Hands On: iPad Air 4's display, Touch ID change pushes the line forward

Posted:
in iPad edited January 8
Apple's fourth-generation iPad Air is finally here after being announced at Apple's September event, with the massive overhaul of the Air including a ton of changes. We take Touch ID and other features for a spin.

Liquid Retina display on iPad Air 4
Liquid Retina display on iPad Air 4


We have just started to review this tablet, but even in our short time, it is very apparent that this is the new default iPad for nearly everyone. Here's our take on the biggest new features.

A 14 Bionic processor





Having a tablet that is both faster and will work for years is hugely important, especially when picking up a tablet that costs north of $500. That's why Apple didn't skimp on performance by including the A14 Bionic processor, the same found in the new iPhone 12 line.

It is faster in many operations than the current-generation iPad Pro line, with the opening of tasks and multitasking feeling fluid and effortless. The A12Z on the iPad Pro has more cores, so it is quicker when exporting videos or dealing with massive RAW images

Touch ID

The last-gen iPad Air had a dedicated Home button that featured Touch ID biometric authentication. This 2020 iPad Air still has Touch ID, but has ditched the Home button altogether by integrating it into the sleep/wake button.

Setting up Touch ID on iPad Air 4
Setting up Touch ID on iPad Air 4


Apple has included a lot of nice touches to the setup and use of the reimagined Touch ID experience. For example, during setup, there is a small pulsing box on the screen just below the physical button, to make it clear where Touch ID is. Furthermore, depending on the iPad's orientation, it asks you to rotate the iPad either horizontally or vertically to enroll another finger.

Setting up Touch ID on iPad Air 4
Setting up Touch ID on iPad Air 4


In use, you would probably use your right index finger for Touch ID when the iPad Air is vertical and you'd use the left index finger when the iPad is horizontal. It's great that this was built in to the whole onboarding process.

Rest to open iPad Air with Touch ID
Rest to open iPad Air with Touch ID


Another new feature in Touch ID is that you can place your finger to authenticate, then rest it a second time to open your iPad and go to the Home screen. This is very convenient because the alternative would be moving your hand to the top to authenticate with Touch ID, then moving it back down to the bottom to swipe up, making the new method appear more seamless in our time using it.

Connectivity

Connectivity took a big leap forward with the iPad Air, as both Wi-Fi and the physical port were upgraded.

USB-C arrives on the iPad Air, meaning it is no longer an iPad Pro exclusive feature. This means you can use USB hubs, USB-C storage devices, USB-C monitors, and almost any USB-C charger.

It is also possible to charge your iPhone or Apple Watch from the iPad Air's USB-C port.

20W USB-C adapter in the box
20W USB-C adapter in the box


Included in the box is a 20W USB-C power brick, which provides a lot of juice. This charger first debuted with the new 2020 iPad eighth-generation, while iPad Pro is still stuck at only 18W.

Wireless has been upgraded to Wi-Fi 6, which should bring improvements to battery life and faster speeds.

Display

Part of the overall redesign of the tablet is a move to the gorgeous Liquid Retina display. Liquid Retina is Apple's marketing term applied to a display that meets the Retina classification for pixel density, that also has rounded corners rather than sharp right-angles.

Retina Display on iPad Air
Liquid Retina Display on iPad Ai


It looks fantastic here, and goes a long way towards making this iPad Air look like a modern machine rather than being stuck in the past. The bezels are also smaller, which benefits the new appearance that feels much more akin to the iPad Pro.

The overall size of the display has also increased, moving from 10.5-inches to 10.9-inch. This doesn't seem like a big change, but the display feels larger in use due to the small bezels.

Camera

Apple has jumped from a paltry 8MP sensor to a new 12MP camera system. This makes a big difference in photographs, which have less grain and are higher resolution than before.

We also see the difference when it comes to video modes. Instead of just 1080p, iPad Air can shoot in 4K at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second.

New camera on iPad Air
New camera on iPad Air


Slo-mo video has jumped too, going from 720p to 1080p at 120 or 240 frames per second.

It is still slightly awkward to shoot video or photos on an iPad, but when it is in your hands and you have a perfect shot of your kid or pet, it is nice to know that you won't get a garbage picture.

Accessories

For this new iPad Air, Apple has included support for Magic Keyboard, which gives users the option of going with any third-party physically connected or Bluetooth keyboard, Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio, or the Magic Keyboard. It spans the gamut from affordable to high-end which is absolutely what we love to see.

Magic Keyboard is still the cream of the crop with the levitating display, additional USB-C port, and an integrated glass trackpad.

Apple Pencil 2 on iPad Air
Apple Pencil 2 on iPad Air


With the Lightning port gone, so is support for the original Apple Pencil. iPad Air supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, which has a ton of additional features.

There has never been a better time for this either as Apple has added a vast number of Apple Pencil features to iPadOS 14.

Apple Pencil 2 charges using induction by magnetically connecting to the side of the iPad Air, which works with the new flat sides.

Colors

Finally, the colors of the iPad Air are all new. We still have the same space grey and silver but they are now accompanied by sky blue, green, and rose gold. So far, we got our hands on the green and it looks striking if not a little lighter than we expected.

Apple has never done colors such as these for iPad before and it is a great way to not only show off you have the new iPad Air, but to express yourself.

Deals on Apple's new iPad Air

Apple's iPad Air starts at $599, but the lowest iPad Air price points are at your fingertips in the AppleInsider Price Guide.

The best iPad deals offer discounts on the new models even right at launch.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 553member
    My only hesitation is I’ve come to love FaceID. not a complete dealbreaker but has me pausing. 
    edited October 2020 razorpitMplsP
  • Reply 2 of 20
    It’s completely unacceptable for Apple to sell this device with 64GB. That’s essentially selling a bricked device. Everyone around me who bought it - even for casual use - regrets it and can’t upgrade storage. 
    Just drop that tier or at least consider 128gb! 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Apple also went back and forth between 10W and 12W chargers during the period of the 3/4/Air/Air 2.

    2W (or 0.22A) is only a minor difference in both theoretical or practical terms, so the Pro is hardly "stuck" with the 18W version.

    The company tends to be very conservative in terms of the bundled chargers anyway, so anyone concerned about maximizing the recharging speed likely already has either the 30W Apple adapter, or a 3rd party option on their list.

    Those who received the 29W counterpart to the current 30W adapter aren't missing out either, as these revisions are often made to improve efficiency, lower cost, or both, not improve performance, especially given Apple's conservative approach.
  • Reply 4 of 20
    Wow!   That has me salivating at the thought of it.  I would love to get one of these for my grandson who is maneuvering through cyberschool right now.

    There's only one problem:   his 2018 Gen6 iPad, as "old and obsolete" as it is, is running great and doing the job!!   In fact, last night we were doing math on it when his Apple pencil died (it needed charged) and we switched to the Dell 3190 '2 in 1' the school had loaned out last week to all their students and, WHAT A DIFFERENCE!    The combination of a MacBook Air and iPad with Apple pencil just walks all over that Dell 2 in 1.   They just crush it.

    So, how do I replace something that simply doesn't need replaced?   My frugal nature just won't let me do it.  
    Darn you Apple!  You keep putting these great products out and making me want to spend money I don't need to spend!
    dewmemike1bageljoey
  • Reply 5 of 20
    JFC_PA said:
    My only hesitation is I’ve come to love FaceID. not a complete dealbreaker but has me pausing. 
    This. For most people, this isn't an issue. For the 2% of us with essentially unreadable fingerprints, it's more of a question.

    I'll grant that needing to actually type in a password is a "first-world problem" level of inconvenience.
  • Reply 6 of 20
    I'd love to be able to comment; but, UPS has made that impossible, so far.  Apple shipped mine, last Thursday - paying for 1-day delivery.  It arrived at Albuquerque Airport, Thursday afternoon...at the airport UPS facility before 7PM.  Of course, I was tracking the critter all the way.

    That's where tracking stopped. Stuck in place. UPS truck came through our little community on the southern edge of Santa Fe, late afternoon, Friday.  For me, nada!  Nuttin, honey.

    Rechecked the UPS tracking site. It showed the shipment as still at the airport. That's what it shows, now...Sunday morning.

    Maybe tomorrow, some time.  Sigh...
  • Reply 7 of 20
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,503member
    eideard said:
    I'd love to be able to comment; but, UPS has made that impossible, so far.  Apple shipped mine, last Thursday - paying for 1-day delivery.  It arrived at Albuquerque Airport, Thursday afternoon...at the airport UPS facility before 7PM.  Of course, I was tracking the critter all the way.

    That's where tracking stopped. Stuck in place. UPS truck came through our little community on the southern edge of Santa Fe, late afternoon, Friday.  For me, nada!  Nuttin, honey.

    Rechecked the UPS tracking site. It showed the shipment as still at the airport. That's what it shows, now...Sunday morning.

    Maybe tomorrow, some time.  Sigh...

    Surprising!
    I see that kind of stuff from FedEx frequently.   But I've never seen it from UPS.   Around here they're as solid as a rock and you can depend on them like depending on the sun to come up in the morning.

    But, you're justified in complaining.   This is going to be a very long weekend for you!  I hope it all works out.  Did you call them?  There might be something wrong -- maybe it got damaged or something.
  • Reply 8 of 20
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,620member
    If the new iPad Air were the only iPad Apple was selling, the base memory configuration, lack of FaceID, lower screen refresh rate, starting price, RAM configuration, etc., would be causes for concern. Fortunately, even though Apple totally owns the premium tablet market they aren’t resting on their laurels and have at least one iPad model in their lineup that will satisfy just about everyone. Yeah, you may have to pay a little more or settle for a boring chassis color, but in the grand scheme of things you’ll end up with a device that will serve you very well for many years to come.

    I’m in the same boat as GeorgeBMac, very intrigued by the new iPad Air but finding it hard to part with an existing iPad Pro 12.9” that still runs like a champ. I may still cave - maybe once I see the blue one in person and play around with the Magic Keyboard and trackpad.
    razorpitGeorgeBMacmuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 20
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    dwebarts said:
    JFC_PA said:
    My only hesitation is I’ve come to love FaceID. not a complete dealbreaker but has me pausing. 
    This. For most people, this isn't an issue. For the 2% of us with essentially unreadable fingerprints, it's more of a question.

    I'll grant that needing to actually type in a password is a "first-world problem" level of inconvenience.
    As some one who uses the iPad in the kitchen I’d agree. In this world we live in now with these stupid masks it makes more sense to have TouchID on mobile devices (phones) and FaceID on tablets/laptops where chances are you won’t be wearing a stupid mask.
  • Reply 10 of 20
    XedXed Posts: 902member
    It’s completely unacceptable for Apple to sell this device with 64GB. That’s essentially selling a bricked device. Everyone around me who bought it - even for casual use - regrets it and can’t upgrade storage. 
    Just drop that tier or at least consider 128gb! 
    I'll never understand these comments that Apple should make the minimum capacity large as a specific user needs it to be so they don't feel they're being upsold. If you want a device with more storage then buy a device with more storage. I currently have 22.73 GB free on a 64 GB iPad which I use extensively but you think I should've been required to pay more for capacity I don't need when you could choose to buy an Air with 4x more capacity or an iPad Pro with 8x more capacity? Why do you think that's reasonable?
    edited October 2020 MplsPJFC_PAmike1bageljoeymuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 20
    eideardeideard Posts: 428member
    eideard said:
    I'd love to be able to comment; but, UPS has made that impossible, so far.  Apple shipped mine, last Thursday - paying for 1-day delivery.  It arrived at Albuquerque Airport, Thursday afternoon...at the airport UPS facility before 7PM.  Of course, I was tracking the critter all the way.

    That's where tracking stopped. Stuck in place. UPS truck came through our little community on the southern edge of Santa Fe, late afternoon, Friday.  For me, nada!  Nuttin, honey.

    Rechecked the UPS tracking site. It showed the shipment as still at the airport. That's what it shows, now...Sunday morning.

    Maybe tomorrow, some time.  Sigh...

    Surprising!
    I see that kind of stuff from FedEx frequently.   But I've never seen it from UPS.   Around here they're as solid as a rock and you can depend on them like depending on the sun to come up in the morning.

    But, you're justified in complaining.   This is going to be a very long weekend for you!  I hope it all works out.  Did you call them?  There might be something wrong -- maybe it got damaged or something.
    Actually, in our neck of the prairie, it's the opposite.  While awaiting UPS, 3 FedEx delivery trucks in the neighborhood on Friday, 1 on Saturday, 1 today/Sunday.  No weekend delivery, of course, from UPS.
  • Reply 12 of 20
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,503member
    eideard said:
    eideard said:
    I'd love to be able to comment; but, UPS has made that impossible, so far.  Apple shipped mine, last Thursday - paying for 1-day delivery.  It arrived at Albuquerque Airport, Thursday afternoon...at the airport UPS facility before 7PM.  Of course, I was tracking the critter all the way.

    That's where tracking stopped. Stuck in place. UPS truck came through our little community on the southern edge of Santa Fe, late afternoon, Friday.  For me, nada!  Nuttin, honey.

    Rechecked the UPS tracking site. It showed the shipment as still at the airport. That's what it shows, now...Sunday morning.

    Maybe tomorrow, some time.  Sigh...

    Surprising!
    I see that kind of stuff from FedEx frequently.   But I've never seen it from UPS.   Around here they're as solid as a rock and you can depend on them like depending on the sun to come up in the morning.

    But, you're justified in complaining.   This is going to be a very long weekend for you!  I hope it all works out.  Did you call them?  There might be something wrong -- maybe it got damaged or something.
    Actually, in our neck of the prairie, it's the opposite.  While awaiting UPS, 3 FedEx delivery trucks in the neighborhood on Friday, 1 on Saturday, 1 today/Sunday.  No weekend delivery, of course, from UPS.

    I wasn't speaking of prevalence and such but of reliability and absence of errors.
    I've had FedEx delivery drivers claim they couldn't deliver my package because they couldn't get through building security (and other lame excuses) -- even though I live in a private, single family home on a public, suburban street.
  • Reply 13 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,052member
    I’ve never understood the fixation with OLED - as the review states, The LCDs Apple uses are very high quality and for most users indistinguishable from OLEDs. You can make a bit of an argument with iPads since people are more likely to watch a movie in a darkened room with them, but I’ve watched plenty of movies with my 2nd gen iPad pro and if the screen is more interesting than the movie you need to choose a better movie!
    muthuk_vanalingambikerdude
  • Reply 14 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,052member
    dwebarts said:
    JFC_PA said:
    My only hesitation is I’ve come to love FaceID. not a complete dealbreaker but has me pausing. 
    This. For most people, this isn't an issue. For the 2% of us with essentially unreadable fingerprints, it's more of a question.

    I'll grant that needing to actually type in a password is a "first-world problem" level of inconvenience.
    Yeah, I’d love to see FaceID on this, too. Of course, for a significant number of people, their face is unreadable now, too! (Hopefully that’s a temporary condition, though) 

    Something else that would be nice is to be able to unlock with your Apple Watch, just like the Mac can do. 
    bageljoey
  • Reply 15 of 20
    eideardeideard Posts: 428member
    Back from grocery shopping - and an email dropped from UPS just after 9AM...they'll be delivering tomorrow, Monday...by 9PM blah, blah, usual disclaimer.  So, it wasn't broken or stolen.  We're near the end of any run; so, I guess I can stop being pissed-off some time after supper, tomorrow night. 
     :) 
    GeorgeBMacbageljoey
  • Reply 16 of 20
    Nice video. I just want to know where I can find that Yoobao stand you have that iPad on, looks sweet!!!! Haven’t been able to find that exact one on web or Amazon. I like the keyboard case but to be honest seems more like a docking option than a case. $300 is pricey even if cool. I’d rather see some docking options or just get a good stand and pair with a Bluetooth keyboard when I need to type more.
  • Reply 17 of 20
    0ID00ID0 Posts: 26member
    Pity that there is no mention about the 60 Hz display refresh rated eventually compared to 120 Hz on Pro models.
    Huge difference when scrolling web pages!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 20
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 109member
    It’s completely unacceptable for Apple to sell this device with 64GB. That’s essentially selling a bricked device. Everyone around me who bought it - even for casual use - regrets it and can’t upgrade storage. 
    Just drop that tier or at least consider 128gb! 
    I've never done any video or photos with my old 2nd Gen iPad Air, so 64GB will suit me just fine and that's what I ordered. If I need extra storage temporarily, I'll just plug in a USB-C flash drive. iOS has come a long way in support for added storage.
  • Reply 19 of 20
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 109member
    MplsP said:

    Something else that would be nice is to be able to unlock with your Apple Watch, just like the Mac can do. 
    ^^This, although Apple Watch unlocking has quit working on my MacBook Pro running macOS Big Sur beta. The Mac can't find the Apple Watch.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    Let’s face it, the front of the screen is where there should be a thumbprint reader, not the top.
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