Apple iPad Air (2020) review: The tablet for everyone


Apple’s “Air” branding has morphed over time. Instead of representing the thinnest and lightest potential 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 gadgets, from laptops, to earbuds, and, in fact, Apple’s legendary tablet sequence, the iPad.

The iPad Air is now in its fourth technology and, at the least 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. However, the iPad Air additionally serves one other necessary goal: to bridge the hole between the ultra-premium iPad Pro and the usual iPad.

Does the newest iPad Air strike the precise stability of worth, specs, and options to compete with the very best tablets you can buy? Find out in Android Authority’s iPad Air (2020) evaluation.

About this iPad Air (2020) evaluation: 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 evaluation.

What you might want to know in regards to 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 + Cellular, 64GB): $729/£709/€789
  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB): $879/£859/€959

The iPad Air (2020) launched on September 15, 2020, a full yr and a half after the earlier mannequin. Apple started promoting the tablet 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 so far, that includes an all-new design influenced by its extra premium sibling, the iPad Pro. Nevertheless, the fourth-generation iPad Air retains its predecessor’s litheness. Both measure in at simply 6.1mm thick. Other notable modifications 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 best iPad deals

These modifications additionally got here with a rise in worth. In 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. However, the usual iPad Air remains to be $200 cheaper than the entry-level iPad Pro and a whopping $500 cheaper than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro mannequin with all of the fanciest show tech.

The iPad Air is available in Space Grey, Silver, Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue. It can be appropriate with a wider array of optionally available (and costly) equipment than every other iPad Air mannequin, together with the Magic Keyboard and the second-generation Apple Pencil. Due to the brand new design of the tablet and the introduction of USB-C, earlier instances and the unique Apple Pencil are usually not appropriate 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

This is maybe a wierd factor to say a couple of 10.9-inch tablet, however the iPad Air feels rather a lot like an iPad Pro Mini. Not a lot when it comes to stature; it’s nonetheless a sizeable slate and it’s really a fraction thicker than the 11-inch iPad Pro. But the acquainted, virtually brutalist design of the refreshed iPad Pro sequence has transitioned so effortlessly into the Air’s design blueprint that it comes off as its child sibling.

Like with each iPad Air so far, this mannequin effortlessly balances the will for display screen 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 tablet in any orientation.

Thanks to the brand new colorways, that is the funkiest iPad so 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 properly 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.

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

One casualty of the thinner bezels on the iPad Air is the standard round dwelling/Touch ID button. Instead, the fingerprint reader has been relocated to the ability button on the highest fringe of the tablet. It’s rather less constant and the unlocking perform requires you to push down on the button and never simply relaxation your finger on it. Meanwhile, holding on for too lengthy summons Siri. It’s all a bit awkward, but it surely’s speedy when it registers your inputs appropriately. For now, Face ID stays an iPad Pro-only function on Apple’s tablets.

apple ipad air 2020 review display

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Another function that doesn’t transition down from the iPad Pro is the adaptive ProMovement show tech. Instead, the iPad Air sports activities a daily ol’ static 60Hz panel. While you’ll solely actually know the distinction if you happen to’ve acquired a faster refresh rate show readily available, that is nonetheless a notable compromise, particularly when the equally priced Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 can push to 120Hz.

Otherwise, the 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display screen is a stunner. Colors are vivid, the decision is a lot excessive sufficient for a tablet, and the anti-reflective coating helps with glare. However, this isn’t the brightest panel round and it struggles in vibrant circumstances. This is barely actually an issue if you wish to work outdoors on a sunny day with a keyboard case connected; indoors it’s completely satisfactory.

In very Apple vogue, the glass overlaying the display screen is barely described in free phrases. The Cupertino firm says it’s scratch-resistant and oleophobic, with the latter designed to guard towards 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

Finally, we have now to speak about equipment. The iPad Air (2020) brings an entire new armada of devices to play with, offered you’re blissful to stump up some hefty further premiums.

The most evident is the Apple Pencil 2 ($119), which expenses magnetically when pinned towards the precise fringe of the iPad Air. The Air additionally has a Smart Connector on the rear which allows use with Apple’s princely Magic Keyboard ($279), similar to the iPad Pro. Alternatively, there’s the Smart Keyboard Folio case ($179). They’re all costly, however the possibility of closely augmenting your iPad Air is there if you happen to’re prepared to spend the money.

Read extra: The best accessories you can get for the iPad

The greatest addition is completely free, although, and it’s perhaps the least thrilling factor you may 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-Pro iPad to a world of exterior gadgets for the primary time. Want to switch recordsdata immediately from a conveyable HDD? Now you may. While it doesn’t provide the extra layer of Thunderbolt connectivity discovered on the newest iPad Pro sequence, 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 assume you may’t win all of them.

What is 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 ProMovement show tech, however the precise transition speeds between apps and processes are speedy.

Alongside Apple’s customized silicon there’s 4GB of RAM (one thing Apple doesn’t formally disclose), which is a lot for primary multitasking, although you’ll begin to see apps drop out of reminiscence if you happen to push it too arduous for too lengthy. Likewise, the GPU isn’t as highly effective as even the 2020 iPad Pro. What which means in apply 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 if you happen to begin introducing monumental file sizes and a number of workflows without delay.

Also learn: Which iPhone is right for you?

As nice as all that’s, the bottom storage state of affairs is inexcusable. No cell gadget at this worth ought to include non-expandable 64GB inside 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 solely app-centric expertise of utilizing a tablet means the ~54GB of storage the bottom mannequin is left with after updates will quickly refill — extra so if you wish to seize video games from the App Store. It is workable, particularly for people who solely wish to use the tablet for streaming motion pictures, shopping the online, and enjoying the odd sport. However, for anybody juggling a number of demanding customers or operating artistic apps, you’ll must be prepared to sometimes delete some apps to make room for new ones and/or often plug in an exterior drive (although it’ll must be APFS-encrypted) for recordsdata. iCloud is there as a possible backup too, which is infinitely extra helpful these days due to iPadOS’ Files app as you may entry the iCloud Drive’s contents with just a few faucets. Plus, you may simply change to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or different supported third-party suppliers.

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

If you’ve ever used an iPad earlier than you’ll know what to anticipate right here: round a day’s medium-to-heavy use. More particularly, that interprets to about 10 hours of net browsing on a single cost in line with Apple.

In actuality, your expertise with battery life on the iPad Air (2020) will rely in your utilization patterns. If you’re solely utilizing it casually as a media streaming gadget or for occasional note-taking, the iPad Air (2020) can fairly simply see out two days. Conversely, if you happen to 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. No matter what, although, the iPad Air (2020) is a full-day tablet.

It’s value noting that I examined the Wi-Fi mannequin. Expect a small hit to battery life if you happen to’re operating the tablet 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 tablet.

What is 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 cell 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 yr, however till then, it’s model 14 that runs out of the field.

Of the core additions, Files pairs properly with USB-C help, and you’ll lastly set a unique default browser (and e-mail app) as a substitute of Safari. Siri is just a little smarter than earlier than (however nonetheless not on the identical degree as Google Assistant), and the common search perform has been refined. Overall, it’s a modest however necessary step for iPadOS.

Also learn: Chromebook vs iPad — which is best for you?

iPadOS 14 is much from excellent, although. Despite being so fondly received on iOS, the lengthy, lengthy overdue addition of widgets is a profound disappointment right here. Rather than making use of all the additional display screen actual property, the entire widgets are constrained to a pull-out menu that replaces the Today View of previous. While iPadOS 15 will repair the state of affairs later this yr with desktop-style widget management (and an App Library like iOS), it’s baffling it wasn’t there from launch.

Thankfully, the broader app expertise is a superb as ever. The App Store is rigorously curated to spotlight the litany of iPad-optimized apps out there and cell players get the easiest the business can provide with the intensive Apple Arcade library (for a $4.99 month-to-month payment).

apple ipad air 2020 review control center

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

While apps are nonetheless a boon for Apple’s tablet 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 Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and Xcode. These omissions are extra of a problem for the iPad Pro (particularly the souped-up M1 variant), but it surely’s a disgrace that would-be iPad Air energy customers additionally miss out.

Ultimately, the iPad expertise remains to be locked down in a manner that will alienate Android and Windows traditionalists. If it’s not within the App Store, you may’t use it. However, there’s security and safety within the walled backyard, to not point out long-term software program help that may outlive any Android tablet.

iPadOS remains to be maturing, however Apple’s App Store comprises 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, Universal Clipboard, and Sidecar. The latter is particularly nice on a display screen this measurement if you happen to’re operating out of desk house for a second monitor.

It ought 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 dwelling button. That mentioned, anybody with a just lately launched smartphone will really feel proper at dwelling because the de facto swipe instructions discovered on iOS and Android apply right here.

Anything else?

apple ipad air 2020 review camera touch id

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Front digital camera: The 7MP front-facing digital camera is completely appropriate for the occasional selfie and might seize video at as much as 1080p at 60fps. Sadly, the location (throughout the aspect bezel when positioned horizontally) means it’ll appear like you’re staring off into the gap on necessary convention calls.

Rear digital camera: If you need a tablet with an ideal rear digital camera, the iPad Air (2020) isn’t it. That mentioned, the 12MP, f/1.eight lens is serviceable in good lighting. You additionally don’t get LiDAR for augmented actuality enjoyable — that’s an iPad Pro-only function. It does help 4K video at 60fps, although, up from 1080p on the final technology.

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

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

iPad Air (2020) specs

Apple iPad Air (2020)
Display

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

Camera

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Main:
12MP digital camera
ƒ/1.eight aperture
Front:
7MP
ƒ/2.Zero 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):

Smart Connector
USB-C

Colors

Apple iPad Air (2020):

Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, Sky Blue

Value and competitors

ipad air 4th gen

Apple iPad Air

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

The tablet market is in a bleak spot relating to choices. That leaves the iPad Air in an especially tight spot on the prime of the meals chain throughout the sub-premium section. However, there are options to think about.

The iPad Air’s strongest competitor is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 (the Tab S7 Plus goals just a little increased), which has an MSRP of $579. With the bottom Tab S7, you’re getting among the finest Android tablets ever made, and one which scores some punches towards Apple’s illustrious slate. The greatest 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 digital camera is even in the precise place!

Related: The best Android tabletsThe best cheap 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 are usually under-optimized and even outright unusable. Likewise, whereas Samsung has promised three years of software upgrades, that’ll pale compared to the long-term help you’ll get with the iPad Air. Case in level, the seven-year-old iPad Air 2 is upgradable to the newest model of iPadOS.

Another possibility is the Microsoft Surface Go 2 — a diminutive tablet-laptop hybrid that’s solely actually value contemplating if you happen to completely want Windows in your life. In typical Surface vogue, it’s a well-designed piece of {hardware} — with a kickstand as well — however even the highest mannequin has a woefully underpowered chipset, which means something however primary duties (suppose: shopping and phrase processing) are a no-go. Plus the optionally available Type Cover 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

Otherwise, Apple’s ecosystem presents its personal rivals. The hardest competitors comes from the large daddy of the iPad household: the iPad Pro. 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?

Well, if you happen to’ve skilled that 120Hz refresh fee, it’s arduous 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 MacE-book territory with help for extra processor-intensive apps.

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

If you’re already satisfied that you simply’ll be shopping for the complete iPad accent package with the Magic Keyboard, Pencil 2, and extra, I’d counsel you go for the Pro. At that time, you’re already dedicated to turning into an iPad energy person and sure have the money to burn. This is much more of a no brainer if you need extra storage than 64GB. At $749 for the 256GB model, there’s completely no world by which you shouldn’t as a substitute go for the $799 11-inch iPad Pro with the M1 chip and 128GB storage, and double the RAM. That additional $50 is properly value spending.

On the flip aspect, if you happen to don’t have that type of price range, you could be contemplating the iPad Air vs the standard iPad (or iPad Mini). If you realize you solely need an iPad for streaming some motion pictures and dipping into Apple Arcade, the common iPad is totally value it for $329. However, for these wanting for extra flexibility and sophistication, the refined design, USB-C help, and accent compatibility of the iPad Air might show to be a smart funding if you happen to suppose you may begin to see your iPad as one thing past a media slate sooner or later.

iPad Air (2020) evaluation: The verdict

apple logo ipad air 2020 review

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Once envisioned because the leaner product line, the Air household has since sought to straddle the skinny line between Pro and primary Apple gadgets. The iPad Air (2020) arguably does this higher than any Air-branded gadget so far.

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

This is the iPad that anybody might purchase and discover one thing to like.

The positives crush the negatives, nonetheless. The iPad Air (2020) is the tablet you wish to purchase if you happen to’re undecided precisely what you’ll wish to use it for. Perhaps it’ll grow to be your media slate, your informal gaming companion, a conveyable laptop computer substitute, a second display screen for your Mac, a canvas for artwork, or all these items and extra. It gained’t excel at any of those in isolation, however it might fill each position with competence and confidence.

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


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