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First impressions: Apple 4th generation iPad Air

By Kenny Yeo - 25 Oct 2020

First impressions: Apple 4th generation iPad Air

Note: This feature was first published on 21 Oct 2020.

This is the new iPad Air and it looks a lot like the 11-inch iPad Pro.

Last month, Apple announced a new iPad Air alongside the Apple Watch Series 6 and the 8th generation iPad.

There seems to be a pattern here. The iPad Air was last updated in March last year and it took on the form factor of the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017. The latest iPad Air now has mostly the same form factor as the 11-inch iPad Pro (first unveiled in 2018).

This latest iPad Air has the same footprint has the 11-inch iPad Pro (247.6mm x 178.5mm) but it’s oh-so-slight thicker (6.1mm vs 5.9mm). What this means is that this new iPad Air work with Apple’s keyboard accessories for the 11-inch iPad Pro – including the very good but also very expensive Magic Keyboard.

The Magic Keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro will work with the iPad Air.

Similar to the latest iPhones, the new iPad Air has squared edges and flat sides, which is an aesthetic that harkens back to the iPhone 4 and 5, and was revived when Apple gave the iPad Pro a thorough update in 2018. However, unlike the iPad Pro which only came in two colours, the iPad Air will be available in five, making it the most colourful iPad in the lineup. Choose from silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue. The unit I have is sky blue.

Apple has integrated the Touch ID sensor into the top button.

Curiously, despite having the same form factor as the 11-inch iPad Pro, the iPad Air’s display is a smidge smaller at 10.9 inches. To get specific, it’s a Liquid Retina display with a resolution of 2,360 x 1,640 pixels. That’s a bit lower than the 11-inch iPad Pro but the two have the same pixel density count. Both support the P3 colour space and True Tone technology. However, the iPad Air lacks ProMotion technology, which is Apple’s dynamic refresh rate technology and so the iPad Air’s display refresh rate is limited to 60Hz. Still, having used the iPad Air for the past few days, I think it still feels fluid enough. More crucially, it’s sharp and the colours are great.

The other thing that is different from the iPad Pro is that that the iPad Air is missing support for Face ID. Instead, it relies on Touch ID and Apple has somehow managed to integrate it into the slender top button without compromising on security. Face ID is infinitely more convenient and faster, but the obvious upside to Touch ID is that it'll work even if you have your mask on. And having been so accustomed to Face ID on the iPad Pro, I found myself staring at the iPad Air before catching myself and realising that I need to use my fingerprint to unlock the device.

Inside the iPad Air is the same processor found in the new iPhones.

Under the expansive piece of glass is Apple’s new A14 Bionic processor. If you have read my iPhone 12 and 12 Pro review, you’ll know that it’s a beast. GPU performance, particularly on modern apps that make use of Apple’s Metal API, stomps all over the competition. It should also offer considerable improvements over the last iPad Air which has an A12 Bionic processor. Anyway, I don’t think anyone is going to be upset with the iPad Air’s performance.

In my short time with the iPad Air, I'm really enjoying it.

This new iPad Air is already available for order from Apple or on the official Apple store on Lazada. Prices start from S$879 and the first units will be delivered this Friday on 23 October when it goes into retail.

I've only spent a couple of days with it but I feel like the new iPad Air has a lot of promise. The new design is sweet, performance is excellent, and I think it has a good chance of being the best iPad for most people in the lineup. I'll have to test it out more and collect my thoughts to know for sure. I'll let you know how it goes in my full review so stay tuned.

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