A Professional in Air’s Clothes

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The iPad Air has had an attention-grabbing historical past. It launched again in 2013 and was improved by the second-gen iPad Air the next 12 months, however then Apple ditched the branding and nothing extra was heard about it till 5 years later, with the launch of the third-gen iPad Air in 2019. Regardless of the multi-year wait, not a lot was new with the iPad Air, however the identical actually can’t be stated of 2020’s iPad Air.

It ditched the old-school search for one thing sleeker and extra angular, and with an upgraded chipset and compatibility with equipment beforehand unique to the iPad Professional, can the iPad Air tempt customers away from the iPad Professional? It actually has the potential, however with a £100/$100 value hike, it’s additionally costlier than ever.

Design and construct

Apple hit the jackpot with the iPad Professional design; the stable aluminium slab that was the 2018 iPad Professional launched a design paying homage to the iPhone 5, ditching the curved corners for one thing altogether extra angular – and customers beloved it. Apple stored up the development with the iPad Professional 2020 vary and launched the brand new look to the iPad Air and the iPhone 12 too, regaining a stage of synchronicity in design amongst most of Apple’s present product providing.

The angular design does take some getting used to, as there’s a change in the way it feels within the hand. It doesn’t match within the grooves of my fingers as comfortably as a curved edge, however the flipside of that’s that I can grip the iPad Air extra simply, and it feels safer in my fingers than its predecessor – even with a bigger show this time round.

Regardless of the iPad Professional-esque design, there may be one key distinction between the mid-range and high-end tablets: color choices. Apple and different tech producers are of the opinion that high-end customers choose muted colors, and that’s mirrored in the usual Silver, House Gray and Rose Gold providing of the iPad Professional vary.

The iPad Air, nevertheless, isn’t a high-end gadget and doesn’t must comply with that very same ideology, and Apple has lent into the enjoyable nature of the iPhone 12 color choices with the newest iPad Air. You’ll discover new Inexperienced and Sky Blue variants alongside the usual Silver, House Gray and Rose Gold choices, with non-obligatory Good Folio covers to match. The tip result’s a enjoyable, modern iPad that’s assured to catch the attention.  

Except for the up to date design, the iPad Air introduces a complete new means to make use of Contact ID – a primary for any Apple product, in actual fact. You see, Apple couldn’t ditch the Residence button and combine Face ID as a result of it’d cannibalise the iPad Professional 11, so it determined to maintain Contact ID and embed it into the side-mounted energy button. It’s actually not a brand new idea – Android producers have been doing this for years – but it surely’s a primary for Apple.

It really works in addition to you’d count on a Contact ID scanner to work, unlocking the pill nearly immediately after resting a finger on the facility button, however the issue is that it’s not at all times simple to seek out. The brand new symmetrical design of the iPad Air means it might probably primarily be utilized in any orientation, and that signifies that the facility button can both be within the high proper or backside left.

The pill does point out the place the scanner is on-screen to assist alleviate the problem, however in contrast to with older iPads with front-facing Residence buttons, it’s most likely not one thing that’ll turn into muscle reminiscence for many. It’s arguably higher positioned on the iPhone 12 as an alternative choice to Face ID, particularly contemplating that facemasks render Apple’s facial recognition tech ineffective, but it surely’s a characteristic unique to the iPad Air – for now, anyway.

The show is technically 0.1in smaller than the iPad Professional at 10.9in, but it surely measures in on the identical measurement. Actually, iPad Professional 11 circumstances match the iPad Air completely – so the place has the 0.1in gone? The reply is easy; within the bezels.

Although it options the identical full-screen design because the iPad Professional, the bezels of the iPad Air are barely chunkier than its Professional companion. I’d argue that it doesn’t actually have a damaging affect on the general look, because it’s nonetheless a a lot better display to physique ratio than the earlier iPad Air and its Residence button, and the 9.5mm-thick bezels imply mispresses are virtually non-existent too.

Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil assist

The truth that the iPad Air sports activities the identical dimensions because the iPad Professional 11, and the inclusion of Good Connectors, imply you can benefit from the Magic Keyboard launched alongside the iPad Professional earlier this 12 months. It won’t sound prefer it, however that’s an enormous deal. I feel the Magic Keyboard is one among Apple’s star merchandise of 2020, primarily turning the iPad right into a fully-fledged laptop computer substitute full with a trackpad and extra USB-C port for charging.

The iPad snaps into place and, utilising a cantilever design and built-in magnets to safe the pill, seems prefer it floats above the keyboard. The keys are based mostly on these of the newest MacBook Professional vary, and though they aren’t an identical, it’s nonetheless an unlimited enchancment on the butterfly keyboard discovered on older Mac laptops. Every keypress is stable, wobble-free and supplies a satisfying click on suggestions that feels nice underneath the finger, permitting for lightning-fast typing merely not doable on the inferior Keyboard Folio out there for the entry-level iPad 10.2in.

That’s coupled with a trackpad which fully transforms the iPad expertise. The cursor, a round icon, can shape-shift and snap onto buttons and different tappable objects in apps, making iPadOS extra mouse-friendly with out builders having to fully redesign apps. You may drag and drop, copy and paste, choose textual content and pictures and absolutely anything else you’d need to do with a trackpad on a conventional laptop computer. Pair that with the split-screen performance out there in iPadOS 14 and also you’ve acquired a comparatively low cost laptop computer substitute.

And, just like the iPad Professional, the iPad Air lastly affords assist for the up to date second-gen Apple Pencil, full with the flexibility to mount it onto the facet of the pill when not in use. It’s an all-round enchancment on the first-gen Pencil, bringing one other beforehand Professional characteristic to the mid-range.  


Regardless of being near-identical to the iPad Professional 11 by way of design, measurement and facet ratio, it’s the show of the iPad Air the place the variations between it and Apple’s Professional vary are most obvious. Certain, you’ll discover the identical decision (2360 x 1640) and pixel density (264ppi) because the iPad Professional, but it surely’s lacking Apple’s ProMotion refresh charge expertise, enabling a 120Hz refresh charge when required.

The result’s that apps and video games aren’t fairly as buttery-smooth as they’re on an iPad Professional, however that’s to not say there’s a poor viewing expertise on provide from the iPad Air. Except for the dearth of a excessive refresh charge, one thing typically unique to the iPad Professional within the general pill market, you’re getting a vivid, detailed and lovely HDR10-enabled show good for watching all that Dolby Imaginative and prescient video you’ll be taking pictures in your iPhone 12.

That’s backed up by our Datacolor SpyderX show benchmarks, with the iPad Air scoring a good 95% sRGB protection and a peak brightness of 512 cd/m2.

It’s not the perfect it could possibly be although; regardless of the nice efficiency from the show, it’s nonetheless an IPS LCD and never the superior OLED or AMOLED. Which means blacks aren’t fairly as inky as these on the iPhone 12 or Galaxy Tab S7+, however that stated, it’ll nonetheless be greater than sufficient for most individuals desirous to stream Netflix within the bathtub or play big-screen video games on the each day commute. This iPad isn’t designed for artistic Professionals, in any case!

Options and efficiency

On the coronary heart of the iPad Air you’ll discover Apple’s newest and best A14 Bionic chipset, the identical chipset featured within the iPhone 12 vary. Regardless of the bounce in numbers, it’s not fairly as highly effective because the A12X within the iPad Professional vary, with two fewer CPU cores and one fewer GPU core, however that doesn’t imply the iPad Air isn’t a beast. It’s the identical chipset as Apple’s newest flagship smartphone, in any case, so you must count on the identical stage of flagship efficiency.

That largely displays my expertise with the iPad Air over the previous few weeks. The A14 Bionic is a succesful little bit of equipment, capable of deal with split-screen multitasking, AAA gaming and even photograph enhancing with out even a touch of stutter, making it a flexible pill suited to a wide range of makes use of. It’s not fairly as highly effective because the iPad Professional vary, it’s true, but it surely’s actually sufficient energy for the overwhelming majority of customers – particularly when in comparison with the Android competitors – and that’s backed up by our benchmark outcomes.

It’s price stating that the 2019 iPad Air featured the A12 Bionic, a chipset that was already a 12 months previous by the point it was launched, so a two-year bounce in processor tech may assist clarify why the worth of the iPad Air has gone up this 12 months. You’re getting flagship-level efficiency this time round, and with different iPad Professional-esque options on provide, it’s not exhausting to see why Apple noticed match so as to add a further £100/$100 to the iPad Air price ticket.

Alongside the A14 Bionic, you’ll get both 64- or 256GB of storage to play with. As with just about each Apple product up till this level, there’s no solution to develop the storage, so that you’ll must determine simply what number of apps, photographs and movies you’ll need to retailer in your new pill before you purchase it. I personally really feel that 64GB continues to be sufficient for most individuals, however with many of the competitors providing 128GB on the entry-level, it’s a little disappointing to see Apple persist with its 64GB weapons.

You’ll additionally discover non-obligatory mobile connectivity, however in contrast to the iPhone 12 vary, there’s no 5G assist. It’s not too shocking although – Apple will doubtless add the upgraded connectivity tech to the flagship iPad Professional vary earlier than making it out there on the iPad Air and, ultimately, the entry-level iPad. Moreover, 5G tech is pricey, it’s not broadly out there and it’d simply make the mobile possibility much more costly, so it’s not as huge a draw back as some could lead you to consider.

In the case of battery life, Apple likes to maintain issues uniform throughout the iPad vary. Just like the iPad Professional and entry-level iPad, the iPad Air has a quoted 10-hour battery life and, for probably the most half, I discovered that to be on the cash. The iPad Air managed a good 9 hours and seven minutes throughout our battery benchmark, simply behind the iPad Air (2019) and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, however what does that imply in actual life? Primarily, the iPad Air comfortably lasts a day on a single cost, and with extra sporadic use, I’ve managed to squeeze a few days out of the iPad earlier than needing a top-up by way of USB-C.

The excellent news is that in contrast to most Apple merchandise being bought proper now, the iPad Air does include a USB-C charging brick – a fast-charging 20W brick, in actual fact, which equipped 26% of cost in 30 minutes throughout testing. It’s not precisely ground-breaking, but it surely’ll actually minimise the period of time spent tethered to the wall.

Digital camera

In the case of tablets, cameras aren’t the principle precedence for many. Certain, you’ll get the occasional individual wandering round with an iPad taking photographs, however these are far and few between. That being stated, the one rear 12Mp f/1.Eight snapper of the iPad Air is respectable: you’ll get detailed pictures in well-lit circumstances and video high quality is ok too, however the pictures can look delicate in tougher lighting circumstances.

The identical applies to the front-facing 7Mp f/2.2 digital camera. It’s nice sufficient for the occasional selfie and video chatting on FaceTime, however you gained’t discover the extra superior options like Portrait Mode, Night time Mode or the flexibility to change between wider and tighter angles like you’ll be able to on an iPhone 12.

It’ll suffice when you should take a snap with out your cellphone useful, however you gained’t be ditching the iPhone 12 for the iPad relating to images. And you understand what? That’s high quality.

Software program

The iPad Air ships with iPadOS 14, Apple’s newest model of its tablet-optimised working system, and easily put, it’s probably the most succesful and well-polished pill software program out there proper now.

It affords an enormous library of apps and video games optimised for the iPad – in contrast to many scaled-up cellular apps out there on Android tablets – and the mix of split-screen multitasking and the flexibility to pull and drop between apps signifies that it may be used for far more than simply scrolling by Twitter or replying to emails. It’s a succesful, versatile little bit of equipment that may deal with absolutely anything you want – you simply have to pay for the apps, which may typically be expensive on the App Retailer.

There’s additionally the mixing with the Apple ecosystem, permitting you to answer to texts and take calls out of your iPhone in your iPad, rapidly change audio enter utilizing AirPods just by unlocking the gadget you need to use and way more.  

Worth and availability

There’s one draw back to the iPad Air that we’ve alluded to already, and that’s that it’s costlier this time round. We’re not speaking a few small improve both, with this 12 months’s iPad Air seeing a £100/$100 bounce in value, beginning at £579/$599 and surpassing the entry-level iPad Professional 11 if you happen to go for the costlier variant. Right here’s how a lot the brand new iPad Air prices:

iPad Air (64GB, Wi-Fi): £579/$599
iPad Air (256GB, Wi-Fi): £729/$749
iPad Air (64GB, Wi-Fi & Mobile): £709/$729
iPad Air (256GB, Wi-Fi & Mobile): £859/$879

It could possibly be argued that the mix of an upgraded design with extra performance, an even bigger show and inclusion of the flagship A14 Bionic may justify the elevated value, but it surely’ll very a lot rely in your private wants and what you’ll be getting out of the pill. It’s £250/$270 greater than the entry-level iPad, however you do get a a lot nicer pill expertise. It’s actually higher than most different tablets out there proper now, providing plenty of the performance of the iPad Professional at a less expensive value level.

When you’re tempted, you’ll be able to decide up the iPad Air from Apple alongside third-party retailers like Amazon and John Lewis within the UK, and Greatest Purchase within the US. And, if you happen to’re curious as to how the iPad Air compares to the competitors, check out our choice of the perfect tablets proper now.


The iPad Air 2020 is a big glow up for Apple’s mid-range pill, ditching the ageing design for one thing extra industrial and fashionable. The brand new design brings it into line with the iPad Professional vary, and with a near-identical full-screen show and dimensions to the iPad Professional 11, it may be exhausting to inform the 2 aside.

After all, it might probably’t fairly compete with the 120Hz ProMotion show tech or Face ID on provide from the Professional pill vary, however if you happen to can reside with out these options, the iPad Air is all of the Professional most individuals actually need.

You get the nice design, Contact ID, vivid color choices, a stunning high-resolution full-screen show – albeit with barely bigger bezels – and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil, equipment beforehand unique to Apple’s high-end pill. The A14 Bionic, the identical chipset discovered within the iPhone 12 vary, is a beast that may deal with absolutely anything you throw at it with ease, and though it’s not fairly as highly effective because the iPad Professional vary, it’s greater than sufficient for the common joe.

The hike in value could be a exhausting tablet to swallow, however if you happen to can justify the additional spend, you’re primarily getting an iPad Professional in an iPad Air’s clothes.

Apple iPad Air (2020): Specs

10.9in Liquid Retina show, 2360 x 1640 decision, 264ppi, True Tone, Extensive Color, Totally Laminated
A14 Bionic processor, 64GB/128GB storage, 12MP Extensive digital camera, f/1.8, SmartHDR, Extensive color, 4K video at 60fps, Slo-mo 1080p at 240fps, Steady autofocus, Cinematic video stabilisation
7MP FaceTime HD, 1080p video recording, Good HDR for photographs and video
WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5
GPS, Gigabit LTE, USB-C connector
Contact ID
Apple Pencil 2nd Technology assist
Apple Magic Keyboard appropriate
247.6mm x 178.5mm x 6.1mm
458g (460g for mobile)
out there in Silver, House Gray, Rose Gold, Inexperienced, Sky Blue

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