iPad vs iPad Air: What’s the difference?

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iPad vs iPad Air: Both are great, but one is clearly superior

Buyers who choose between the iPad and the iPad Air face a difficult dilemma. Unlike the iPad Pro, which has its intention on its sleeve, the iPad Air is harder to distinguish from the base iPad at first glance.

However, the differences are significant both in terms of price and performance. While the iPad is exceptional value that is suitable for most tasks, the iPad Air is much faster, more attractive, and has several handy features. These benefits are worth the higher price.

Overall results

iPad (2020)

  • Affordable price, great value for money.
  • Fairly fast for most tasks.
  • Bigger and heavier than the iPad Air.
  • Only supports 1st-gen Apple Pencil.

iPad Air (2020)

  • Similar design to the iPad Pro.
  • Excellent performance.
  • Laminated display reduces glare.
  • Supports 2nd-gen Apple Pencil.
  • Supports Magic Keyboard.

The Apple iPad and the iPad Air differ in design. The iPad has chunky display bezels, while the iPad Air has the more modern, slim-bezel look of the iPad Pro and iPhone 12. While both tablets have an attractive touchscreen, the display’s iPad Air is larger and more resistant to glare.

Under the hood, the iPad Air uses the latest Apple A14 Bionic processor, while the iPad has the older A12 Bionic chip. Gamers and content creators will appreciate the iPad Air’s faster processor in apps like Adobe Photoshop and iPad games. In addition, iPad Air supports 2nd generation Apple pencil, while the iPad only supports the original version.

Design: The classic iPad shows its age alongside the iPad Air

iPad (2020)

  • Classic large bezel design.
  • TouchID button always on the front and center.
  • Slightly thicker than the iPad Air.

iPad Air (2020)

  • Bigger screen, but smaller overall.
  • Looks similar to iPad Pro and iPad Air.
  • TouchID changes to the power button.

Apple’s iPad Air has a slim, slim design like the iPad Pro and iPhone 12. Although the iPad Air has a larger screen, it is lighter than the iPad, at one pound per. compared to the iPad 1.08 pounds. They are similar in size, most notably differing in thickness, where the iPad Air is 14 millimeters thinner. Overall, the iPad Air gives you a bigger screen in a lighter, thinner frame.

While both use the Touch ID login for security, the iPad Air moves it to the top button. It works as well as before, but the move is important for other reasons. With iPad, you’ll use the Touch ID button for certain tasks, like going to the Home screen. The iPad Air uses the new, buttonless, gesture-based user interface found on most iPhones, as well as the iPad Pro. This user interface is a bit faster in everyday use.

Display: the difference is in the details

iPad (2020)

  • 10.2 inch display
  • 264 pixels per inch
  • Glare can be a problem

iPad Air (2020)

  • 10.9 inch display
  • 264 pixels per inch
  • Laminated display reduces glare

The iPad and the iPad Air have a similar screen on paper. While the iPad Air’s screen is slightly larger, that’s a small difference, and the two look just as sharp. They’re also a match in brightness, with each hitting an extremely bright 500 nits. This is enough to make each tablet suitable for outdoor use.

There are differences in the details, however. The iPad Air’s display is “fully laminated,” which means it’s tightly bonded to the glass. This reduces the tiny gap between the screen and the glass covering it, creating a more upscale touchscreen experience.

The iPad Air’s screen also suffers less glare and has a wider color gamut. IPad Air is best for viewing photos, watching videos, or playing games.

Performance: iPad Air is faster overall

iPad (2020)

  • Apple A12 chip.
  • 10 hours of autonomy.
  • Limited to older Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

iPad Air (2020)

  • Apple A14 chip.
  • 10 hours of autonomy.
  • Supports the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

The 8th generation iPad comes with Apple’s A12 chip, which arrived in 2018. Buying the iPad Air nets you the latest Apple A14. The entry-level iPad can handle most apps, but the modern iPad Air hardware will feel slick for years to come. In fact, the latest iPad Air is pretty close to the iPad Pro in benchmarks.

Despite the performance gap, battery life is a link, with both iPads promising 10 hours of web browsing and video playback.

Wireless connectivity is a win for the iPad Air. It supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, while the iPad only supports 802.11ac (and above) Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.2. The best iPad Air holder will help the tablet stand the test of the future. There is no significant difference in the cellular wireless options for each tablet, and neither does 5G support.

iPad (2020)

  • It has a headphone jack.
  • Uses the Lightning connector.
  • A Lightning to USB-C cable.

iPad Air (2020)

  • Lack of headphone jack.
  • Uses the USB-C connector.
  • Compatible with Magic Keyboard.

The design of the iPad shows its age again in the extras. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is useful if you have wireless headphones. IPad Air does not have a headphone jack.

You’ll also find the Lightning connector on the iPad, while the iPad Air has the more modern USB-C. IPad includes a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box, so you can use it with USB-C devices.

IPad Air supports Apple Magic Keyboard, the best keyboard you can buy for an iPad. You can find third-party options for the iPad, however.


iPad (2020)

  • From 329 €.
  • The base model has very limited storage.

iPad Air (2020)

  • From 499 €.
  • The base model has (barely) passable storage.
  • Upgrading storage is expensive.

Apple charges € 329 for the iPad with 32 GB of storage. Limited storage is an issue, however. The 128GB model, which we recommend, starts at $ 429.

The iPad Air starts at € 599 for 64GB of storage. That’s a usable amount of storage, but you’ll run out of it if you’re working with high-resolution photos or video. The 256 GB model is € 749.

Choosing a Wi-Fi + Cellular model adds $ 130 to the MSRP, no matter what model of iPad or iPad Air you want.

The price difference between the iPad and the iPad Air is large, but both offer good value for money.

Final Verdict

Choosing between iPad and iPad Air comes down to budget.

The iPad Air is clearly superior. It’s faster, has a more usable screen, supports the latest Apple accessories, and has better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. You can buy the iPad Air with confidence.

However, there is a big price difference between them. The iPad is almost half the price of the iPad Air. The iPad is still a great tablet, and owners who don’t plan on surfing the web and watching video will be happy.

In both cases, we recommend going for the iPad or iPad Air model with additional storage on the basic version. Running out of space is a real pain, and with app sizes increasing over time, basic models will force you to rely on cloud storage.

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