Perhaps one of the most exciting things launched at today’s Apple event is the new iPad Air 4, the follow-up in their midrange line of tablets. The iPad Air sits right above the standard iPad with a sleeker aesthetic and more powerful features, and while its 2019 version served as a clear middle option below the pricey iPad Pro, the 2020 refresh brings it almost confusingly in line with its more powerful, more expensive sibling.

Specs

iPad Air 4 2020 iPad Air 3 2019
Size 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1 mm (9.74 x 7 x 0.24 inches) 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm (9.87 x 6.85 x 0.24 inches)
Weight 458 grams (1.0 lb) 456 grams (1.0 lb)
Screen size 10.9 inches 10.5 inches
Screen resolution 2360 x 1640 pixels 2224 x 1668 pixels
Operating system iPadOS 14 iPadOS 14
Storage space 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD Card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services No No
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Apple A12 Bionic
RAM TBD 3 GB
Camera Rear 12-megapixel, front 7MP Rear 8MP, front 7MP
Video 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1,080p at 120/240fps 1,080p at 30fps, 720p at 120fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Water resistance No No
Battery TBD 8,134 mAh
App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers (cellular version only) All major carriers (cellular version only)
Colors Silver, gold, space gray, green, sky blue Silver, gold, space gray
Price $599+ $599+
Buy from Apple Apple
Review score News 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

The iPad Air is getting a body refresh that brings with it the matte finish metal body you know and love from the iPad Pro. When it launches, this sleek metal finish will be available in five colors with something certain to please for each customer. Along with the classic silver, space gray, and rose gold, the iPad will be available in a green and sky-blue finish.

This new iPad Air will be Apple’s first device launching with the 6-core A14 bionic processor, which we anticipate we’ll see in the new iPhones whenever they launch. For silicon nerds, this is really exciting, as it is the industry’s first 5-nanometer chip. This processor packs over 11 billion transistors on board, a greater than 40% increase over Apple’s 7nm tech in the A13, and an even larger leap over the A12 in the iPad Air 3 that Apple claims will yield a 40% increase in performance for this new generation iPad Air. The A14 also features a 4-core GPU that should deliver a 30% increase in graphics performance over the 2019 version of the Air.

The new iPad Air will sport a 10-hour battery life, which is exactly the same as is marketed for the 2019 version. This iPad Air is jumping on the USB-C bandwagon and further pushing the transition of Apple products toward this standard. This brings with it the usual data-transfer speed boost and wide range of compatible peripherals over the old lightning standard. Hopefully, a future where we can finally use one cable for everything is close at hand.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Design and durability

The refreshed iPad Air borrows many of its design elements from its bigger, badder bro, the iPad Pro. But with any refresh comes some new features.

Since the new iPad Air is doing away with the home button, Apple has launched a new version of Touch ID that will be integrated into the power button on this device. This is the first time Apple has put Touch ID into a side or top button and is the smallest surface they’ve ever integrated Touch ID into.  This could be a sign of things to come in future devices.

The new iPad Air features stereo speakers, though without a hands-on, it’s tough to know if they offer a bump over the current generation’s sound performance.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Display

The new iPad Air continues to borrow elements from the iPad Pro with its new liquid retina display. Since the new design features the redesigned bezels, it now ships with a 10.9-inch display clocking in at 2360 x 1640 pixels. Apple has included some more minor elements familiar to iPad Pro users such as anti-reflective coating and True Tone display, though some of these are already available on current iPads.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Camera

The new iPad Air features a 12MP wide rear camera, a significant upgrade from the previous iPad Air’s 8MP camera. This of course allows the new iPad to capture video and images at a higher resolution and at a higher frame rate. With a huge boost in machine learning and graphics processing thanks to the new A14 processor, Apple is hoping this new camera will unlock a richer video and image capture and editing experience for the user.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Software and updates

The iPad Air will ship with the new iPad OS 14, promising faster performance. Though the iPad Air from 2019 can of course be updated to iPad OS 14, the increase in processing power on the new Air’s A14 chip should bring with it notable advantages when running the OS. Also, while Apple supports its devices for a long time after launch, it’s likely the newer iPad Air will get updates for longer, making it a much longer-lived prospect if you’re looking to buy one right now.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Special features

It’s worth noting that the new iPad Air 4 is compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil. This will be appealing to any artists, designers, engineers, or anyone who draws regularly on their iPad, and is definitely an upgrade over the 2019 Air, which could only use the first-generation Apple Pencil. The new Air is also compatible with the Magic Keyboard we all love from the iPad Pro.

Winner: iPad Air 4

Price

The new iPad Air will launch with the exact same price structure as the last one and is being listed at $599 for the 64GB Wi-Fi version, going up to $729 for the Wi-Fi and Cellular model with 256GB of storage. One can anticipate a price drop in the older version soon. Both are available from a wide range of carriers, and the newest version will be available from Apple in October.

Overall winner: iPad Air 4

The new iPad Air 4 is a clear winner and a worthy upgrade even from its most recent generation. This new iPad Air carries with it almost every single feature of the most recent iPad Pro save for the LiDAR scanner, four speakers, True Tone flash, and a few other one-offs. This is a huge upgrade in both processing power and overall gadgetry, and its launch at the same starting price as the last Air makes this an easy choice.

Rhe differences aren’t enough to make the new iPad Air 4 a worthwhile upgrade from the iPad Air 3, however. If you’re using an iPad Air 3 right now, don’t feel the need to upgrade. However, if you’re looking to buy from new, it’s definitely worth picking the newer model.

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