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9.7" iPad Pro's 'Excellent' Display is 'Major Upgrade' Over iPad Air 2

iPad-Pro-9-7-inchDisplayMate has performed in-depth testing of the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro and determined that its IPS LCD display is a "truly impressive top performing display" and a "major upgrade" over the iPad Air 2.

While both tablets have similar tech specs, including matching 4:3 aspect ratios, 2,048×1536 pixel resolutions, and 264 PPI, Apple has made several underlying improvements to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro that qualified it as DisplayMate's "best performing mobile LCD display" it has ever tested.

Specifically, the exhaustive display shootout found the 9.7-inch iPad Pro to have two color gamuts that deliver "color accuracy that is visually indistinguishable from perfect" and "very likely considerably better than any mobile display, monitor, TV or UHD TV" that most people own.

The tablet uses a "new DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut that is used in 4K UHD TVs and Digital Cinema," in addition to the sRGB/Rec.709 gamut, described as "the color standard for most content" that is "needed for accurate color reproduction," that all previous iPhones and iPads have used.

DisplayMate also determined that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro display is "more than 20 percent brighter than the other current iPads" and the "brightest full size production tablet" that it has ever tested. The tablet's brightness measures 511 cd/m2 (nits), compared to 415 nits for the iPad Air 2.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro also has "by far the lowest low screen reflectance of any mobile display," meaning that its image colors and contrast in high ambient light -- such as sunlight -- will "appear considerably better than any other mobile display." The tablet uses a new anti-reflectance coating that reduces its reflectance to just 1.7 percent, compared to the iPad Air 2's reflectance of 2.5 percent. The difference can amount to longer battery life in real-life usage.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro earned high marks for its contrast ratio of 1,022, described as "very good" for a mobile display, and almost identical to the iPad Air 2. However, its ratio was slightly lower than the record 1,631 for the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Similarly, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's contrast rating in high ambient light is 301, by far the highest that DisplayMate has ever measured, and topping the iPad Air 2's rating of 166.

The tablet was found to have "excellent viewing angle performance" with "no visually noticeable color shifts," recording a 47 to 55 percent decrease in brightness at a "modest 30 degree viewing angle," which DisplayMate said is slightly better than the iPad Air 2 and all other iPads. Meanwhile, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and iPad Air 2 had the same overall power efficiency.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro's display also outperformed its larger 12.9-inch sibling in virtually every category:
The display on the new iPad Pro 9.7 outperforms the iPad Pro 12.9 in every single display performance category except (obviously) size, and then just its Black Luminance, which results in a higher Contrast Ratio in the dark. The iPad Pro 12.9 is still a very good display, it’s just that the iPad Pro 9.7 is so much better than anything else.
DisplayMate speculates that Apple could adopt several of these improved display technologies on the iPhone 7:
Since Apple likes to expand new technology across its product lines, an educated guess for the upcoming iPhone 7 is that its display could be a small version of the iPad Pro 9.7. Improvements could include adding the new DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut and also adding an Anti-Reflection coating that could lower the screen Reflectance from the current iPhone 4.6 percent down to 1.7 percent (a factor of almost 3 improvement). Both of these would also improve the iPhone screen performance and readability in high ambient light. True Tone could be added if Apple upgrades the Ambient Light sensors so they measure Color in addition to Brightness.
Read the full-length 9.7-inch iPad Pro vs. iPad Air 2 display shootout for detailed analysis and in-depth comparison charts.

Related Roundups: iPad Pro, iPhone 7
Tag: DisplayMate
Buyer's Guide: 12.9" iPad Pro (Caution)


Top Rated Comments

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13 months ago
$100 price increase still unacceptable!
Rating: 29 Votes
13 months ago
"Major upgrade" used to mean something else.
Rating: 19 Votes
13 months ago
Wish both iPad Pro had the exact same features and the only difference would be the size.
Rating: 18 Votes
13 months ago
Maybe "major" but not "$100 major" IMHO. (Yes, YMMV). It's not like the Air 2 screen is horrible or that the difference is even iPad 2 to iPad 3 (retina) noticeable -- which at the time many iPad 2 owners didn't think was worth the cost of admission even though Apple did not increase the MSRP of the 3 over the original 2 MSRP. Apple should strive to produce continually better product. We should expect it, not be surprised by it.
Rating: 17 Votes
13 months ago

Maybe "major" but not "$100 major" IMHO. (Yes, YMMV). It's not like the Air 2 screen is horrible or that the difference is even iPad 2 to iPad 3 (retina) noticeable -- which at the time many iPad 2 owners didn't think was worth the cost of admission even though Apple did not increase the MSRP of the 3 over the original 2 MSRP. Apple should strive to produce continually better product. We should expect it, not be surprised by it.


The Air 2 already had one of the best tablet displays on the market. The Pro, with Pencil support, keyboard support, better speakers, more base storage, the best screen available anywhere, etc. is well worth the minor price bump. If it's not, well then lucky you, Apple dropped the price of the still excellent Air 2!
Rating: 15 Votes
13 months ago
Still no solid reason to upgrade from my Air 2.
Rating: 12 Votes
13 months ago

"Major" to me would be that it can be used in direct sunlight at the beach etc, like a kindle. iPad still fails miserably at that type of usage though.



It also fails miserably as a surfboard and a frisbee. The iPad isn't the kindle.
Rating: 11 Votes
13 months ago
'Major Upgrade' Over iPad Air 2'

For its price, and essentially being launched ~18 months after Air 2, should it really come as a surprise?
Rating: 9 Votes
13 months ago

$100 for A9X SoC and improved graphics, quad-speaker system, Apple Pencil capability, Smart Connector for Apple keyboard, best display in the industry PERIOD, SSD-based memory controller for incredible read/write flash storage performance, 12MP camera with True Tone flash, 5MP front camera with Retina flash display...

And this doesn't justify $100 more???

Get off your high horse.


An alternative way to look at it is going from the iPad Air to the iPad Air 2.
$0 for A8X CPU (triple core - 50% more cores than the iPhone chip), unique GPU with extra cores, much better display (better bonding of the screen to the glass), double the RAM, TouchID and Apple Pay (i.e. secure enclave), improved front and back cameras, 20% thinner and 10% lighter with same battery life, double the storage size (for $599 and $699 options).

The additions to the iPP are good, but not worth $100. It may be that you are happy to pay the extra, which is fine and a personal choice, but for me the additions are not 'worth' the incresaed cost.
Rating: 9 Votes
13 months ago
When I had the Pro, there was really no visible difference between its display and my Air 2.
Rating: 9 Votes

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