The new iPad Air is closer to the iPad Pro than previous models. It offers a fast chip, a modern design and Wi-Fi 6, can be used with the Magic Keyboard and the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. In the test, we checked for whom the iPad Air 2020 is a good choice.
Apple iPad Air Design and display
The iPad Air (2020) is similar to the iPad Pro 11 (2020). It has practically the same dimensions. Compared to the iPad (2020) it is noticeable how much thinner the case and the display frame are. Nevertheless, the new iPad Air is quite stable and well suited for normal use. If you don’t want to bend it, you should be satisfied. You immediately get the impression of holding a modern tablet made of high quality materials in your hands.
The green housing color, which is available on request, is particularly stylish, a novelty on an iPad. Finally the right color for an apple product. The four speaker openings are also noticeable, but there are only two sound drivers inside, i.e. only two actual speakers. A USB-C port awaits the user on the bottom, so the iPad can be charged with USB-C chargers. But there are also adapters for further connections available.
Then there is Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor is in the power button on the top and quickly unlocked the iPad in the test. There is no face unlocking via Face ID, which is not a flaw in the age of face masks.
Apple info: The iPad Air and sustainability
“The iPad Air is made from 100% recycled aluminum. The tin for the solder in the motherboard is 100% recycled, as is the rare earth elements in the speakers. All of the wood fibers for the packaging are recycled or come from responsibly managed forests.” You can find detailed information on the environmental performance of the new iPad Air here at Apple (PDF).
The display measures 10.9 instead of 10.5 inches like the predecessor and is almost as big as the screen of the iPad Pro 11, which measures exactly 11 inches. The larger screen is particularly useful for work and multitasking. The resolution is 2,360 x 1,640 pixels, which means a sharp picture. A grease-repellent coating keeps fingerprints away from the screen. The maximum brightness is 500 nits compared to the 600 nits of the iPad Pro. The display is too dark for use in direct sunlight, but it can be used well in shady areas and indoors.
The display adapts the colors to the surroundings via the True Tone feature, and thanks to the large DCI-P3 color space, the display is also suitable for playing HDR content in the Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats. Unfortunately, the screen is content with a refresh rate of 60 Hertz. The iPad Pro relies on 120 Hertz for particularly smooth playback of movements such as scrolling.
The USB-C, Touch ID and the stylish design are welcome innovations. Compared to the previous iPad Air, the larger display with smaller bezels simplifies multitasking and is more suitable for media consumption.
Apple iPad Air Technology: incredibly fast
Apple new A14 processor and 4 GB of RAM are responsible for performance; the chip also powers the iPhone 12. If you own an iPad Pro (2020) and are annoyed that your tablet with the Apple A12Z has the supposedly weaker processor, you can rest assured. The Apple A14 offers the stronger single-core performance, but the iPad Pro is even faster when using multiple computing cores and demanding graphics applications. This also makes sense, because typical pro applications such as image processing in Photoshop with several layers and complex video editing benefit from precisely this additional performance.
In our AnTuTu benchmark test, the iPad Air (2020) performed significantly better than the iPhone 12 Pro -with 647,765 points compared to 574,155 points. The iPad Pro 4 is ahead in the ranking with 710,327 points. Nobody has to worry about the performance of the iPad Air in everyday life anyway: Apps start quickly, everything runs smoothly, and surfing the Internet feels much faster than with the iPad (2020). Apps that devour computing and AI power particularly benefit from the higher performance of the A14.
We I tried the Komb Create app for composing music. In the application, you can use the Apple Pencil to write notes for various instruments and thus compose entire symphonies. The handwritten notes are quickly and correctly converted into block letters. You can listen to the pieces right away and even if without the reverberation of the instruments, which makes the notes sound a bit ticked off and mechanical. Still: a great app for mobile musicians who want to write down melodies on the go. And on the iPad Air it works with virtually no delays.
You don’t have to worry about gaming performance for the foreseeable future either, demanding games like “Sonic Forces” and “Asphalt 9” run smoothly. However, if you want to use streaming services like the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you will have to use an Android tablet for the foreseeable future. Such cloud services do not yet exist for the iPad. I can get over it, streaming games still makes an immature impression on me anyway. Apple Arcade is also an option for gaming on the go.
The iPad Air is one of the fastest mobile devices on the market.
Apple iPad Air Cameras, sound and battery life: All good
The 12-megapixel camera, which is also used in the iPad Pro, is housed on the back of the tablet. It snaps good, detailed pictures at the level of upper middle class cell phones. Only one camera is installed, you have to do without the ultra-wide-angle lens with the iPad Air. Tablets are used less often for photos than smartphones, so most users should be able to cope with this. What is even more annoying is not using the LiDAR scanner, which improves the precision of augmented reality applications on the iPad Pro.
One battery charge is sufficient for one day with mixed use. Thanks to the USB-C connection, you can charge the tablet with the power supplies you already have. With my 15-watt charger for the Galaxy Note 9, charging was leisurely, with a laptop charger and the supplied Apple power supply unit it was very fast. There are only stereo speakers and no four speakers like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and iPad Pro, but they deliver a clear and loud sound.
Conclusion : The tablet convinces with a good runtime, charging via the USB-C port and decent stereo speakers.
Apple iPad Air accessories: Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard
In contrast to the entry-level iPad, the iPad Air can also be used with the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2. While the iPad already offers a good pen experience with the first generation Apple Pencil, it is noticeably better with the second generation on the iPad Air. You write and draw noticeably more precisely, I could even always read my shaky handwriting. If you want a little more, you can grab the iPad Pro with its 120 Hertz display.
The Magic Keyboard is a high-quality, laptop-like keyboard with a sleeve for the iPad Air and the iPad Pro 11. There is also a larger version for the iPad Pro 12. The keyboard has a trackpad and a USB-C connection via the the tablet can be charged. Also practical: the illuminated buttons.
Do you need the Magic Keyboard? It all depends on whether you want to use the touchpad. It types well on the high-quality keyboard, but in my opinion not so much better that the extra charge of around 140 euros compared to the Smart Keyboard Folio is only worthwhile for this purpose. The latter already costs over 190 euros. The Magic Keyboard is only for users who want to use their iPad Air like a laptop.
The Apple Pencil 2 enables significantly more precise pen input than the Apple Pencil 1 on the standard iPad. The Magic Keyboard is a professional tool for using the iPad Air as a quasi-laptop.
Final Conclusion: Not too hot and not too cold
The iPad Air (2020) is likely to be the most suitable Apple tablet for most users, even if experience shows that the majority of buyers use the entry-level iPad. The iPad Air offers flagship performance, USB-C and Wi-Fi 6 as well as a decent webcam, and the device is compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, so the iPad Air is better equipped for the future than the iPad.
The iPad Pro is better suited for architects, designers, filmmakers and similar professional users who use professional applications due to features such as the 120 Hertz display, the LiDAR scanner and performance advantages. But if you don’t want to use the tablet for your creative profession, you will be happy with the iPad Air.
As with the entry-level iPad, Apple has thought very carefully about which features must be housed in the tablet so that it can meaningfully expand the range. So there is now a suitable iPad for every tablet user.
As an operating system, Android is less well optimized for tablet use. Probably the best Android tablets are the Galaxy Tab S7 and the Tab S7+, which have a high-contrast AMOLED display ahead of the iPads. The input pen is also included with the Samsung tablets, but Apple’s Pencil 2 is more ergonomic than the S Pen from Samsung. The Galaxy devices also have four speakers instead of two, but that’s not a decisive advantage with a tablet.
Apple iPad Air Pros:
- + Modern, high quality design
- + Very good performance
- + Works with Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2
- + USB-C + Wi-Fi 6
- + Much better webcam than iPad (2020)
- + Good speakers
Apple iPad Air Cons:
- – The display could be even brighter for outdoor use
- – Unlike Android tablets, no streaming of games because iOS
- – Only 64 GB of storage in the starting model
- – Must be handled carefully so as not to bend