Apple iPad Air (2020) evaluate: The pill for everybody

Patrick

Apple’s “Air” branding has morphed over time. As a substitute of representing the thinnest and lightest attainable model of Apple’s product line, the Air moniker is now a extra nebulous time period — used as each an affix and suffix — throughout quite a lot of units, from laptops, to earbuds, and, in fact, Apple’s legendary pill collection, the iPad.

The iPad Air is now in its fourth era and, not less than right here, the Air model has held agency to its unique which means. Not counting the diminutive iPad Mini, the iPad Air (2020) is the thinnest and lightest iPad you should buy. Nevertheless, the iPad Air additionally serves one other essential objective: to bridge the hole between the ultra-premium iPad Professional and the usual iPad.

Does the newest iPad Air strike the correct steadiness of worth, specs, and options to compete with the easiest tablets you should buy? Discover out in Android Authority’s iPad Air (2020) evaluate.

About this iPad Air (2020) evaluate: I used the iPad Air for 12 days operating software program model iPadOS 14.5.1. It was upgraded to iPadOS 14.6 through the testing interval. The iPad Air (2020) unit was bought by Android Authority for this evaluate.

What you’ll want to know concerning the iPad Air (2020)

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi solely, 64GB): $599/£579/€649
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi solely, 256GB): $749/£729/€819
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Mobile, 64GB): $729/£709/€789
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Mobile, 256GB): $879/£859/€959

The iPad Air (2020) launched on September 15, 2020, a full 12 months and a half after the earlier mannequin. Apple started promoting the pill ranging from October 23 through its personal retailer and main third-party retailers within the US, throughout Europe, and in quite a lot of different markets.

This newest iteration of the iPad Air is the least iterative thus far, that includes an all-new design influenced by its extra premium sibling, the iPad Professional. However, the fourth-generation iPad Air retains its predecessor’s litheness. Each measure in at simply 6.1mm thick. Different notable adjustments embrace an anticipated processor improve, a bigger show with thinner bezels, and a USB-C port which replaces the outgoing, much-maligned Lightning port.

See additionally: The perfect iPad offers

These adjustments additionally got here with a rise in worth. Within the US, the bottom “iPad Air 4” is priced at $599 in comparison with the earlier mannequin’s entry value of $499. This $100 premium additionally applies to fashions with extra storage and the mobile variants. Nevertheless, the usual iPad Air remains to be $200 cheaper than the entry-level iPad Professional and a whopping $500 cheaper than the 12.9-inch iPad Professional mannequin with all of the fanciest show tech.

The iPad Air is available in House Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Inexperienced, and Sky Blue. Additionally it is suitable with a wider array of non-compulsory (and costly) equipment than another iPad Air mannequin, together with the Magic Keyboard and the second-generation Apple Pencil. As a result of new design of the pill and the introduction of USB-C, earlier circumstances and the unique Apple Pencil are usually not suitable with the brand new iPad Air. That’s how Apple will get you!

How is the brand new design?

apple ipad air 2020 review smart connector usb c

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

That is maybe an odd factor to say a couple of 10.9-inch pill, however the iPad Air feels lots like an iPad Professional Mini. Not a lot by way of stature; it’s nonetheless a sizeable slate and it’s really a fraction thicker than the 11-inch iPad Professional. However the acquainted, nearly brutalist design of the refreshed iPad Professional collection has transitioned so effortlessly into the Air’s design blueprint that it comes off as its child sibling.

Like with each iPad Air thus far, this mannequin effortlessly balances the need for display actual property with portability and it does so efficiently. The bezels aren’t gone, however they’ve been decreased to the purpose the place there’s simply sufficient room to grip the pill in any orientation.

Because of the brand new colorways, that is the funkiest iPad thus far.

The newly adopted flatter design marks the largest change for the iPad Air’s ergonomics since its inception. The squared-off edges, curved corners, and flush entrance and rear — glass and recycled aluminum, respectively — mesh nicely with the design language of Apple’s wider ecosystem and, extra importantly, lend a extra premium look to the Air line. The exact weight distribution additionally means it by no means feels too mild or delicate within the hand.

Regardless of its harsher look, the iPad Air is among the funkiest iPads thus far because of the array of colorways on provide. We opted for the good-looking Rose Gold model, which makes its iPad Air debut alongside pastel-like Inexperienced and Sky Blue finishes.

One casualty of the thinner bezels on the iPad Air is the normal round residence/Contact ID button. As a substitute, the fingerprint reader has been relocated to the facility button on the highest fringe of the pill. It’s rather less constant and the unlocking operate requires you to push down on the button and never simply relaxation your finger on it. In the meantime, holding on for too lengthy summons Siri. It’s all a bit awkward, but it surely’s fast when it registers your inputs accurately. For now, Face ID stays an iPad Professional-only characteristic on Apple’s tablets.

apple ipad air 2020 review display

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

One other characteristic that doesn’t transition down from the iPad Professional is the adaptive ProMotion show tech. As a substitute, the iPad Air sports activities an everyday ol’ static 60Hz panel. Whilst you’ll solely actually know the distinction should you’ve obtained a quicker refresh fee show available, that is nonetheless a notable compromise, particularly when the equally priced Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 can push to 120Hz.

In any other case, the ten.9-inch Liquid Retina display is a stunner. Colours are vivid, the decision is lots excessive sufficient for a pill, and the anti-reflective coating helps with glare. Nevertheless, this isn’t the brightest panel round and it struggles in shiny circumstances. That is solely actually an issue if you wish to work exterior on a sunny day with a keyboard case hooked up; indoors it’s completely satisfactory.

In very Apple vogue, the glass protecting the display is barely described in free phrases. The Cupertino firm says it’s scratch-resistant and oleophobic, with the latter designed to guard in opposition to smudgy fingerprints. I didn’t discover any scratches showing in my time with it, however there have been plentiful fingerprint smudges.

apple ipad air 2020 review pencil

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Lastly, we have now to speak about equipment. The iPad Air (2020) brings an entire new armada of devices to play with, supplied you’re completely happy to stump up some hefty extra premiums.

The obvious is the Apple Pencil 2 ($119), which expenses magnetically when pinned in opposition to the correct fringe of the iPad Air. The Air additionally has a Sensible Connector on the rear which permits use with Apple’s princely Magic Keyboard ($279), similar to the iPad Professional. Alternatively, there’s the Sensible Keyboard Folio case ($179). They’re all costly, however the choice of closely augmenting your iPad Air is there should you’re prepared to spend the money.

Learn extra: The perfect equipment you will get for the iPad

The most important addition is completely free, although, and it’s perhaps the least thrilling factor you can put in a gross sales pitch: the USB-C port. The change from the proprietary Lightning port to the common USB-C customary opens a non-Professional iPad to a world of exterior units for the primary time. Wish to switch recordsdata straight from a conveyable HDD? Now you possibly can. Whereas it doesn’t provide the extra layer of Thunderbolt connectivity discovered on the newest iPad Professional collection, even the usual USB-C port discovered here’s a long-overdue improve for Apple’s tablets.

There was a sufferer within the transition, although. There’s no headphone jack on the fourth-generation iPad Air. I suppose you possibly can’t win all of them.

What’s it like to make use of the iPad Air (2020)?

apple ipad air 2020 review front 2

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The iPad Air runs like a dream. It’s no M1 chip, however the A14 Bionic is not any slouch. Animations aren’t as fluid because of the lack of ProMotion show tech, however the precise transition speeds between apps and processes are fast.

Alongside Apple’s customized silicon there’s 4GB of RAM (one thing Apple doesn’t formally disclose), which is lots for fundamental multitasking, although you’ll begin to see apps drop out of reminiscence should you push it too onerous for too lengthy. Likewise, the GPU isn’t as highly effective as even the 2020 iPad Professional. What meaning in follow is that the iPad Air is completely able to operating pro-grade apps like Procreate and LumaFusion, however it would start to really feel the pressure should you begin introducing huge file sizes and a number of workflows directly.

Additionally learn: Which iPhone is best for you?

As nice as all that’s, the bottom storage state of affairs is inexcusable. No cellular gadget at this worth ought to include non-expandable 64GB inner storage, particularly when simply over 10GB of it’s taken up by needed system recordsdata. This ridiculous state of affairs is compounded by the sharp bounce in worth for the 256GB max storage variant. Why is there no 128GB mannequin?

The completely app-centric expertise of utilizing a pill means the ~54GB of storage the bottom mannequin is left with after updates will quickly replenish — extra so if you wish to seize video games from the App Retailer. It’s workable, particularly for people who solely need to use the pill for streaming films, shopping the net, and taking part in the odd recreation. Nevertheless, for anybody juggling a number of demanding customers or operating inventive apps, you’ll need to be prepared to sometimes delete some apps to make room for brand new ones and/or commonly plug in an exterior drive (although it’ll need to be APFS-encrypted) for recordsdata. iCloud is there as a possible backup too, which is infinitely extra helpful these days because of iPadOS’ Recordsdata app as you possibly can entry the iCloud Drive’s contents with just a few faucets. Plus, you possibly can simply change to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or different supported third-party suppliers.

How good is the iPad Air (2020)’s battery life?

Should you’ve ever used an iPad earlier than you’ll know what to anticipate right here: round a day’s medium-to-heavy use. Extra particularly, that interprets to about 10 hours of internet browsing on a single cost based on Apple.

In actuality, your expertise with battery life on the iPad Air (2020) will rely in your utilization patterns. Should you’re solely utilizing it casually as a media streaming gadget or for infrequent note-taking, the iPad Air (2020) can fairly simply see out two days. Conversely, should you begin utilizing it extensively for gaming, utilizing pro-level apps, or hooking it as much as a keyboard for work, you’ll must cost it up every night. It doesn’t matter what, although, the iPad Air (2020) is a full-day pill.

It’s value noting that I examined the Wi-Fi mannequin. Count on a small hit to battery life should you’re operating the pill on LTE networks. As for charging, the iPad Air (2020) goes from zero to 100% in round two and a half hours — not the quickest, however a tolerable wait time for a sub-premium pill.

What’s iPadOS like on the iPad Air (2020)?

apple ipad air 2020 review files

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Let’s speak iPadOS. Launched because the second iteration of iPadOS in late 2020, iPadOS 14 moved the platform additional away from its roots in cellular and extra in the direction of a center floor between Apple’s iOS and macOS. The iPad Air (2020) is ready to be up to date to iPadOS 15 later this 12 months, however till then, it’s model 14 that runs out of the field.

Of the core additions, Recordsdata pairs properly with USB-C help, and you may lastly set a distinct default browser (and e mail app) as a substitute of Safari. Siri is a little bit smarter than earlier than (however nonetheless not on the identical degree as Google Assistant), and the common search operate has been refined. Total, it’s a modest however essential step for iPadOS.

Additionally learn: Chromebook vs iPad — which is greatest for you?

iPadOS 14 is much from excellent, although. Regardless of being so fondly acquired on iOS, the lengthy, lengthy overdue addition of widgets is a profound disappointment right here. Quite than making use of all the additional display actual property, the entire widgets are constrained to a pull-out menu that replaces the In the present day View of outdated. Whereas iPadOS 15 will repair the state of affairs later this 12 months with desktop-style widget management (and an App Library like iOS), it’s baffling it wasn’t there from launch.

Fortunately, the broader app expertise is a good as ever. The App Retailer is rigorously curated to focus on the litany of iPad-optimized apps accessible and cellular players get the easiest the business can provide with the intensive Apple Arcade library (for a $4.99 month-to-month charge).

apple ipad air 2020 review control center

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Whereas apps are nonetheless a boon for Apple’s pill line, there are many pro-grade apps that professionals don’t get entry to — most notably first-party Apple functions you’d discover on macOS like Ultimate Reduce Professional, Logic Professional, and Xcode. These omissions are extra of a difficulty for the iPad Professional (particularly the souped-up M1 variant), but it surely’s a disgrace that would-be iPad Air energy customers additionally miss out.

Finally, the iPad expertise remains to be locked down in a method which will alienate Android and Home windows traditionalists. If it’s not within the App Retailer, you possibly can’t use it. Nevertheless, there’s security and safety within the walled backyard, to not point out long-term software program help that may outlive any Android pill.

iPadOS remains to be maturing, however Apple’s App Retailer accommodates a wealth of well-optimized apps and video games.

There’s additionally the ecosystem issue. The iPad Air not solely has entry to equipment just like the Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard — two issues that elevate it past the vanilla iPad’s performance — however there are additionally cross-software options like Handoff, AirPlay, AirDrop, Common Clipboard, and Sidecar. The latter is very nice on a display this measurement should you’re operating out of desk area for a second monitor.

It needs to be famous that for these coming from older iPads, there’s a little bit of adjustment wanted for the navigation gestures made needed by the brand new iPad Air’s lacking residence button. That stated, anybody with a not too long ago launched smartphone will really feel proper at residence because the de facto swipe instructions discovered on iOS and Android apply right here.

The rest?

apple ipad air 2020 review camera touch id

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Entrance digicam: The 7MP front-facing digicam is completely appropriate for the occasional selfie and may seize video at as much as 1080p at 60fps. Sadly, the position (inside the aspect bezel when positioned horizontally) means it’ll seem like you’re staring off into the space on essential convention calls.

Rear digicam: If you’d like a pill with an excellent rear digicam, the iPad Air (2020) isn’t it. That stated, the 12MP, f/1.8 lens is serviceable in good lighting. You additionally don’t get LiDAR for augmented actuality enjoyable — that’s an iPad Professional-only characteristic. It does help 4K video at 60fps, although, up from 1080p on the final era.

Connectivity: No 5G, however the iPad Air (2020) does help Wi-Fi 6. The shortage of 5G shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for anybody, but it surely does imply the mobile model isn’t fairly as futureproofed because it may very well be.

Audio: Whereas it has 4 grilles, the iPad Air (2020) solely has two audio system for stereo audio. The sound is evident and will get lots loud, but it surely lacks depth at greater volumes.

iPad Air (2020) specs

Apple iPad Air (2020)
Show

Apple iPad Air (2020):

10.9-inch Liquid Retina LCD
2,360 x 1,640 pixels
264ppi
500nits

Processor

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Apple A14 Bionic

RAM

Apple iPad Air (2020):

4GB

Storage

Apple iPad Air (2020):

64GB
256GB

Digital camera

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Important:
12MP digicam
ƒ/1.8 aperture
Entrance:
7MP
ƒ/2.0 aperture

Battery

Apple iPad Air (2020):

28.9Wh
Rated for 10 hours

Headphone jack

Apple iPad Air (2020):

No

Dimensions

Apple iPad Air (2020):

247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm

Weight

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Wi-Fi: 458g
LTE: 460g

Ports

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Sensible Connector
USB-C

Colours

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Silver, House Grey, Rose Gold, Inexperienced, Sky Blue

Worth and competitors

ipad air 4th gen

Apple iPad Air

The Apple iPad Air (2020) strikes an excellent steadiness between worth and options with a refreshed, premium design, vibrant show, loads of accent choices, and fast efficiency.

The pill market is in a bleak spot in the case of choices. That leaves the iPad Air in an especially tight spot on the prime of the meals chain inside the sub-premium section. Nevertheless, there are options to contemplate.

The iPad Air’s strongest competitor is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 (the Tab S7 Plus goals a little bit greater), which has an MSRP of $579. With the bottom Tab S7, you’re getting probably the greatest Android tablets ever made, and one which scores some punches in opposition to Apple’s illustrious slate. The most important examples are the bundled S Pen (no $119 premium right here), fashions with 5G help, a 120Hz refresh fee show, and even longer battery life. The front-facing digicam is even in the correct place!

Associated: The perfect Android tablets | The perfect low cost Android tablets

What you don’t get with the Galaxy Tab S7 is a mature app ecosystem. Google’s efforts to nurture Android as a platform for bigger screens have been woeful over time, resulting in a library of apps which might be usually under-optimized and even outright unusable. Likewise, whereas Samsung has promised three years of software program upgrades, that’ll pale compared to the long-term help you’ll get with the iPad Air. Living proof, the seven-year-old iPad Air 2 is upgradable to the newest model of iPadOS.

Another choice is the Microsoft Floor Go 2 — a diminutive tablet-laptop hybrid that’s solely actually value contemplating should you completely want Home windows in your life. In typical Floor vogue, it’s a well-designed piece of {hardware} — with a kickstand in addition — however even the highest mannequin has a woefully underpowered chipset, which means something however fundamental duties (suppose: shopping and phrase processing) are a no-go. Plus the non-compulsory Kind Cowl keyboard is a necessity, which provides to the $629 price ticket for the higher Core M3 model.

apple ipad air 2020 review vs ipad pro 2021

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

In any other case, Apple’s ecosystem presents its personal rivals. The hardest competitors comes from the large daddy of the iPad household: the iPad Professional. Are the upgrades well worth the worth hike to the $799 11-inch model, and even the super-sized 12.9-inch mannequin for an eye-watering base worth of $1,099?

Nicely, should you’ve skilled that 120Hz refresh fee, it’s onerous to return to 60Hz. Likewise, the M1 chip has the potential to be a game-changer if future variations of iPadOS start to push into MacBook territory with help for extra processor-intensive apps.

The iPad Air sits in a snug place between the usual iPad and the Professional.

Should you’re already satisfied that you just’ll be shopping for the total iPad accent equipment with the Magic Keyboard, Pencil 2, and extra, I’d counsel you go for the Professional. At that time, you’re already dedicated to changing into an iPad energy person and sure have the money to burn. That is much more of a no brainer if you would like extra storage than 64GB. At $749 for the 256GB model, there’s completely no world wherein you shouldn’t as a substitute go for the $799 11-inch iPad Professional with the M1 chip and 128GB storage, and double the RAM. That additional $50 is nicely value spending.

On the flip aspect, should you don’t have that form of funds, you is perhaps contemplating the iPad Air vs the usual iPad (or iPad Mini). If you realize you solely need an iPad for streaming some films and dipping into Apple Arcade, the common iPad is completely value it for $329. Nevertheless, for these in search of extra flexibility and sophistication, the refined design, USB-C help, and accent compatibility of the iPad Air may show to be a sensible funding should you suppose you can begin to see your iPad as one thing past a media slate sooner or later.

iPad Air (2020) evaluate: The decision

apple logo ipad air 2020 review

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

As soon as envisioned because the leaner product line, the Air household has since sought to straddle the skinny line between Professional and fundamental Apple units. The iPad Air (2020) arguably does this higher than any Air-branded gadget thus far.

That is the all-purpose iPad — a pill that’s able to have enjoyable (simply take a look at these colours), however will be severe when it must be. There are compromises right here for these casting a side-eye on the Professional vary, but it surely’s solely the paltry base storage that actually stings. Hopefully, the fifth-generation iPad Air fixes this legacy problem. A better refresh fee additionally wouldn’t go amiss.

That is the iPad that anybody may purchase and discover one thing to like.

The positives crush the negatives, nonetheless. The iPad Air (2020) is the pill you need to purchase should you’re unsure precisely what you’ll need to use it for. Maybe it’ll grow to be your media slate, your informal gaming companion, a conveyable laptop computer substitute, a second display in your Mac, a canvas for artwork, or all this stuff and extra. It gained’t excel at any of those in isolation, however it might probably fill each function with competence and confidence.

Quite than being a clumsy center youngster, the iPad Air (2020) is the iPad that anybody may purchase and discover one thing to like.

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