Apple in March 2019 resurrected its long dead iPad Air line with the introduction of a brand new $499 10.5-inch iPad Air that serves as a middle-tier iPad option between the lower-end $329 9.7-inch iPad and the higher-end $799 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models.
Apple’s iPad Air features the same thin and light enclosure that was used for the now-discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which it replaces. At just 6.1mm thick and with a weight of a pound, it’s portable and lightweight. It is available in Gold, Silver, and Space Gray with either 64 or 256GB of storage.
Support for the first-generation Apple Pencil is included, and there’s a Smart Connector on the side of the iPad Air that works with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. At the bottom of the iPad Air, there’s a Lightning port for charging purposes as only the iPad Pro models have adopted USB-C.
Inside the iPad Air, there’s an A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine and M12 coprocessor, the same hardware used in the most recent iPhone models. It offers the same all-day battery life as other iPads, lasting up to 9 to 10 hours depending on task.
Rear camera technology is one area where Apple aimed to keep costs of the new iPad Air lower, so it uses an 8-megapixel f/2.4 rear camera rather than the newer 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera tech in the iPad Pro. It’s the same camera that’s used in the lower-cost iPad and the iPad mini 5 and it maxes out at 1080p video recording.
At the front, there’s a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera which is the same camera that was in the previous-generation iPad Pro. It supports Retina Flash, Live Photos, and 1080p video recording, but lacks Smart HDR and features that come with the TrueDepth camera such as Portrait Mode and Memoji.
The iPad Air is identical in size and thickness to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and just a bit lighter weight. It features the same slim, tapered sides and wide top and bottom bezels, used to house the front-facing camera and the Touch ID Home button.
An older design with Touch ID and thicker bezels differentiates the new iPad Air line from the 2018 iPad Pro models as those have edge-to-edge displays with slimmer bezels and no Home button.
Rather than adopting USB-C like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air features a Lightning port at the bottom for charging purposes. At the top, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, a feature no longer present on modern iPad Pro models.
Available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, the iPad Air measures in at 250.6mm (9.8 inches) tall, 174.1mm (6.8 inches) wide, and just 6.1mm (0.24 inches) wide.
Rather than adopting Face ID, the 10.5-inch iPad Air, much like the 9.7-inch iPad, features a Touch ID Home button for biometric authentication purposes.
Touch ID is used to unlock the iPad, access apps, and make purchases with Apple Pay.
On the left side of the iPad Air, there’s a Smart Connector that’s designed to work with the new Smart Keyboard that Apple has released for the iPad Air.
The iPad Air features the same multi-touch fully laminated display as the 10.5-inch iPad Pro with a 2224 x 1668 resolution at 264 pixels per inch, though it does not feature ProMotion technology, a feature limited to the Pro line. The iPad Air does offer 500 nits brightness and 1.8 percent reflectivity thanks to an antireflective coating.
To protect it from fingerprints, there’s the same fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating that’s on all iPads.
P3 wide color gamut support is included for rich, vivid colors that are true to life and accurate, which is ideal for artists, and there’s True Tone support.
True Tone adjusts the white balance of the display to match the ambient lighting to make the screen easier on the eyes. If you’re in a room with yellower lighting, for example, the iPad’s display is warmer in color so there’s not a stark contrast between the color of the iPad and the lighting in the room.
Apple Pencil Support
Apple included Apple Pencil support in the iPad Air, which means the entire available iPad lineup now works with the Apple Pencil.
The iPad Air is compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil, which is the model that has the Lightning connector on the end. It does not work with the second-generation Apple Pencil that was introduced for the iPad Pro models, but it is compatible with the Logitech Crayon.
A12 Bionic Chip
For the iPad Air, Apple used the same A12 Bionic chip that’s also included in the 2018 iPhone lineup. It’s clocked to 2.4GHz, the same as the iPhone’s A12 chip, and the performance is quite similar to the performance of the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max.
Compared to the A10X Fusion in the 9.7-inch iPad, the A12 offers a 70 percent boost in performance and twice the graphics capability thanks to the 4-core graphics engine included.
The A12 Bionic chip has an 8-core Neural Engine that uses real-time machine learning to power features across iOS, improving photo taking, gaming, augmented reality, and more.
RAM and Storage
The iPad Air is available with either 64GB of storage ($499) or 256GB of storage ($649).
The iPad Air is equipped with 3GB RAM. It’s also available with either 64GB of storage ($499) or 256GB of storage ($649).
The iPad Air features an 8-megapixel rear facing camera with an f/2.4 aperture, which is the same camera that’s available in the 9.7-inch iPad.
It supports Live Photos, auto HDR, 43-megapixel panoramas, Burst mode, and Timer mode, but it is not as advanced as the upgraded 12-megapixel camera in the iPad Pro, making rear camera one of the major differentiating factors between the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. There is also no rear flash.
The iPad Air’s camera is able to capture 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second and 720p Slo-mo video at 120 frames per second.
The front-facing camera is better than the camera in the 9.7-inch iPad at 7 megapixels and an f/2.2 aperture, making it almost on par with the iPad Pro.
The iPad Air features what Apple calls “all-day battery” which means it lasts for up to 10 hours depending on task. That’s the same battery life available across the iPad lineup.
As mentioned above, the iPad Air charges through a Lightning port at the bottom of the tablet that works with a Lighting to USB cable and included 12W USB Power Adapter.
Trackpad and Mouse Support
iPadOS 13.4 brings trackpad and mouse support to all iPad Pro models, the iPad Air 2 and later, the fifth-generation iPad and later, and the iPad mini 4 and later.
According to Apple, trackpad support has been “completely reimagined for the iPad” and its touch-first interface, though it should still be familiar to Mac users. The cursor displays as a circle that highlights various user interface elements, text fields, and apps on the Home screen or dock, making it clear what can be clicked on.
The iPad Air supports 802.11ac WiFi with speeds up to 866Mb/s, Bluetooth 5.0, and Gigabit LTE. It supports 28 LTE bands, including band 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 66, and 71.
Gigabit LTE connectivity is limited to the more expensive iPad Air models with cellular chips.
There are two SIM options in the iPad Air: a physical nano-SIM slot at the side of the device and an eSIM, or digital SIM, which is designed to work without the need for a physical SIM card.
iPad Air Price
The iPad Air can be purchased from Apple’s online store and Apple retail stores. The 64GB WiFi only model is priced at $499, while the 256GB model costs $649.
Pricing on the new iPad Air starts at $499 for the 64GB WiFi-only model, with the 256GB model priced at $649. Cellular models are available for $130 more over the base price for each configuration.
The Smart Keyboard for the iPad Air is priced at $159, while the first-generation Apple Pencil costs $99.
iPad Air Reviews
TechRadar writes that:
“The iPad Air (2019) was made for anyone who wants more grunt from their tablet compared to the iPad 9.7. It’s a far better fit for most people – people who aren’t cash-flushed early adopters or professionals willing to invest in the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9.”
Engadget seemingly backs this up with the assertion:
“Apart from the lack of a ProMotion display, everything about the Air would’ve been considered Pro not too long ago. And when you consider this thing offers a bigger screen, better performance, a cleaner design and more flexibility than the standard model for not much more money, it’s not hard to imagine tablet shoppers embracing the Air.”
“Apart from the screen, the biggest thing the Air has going for it (over the mini and standard iPads, anyway) is the Smart Connector wedged into its left side. This is the first time Apple has built one of these into a non-Pro iPad, and for most people, it basically just means you can magnetically attach a keyboard. (Seriously, there are hardly any accessories that make use of this port.)”