(Pocket-lint) – Apple’s big September event this year took the wraps off two exciting new updates to the iPad range, in the form of the all-new iPad Air and the 8th generation of the standard iPad.
Both look like really excellent options for the “mid-range” pricing tiers that Apple’s targetting, coming in below the iPad Pro range’s costs but still bringing some of the same great features, or even some upgrades. Which is right for you, though? We’ve compared them around some key elements, below.
Design and display
The new iPad Air marks a pretty major change to the lineup by adopting the iPad Pro’s looks to a great extent – it’s got those rounded-off corners and flatter edges, making it arguably look the more modern of the two tablets.
It also comes in a wide range of colours, comprising silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue – giving a great range of stylish options to pick from.
Meanwhile its display is boosted up to a full 10.9 inches, with Apple’s Liquid Retina tech ensuring that its clarity and detail are pretty much unmatched. That also brings benefits like True Tone for accurate colour and an anti-reflective coating.
The 2020 iPad, by contrast, keeps everything outwardly the same, sticking to the design that’s worked for it so far and making no major changes. It’s available in grey, silver and rose gold, like before.
It’s got a 10.2-inch Retina display, making for great picture quality and colours, too, which might be less pixel-dense than the Air but will still impress most users, we’d wager, despite the lack of True Tone.
Specs and hardware
The iPad Air 2020 is a bit of a big device on the hardware front for Apple – it’s the first to feature its new flagship chip, the A14 Bionic, and that makes for what should be some pretty blistering performance.
With a 5 nanometer process, this is a bleeding-edge chip that should make the Air comfortable editing 4K video, handle demanding games and multitask effortlessly. It’s a big leap up in power terms compared to the last Air, and also a margin more powerful than the new iPad.
The 8th generation iPad, by contrast, uses the A12 Bionic to grab a 40% performance boost compared to the previous model, even if it’ll be a tad slower than the Air’s chip.
Both tablets ship with iPadOS 14 installed, bringing new functionality to the tablet OS and opening up the world of widgets for your home screen. They both work with Apple Pencil, too, but the iPad Air is the only one that can support the second-generation Pencil, sadly.
Another difference comes in the charging and with data transfer – the iPad Air uses USB Type C for far more universale cable support, while the iPad sticks to Lightning for now.
The new iPad Air has a 7MP selfie camera for video calls and other uses, but gets a nice bump on the rear camera, matching the iPad Pro with a 12MP camera that can manage 4K video.
The iPad, meanwhile, sticks to its 8MP rear camera and FaceTime HD selfie camera, neither of which will light your world alight but certainly get the job done.
There’s a bit of a gulf when it comes to price between these two models, too, largely as a result of the iPad Air’s upgrades.
The Air starts from $599 (£579) for Wi-Fi only, while Wi-Fi and Cellular models start at $729 (£709).
The iPad 8th Gen, meanwhile, starts from $329 (£329), with Cellular from $459 (£459).
Of the two new iPads Apple’s launched, it’s the iPad Air that’s causing a stir at Pocket-lint – we think it might just be the new default pick for most people looking for an iPad.
That new A14 chip means it’s likely to be a powerful beast for a good number of years to come, while its updated design and USB-C compatibility only further that impression.
The iPad 8th Gen is still a great option if your budget is more restrictive, and the upgrade’s welcome, but we think if you can stretch to it the iPad Air should probably be the choice most people opt for.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.