iPad Pro For Pilots – Should You Upgrade From iPad Mini 4?

This morning Apple announced several new hardware additions to their lineup and pre-event rumours had suggested one of those would be a brand new Apple iPad Mini.

It wasn’t.

I’ve been flying with an iPad Mini version 4 for a while now, I run AvPlan EFB and a selection of weather and other aviation related apps on there. It’s my go-to planning tool and proved invaluable on my 2-week solo flight around Outback Australia recently. The latest version of the iPad Mini (version 4) was released back in September 2015 and no new version of the Mini has been released since.

So I was a bit disappointed when Apple didn’t announce a version 5 of the iPad Mini, instead focussing on the new lineup of iPad Pros. The iPad Pro looks like a great device in its own right, but how does it stack up for pilots compared to an iPad Mini 4?

Here’s a comparison between the base model iPad Pro and the iPad Mini 4 that a lot of us are currently using:

 iPad ProiPad Mini v4
Screen size11"7.9"
ProcessorA12XA8
Storage64Gb128Gb
ConnectionsUSB-CThunderbolt
3.5mm headphone
Apple Pencil?YesNo
UnlockingFaceIDPasscode
Battery10 hours10 hours
Camera12MP (still)
4K (video)
8MP (still)
1080p (video)
Weight1.03lb
468g
0.67lb
304g

How much does the iPad Pro cost?

There is a fair difference in price between the iPad Mini 4 and the new iPad Pros as you would expect.

 iPad ProiPad Mini v4
WifiUSD$799
AUD$1,229
AUD$449
Wifi + CellUSD$949
AUD$1,449
AUD$767

Will I upgrade to the new iPad Pro?

It’s obviously not fair to compare the iPad Mini 4 to the new iPad Pros as devices in their own right – they’re completely different solutions with very different hardware and over 3yrs development in between them. However the question here is would I upgrade to the iPad Pro and use that as my Electronic Flight Bag device of choice?

Personally, I think not. At least not yet. I prefer the smaller size of the iPad Mini and am hoping that an iPad Mini 5 will be released later in the year. If there is no iPad Mini released in due course and inevitably the iPad Mini 4 starts to slow down and the battery degrades, then at that point I would assess if an iPad Pro is the right solution. But I really would prefer a 7.9″ screen in the cockpit rather than an 11″ one.

What do I want in the new iPad Mini 5?

So if I could choose a shortlist of the ideal specs for the new iPad Mini 5 (assuming Apple are going to release an update to the current model), it would have the following:

  1. 128Gb storage
  2. A10 (acceptable) or A12X (preferably) processor
  3. New liquid retina display
  4. The ability to disable FaceID so you can one-touch ‘swipe’ to unlock
  5. Apple Pencil
  6. 12+ hours battery life

I’m honestly not fussed about the cameras (I use other devices for photography) nor the connections – I can live without a 3.5mm headphone socket for an electronic flight bag device and the USB-C charging can run from a power source in the cockpit just like charging via thunderbolt. The improved battery life would be good when travelling and using the iPad remotely for flight planning and submitting flight plans etc.

But what if you do want to buy the new iPad Pro?

If you are planning to use one of the new iPad Pros in the cockpit, be sure to confirm with your EFB provider that the software will run on the Operating System and Hardware you’re planning to purchase. And of course test test test on the ground before using it in the air for the first time.

Show me this in video form

I made a quick video on the announcement here – this features more shots of the new iPad Pro from the Apple Event:

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1 Comment

  1. I’m looking at using the standard 9.7″ iPad as a compromise because the mini is getting very long in the tooth and don’t want to wait from something (mini update) that may never arrive.

    I’ve read that large format phones are putting a squeeze on iPad Mini sales which why that format has been moribund.

    Thanks for the article and love your VLOGS

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