IPad Air 2020 review: a more accessible iPad Pro with few compromises

IPad Air 2020 review

To know which iPad to choose, you generally have to make the equation between the budget you want to invest in and the use you expect.

Right now, all iPads can do the same. They all support Apple Pencil, keyboards, and trackpads, and all models feature fairly recent processors. The new iPad Air at 669 euros can be an everyday iPad, more chic, or a cheaper iPad Pro.

After several days spent with this iPad Air 2020, we are won over. It has even become our favorite iPad. It’s just as good as and cheaper than the iPadPro. If you are really interested in an iPad Pro, we suggest you wait for the update next year which might see a mini Led screen coming.

But that doesn’t mean the iPad Air is necessarily the best iPad for you. For its price, the standard eighth-generation iPad remains the best option for most users.

The perfect size, with a new Touch ID button

The new iPad Air has exactly the same screen diagonal as the 11-inch iPad Pro. This relatively compact format, which we particularly appreciate, allows us to take advantage of a beautiful display surface. It looks a lot like the Pro model with one exception: the power button incorporates Touch ID technology. In addition, the iPad Air 2020 adapts to cases and keyboards of the Pro versions which make it as the best tablet with keyboard.

The LCD screen is virtually identical to that of the 11-inch iPad Pro, but a few differences can be pointed out. The iPad Pro offers a definition of 2388 x 1668 pixels, with a maximum brightness of 600 nits. The iPad Air can display content in a resolution of 2360 x 1640 pixels, with a maximum brightness of 500 nits. In practice, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other on these points. The iPad Pro takes the lead with its maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, compared to 60Hz for the iPad Air. We also note slightly thicker borders around the screen of the latter.

The iPad Air is the first device from Apple to integrate Touch ID technology on the power button located on the edge. Suddenly, you have to remember its position because it can be found anywhere depending on how you hold the tablet. Fortunately, Apple has provided a pop-up indicator on the screen that lets you know where the button is when you need to unlock the iPad with your finger. A word of advice, record your right and left indexes to be comfortable in both portrait and landscape mode. The sensor works great and there’s no reason future iPhones (or even the Apple Watch) can’t have that Touch ID button.

Technically always on top

The new A14 chip, also present in the iPhone 12, is in the game. Based on Geekbench 5 data and our daily usage, it is logically faster than the A12 in the 2019 iPad Air and 2019 iPad mini. But the A12Z chip in the iPad Pro is far from being outdated since it is more efficient in multitasking and displays higher graphics performance. On AnTuTu, the iPad Air is left behind by the iPad Pro in particular on the GPU part. 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme test, which focuses on graphics performance, yields similar results.

A good front camera poorly positioned for video calls

The iPad Air still hasn’t solved the Apple tablet’s biggest problem when it comes to video calling: the location of the front camera that ends up on the side when you’re in landscape mode. With Zoom, you’ll feel like you’re looking out of the screen. The camera itself (7 megapixels; f / 2.2) is better than that of the entry-level iPad, but we would have preferred it to be better placed.

The performance of the single back sensor (12 megapixels; f / 1.8) is correct without reaching that of an iPhone 12. The shots were taken during the day display beautiful colors and a fairly good level of detail. This sensor manages to deliver usable renderings in low light despite a marked degradation of the image.

Correct autonomy

Apple promises “up to 10 hours of battery life for surfing the Internet on Wi-Fi or watching videos.” In fact, classic use (web browsing, office automation, video playback, video games) keeps us away from the charger for a day and a half (12 hours on average).

With its USB-C charger, the iPad Air 2020 is fully charged in just over 2 hours.

Multitasking, yes, but not yet at the level of a laptop

The iPad is surprisingly versatile, and when paired with a keyboard, it can be used as a laptop for hours. The 10.9-inch screen is spacious enough to use two apps side by side and handle different things at the same time.

Apple also made great strides with iPadOS 14 when it comes to file storage, dragging and dropping between multitasking apps, trackpad, mouse, and stylus support. But it doesn’t look exactly like a laptop yet. File storage can get weird, and browser support is better, but not perfect. And when we tried using Zoom and Gmail together to find out that the camera was muted while multitasking, we ran into some really penalizing limitations.

A point on the competition

Competitors to the iPad Air 2020 are not jostling at the gate. Launched from 719 euros with 128 GB of storage, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 can be seen as an alternative to the Apple tablet but running Android. It embeds Qualcomm’s most premium processor at the moment (the Snapdragon 865+), an 11-inch 120 Hz TFT screen with a definition of 2560 x 1600 pixels and an 8000 mAh battery compatible with 45W fast charging. It should also be associated with the Keyboard Cover with trackpad at 199 euros to exploit its full potential.

The Tab S7 + and its 12.4-inch screen will require a larger investment (from 949 euros ) but you will benefit from Super AMOLED technology and a 10,090 mAh battery. The Keyboard Cover compatible with this model will cost you 229 euros.

Conclusion

Personally, we prefer the new iPad Air to any other current iPad. But we would like to add a Magic Keyboard (339 euros), and 256 GB of storage. We would then come close to 1,200 euros, which is starting to be very expensive for an iPad. And that is the whole issue when choosing an Apple product: knowing where to locate the need for upgrades and accessories. The chances of you running the base iPad Air with 64GB of storage with no extras are pretty slim unless you already have 11-inch iPad Pro accessories.

The important thing to know about the iPad Air is that it really gives the impression of having abandoned the less essential features of the iPad Pro to be more affordable. Kind of like when the iPhone XR came after the iPhone X. Not exactly the same smartphone, but in many ways more than enough.

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