iPad Air 2020 assessment: The price range iPad Professional


The iPad Air seems identical to the iPad Professional now, and performs practically like one, too.

Scott Stein/CNET

It is laborious to maintain monitor of iPads. Apple’s tablets are fairly unbelievable and versatile, but additionally mix collectively throughout a vast spectrum of sizes and costs. Realizing which one to get is normally a matter of weighing what you are keen to spend and the way a lot you are planning on doing.

All iPads, proper now, can do related issues. All of them help Pencil sketching, keyboards and trackpads and all present fashions have fairly new processors. So the redesigned iPad Air, beginning at $599 (£579, AU$899), is both of two issues: a fancier on a regular basis iPad for you, or a less expensive iPad Professional. And the worth, primarily based on the way you configure and deck it out in equipment, can differ broadly.


  • Glorious show and efficiency
  • USB-C means higher help for chargers and dongles
  • Feels identical to the iPad Professional, however prices much less
  • Works with older iPad Professional 11 equipment
  • Works with Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard

Do not Like

  • Lacks the additional rear cameras and lidar of the iPad Professional
  • Can get costly if you happen to add equipment
  • Entrance digicam nonetheless awkwardly angled for Zoom
  • Base mannequin nonetheless solely consists of 64GB

After utilizing it for weeks now, it is develop into my favourite iPad. Actually, I’ve largely forgotten concerning the iPad Professional. The Air is principally nearly as good, for much less. And if you happen to’re actually, actually serious about a Professional, which was final up to date again in March, I might think about simply ready until subsequent yr to see what else will get launched — like a mini LED show, maybe. The extra I’ve used the Air, the extra I’ve appreciated that Apple has actually made an inexpensive Professional that strips out just a few options you in all probability had been by no means possible to make use of.

Including USB-C, a crisp bigger show and quick efficiency, plus help for the Magic Keyboard and Pencil 2, make it really feel fairly nice. And it is the identical dimension as what was beforehand my favourite iPad, the 11-inch iPad Professional.

However that does not imply the Air is essentially the most effective iPad for you. For its worth, the usual eighth-gen iPad stays the higher deal, and the go-to for most individuals (particularly children). Think about the eighth-gen iPad this fashion: principally final yr’s iPad Air at a cheaper price. 

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iPad Air is right here, however which iPad must you purchase?


The right dimension, with one new Contact ID button

The 11-inch iPad Professional has been my favourite dimension for some time. This new fourth-gen iPad Air is strictly the identical dimension and suits the 11-inch Professional’s instances and keyboards, too. It feels equivalent, with one exception: It has Contact ID on the highest energy button, as a substitute of Face ID.

So I slapped the outdated Sensible Keyboard from the iPad Professional 11 on and issues felt nearly precisely the identical. iPad Professional who?

The show is principally the identical because the 11-inch Professional, however not precisely. It is bizarre. The 11-inch Professional has an 11-inch, 2,388×1,668-pixel LCD with 600 nits max brightness. The Air has a 10.9-inch, 2,360×1,640-pixel LCD with 500 nits max brightness. I by no means seen the distinction. The aspect bezels appear a hair larger on the Air. The iPad Professional additionally has smoother ProMotion display screen refresh, at as much as 120Hz, versus the iPad’s extra regular really feel. ProMotion is beautiful, however I am additionally high quality with out it.


Contact ID is true there, on the ability button.

Scott Stein/CNET

What concerning the new Contact ID button, although? The Air would not have Face ID, which the Execs and iPhones have. The Face ID digicam is cleverly hidden across the black bezel of the Professional and works at practically any orientation. In the meantime, the Air is Apple’s first gadget with a fingerprint sensor on the small energy button on its edge, as a substitute of the round dwelling button (which this iPad would not have). 

You need to bear in mind which path your iPad is going through, as a result of that Contact ID might find yourself nearly wherever. Fortunately, a pop-up on-screen indicator lets you realize the place it’s when Contact ID is required. However the orientation generally works for my left forefinger, generally for my proper. I registered two fingers for sensible consolation in panorama and portrait. The brand new Contact ID button appears to work reliably thus far and there isn’t any purpose why future iPhones (and even the Apple Watch) could not get these little Contact ID buttons, too.


In comparison with the 2019 iPad Air, the 2020 model will get a giant chip increase and Professional-like extras (USB-C).

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How briskly is it?

The brand new A14 chip, additionally within the iPhones 12, is within the Air. It sounds sooner than every other iPad and that is half-true. The A14 is actually sooner than the A12 on the iPad and iPad Mini, primarily based on benchmarks in Geekbench 5 and even in on a regular basis use (preliminary runs present a rating of 1,118, and a multicore rating of 4,675 — larger is best). However the iPad Professional’s A12Z is quicker in multitasking, whereas the Air beats it in single-core pace. Which is bizarre. The A12Z has extra graphics energy in its chip. However if you happen to actually needed an iPad Professional, it could make me need to watch for a Professional with a attainable A14Z chip subsequent yr.

The entrance digicam is ok, however nonetheless not nice for Zoom

We’re all in video chats now. The iPad Air hasn’t solved the iPad’s largest video chat downside, which is that the entrance digicam finally ends up on the aspect in panorama mode. You may seem like you are staring off-screen in Zooms. The 7-megapixel digicam is best than the entry-level iPad’s, however I’d have most popular one thing extra centered for video chats.


Magic Keyboard and Pencil: not included.

Scott Stein/CNET

Equipment will value you

Apple’s iPad pricing slope begins seemingly inexpensive ($329, typically on sale for $299 or much less) and climbs up from there with storage tiers, fashions with additional options and dear however helpful equipment. It is loads like automobile procuring — instantly you are getting the all-leather inside and deluxe extras.

The Air is a semiexpensive midrange mannequin in that analogy, and people fancy extras can add up quick. The bottom 64GB $599 (£579, AU$899) iPad Air would not really feel like sufficient storage for an iPad made to final years. However there isn’t any 128GB mannequin, so the 256GB model bumps to $749. (Skip the mobile add-on until your workplace is paying.)

After which, the Pencil and keyboards. The Air helps all the latest Apple equipment just like the snap-on magnetic Pencil 2 and the Magic Keyboard with trackpad. The Pencil 2 is $129 and the Magic Keyboard is $299, which is half the worth of the iPad Air itself. You find yourself climbing to over $1,000 and now that is hardly a price range iPad anymore. No, it isn’t suitable with the first-gen Pencil, both.

You might even find yourself speaking your self into the iPad Professional at that time: the 128GB 11-inch Professional is $799, $50 greater than the 256GB Air. And so it goes.


With a keyboard, nonetheless nice for writing.

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It multitasks, however iPads are nonetheless not the identical as laptops

A phrase, as soon as once more, on the guarantees and limits of iPads as true laptop replacements. iPads are shockingly versatile and with a keyboard case slapped on, I can discover myself instantly utilizing it like a laptop computer for hours on finish. That is the wonderful thing about iPads and iPadOS. The 10.9-inch display screen is sufficiently big to separate two apps fairly properly and monitor various things directly, too.

Apple’s additionally made quite a lot of strides in iPadOS 14 to allow file storage, drag-and-drop between multitasked apps, plus trackpad and mouse help and higher Pencil help for scribbling and annotating on the iPad extra simply. However, it nonetheless would not really feel precisely like a laptop computer. File storage can get bizarre. Browser help is best however not good. And once I tried split-screening Zoom and Gmail and found that my digicam was lower off in multitasking mode, I spotted that there are some limits which have actual impacts proper now. 


The iPad Air, between the 2020 iPad (left) and iPad Professional (proper). The Air is Professional-like, however the fundamental iPad is nearly as good as final yr’s Air.

Scott Stein/CNET

A extra inexpensive fancy iPad, however do you want it?

For my tastes, I favor the brand new iPad Air over every other present iPad. And I might need the Magic Keyboard, too, plus the additional storage. However that locations me at $1,100 or so after tax, and that is a fairly fancy iPad setup certainly.

And very similar to quite a lot of Apple’s product lineups, that is the important thing: realizing the place you need to land on pricing and upgrades. The chances that you will simply use the bottom 64GB iPad out of the field with no extras is fairly slim, until you have already got some 11-inch iPad Professional equipment mendacity round.

Simply know that this Air actually does really feel prefer it’s left off some much less important iPad Professional options and supplied up a extra inexpensive gadget in return. It is like when the iPhone XR arrived after the iPhone X. Not precisely the identical, however in quite a lot of methods greater than ok.

It is nice that Apple upgraded the Air a lot since final yr. But in addition keep in mind that final yr’s completely succesful iPad Air continues to be round: It is simply principally been changed into the entry-level iPad and it is extra inexpensive than ever.

Replace, Nov. 24: Provides CNET Editors’ Alternative award.
First revealed Oct. 21.

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