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iPad Air review: Apple finds the sweet spot

Macworld | Apr 22, 2019

This is the best iPad for most users, much more capable than the 9.7-inch iPad and far less expensive than the iPad Pro

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Those new iPad Pros are really awesome, but also really expensive. We’re talking $800 and up...way up. The standard iPad is only $329 but it’s kinda...basic.

There’s got to be something in the middle for people who want more than an iPad but less than an iPad Pro.

That something is the new iPad Air.

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We all thought the iPad Air name was gone. The iPad Air 2 was the last model, and it was introduced in 2014 and completely discontinued two years ago.

But for new product in-between the iPad and iPad Pro, Apple brought the name back.

It’s not the only thing they recycled. The iPad Air borrows the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro design, the last one with Touch ID and large bezels. It’s exactly the size of that iPad, and even works with the Smart Keyboard that was made for it.

When it comes to specs, it’s definitley not an iPad Pro. But it’s also not just an iPad.

The regular iPad it thicker and just a touch heavier, even though it’s got a smaller 9.7-inch display. It’s also got the A10 processor, while the Air has the new A12, which is almost twice as fast. The iPad comes with 32GB of storage with an option for 128, while the Air doubles that to 64GB with an option for 256.

The iPad doesn’t have a true tone display that changes white balance based on ambient light, or a wide color gamut. The Air has both of those things. And the Air’s battery lasts about than 30% longer than the iPad.

So this is definitely much more than an iPad.

But it’s definitely much less than an iPad Pro.

The Pro has that new slim-bezel design with no home button, and the TrueDepth module for Face ID and Animoji. It’s got the 120Hz variable-refresh ProMotion display. It has quad stereo speakers. It’s got a 12 megapixel rear camera that can record 4K video.

The iPad Air has none of those things. It’s got touch ID, speakers on just one side, and a less capable 8 megapixel camera. Oh, but it does still have a headphone jack.

The A12X processor in the iPad Pro is also a good 50% faster than the A12 in the Air. And the Pro also starts at 64GB of storage with a 256GB option, but it has options for 512GB or 1TB. The Air does not.

The Pro also supports the new and improved Apple Pencil, the one with wireless charging. The Air supports the old Pencil, just like the regular iPad. The one with the little cap over the lightning plug.

So the iPad Air is Apple’s tablet middle-child, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. Starting at $499, it sits right between the $329 starting price of the iPad and the $799 iPad Pro.

I should also mention that while the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro is no longer in the lineup, Apple does still sell refurbished units starting at $469. If you can find one, it’s a better buy than the Air. The A10X processor inside that older Pro model isn’t much slower than the A12 in the Air. It’s got the same design and features, but you DO get quad stereo speakers and the ProMotion display.

Outside of buying that refurb, the iPad Air is the goldilocks product between the iPad and iPad Pro. There’s nothing new here, but I still think it’s going to be juuust right for most people.
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