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Apple iPad Air 2020 review: This feels like an iPad Pro lite

By Kenny Yeo - 23 May 2021

Performance, battery life, and conclusion

Performance analysis

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

Powering the iPad Air is Apple’s latest A14 Bionic, which they are keen to boast is the world’s first 5nm processor used in a mobile device. It’s also the same processor used in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. And if you’ve already read my review of those phones, you’ll know that it’s a beast that stomps all over the competition.

Looking at the charts, the new iPad Air offers very substantial increases in performance over its predecessor. It’s also a great deal faster than the entry-level iPad that was announced earlier this year. The iPad Pro still holds a lead in more categories but that’s to be expected given that its A12Z Bionic processor has more CPU and GPU cores than the iPad Air’s A14 Bionic processor.

Given that it’s powered by the A14 Bionic chip, it’s no surprise to see that the iPad Air ran rings around the latest Android hardware, including the Galaxy Tab S7+. The Galaxy Tab S7+ is arguably the most high-end Android tablet you can buy now but even it and its Snapdragon 865+ processor is no match for the iPad Air.

 

Battery life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email

Firstly, I apologise that I’m using a different unit of measurement in the graph. Watt-hour is the spec quoted by Apple and without knowing the voltage of the battery, I’m unable to convert it to mAh to make it easier to compare. What you need to know is that the new iPad Air’s battery is smaller than its predecessor. It’s 28.6Wh vs. 30.2Wh which is about 5% smaller.

Combined with its larger 10.9-inch display, the new iPad Air lasted almost two hours shorter on our battery test. Granted, our battery test is pretty intensive, but that’s not an encouraging sign. It lasted a lot shorter than any other iPad. If battery life is crucial, a bigger tablet always help. The Galaxy Tab S7+ is a battery life champ, lasting over nine hours even with its display at maximum brightness.

In the real world, battery life was acceptable, though, again, noticeably shorter than other iPads I've used. I'm not on the iPad Air the entire day and when used to check and reply the odd emails, watching a bit of videos, and browsing the web, I could easily go two days (roughly 7 to 8 hours of screen time) before I needed to charge it – that's not too far off from Apple's official claim of 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching video.

 

The best iPad for most people

To create the iPad Air, it seems like Apple has taken a long and hard look at the iPad Pro and stripped it down to its key ingredients. As a result, the new iPad Air is more an 'iPad Pro lite' than a souped-up basic iPad. This approach should be applauded.

The iPad Air is probably the best iPad in the current lineup.

Be that as it may, it’s still quite expensive. Prices begin at S$879 and are up S$130 across all configurations compared to last year’s model. Fortunately, storage starts at a more reasonable 64GB instead of 32GB of the entry-level iPad. But even so, once you add a couple of accessories and you are looking at an outlay of well over a grand. It’s not cheap. But to be fair, a high-end Android tablet is going to set you back just as much if not more (the Galaxy Tab S7 starts from S$998).

4th-generation iPad Air prices
Storage Wi-Fi Wi-Fi + Cellular
64GB S$879 S$1,079
256GB S$1,099 S$1,299


Fortunately, the iPad Air delivers the goods. The design and form factor is great, the display is excellent, and the performance is superb. The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds water here. And I would argue that for a device that you are likely going to keep around and use for a couple of years (more than, say, a phone), it makes sense to get the best you can afford now so that you don’t have to upgrade as early.

If your budget stretches far enough, this is the iPad you should get. Just remember it doesn’t have Face ID.

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8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 9
  • Performance 9.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Fantastic display
Superb performance
Supports 2nd-generation Apple Pencil
Works with Magic Keyboard
Fast TouchID
Added functionality thanks to iPadOS 14
The Bad
No ProMotion display
Disappointing battery life
Big step up in price over basic iPad
Accesories sold separately and pricey
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