12.9″ is the better option here thanks to its larger screen. Mind you, the different aspect ratio between the two devices means that the advantage is not as pronounced as you might imagine.

Casual browsing in bed: If you are casually consuming content in bed, laying on your side or on your back, the 11″ iPad Pro is definitely more comfortable to use.

Casual browsing on the couch: The 11″ iPad is easier on your hands and the 12.9″ one is easier on your eyes. Since you can use your lap to help you balance the 12.9″ iPad, I think this is a draw.

Being productive on the couch: Following the same logic as the point above, this is either a draw or it favors the 12.9″ model, depending on your workflow.

Being productive at a desk: This isn’t even close. The iPad Pro 12.9″ takes the cake.

Traveling for business: Pandemic permitting, when travel resumes, I will most likely take my iPad with me. I think the 11″ is a better option on the plane and the 12.9″ will offer a better experience once you reach your destination (e.g., in your hotel room). So I’d say it’s a draw.

Having it on me everywhere I go: Conversely, the iPad Pro 11″ wins this one. You technically can bring the 12.9″ version everywhere too, but I bet in practice most people will be more likely to do so with the 11″ one.

Using it in waiting rooms or as I wait in the car: Both can be used for this purpose, but especially in waiting rooms, the 11″ one is a little more socially acceptable.

Casual consumption at a coffee shop or the library: For the same conspicuity reason, I think that for casual browsing and consumption at a coffee shop or the library, I’d prefer the more manageable 11″ version which is also less likely to stick out.

Productivity at a coffee shop or the library: The 12.9″ version with a keyboard (case or Bluetooth) is without a doubt the more “laptop replacement” of the two. For coding, blogging, journaling, etc. it’s definitely a better option and the 12.9″ size is not prohibitive to transport places.

Drawing: There are exceptions, but most artists seem to like the larger canvas offered by the 12.9″.

Editing photos and videos: Without a doubt, the 12.9″ is the best option here.

Reading and annotating technical books: I think that the 11″ is a better device to read novels on, but for the kind of technical books and papers I read (mostly programming and mathematics PDFs), the 12.9″ is large enough to offer a readable font without zooming in.

Taking notes: This might be a personal preference, but unless you are taking notes standing up, the iPad Pro 12.9″ with so much breathing room offers the advantage here.

Which iPad did I buy?

You probably guessed by now, but I couldn’t ignore all the advantages of the 12.9″ iPad Pro, so that’s what I ordered. The point about being able to buy a cheaper 10-11″ iPad if I really need something portable helped me seal the deal.

I went with the 256 GB Wi-Fi model since the difference from the 128 GB wasn’t huge price-wise. The 128 GB iPad configuration is fine as well for most people, but I wanted to somewhat future-proof it and avoid having to be too space-conscious in my use of it.

I really look forward to receiving it and talking more about apps, my usage of them, and the setup I’ll use to maximize its usefulness for productivity/coding.

Do you have an iPad Pro or are you contemplating getting one? If so, which version?

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  1. John Paul Carter May 30, 2020
  2. Rj September 20, 2020

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