So, now that I got to spend proper time with my new iPad Air 3, I can go through its strengths and weaknesses and give you a good idea on which iPad to buy in 2020
My history with the iPad started right at the beginning, with the original iPad, when it was launched in 2010. Quick flashback, I really wanted a device which would make media consumption a breeze and back then, I even owned a Netbook which was as good as it can get. Although it was a bit heavy, it gave up to 5–6 hours of video watching time.
And when the iPad was announced, I was excited as I could estimate the potential of iOS as by then, as I already used 3 different iPhones that ran the same operating system.
The iPad was launched and as with any Apple product, there was heavy criticism, people even posted memes with 4 iPhones stuck together. But what changed that day with the iPad was the ease of media consumption and I strongly believe the iPad was one of the key players that redefined the definition of content availability and consumption.
The original iPad sold like hot cakes. I stayed up until 3AM to pre-order mine in the UK and by the time I woke up next morning, the delivery date of new orders was already pushed back to a month!
I was one of the first ones to get the iPad. They shipped it the first thing on launch day and I got mine delivered around 8:30 AM that morning. The postman said enjoy your new product with a chuckle. He told me that he has been delivering these since 8 in the morning.
The iPad was truly magical for me as it provided the ultimate experience for media consumption and internet browsing which laptops could not match up to. It was always ON, battery life was killer 9 hours which was unheard of back then, and the multi-touch screen was like butter. Watching movies, YouTube videos, browsing, reading, online shopping, all these tasks felt so natural on the iPad.
Fast forward 10 years, the iPad still stands as the undefeated king of the tablet market and with its capabilities and prowess, its even trying to invade into laptops territory.
I was using the old iPad Air Gen 1 before this and for the stuff which I do, it was getting a bit slower. It was the last iPad to have just 1GB of RAM and this clearly is showing its age especially when running the latest OS. The Air gen 1 is also left out from getting that excellent iPadOS update as well. Apple still releases security patches for it and the iPad still works ok for content consumption, but when you try to push it a bit, it clearly struggles
So 2019 was high time for me for an upgrade and with a wide variety of iPads available at different price points, I had to consider this carefully. See, back when the iPad came out, there was just one. Even when the iPad Air came out, it was the only one along side the smaller mini to be sold. So making a choice was relatively simple.
Now, officially, you have the entry level 10.2" iPad, then the 10.5" iPad Air and the 11 inch / 12.9 inch iPad Pros, and unofficially you still can get older iPad models for reduced cost.
You really are spoilt for choice but at the same time it is difficult to decide and paying that bit extra to get the latest and greatest is always a temping option.
Again, I leave out the iPad mini on purpose as if you are ok with the screen size, there is nothing like it in the market - Performance, portability and efficiency wise!
Coming to my decision for the iPad Air 2019, I could have pushed my budget a little and go for the all bells and whistles iPad Pro, but I really wanted to weigh in my requirement and see if spending over 300£ would justify my purchase! Especially when I could get the iPad Air and the entry iPad for the price of the Pro!
See, whilst considering, the upgrades between the entry iPad and the Air seem like upgrades which a tablet from 2019 should have, like faster processor, more entry level storage, laminated screen and better front cameras. Whereas the upgrades from the Air to Pro seem more suitable for a niche, a specific audience and did seem somewhat redundant for the average user.
Coming back to my iPad Air review. Lets me talk about the obvious things right away. That display, coming from 9.7 inch to 10.5 inch doesn't sound much on paper but in real world usage, the extra screen real estate is a welcome change. This is hugely noticeable whilst watching movies, using complex apps like iMovie, Photoshop and also whilst multi-tasking.
The laminated display with anti-reflective coating is really a good option to have. You can see how this is compared to the Gen 1 in the picture below.
And then the blazing fast performance, this really feels very satisfying! True multi-tasking on the iPad Air is simply amazing.
More subtle updates — the front camera is a decent 7MP shooter instead of the horrendous 1.2MP camera which you get on the entry iPad.
The weight and thickness is also noticeable especially if you are coming from older iPads but again there is no comparison between this and the iPad Mini. If true portability is your priority then it doesn’t get any better than the Mini.
Then lets talk about that iPadOS goodness. If you weren’t following the updates, the iPad finally severed its ties with the iPhone, operating system wise and if you ask me it was about time. The extra screen real estate of the iPad always had the potential of being its own thing. A tablet and a mobile phone are always different no matter what, so why use the same OS for both of them! The extra screen space can work wonders and truly is the main reason why you would even consider buying an iPad in first place.
Still iOS and iPadOS share the same DNA but the footprints are different.
Let’s look at the new which iPadOS brings:
First up is home screen widgets. Now in landscape mode you can pin the widgets menu to the left hand side making useful informational always available to you. You can customise it using several available widgets and info is now available to glance in the left hand column as soon as you unlock the device. Portrait mode hides it but not to worry, a simple swipe from the left brings it back into view.
This is really useful as it gives a glance over content which will be useful for you. I have news, battery status, weather and other app shortcuts on here. This also gives a fresh look to the iPad home screen which hasn’t changed much since its conception back in 2010.
Next up is the files app. And Apple really opened this up. It can now open almost all the popular file types. And you can plug in various memory cards and USB pen drives and transfer files from it.
You can also connect gaming controllers like the Xbox or PS4 controller as well as connect Bluetooth/USB keyboard, mouse and track-pad devices.
Then the smart connector which now allows you add Apple’s own Smart Keyboard. I do not have this accessory as I really don’t mind touch screen typing but if you like that tactile feedback of physical keys, then the iPad Air as well as the entry level iPad supports this. You do not have to go all the way to the iPad Pros in order to avail that feature.
Same is with the Apple Pencil support, the iPad Airand the entry level iPad both support Apple’s first gen pencil. It’s not as smooth as the second gen pencil but still, it really is one of the best stylus input devices out there.
Then the safari browser, with iPadOS you now get full desktop class safari browser. See most websites sniff out the browser agent and serve relevant version of their websites. iPads always identified themselves as mobile devices so we used to get mobile versions of the website despite having a larger screen on hand. Now with iPadOS, safari browser identifies itself as a Mac and not as an iPad and because of this, you see the full desktop versions of the websites.
You also now have a downloads manager in Safari which shows you the progress of files which you are downloading.
Then you have few more cool things like the dark mode, swipe keyboard, etc. all ported from the excellent iOS 13.
For Mac users, you can now use your iPad screen as a second screen to your Mac via a feature called Sidecar.
Everything else is typical iPad, so if you ever used an iPad, you know what to expect. App quality is excellent, battery life is excellent, everything else works smooth and lag free and given my previous experiences with iPads, the are really reliable devices. You see I have my iPad 2 launched back in 2011 and it still works. I thought the battery drain would be substantial by now as it has been 8 years, but I still do not see this issue.
So the iPad Air is every bit an iPad as you come to expect and the iPadOS makes it even more efficient and capable. And amongst the slew of iPads currently available, it is the decent middle ground with useful bunch of upgrades at a reasonable cost. So this is why the iPad Air 2019 is my pick for the tablet of 2020.