2020 iPad Air
Apple in September 2020 updated the iPad Air with a fourth-generation model that features a radical redesign that brings it closer in design to the iPad Pro. Priced at $599, the iPad Air is a middle-tier option between the low-cost $329 eighth-generation iPad and the more expensive iPad Pro, priced starting at $799.
The iPad Air features a 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display with a 2360x1640 resolution, 3.8 million pixels, and a design that's similar to the iPad Pro with an aluminum chassis that features flat, rounded edges that wrap around the fully-laminated display. True Tone support is included for adjusting the display to match the ambient lighting, as is P3 wide color, 500 nits brightness, and 1.8 percent reflectivity.
Apple's iPad Air is the first iPad to offer unique color options similar to iPhone colors. The iPad Air is available in silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue. What's most unique about the iPad Air is the new Touch ID sensor integrated into the top button, a first for an Apple device.
The iPad Air does not feature Face ID and relies solely on Touch ID for biometric authentication purposes. Other than being built into the top button instead of a Home button, the Touch ID functionality is the same as other devices that feature Touch ID.
Apple's new iPad Air includes a 6-core A14 Bionic chip, which is Apple's newest A-series chip built on a 5-nanometer process. Apple rarely introduces a new chip in an iPad before it comes to an iPhone, but the 2020 iPad Air got an A14 chip first. According to Apple, the A-series chip provides 40 percent faster CPU performance and a 30 percent improvement in GPU performance thanks to the new 4-core GPU architecture.
The A14 chip includes a new 16-core Neural Engine that's twice as fast as the Neural Engine in the prior-generation chip, and there are second-generation machine learning accelerators for 10 times faster machine learning calculations.
Though there's no Face ID, the iPad Air includes a 7-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera along with a 12-megapixel rear camera which is the same wide-angle camera used in the iPad Pro. Speaker quality has been updated with the iPad Air now sporting stereo speakers in landscape mode for wider stereo sound when watching video.
Instead of a Lightning port, the new iPad Air has a USB-C port for up to 5Gbps data transfer along with support for connecting cameras, hard drives, and 4K external monitors. The iPad Air ships with a new 20W USB-C adapter for charging purposes.
Like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air supports the $129 second-generation Apple Pencil and it works with the $279 Magic Keyboard with trackpad that Apple offers. It is also compatible with the Smart Keyboard Folio and Smart Folio covers.
The iPad Air became available for purchase on Friday, October 16, with availability following on October 23. Pricing starts at $599 for 64 GB of storage. 256GB of storage is available for $749. Base prices are for WiFi models, with Cellular models available for an additional cost.
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Reviewers have been largely impressed with the iPad Air, and the consensus is that it's the best tablet for most people thanks to its Pro design and feature set at a price point that's more affordable than the iPad Pro.
The Touch ID sensor was described as "fast and reliable," able to quickly and easily recognize fingerprints in nearly any orientation, and the power button's longer size makes it easy to find by feel.
Apple's iPad Air doesn't have the 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate that the iPad Pro does, but reviewers found the iPad Air's display to be perfectly adequate.
The A14 chip in the iPad Air is Apple's newest, and it's super speedy. Reviewers were satisfied with its performance, but it's worth noting that the iPad Pro wins out when it comes to GPU performance.
One of the main complaints was the starting storage, which is 64GB. That's a decent amount, but people with many games, apps, or photos will quickly exceed it. Upgrading to more storage costs an extra $100.
For more reviews on the iPad Air, make sure to check out our iPad Air review roundup.
iPad Air vs. iPad Pro Comparison
The fourth-generation iPad Air is similar in design and functionality to the iPad Pro models that were updated in March 2020, featuring the same all-display design but lacking ProMotion technology. The iPad Air has an A14 chip that's faster than the A12Z used in the iPad Pro, and it uses Touch ID instead of Face ID. Make sure to check out our comparison article and video for a hands-on comparison.
Measuring in at 10.9 inches, up from 10.5 inches for the prior iPad Air model, the 2020 iPad Air has seen a major redesign with an edge-to-edge display that's similar to the display of the iPad Pro. The aluminum chassis features flat, rounded edges that wrap around the Retina display, and this is a design that Apple first used for the iPad Pro.
In fact, compared to an 11-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Air is almost indistinguishable except for the slightly thicker body and thicker bezels around the display.
The iPad Air measures in at 9.74 inches long and 7 inches wide, while the iPad Pro measures in at 9.74 inches long and 7.02 inches wide. The iPad Air is 6.1mm thick, and the 11-inch iPad Pro is 5.9mm thick. The iPad Air weighs 1 pound and the iPad Pro weighs 1.04 pounds, so there's not a lot of difference here.
Apple's prior iPad Air model had smooth, tapered edges that were rounded, while the new design features a flatter, more industrial look that matches the iPad Pro and the upcoming iPhone 12 models.
This is the first iPad Air that has had an all-display design, and there is no Touch ID Home Button. There's also no Face ID, though, with biometric authentication handled through the new Touch ID fingerprint reader built into the top button. It scans a fingerprint just like the Touch ID Home Button, but it's smaller and more compact. Speakers and a microphone are located at the top of the iPad Air adjacent to the Touch ID button.
The right side of the iPad Air features volume up/down buttons, a nano-SIM tray on cellular models, and a magnetic space for charging the Apple Pencil. At the back there's a single-lens rear camera with a microphone, and the single-lens camera is notably different than the square-shaped camera bump on the iPad Pro because it has no second camera or LiDAR Scanner.
Stereo speakers and a USB-C port are located at the bottom of the iPad Air.
The aluminum shell of the iPad Air is available in five colors, and this is the first time that Apple has offered an iPad in a brighter non-traditional shade. The iPad Air comes in silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue.
The three brighter color options - rose gold, green, and sky blue - further differentiate the 2020 iPad Air from the 2020 iPad Pro.
The iPad Air is the first iPad or iPhone to have Touch ID that's not built into the Home button of the device. Apple included Touch ID in the iPad Air's top button, allowing for Touch ID-based biometric authentication without the need for thick bezels that obscure the screen.
The Touch ID top button works just like the Touch ID Home button and it can be used to unlock the iPad, access apps, and make purchases with Apple Pay, and more. Touch ID on the iPad Air is functional in both portrait and landscape orientations.
The Smart Connector at the back of the iPad Air allows it to communicate with and power accessories like the Magic Keyboard. The Smart Connector interface is able to transfer both power and data, so accessories that connect to the iPad Air using the Smart Connector not need to have batteries.
The iPad Air is the second iPad after the iPad Pro to be updated with a USB-C port instead of a Lightning port. With the USB-C port, the iPad Air can be connected to 4K or 5K displays, cameras, and other USB-C devices. The USB-C port supports 5Gbps data transfer and is able to charge an iPhone or Apple Watch with the right cable.
The iPad Air is equipped with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that is identical to the iPad Pro display but without 120Hz ProMotion technology for a smoother scrolling experience.
It has a resolution of 2360 by 1640 at 246 pixels per inch and 3.8 million pixels total. It has full lamination (which shrinks the display thickness and makes content appear more immersive), P3 wide color support for rich, true to life colors, an anti-reflective coating with 1.8 percent reflectivity, 500 nits brightness, and True Tone support.
True Tone adjusts the white balance of the display to match the ambient lighting to make the screen easier on the eyes. If you're in a room with yellower lighting, for example, the iPad's display is warmer in color so there's not a stark contrast between the color of the iPad and the lighting in the room.
Apple Pencil Support
Apple's latest iPad Air works with the second-generation Apple Pencil, which was originally released in 2018 alongside the iPad Pro. Until the launch of the iPad Air, the second-generation Apple Pencil was limited to the iPad Pro models.
Apple is using its latest 5-nanometer chip technology in the iPad Air, with the tablet equipped with a 6-core A14 Bionic chip. Apple doesn't often use new chip technology in an iPad before it debuts in an iPhone, but that is what happened this year due to the delayed release of the iPhone 12 models. The iPhone 12 will also feature the same A14 Bionic chip.
According to Apple, the A14 chip is equipped with 11.8 billion transistors, bringing increased performance and power efficiency. The A14 chip's 6-core design results in a 40 percent boost in GPU performance compared to the A12 and the new 4-core GPU architecture brings a 30 percent improvement in graphics capabilities compared to the A12.
A leaked benchmark of the A14 chip confirms that the new fourth-generation iPad Air offers significant improvements over the prior-generation model. It features a single-core score of 1583 and a multi-core score of 4198, which is a good deal faster than the 1112 single-core score and 2832 multi-core score earned by the A12 Bionic chip in the third-generation iPad Air.
The A14 Bionic includes a 16-core Neural Engine that's twice as fast and can perform up to 11 trillion operations for second for faster than ever machine learning capabilities. There are also second-generation machine learning accelerators in the CPU for 10 times faster machine learning calculations.
With the A14 chip with updated GPU and Neural Engine, Apple says that the new iPad will be capable of powerful new on-device experiences for image recognition, natural language learning, motion analysis, and more.
Based on the aforementioned leaked A14 benchmark confirms that the iPad Air has 4GB RAM, up 1GB from the 3GB in the prior-generation model.
Though there's no TrueDepth camera system to support Face ID in the iPad Air, there is an f/2.0 7-megapixel front-facing FaceTime HD Camera for selfies and video calls.
At the rear of the iPad Air, there's single-lens 12-megapixel wide-angle camera that's the same as the wide-angle camera used in the iPad Pro. It supports higher-resolution video and 4K video capture compared to the older iPad Air.
The 12-megapixel camera features an f/1.8 aperture for solid performance in low light along with all of the modern improvements that Apple has added to its device cameras such as Live Photos with stabilization, autofocus with Focus Pixels, wide color capture, exposure control, Smart HDR, auto image stabilization, noise reduction, and more.
4K video recording is supported at 20, 30, or 60 frames per second, as is slo-mo video at 120 or 240 frames per second. The iPad Air can also record in 1080p at 30 or 60 frames per second, and it supports continuous autofocus, cinematic video stabilization, and the option to take 8-megapixel still photos when recording 4K video.
The iPad Air is equipped with a 28.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery that Apple says will last for up to 10 hours when surfing the web on WiFi or watching video.
Cellular models will last for up to nine hours when surfing the web over a cellular connection. The iPad Air can be charged using the included 20W USB-C power adapter and USB-C to USB-C cable.
Microphones and Speakers
The iPad Air features two sets of speakers for stereo sound in portrait and landscape mode. Dual microphones are included for calls, video recording, and audio recording.
Along with a Touch ID sensor, the iPad Air features a three-axis gyro, an accelerometer, a barometer, and an ambient light sensor for True Tone and other features.
WiFi 6 and Bluetooth Support
The 2020 iPad Air supports WiFi 6, otherwise known as 802.11ax. The updated standard offers faster speeds, improved network capacity, better power efficiency, lower latency, and upgraded connectivity when there are multiple WiFi devices in the same area.
WiFi 6 devices also support WPA3, which is a security protocol that offers improved cryptographic strength. It also supports Bluetooth 5.0.
Gigabit-class LTE is available in the cellular iPad Air models and the LTE modem chip is similar to the chip included in the iPad Pro.
Support for bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 48, 66, and 71 is included.
There are two SIM options in the iPad Air: a physical nano-SIM slot at the side of the device and an eSIM, or digital SIM, which is designed to work without the need for a physical SIM card.
The physical nano-SIM slot supports the Apple SIM that is designed to let users swap between carriers without a hassle. Many carriers in the U.S. and other countries support the Apple SIM, but for those that don't, like Verizon, a physical SIM card is still required.
Apple sells the iPad Air with 64GB of storage or 256GB of storage, with no middle tier 128GB storage option available.
Magic Keyboard and Trackpad Support
Like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air is designed to work with the Magic Keyboard that was introduced earlier in 2020. The Magic Keyboard a folio-style case that features a full backlit keyboard and, for the first time, a trackpad.
The Magic Keyboard uses scissor mechanisms much like the keyboard of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. The scissor mechanism provides 1mm of travel, for what Apple says is the best typing experience ever on iPad.
The Magic Keyboard attaches to the iPad Air through a magnetic connection, and it features cantilevered hinges that works on a desk or on a lap. The hinges allow for adjustments of the viewing angle up to 130 degrees, so it can be tweaked for every usage situation. The design of the Magic Keyboard allows the iPad to "float" in the air, with the bottom part of the case tilting backwards when used in keyboard mode.
When not in use, the keyboard's folio-style design keeps the iPad Air safe, covering the front and back of the device. A USB-C port is included on the Magic Keyboard for passthrough inductive USB-C charging capabilities, leaving the iPad Air's built-in USB-C port free for accessories like external drives and displays.
2020 iPad Air models are compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil. Priced at $129, the Apple Pencil connects to the iPad Air using magnets, and when attached magnetically, it charges inductively. Pairing is also done through the magnetic attachment.
Gesture support is included with the second-generation Apple Pencil, and with a tap, you can change brushes or quickly switch from a brush to an eraser without having to pick up the pencil and select a new tool.
The Apple Pencil works across the iPad Air, with first and third-party apps. It features advanced palm rejection, extreme precision, and imperceptible lag for a paper-like writing experience that's unmatched by third-party styluses.
Pressure support allows thinner and thicker lines to be drawn by increasing the amount of pressure on the iPad's screen, and side nib detection allows for shading when the Apple Pencil is tilted.
How to Buy
Apple is selling the iPad Air in 64 and 256GB configurations with the 64GB model priced at $599 and the 256GB model priced at $729. Cellular models are available for an additional $100 more than the base price for each capacity.
Apple began selling the iPad Air on Friday, October 16, with the first orders arriving on October 23.