This is a tricky device to rate and review, mainly due to Apple's categorizing it as a Pro device. As such, it's a bit underwhelming in a few ways. As an "iPad Air 3", however, it's outstanding right out of the box.
True Tone Display, A9X chip, Pencil support, improved cameras (front and back), four auto-adjusting stereo speakers - all of those are remarkable... and likely upgrades many would have expected from Apple had they simply announced an iPad Air 3. Instead, they repackage their 9.7" offering as a smaller version of the iPad Pro, and touted it during the Keynote (and on their site) as "...the ultimate upgrade for ANY iPad owner"... and priced it as such. It's here that I have a bit of a problem.
I may be a bit unique here, in that I upgraded from the still-fast iPad Air 2 and not a much older model. I also have a 12.9" iPad Pro, and I can accurately state that the speed/performance boost does not warrant the "Pro" moniker for the smaller iPad. In day-to-day usage, I'm seeing maybe a second or so speed increases. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's blazing fast, but so was the Air 2. It even shares the same 2GB of RAM that the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 have, half of what the larger Pro contains. Apple's mastery of software optimization aside, this is troubling, especially when you consider that just last year the key feature of "iPad multitasking" was reserved for "Apple's most powerful tablet" - i.e. the iPad Air 2, which had the most RAM of any iOS device at the time. With iOS 10 on the horizon, potential new features that may be hardware-intensive might only be available for the 12.9" Pro, which would be a hard pill to swallow for owners of Apple's NEWEST "Pro" device. If that turns out to not be the case, then it's irritating for another reason: the "lowly" iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 can perform those same tasks - all for HUNDREDS of dollars less. RAM requires battery, heat dissipation, etc. - I get that. Perhaps just two speakers (top and bottom in portrait view, which would still have been an improvement over the Air 2's one loud speaker) instead of four would have been a better move. That would allow for more battery space, and perhaps a happy medium of 3GB of RAM.
The use of the "Pro" moniker here (iOS limitations themselves aside) stems entirely from the optional accessories - the Pencil and Smart Keyboard. With the larger Pro, even without the Pencil (which you REALLY DO want/need) or the Keyboard, it still lives up to its Pro name more accurately, if only by sheer screen real estate. This makes multitasking rather natural and infinitely more pleasant. In landscape, it's essentially two 9.7" iPad devices in portrait mode, side by side.
Apple also chose to not include their newer 2nd Gen Touch ID sensor, showcased in the newest iPhones, as well as opting for a USB 2 Lightning port (12.9" iPad Pro has the much faster USB 3 port). It's little things like this that make you scratch your head and go "Why, Apple?? Were you afraid we'd think it was TOO perfect?" Apple does this quite a bit, actually... it's infuriating.
It may sound like I don't like this 9.7" version, which couldn't be further from the truth. Apple has produced a powerhouse of a tablet in a familiar form factor with an absolutely beautiful screen (superior to the larger Pro's offering in several critical ways), much improved sound (not as full as the 12.9", but worlds better than any previous iPad), and drastically improved cameras. The latter may be laughed at or under-appreciated, but there are times when taking pictures with an iPad is extremely convenient: you're somewhere reading or doing something in an app, and a photo op presents itself. Instead of closing or putting down your iPad and locating/fumbling with your iPhone (particularly the 6s/6s Plus and their ridiculously-fast Touch ID that renders the lockscreen camera nearly inaccessible), you now have access to the same 12MP/4k iSight camera on your iPad. Scanning documents is another useful strength here. A TrueTone flash... why not? The improved 5MP front-facing FaceTime camera is a godsend; I'm not a selfie guy, but my wife and I FaceTime often, particularly when we're deployed. Clearer video is always a good thing. At 6.1mm thin - thinner than the iPhone - it obviously sports the much-complained-about protruding camera lens on the back. I don't have a problem with it, personally, and it doesn't cause any wobbling if you're typing on a flat surface (lens cover is sapphire, so no need to worry about scratching). Then again, I don't mind the bump on the iPhone either, so if you're one that hates that, it's something to consider. Most cases will alleviate this "problem".
Aside from the camera bump and speaker grilles, the only other external difference you'll be able to spot lies on the side: the Smart Connector, which allows for direct connectivity of certain accessories. Apple's own Smart Keyboard (9.7") is awesome, and though a bit more cramped than the larger version, it's still an outstanding typing experience with snap-n-play simplicity and good looks.
This iPad also supports the Pencil, which is wonderful. For some reason, the latency seems the tiniest smidge behind that of the larger iPad Pro, but it's still far and away the best stylus/writing input I've ever used (and I've used most).
Pricing... look, I'm usually the first to defend Apple and their pricing. Not only as a reflection of their quality - they do produce some of the best products - but the fact that people KNOW Apple, and they KNOW about Apple's prices. No need to go complaining about it... pay to play, or don't. Having said that, for what you're getting with this tablet out of the box, the $100 markup from the previous 9.7" model (and all of the ones prior) is simply unjustified. It is a BEAST of an iPad Air, but you don't get really any "Pro" unless you spend another $250 on the Pencil and Keyboard (and that's not even getting into the ridiculous price markup they did with the covers/cases). Although I feel the larger Pro offers a bit more "Pro" by virtue of its screen for productivity multitasking and creative professionals, it too is overpriced - almost ridiculously so, and likely in such a way to provide a justified cushion for this 9.7" version's pricing.
TrueTone Display, with wide color gamut and extra-low reflectivity coating
Bright Screen (considerably brighter than the 12.9" version)
Intelligent stereo speakers x4
Improved iSight (12MP) and FaceTime (5MP) cameras, w/TrueTone and Retina Flash
A9X chip offers outstanding power
Awesome, compact Smart Keyboard support
256GB storage option
Traditional "very good" iPad battery life (10+ hours of continuous video)
Screen size doesn't lend itself to "Pro" moniker
Price - you're effectively paying more for the ability to use expensive accessories (sold separately)
2GB RAM, same as iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 (12.9" iPad Pro has 4GB)
A9X chip clocked lower than the 12.9" version, affecting processing and graphics power
First-gen Touch ID
USB 2 lightning port (USB 3 for 12.9" version, significantly faster charging option available)
As a "Pro" device, it's a bit short on features, and you need to spend quite a bit more to squeeze out the few features that are there. PC (personal computer) replacement? For MILLIONS of people... yes, but then, so were previous iPads. Scoff if you must, but it's the truth. As an all-around iPad, it's by far the best they've ever made. The sticky part is that most, if not all, of the the additions are what you'd expect from a typical Apple upgrade, and those have historically been kept at a particular price - starting at $499. If Apple had managed to keep the pricing the same, or offer compelling, must-have, on-device features, it would be a no-brainer. Shame... it really is the best tablet available, and the best iPad ever. The pricing and occasional "...but it's already available on the older version!!" feature omission knocks down (a bit) what would be an easy perfect score, 5-star product.