2020 iPad Air
In September 2020, Apple updated the iPad Air with a fourth-generation model that features a radical redesign that brings it closer in design to the iPad Pro. At $599, the iPad Air is a mid-tier option between the low-cost $329 eighth-generation iPad and the more expensive iPad Pro, starting at $799.
iPad Air features a 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display with a 2360 x 1640 resolution, 3.8 million pixels, and an iPad Pro-like design with an aluminum chassis that features flat, rounded edges that wrap around the fully laminated screen. True Tone support for adjusting the screen to match ambient light is included, as is the P3’s wide color, 500 nits brightness, and 1.8 percent reflectance.
Apple’s iPad Air is the first iPad to offer unique color options similar to the iPhone’s. iPad Air is available in silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue. The iPad Air’s most distinctive feature is the new Touch ID sensor built into the top button, a first for an Apple device.
iPad Air does not have Face ID and relies solely on Touch ID for biometric authentication purposes. Other than being built into the top button instead of the home button, the functionality of Touch ID is the same as other devices that have Touch ID.
Apple’s new iPad Air includes a hexa-core A14 Bionic chip, Apple’s latest A-series chip built on the 5nm process. Apple rarely introduced a new chip in the iPad before it came to the iPhone, but the 2020 iPad Air got the A14 chip first. According to Apple, the A-series chip delivers 40 percent faster CPU performance and 30 percent improved GPU performance thanks to the new quad-core GPU architecture.
The A14 chip includes a new 16-core Neural Engine that is twice as fast as the Neural Engine in the previous generation chip, and there are second-generation machine learning accelerators for machine learning computations that are 10 times faster.
Despite the absence of Face ID, the iPad Air has a 7MP front FaceTime camera along with a 12MP rear camera which is the same wide-angle camera used in the iPad Pro. The speaker quality has been updated with iPad Air which now comes with 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 data transfers at up to 5Gbps along with support for 4K cameras, hard drives, and external displays. iPad Air comes 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 works with the $279 Magic Keyboard with Apple trackpad. It is also compatible with Smart Keyboard Folio and Smart Folio covers.
Reviewers have been quite impressed with the iPad Air, and the consensus is that it’s the best tablet for most people thanks to its Pro design and specific features at a lower price than the iPad Pro.
Described as “fast and reliable,” the Touch ID sensor is able to quickly and easily recognize fingerprints in almost any direction, and the power button’s taller size makes it easier to find by feel.
Apple’s iPad Air doesn’t have a 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate like the iPad Pro, but reviewers found the iPad Air’s display to be a good fit.
The A14 chip in the iPad Air is Apple’s latest chip, and it’s incredibly fast. Reviewers were satisfied with its performance, but it’s worth noting that the iPad Pro wins 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 too many games, apps, or photos will quickly get over it. Upgrading to more storage costs an additional $100.
For more iPad Air reviews, be sure to check out our iPad Air review report.
Comparison between iPad Air and iPad Pro
The fourth-generation iPad Air is similar in design and functionality to the March 2020 iPad Pro models, featuring the same all-screen design but lacking ProMotion technology. The iPad Air has a faster A14 chip than the A12Z chip used in the iPad Pro, and uses Touch ID instead of Face ID. Be sure to check out our comparison article and video for a hands-on comparison. We also have a guide comparing the A14 chip to the A12Z chip.
Measuring 10.9 inches, up from 10.5 inches for the previous iPad Air model, the 2020 iPad Air saw a major redesign with an edge-to-edge display that resembles that of the iPad Pro. The aluminum chassis has rounded, flat edges that wrap around the Retina display, a design Apple first used for the iPad Pro.
In fact, compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Air is almost indistinguishable except for the slightly thicker body and thicker edges around the screen.
The iPad Air measures 9.74 inches by 7 inches, while the iPad Pro measures 9.74 inches by 7.02 inches tall. The iPad Air is 6.1 mm thick, while the 11-inch iPad Pro is 5.9 mm. The iPad Air weighs one pound and the iPad Pro weighs 1.04 pounds, so there’s not much difference here.
Apple’s previous iPad Air model had smooth, tapered edges that were rounded, while the new design has a more streamlined, industrial look that matches the iPad Pro and upcoming iPhone 12 models.
This is the first iPad Air to have a full screen design, and no Touch ID home button. However, there is also no Face ID, as biometric authentication is handled by the new Touch ID fingerprint reader built into the top button. It scans your fingerprint just like the Touch ID Home Button, but it’s smaller and more compact. The speakers and microphone are located on the top of the iPad Air next to the Touch ID button.
The right side of the iPad Air features the volume up/down buttons, a nano-SIM tray on cellular models, and a magnetic area for charging the Apple Pencil. On the back is a single-lens rear camera with a microphone, and the single-lens camera is notably different from the iPad Pro’s square-shaped camera bump in that it doesn’t have a second camera or a LiDAR scanner.
Stereo speakers and a USB-C port are located on the bottom of the iPad Air.
The aluminum case for the iPad Air is available in five colors, and this is the first time Apple has offered an iPad in a brighter, funky color. iPad Air comes in silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue.
The three brightest color options — rose gold, green, and cyan — set the iPad Air 2020 apart from the iPad Pro 2020.
The iPad Air is the first iPad or iPhone to have Touch ID that isn’t built into the device’s home button. Apple has built Touch ID into the top button of the iPad Air, allowing Touch ID-based biometric authentication without the need for thick bezels obscuring the screen.
The Touch ID top button works just like the Touch ID Home button and can be used to unlock your iPad, access apps, make purchases with Apple Pay, and more. Touch ID on iPad Air works in both portrait and landscape orientations.
The smart connector on the back of the iPad Air allows it to communicate with power accessories such as the Magic Keyboard. The Smart Connector interface is capable of transferring both power and data, so accessories that connect to the iPad Air using the Smart Connector don’t need 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 a 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 can charge your iPhone or Apple Watch using the appropriate cable.
iPad Air is equipped with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display identical to that of the iPad Pro but without 120Hz ProMotion technology for a smoother scrolling experience.
The screen resolution is 2360 x 1640 at 246 pixels per inch and 3.8 million pixels in total. It features full lamination (which reduces screen thickness and makes content appear more immersive), P3 Wide Color Support for rich, realistic colors, an anti-reflective coating with a 1.8 percent reflection rate, 500 nits brightness, and True Tone support.
True Tone adjusts the screen’s white balance to match the ambient light to make the screen easier on the eyes. If you’re in a room with yellow lighting, for example, the iPad’s screen is warmer in color, so there’s no stark contrast between the iPad’s color 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 along with the iPad Pro. Until the launch of the iPad Air, the second generation Apple Pencil was limited to iPad Pro models.
Apple is using its latest 5nm chip technology in the iPad Air, with the tablet equipped with a hexa-core A14 Bionic chip. Apple doesn’t often use the new chip technology in the iPad before it debuted the iPhone, but that’s what happened in 2020 due to the delayed release of iPhone 12 models. The iPhone 12 also features the same A14 Bionic chip.
According to Apple, the A14 chip is equipped with 11.8 billion transistors, which leads to increased performance and energy efficiency. The six-core design of the A14 chip results in a 40 percent increase in GPU performance compared to the A12, and the new quad-core GPU architecture provides 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 previous generation model. It features a single-core score of 1,583 and a multi-core score of 4198, which is a good deal faster than the 1,112 single-core score and 2,832 multi-core score obtained by the A12 Bionic chip in the third-generation iPad Air.
The A14 Bionic includes a 16-core Neural Engine that is twice as fast and can perform up to 11 trillion operations per second for faster than ever machine learning capabilities. There are also second-generation machine learning accelerators in the CPU for machine learning computations that are ten times faster.
With an updated A14 GPU and Neural Engine chip, Apple says the new iPad is able to deliver powerful new experiences on the device for image recognition, natural language learning, motion analysis, and more.
Based on the leaked A14 benchmark above, it confirms that the iPad Air has 4GB of RAM, 1GB more than the 3GB in the previous generation model.
While the iPad Air doesn’t have a TrueDepth camera system to support Face ID, there is a 7-megapixel front-facing FaceTime HD f/2.0 camera for taking selfies and video calls.
On the back of the iPad Air is a 12MP single-lens wide-angle camera which is the same wide-angle camera used in the iPad Pro. It supports HD videos and 4K video capture compared to the older iPad Air.
The 12MP camera features an f/1.8 aperture for strong low-light performance along with all the recent improvements that Apple has added to its device cameras such as Live Photos with stabilization, autofocus with Focus Pixels, wide color capture, and exposure control. Smart HDR, auto image stabilization, noise reduction, and more.
4K video recording at 20, 30 or 60 fps is supported, as is slow motion video at 120 or 240 fps. 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 capture 8MP still images when recording 4K video.
The iPad Air is equipped with a 28.6Whr lithium-polymer battery that Apple lasts up to 10 hours when browsing the web on WiFi or watching video.
Cellular models last up to nine hours when browsing the web over a cellular connection. iPad Air can be charged using a 20W USB-C Power Adapter and a USB-C to USB-C Cable.
Microphones and Loudspeakers
iPad Air features two sets of speakers for stereo sound in portrait and landscape modes. Dual microphones are included for calls, video recording, and audio recording.
Besides the Touch ID sensor, the iPad Air features a 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, True Tone ambient light sensor and other features.
Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth Support
The 2020 iPad Air supports WiFi 6, otherwise known as 802.11ax. The updated standard provides faster speeds, improved network capacity, better energy efficiency, lower latency, and improved connectivity when there are multiple WiFi devices in the same area.
WiFi 6 devices also support WPA3, a security protocol that provides enhanced encryption strength. It also supports Bluetooth 5.0 technology.
Gigabit-class LTE is available on iPad Air cellular models and an LTE modem chip is similar to the one included with the iPad Pro.
Bands support 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40 and 41, 46, 48, 66 and 71 are included.
There are two SIM card options in the iPad Air: a physical nano-SIM slot on 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 an Apple SIM that is designed to allow users to switch between carriers without any hassle. Many carriers in the US and other countries support the Apple SIM, but for those who don’t, like Verizon, a physical SIM is still needed.
Apple sells the iPad Air with either 64GB or 256GB of storage, with no mid-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 is a folio-shaped case that features a fully-lit keyboard and trackpad, for the first time.
Magic Keyboard uses scissor mechanisms like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboard. The scissor mechanism provides 1mm of travel, for what Apple says is the best iPad typing experience ever.
The Magic Keyboard attaches to the iPad Air through a magnetic connection, and features a ridged hinges that work on a desk or on a lap. The hinges allow the viewing angle to be adjusted up to 130 degrees, so it can be adjusted for each use case. The Magic Keyboard’s design allows the iPad to “float” in air, with the bottom of the case tilting back when used in keyboard mode.
When not in use, the folio style keyboard design keeps iPad Air secure, covering the front and back of the device. A USB-C port is built into the Magic Keyboard to pass on inductive USB-C charging capabilities, leaving the iPad Air’s built-in USB-C port free for accessories like external drives and monitors.
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, charges inductively. The coupling is also done through the magnetic attachment.
Gesture support is included with the second-generation Apple Pencil, and with a single tap, you can change brush or quickly switch from brush to eraser without having to pick up the pen and select a new tool.
The Apple Pencil works across the iPad Air, with first-party and third-party apps. It features advanced palm rejection, superior accuracy, and imperceptible lag for a paper-like writing experience unmatched by third-party pens.
Pressure support allows for thinner, thicker lines to be drawn by increasing the amount of pressure on the iPad screen, and side nib detection allows shading when the Apple Pencil is tilted.
How can I buy
Apple sells the iPad Air in 64GB and 256GB configurations with a 64GB model at $599 and a 256GB model at $729. Cellular models are available for an additional $100 more than the base price per capacity.
Apple began selling the iPad Air on Friday, October 16, with first orders arriving on October 23.
If you need help choosing between the new iPad Air and the new iPad Pro, we’ve got a buyer’s guide that explains the different features of each tablet.
What’s next for the iPad Air
The next generation iPad Air will feature a design similar to the 11-inch iPad Pro, according to Japanese website Mac Otakara. It’s expected to still get a 10.9-inch screen and Touch ID power button, but it’ll get a dual-lens camera system with ultra-wide and wide cameras, and LiDAR is a possibility. The new iPad Air will include a four-speaker audio system and a 5G mmWave chip.
Apple is rumored to be working on an OLED display for the iPad in 2022. The first iPad expected to adopt an OLED display is said to be a 10.9-inch model, presumably an updated version of the iPad Air. Production on the iPad Air is rumored to begin in the last quarter of 2021, with a launch in early 2022.
Korea’s ETNews has suggested that “some” iPad models will adopt OLED technology in 2022. The report does not specify that these iPads will be iPad Pro models, but potential candidates include the iPad Pro and iPad Air.
Elec also believes that Apple plans to release a 10.8-inch iPad with an OLED screen in 2022, and with that screen size, the site could refer to the iPad air.
Although multiple sources have suggested that the first OLED iPad will be released in 2022, Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) believes that Apple will wait until 2023 to release an OLED iPad. DSCC says the tablet Apple is developing will be a 10.9-inch iPad AMOLED, which is likely to be an Air based on earlier rumors.
It was previously rumored that Apple is in talks with Samsung about OLED displays for future iPad models. Barclays analysts also believe that the iPad OLED will not be released before 2022.
OLED screens can bring advantages such as increased brightness, deeper blacks, better contrast, faster response times, and sharper colors, as well as thinner devices because OLED panels are thinner than LCD screens.
Starting in 2022, Apple’s iPads are expected to feature a next-generation A-series chip built on TSMC’s improved 3nm process. The news comes from Nikkei Asia, and while the report doesn’t specify which iPad might be the first to get the new chip, it’s likely to be the iPad Pro. However, the chip will also come to the iPad Air, but the timing of that is unclear.
3nm technology can increase processing performance by 10 to 15 percent compared to 5nm technology, while also reducing power consumption by 25 to 30 percent.
Future versions of the iPad could use a titanium alloy chassis design, which will replace the aluminum used in current models. Titanium will be more resistant to scratches and bending due to its hardness.
DigiTimes says that Apple is working on this technology, although it is not known if and when a titanium chassis will be available. Since this process is expensive, it may initially be limited to high-end iPad models.