Apple’s reimagined iPad Air is a complete refresh of the third generation from 2019, sporting an all-new design with a bigger screen and more color options, thoroughly upgraded hardware specs, and, starting at $599, a higher price tag. The newcomer was unveiled at Apple's “Time Flies” September event alongside an entry-level iPad, Apple Watch Series 6, and Apple Watch SE.
• A14 Bionic chip with a Neural Engine
• 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
• Up to 256GB of storage
• Touch ID fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers, dual microphones
• FaceTime HD camera, 8MP rear-facing camera
• USB-C and Smart Connectors
• Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
• Compatible with Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil (second-generation)
I used the iPad Air for the past week on a daily basis and enjoyed the new design and the hardware upgrades it brings. Save for the pricier and even more feature-packed iPad Pro, this is the best full-sized tablet worth your attention today. Here’s everything that impressed me about its design, display, and performance.
Like an iPad Pro With a Touch ID
The iPad Air has the same all-screen design as the iPad Pro
It’s the first iPad that’s available in five colors
Its Touch ID fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power button
It has a USB-C instead of a Lightning connector and no audio jack
Except for the sole camera sensor on its back, the iPad Air looks identical to the 11-inch iPad Pro. The front of the slate is all about the Liquid Retina display now — there’s no longer a Touch ID fingerprint sensor underneath it like in its predecessor.
Speaking of Touch ID, the Air is the first iPad to have the fingerprint sensor integrated into its power button. The feature is as convenient as it has always been. However, if you’re switching from an older iPad, it might take a bit of getting used to its new location.
Only a few hours after I began testing the iPad Air, I optimized my Touch ID routine by registering my left and right index fingers. I used the former to unlock the device in landscape use or with a keyboard case, and the latter for access while holding it with my left hand in portrait mode.
By changing the location of the Touch ID sensor, Apple gave the iPad Air a noticeably bigger screen, while retaining the same compact footprint as the one it replaces. Measuring only 6.1 millimeters thick, the product is also elegant for a big-screen tablet.
USB-C is another new iPad Air bit that was previously reserved for the iPad Pro. The futureproof connector makes the device compatible with a whole new ecosystem of accessories, as well as external monitors with up to a 4K resolution. It can also deliver fast data transfer and charging speeds.
The fresh appearance of the iPad Air is accompanied by two brand-new color options. Green and sky blue are available for the first time alongside silver, space gray, and rose gold.
I also tip my hat to Apple for crafting the enclosure of the device from 100% recycled aluminum. Using such a material has a drastic effect on the product's environmental impact.
Bigger and Better Than Before
The new iPad Air has better Retina display than the previous generation
The screen is bright and suitable for use in any lighting
The iPad Air works with the second-generation Apple Pencil
The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display of the new iPad Air is a noteworthy upgrade over the previous generation’s. Flanked by thin bezels all around, it is sharp, bright, and excellent overall.
I enjoyed interacting with the panel equally during work sessions, while shopping for furniture, and while catching up on my YouTube channel subscriptions, to name a few occasions. Thanks to a low reflectivity, support for a wide P3 gamut, and True Tone tech, the screen of the iPad Air can display accurate colors regardless of your lighting situation.
The iPad Air joins the iPad Pro in being compatible with the excellent second-generation Apple Pencil (it's compatible with the the Magic Keyboard, too). The optional accessory has a magnetic charging slot on the right side of the slate. The ProMotion panel with a high refresh rate and smoother onscreen experience still sets the two products apart — the Air doesn’t have one.
One of the Most Powerful Tablets Out There
The iPad Air has the same chip as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro
It has high-quality microphones and stereo speakers
It has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 wireless connectivity
There’s no task that can slow down the new iPad Air. Powered by the same A14 Bionic chip as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, the tablet can outperform any rival in its price range and beyond. Compared to the A12 Bionic of the previous iPad Air, the latest Apple chip has 30% and 40% more graphics and processing power, respectively.
While I tested it, the iPad Air successfully replaced a bulkier laptop as my go-to mobile workstation. It seamlessly switched between a web browser (with more than 10 open tabs), editing images in Affinity Photo, Slack, Apple Pages, and Zoom, among other apps. Its battery lasted through busy workdays, too.
Apple made the A14 Bionic insanely powerful and energy efficient by using a 5-nanometer manufacturing process in its making. The cutting-edge tech gives the chip performance gains by fitting more transistors into a tiny space — a truly amazing achievement.
The A14 Bionic chip has an upgraded Neural Engine with vast machine-learning capabilities. They bring improved iPadOS and app user experiences. The Air can respond faster to voice commands, tag and edit photos even more seamlessly, and be more secure than any rival.
The Neural Engine also helps the product deliver even more enchanting augmented reality apps and games. With developers being able to take advantage of the new chip, everything the iPad Air has to offer will get even better moving forward.
Sitting on the sides of the Liquid Retina display in landscape mode, the stereo speakers of the new iPad Air are significantly more immersive than the bottom-firing ones found in the previous model. A duo of built-in microphones allowed me to sound loud and clear during Zoom and FaceTime calls.
The Air's FaceTime HD camera performed superbly during virtual meetings. Its 12 MP rear-facing camera, on the other hand, is the same as the iPad Pro’s main unit. It can capture vivid photos and crisp 4K video that can put many smartphones to shame.
Upon unveiling, Apple rightfully noted that the iPad Air offers pro features at a more reasonable price point. The design and hardware updates make the tablet a welcome upgrade over its predecessor.
The $599 iPad Air comes with 64GB of storage. I highly recommend spending another $150 to get the variant with 256GB of memory instead — it's worth it for product longevity. The versions with LTE network connectivity cost $130 extra.
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