On Tuesday, Apple unveiled two new iPads. The eighth-generation iPad, and the fourth-generation iPad Air, replace existing models in the lineup and are undoubtedly important models for Apple. The $329 base model, is Apple’s best-selling iPad and a popular choice for schools, while the iPad Air is a tempting stepping stone for those who want more for their money without splurging on an iPad Pro. The only question that remains then, is whether or not these new models are a big enough upgrade to warrant any real attention. Let’s find out.
The Eighth-Generation Apple iPad
The eighth generation is not vastly different from its predecessor. It is the same size, the same shape, the same price, and is available in the same colors. It has the same battery life, the same cameras, and supports the same accessories like the first generation Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. In fact, the only place where it forges a new path from the seventh-generation iPad is with the introduction of the A12 Bionic processor.
The A12 gives the iPad more power and more performance. Apple says it is 40% faster than the previous chip and provides twice the graphics power. In a nod to the education market, they were also keen to point out that the new eighth-generation iPad is up to two-times faster than the top-selling Windows laptop, up to three times faster than the top-selling Android tablet, and up to six times faster than the top-selling Chromebook.
Whether you will notice, or be able to take advantage of, that extra speed is perhaps debatable in real-world use, but technology is all about progress and the addition of the A12 processor will ensure that this iPad is compatible with the latest versions of iOS for years to come. The entry-level, eighth-generation iPad starts at $329 for the 32Gb model and is available to buy right now. Schools can buy the same model for $299.
The Fourth-Generation iPad Air (2020)
The eight-generation iPad may not have offered much in the way of new features, but the iPad Air is a completely different story. The 2020 iPad Air has undergone a major redesign that is impossible to ignore. In this new model, Apple said goodbye to the home button and stretched the bezels to the outer reaches of the screen to mimic the look of an iPad Pro. This grew the screen to 10.9-inches and pushed TouchID to the power button on the top of the device. To unlock the new iPad Air, you simply rest your finger on the power button and the embedded sensors will authenticate your fingerprint to unlock your device.
The new iPad Air is the first Apple device to be equipped with the A14 processor, Apple’s most powerful chip ever. That’s kind of a big deal. The current iPad Pro models use the A12Z, a chip that is essentially two years old now, so this iPad will be no slouch when it comes to performance tasks. It has the same 7MP front-facing camera from before, but now features the same 12MP rear camera used in the iPad Pro for higher resolution photos and 4K video capture.
Stereo speakers now adorn both sides of the iPad Air to provide a richer stereo sound when used in landscape orientation, and a USB-C port replaces the lightning connector for charging and data transfer. The iPad Air is available in five colors, (silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue), and is also compatible with the new Apple Pencil, the new Magic Keyboard, and the Smart Folio Keyboard. The fourth-generation iPad Air starts at $599 for the 64Gb model and will be available to buy in October.
There were no real surprises with Apple’s update for the eighth-generation iPad. This model is known for incremental changes that are geared at keeping it competitive, while still meeting a price point, and that is exactly what happened here. Apple openly admits that it is their best-selling iPad so if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. This iPad will continue to be a big seller with consumers and school districts. It’s faster, more powerful, and available for the same price as before, so it is hard to argue with that. It is, after all, the entry-level model, so you need to temper your expectations accordingly.
The iPad Air, on the other hand, is a much more intriguing package, and if you are in the market for a new iPad, this is undoubtedly a very compelling choice. You do give up some features when compared to the more expensive Pro models, (FaceID, ProMotion screen, an ultra-wide camera, and the four-speaker audio array), but in every other department, the $599 iPad Air matches, or beats, the $799 iPad Pro.
I don’t think that many schools are going to be buying iPad Airs, (nor should they), but as a consumer device, this is a fantastic addition to the iPad range. It does beg the question as to what Apple will do with the existing iPad Pros, especially as they were updated earlier this year, but that is a question for another day. As the lineup stands today, the iPad Air is undoubtedly the iPad that I would recommend if you are looking to upgrade from an entry-level iPad.