iPad Air 2020 review
With its tip-top performance and thin, even bezels, the iPad Pro has long been the cornerstone of Apple’s iPad lineup. But with most of the functionality yet only costing a fraction as much, the 2020 iPad Air offers great value to those looking for a laptop replacement.
Till now, the rest of the family – entry-level iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air – have always sported the thicker “forehead” and “chin” design that housed the selfie camera and home button. The older form factor also meant that they were only compatible with the 1st Gen Apple Pencil and “origami” style iPad case.
New pro design, new pro perks
In the hand, the 2020 iPad Air is almost completely indistinguishable from the 2018 iPad Pro. Flat edges on all sides with even bezels framing it, the SGD 879 iPad Air enjoys all the benefits of the $1,499 iPad Pro, while only costing 60% the price.
For those who desire a touch of colour, the iPad Air offers five finishes: silver, space grey, rose gold, green and sky blue. It is also compatible with the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil, along with Smart Keyboard Folio and Magic Keyboard – which takes your iPad just a little extra in the direction of being a laptop.
User experience and performance
The first Apple device to sport the new A14 Bionic chip, the iPad Air is a zippy performer that punches far above its weight. From basic text processing on Pages to formatting presentations on Keynote, the iPad 14 interface is consistent and intuitive across similar devices, and access to pro-tier hardware improves its use.
Performance-wise, the A14 Bionic chipset had little issue zipping through 4K video rendering and demanding 3D games.
Should you get the iPad Pro instead?
The 2020 iPad Air only shies in comparison to the iPad Pro in three main areas:
1. No Face ID
Lacking the Face ID array on the iPad Pro, the iPad Air relies on the power button-mounted finger scanner for security. Especially in times like this when we are regularly masked, Touch ID makes for more convenient access when out and about.
Nonetheless, the magic-like instant unlock on the Pro by simply tapping on any key is definitely a more seamless experience.
2. No 120Hz ProMotion Display
With only half the refresh rate of the iPad Pro’s 120Hz ProMotion display, the iPad Air is definitely not as smooth, but it’s plenty good unless you game extensively or if you’re developing high frame rate videos and animations.
At 60Hz, it’s as smooth as current iPhones, which is plenty for most uses.
3. Hardware differences: RAM, storage & chipset
The main drawback of the iPad Air is its slightly limited RAM and storage options when compared to the top tier iPad Pro: which tops out at 6GB and 1TB respectively. With 4GB of RAM and a maximum of 256GB of storage, the iPad Air makes up the shortfall with the latest A14 Bionic chipset that it shares with the recently-launched iPhone 12 series smartphones.
Of course, everyday tasks like text editing and web browsing aren’t an issue, and 4K video project on Lumafusion had similar render times as the 2018 Pro model running the A12X Bionic.
Conclusion: should you get the 2020 iPad Air?
For most looking for a 3-in-1 laptop-tablet experience, this is a great value proposition for one reason. Or rather, three: as a tablet, the Air in the new form factor stands heads and shoulders over the competition. As a hybrid, the interface is optimised for touch.
But as a “laptop”, it edges yet closer to a full experience if you fork out for the Magic Keyboard. Complete with backlit keyboard, free tilt adjustment and touchpad, you’re mainly missing true “window”-style multitasking and a large display.
The iPad Air 2020 is now available for order on the Apple Store.