Apple iPad Air 2019 review: the top tablet for 90% of people. iPad air 2019

Apple iPad Air 2019 review: the top tablet for 90% of people

The iPad Air is a fantastic tablet. The screen and power make it feel like an iPad Pro, but for a seriously good price. The perfect do-anything device for most people.

  • than enough power on offer
  • 10.5-inch TrueTone screen is great for portable work
  • Thin and light
  • Excellent app ecosystem
  • – Shame it’s last-gen Apple Pencil
  • – An OLED screen would be nice
  • – Speakers a bit measly

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Working on an iPad Air review has given us a serious case of deja vu for 2013, when Apple first released a tablet of that name.

But despite the classic moniker, the 2019 iPad Air is a new beast… though people who saw the 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017 might find themselves having a second round of deja vu, because tech-wise its incredibly similar to that one.

And that makes us happy, because that was one of our favourite tablets ever, and this version is much cheaper. And even cheaper still right now thanks to some attractive Black Friday discounts.

Originally, Apple used the ‘Air’ name for products that were thinner and lighter than anything that had come before. But this new iPad Air, like the recent new MacBook Air, doesn’t actually fit this description.

Now, Apple seems to use the Air name for its ‘sweet spot’ products, with the most mainstream mix of features and price. And that’s definitely what this is aiming for.

Apple iPad Air (2019) review: price and availability

The new iPad Air starts at £479 with 32GB of storage, and you can jump to 256GB for £629. If you’re looking to do things like image work especially, it’s worth the upgrade, but if you’ll mostly use it for document editing and web stuff, you can get by on 32GB.

It comes in silver and gold, both of which have a white front, or Space Grey, which has a black face.

There are also models with 4G capability built-in, in the same capacities, for £599 and £749 respectively. The iPads have Apple’s eSIM tech, so you can just buy a 4G one and choose a data plan right on the device itself whenever you need it, but there are also options to buy an iPad Air from a carrier with a monthly plan for less money up front.

Apple iPad Air (2019) review: screen

The Air’s 10.5-inch screen size is its centrepiece, and probably the single biggest reason to choose it over the £339 9.7-inch iPad, because more space has a real knock-on effect on the iPad’s usefulness for productivity.

The 2224×1668 resolution is sharp and clear, and with a wide P3 colour gamut, photos look gorgeous on it.

It’s a shame that it’s LCD rather than OLED, especially for watching movies, but it’s still a fantastic display.

It includes Apple’s TrueTone tech, which means it adjusts the colour temperature of the screen to match the ambient lighting of the room you’re in – if you’re in yellowy indoor lights, whites on the iPad’s screen will take a matching yellowy hue, just like a white sheet of paper would in the same room. In fact, compared to paper to see how well TrueTone works, and it pretty much matches it perfectly. It’s really impressive.

The advantage of this is that it’s much more comfortable for viewing (and especially for reading) in artificial light, because your eyes don’t have keep calibrating between the screen’s colour temperature and the rest of the room’s. We absolutely love this tech – it’s one of things you can’t go back from once you’ve been using it for just a few minutes.

Most importantly, the display is big enough for working on comfortably, and for using iOS’s split-screen multitasking features to put apps side-by-side while still giving them enough space to be useful.

Whether you have apps half and half on the screen, or have one that takes over two-third and one in the rest, they still both feel usable. On the 9.7-inch iPad, they’re just a little tight, like you’re fighting to fit in the space, but here there’s no problem.

We’ll quickly mention the speakers… they’re distinctly average. You don’t get a nice stereo setup, or the really impressive tweeter/woofer combination found in the iPad Pro. They’re fine, just not great.

Apple iPad Air 2019 review: software and productivity

This size of iPad is one of our favourite machines ever for mobile working, especially with Apple’s Smart Keyboard, which is much better than the current iPad Pro’s keyboard, because it has fabric inside to clean the screen, and can also be used in a movie-viewing mode with a smaller footprint.

That total combination weighs only 800g, so you won’t even feel you’re carrying it in a bag – it’s a device you don’t have to think about taking with you, and whether the weight will be uncomfortable. You just take it.

We won’t rehash whether tablets can be a real laptop replacement here, but iOS is definitely close to achieving in this in the vast majority of cases, thanks to a huge range of apps for most tasks that are tweaked to be at their best on the big screen.

You’ve got your boring-but-essential document apps from all the major companies, you’ve got Photoshop-class image editors, you’ve got 4K-capable video editors, you’ve got project managers, note-taking apps, communication tools… the list goes on.

What you don’t have is the ability to run two Windows of the same app, which is currently holding it back for sure. Supposedly, iOS 13 is set to address this (and lots more stuff, including rumoured support for mice) later this year, but we have to judge based on what’s in front of us now, and this can absolutely be a frustration.

(Update: We now know the new iPadOS will indeed fix this! See the bottom of the review for details.)

But everything runs so fast on its A12 chip (which is less powerful than the iPad Pro, but didn’t struggle at all with all our normal work tasks), that it’s one of very few frustrations.

There’s just no waiting around for anything, ever – when you’re practised with the gesture support for app switching and multitasking, you’re swiping up to pull in new apps, flicking other apps one and off the screen so you can drag things between them, dragging the whole screen between different apps rapidly… it’s extremely slick.

There’s no USB-C port here, unlike the iPad Pros, but that may not be an issue if you’re living the wireless life. It also has fingerprint security instead of Face ID, but after living with the iPad Pro for over six months, we might actually prefer this. We love the thinner bezels of the iPad Pro, but it’s too easy to cover the Face ID camera accidentally, whereas this tends to sit right under the thumb conveniently.

Also unlike the iPad Pros, you actually get a 3.5mm headphone jack here, which may well make this a better choice than the Pros for musicians who work on the go. Wireless headphones too often suffer from a lag that isn’t exactly ideal for composition, so a wired connection is better, but the new Pros require a dongle for that (which complicates being able to charge and listen at the same time). It wasn’t a good decision to take the headphone jack off the Pro, but here you can plug away.

There’s Apple Pencil support, but it’s for the original version, rather than the new model that works with the iPad Pros. This is a) needlessly confusing because they’re both called Apple Pencil, and b) a shame because the magnetic attachment and wireless charging of the new Pencil is massively superior to the way this one needs to be plugged into the iPad’s Lightning port to charge.

But you can probably live with that – the important thing is that it works brilliantly, with excellent accuracy, no real lag at all, and strong tilt/pressure support.

The iPad Pros have a small advantage in this area, because they have screens that can refresh 120 times per second, while the screen here maxes out at 60 times per second. This means that when you’re drawing, the iPad Pros can show the result twice as quickly, which helps accuracy. And this is, undeniably, better – but the lag on the iPad Air’s screen really isn’t something you’ll pick up on unless you’re really, really looking for it.

The battery life is fantastic too – as is usual for iPads, it’s all day for light work with the internet on, though constant video or gaming will cut that back. It’s also great at holding charge between uses, so it won’t die if left alone for two days.

Apple iPad Air (2019) review: verdict

This is, essentially, a pro-level iPad without the name, and with some very minor features cut back, for £300 less.

We keep looking for a catch, but there isn’t one. Okay, its design is nowhere near as futuristic as its more expensive sibling, and Android tablets usually offer thinner bezels too, but you really won’t care when you’re using it.

For all intents and purposes, it’s just about flawless. Yes, the iPad Pro is technically better – all things being equal, the extra power, cooler design and screen, better speakers and far superior Apple Pencil mean it’s the better tablet.

But this costs under £500! We’d say for most people looking at the Pro, this is actually the iPad they should be getting, and only those who need a feature the iPad Pro has should go for that.

And at this point, people should be seriously looking at this instead of a low-cost laptop, unless you really need to run some software only available on desktop – it’s faster, lighter, cooler (in every sense) and easier to use than a low-cost laptop.

And it cements Apple’s place as the tablet leader: Windows is still clumsy on tablets, though very flexible; Chromebooks are still perfecting touch; and Android works solidly, but still doesn’t use the bigger space well enough.

There are good arguments for going for cheaper £339 iPad, with its smaller screen: if it’s just as a kind of media/game consumption tablet for the house, that’s a great option. You don’t necessarily need to spend the extra £200.

And there’s the new iPad Mini, which is basically this device, but with an 8-inch screen instead. That will be less useful for productivity just in terms of the physical screen size (and there’s no Smart keyboard equivalent), but it’s a hell of a mix of speed and portability.

This remains our favourite, though, because it feels like it’s a a size that can do anything, without weighing you down, and that’s future-proof.

Apple iPad Air 2019 review: News updates

June 5, 2019 – Apple has announced that the iPad is getting not just a big software update this autumn, but that it’s getting its own operating system called iPadOS. The new OS is pretty much just iOS 13 in a moustache, but it has a load of new features,and hopefully it means a bigger FOCUS than ever on making the iPad better.

The main thing to know is that multitasking is getting much more sophisticated, with the ability to run multiple instances of the same app, and it’ll be easy to view all the open Windows of that app (along with anything else). You’ll also be able to flick between recently-opened apps more easily in pop-up Windows.

There’s even better integration of the Apple Pencil, for very quickly annotating things you see on-screen and then sharing them. There’s even support for USB storage, though you’ll need a Lightning-to-USB adapter to use it here.

iPad Air (2019) review: Apple’s best bang for your buck

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The new iPad Air supports the Smart Keyboard and first-generation Apple Pencil. Credit: zlata ivleva / mashable

Despite its name, the new iPad Air (2019) is basically an iPad Pro, only without the expensive price tag.

  • Blistering-fast performance
  • Long battery life
  • Supports Apple Pencil (first-gen)
  • Large high-res Retina display

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Buying an iPad is less complicated than it looks.

If you want the smallest iPad, get the 7.9-inch iPad mini; the cheapest iPad, get the regular 9.7-inch iPad; the most powerful iPad, take your pick between the 11 or 12.9-inch iPad Pros.

Apple iPad Air 3 Review (2019)

But if you want the best iPad value — a tablet that strikes just the right balance between size, features, and price — the new iPad Air (opens in a new tab) is the one to get.

I’ll be honest: using the new iPad Air does’t feel very special. In a nutshell, the new iPad Air is basically the body of the discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro (2017) — minus the quad speakers, ProMotion display, protruding camera bump — and powered with the A12 Bionic chip that’s at the heart of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. It also works with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

TL;DR: The new iPad is a mix of old and new. This combination might not be very glamorous, but at 499, it’s a real value.

I know everyone’s idea of value is different. For some people, the 329 9.7-inch iPad is a value because it’s the cheapest iPad. For others, the 799 11-inch iPad Pro is a value because it’s a design worthy of modern times and supports the second-generation Apple Pencil.

For me, value means getting as many features as possible at a reasonable price, which I strongly believe is 499.

Why 499? Because that’s how much the original iPad started at — it set the price bar.

“When we set out to develop the iPad, we not only had very ambitious technical goals and user interface goals, but we had very aggressive price goals,” Steve Jobs said during the original iPad’s unveil event in 2010. “At 499, a lot of people can afford an iPad.”

As someone who’s bought multiple iPads over the years since the original launched in 2010, I can say without question the value you get from an iPad Air is greater than any iPad before.

At 499, the new iPad Air starts at the same price as first-generation iPad. Yet, it does so much more than any previous 499 iPad.

To understand just how much more it does, I broke out my original iPad and compared it to the new iPad Air.

Bigger, sharper screen

Most noticeable between the new iPad Air and my original iPad is the larger screen. Whereas my original iPad’s 9.7-inch display used to be considered large, 499 now gets you a bigger 10.5-inch screen.

And as you’d expect, the screen is excellent. It’s missing the ProMotion feature from the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which automatically adjusts the refresh rate based on the type of content displayed. But even without ProMotion, the Retina display is fantastic and I don’t think many people will care that it didn’t make the cut.

Photos and videos look as sharp as they do on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, viewing angles are great, and colors are rich thanks to support for P3 wide color gamut. In comparison, images and text look like garbage on my original iPad — it’s all so fuzzy and pixel-y.

CARD ID: 434589, CARD TYPE: SideBySide

Slimmer bezels, Touch ID, and FaceTime

Back in 2010, the front was merely a screen surrounded by thick black borders with a home button at the bottom.

In 2019, the bezels on the left and right of the iPad are significantly slimmer, but still roomy enough to grab with onto; the screen never bugs out, which is a testament to Apple’s excellent palm-rejection tech.

The home button’s been upgraded to pull double duty as both a home button and a Touch ID fingerprint reader. And embedded in the top bezel is a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera capable of recording 1080p HD video.

Coming from a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I definitely missed Face ID, but Touch ID works well and in some cases, it’s even better.

Huge performance leap

There’s no comparing the new iPad Air’s specs to the previous iPads. With its A12 Bionic chip, the new iPad Air is as powerful as the new iPad mini, iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

Want to run three apps (two in Split View and one in Slide Over) without lag? Easy. Play 3D games without performance slowdown? Can do. Edit 4K video? Go for it.

All of these things either weren’t possible or performed poorly on previous 499 iPads. I know for sure my original iPad and even my once cutting-edge iPad Air 2 could only dream of doing these things.

Also, the new iPad Air comes with a minimum of 64GB of storage. My old iPad? A puny 16GB.

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Works with Apple Pencil (first-gen)

All iPads now work with Apple Pencil. But not all work with the same Apple Pencil.

Like the new iPad mini and regular 9.7-inch iPad, the new iPad Air works with the first-generation Apple Pencil and not the second-generation Pencil, which only works on the new iPad Pros.

Apple Pencil is as responsive on the new iPad Air as on any other iPad, but it also comes with all of the downsides of the first-gen writing instrument, such as a cap that’s easy to lose and the awful charging design that involves plugging the Pencil into the iPad’s Lightning port.

In 2016, you needed to fork over at least 599 for a 9.7-inch iPad Pro in order to get Apple Pencil support. With the new iPad Air, not only do you pay less, but you also get a larger display to write and draw on.

Okay camera

It’s easy to take for granted that iPads come with cameras (on the front and back), but back in the day 499 got you zero shooters.

The new iPad Air comes with an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.4 aperture on the back. Like any iPad’s cameras, it takes okay photos. The camera works in a pinch if you absolutely must shoot with a tablet, but it’s far more practical for things like scanning documents and augmented reality.

Still has the headphone jack

Anyone disappointed that the new iPad Pros don’t have a headphone jack will be happy to see it on the new iPad Air.

It’s there, it works, and you don’t need any dongles. That said, I still strongly recommend Airpods. The headphone jack’s nice, but Airpods are a game changer.

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Louder, richer sound

A tablet’s display always gets a lot of love, but rarely does the sound. When the original iPad launched, it came with a single mono speaker. In short, it was good for it’s time, but sounds crappy today.

The new iPad Air has stereo speakers and they get pretty loud. The speakers aren’t nearly as clear or rich-sounding as the quad-speakers on the iPad Pros, but they’re good for a device that’s razor thin.

Thin and light

People these days don’t know how good they have it with the new iPad Air. Weighing 1 pound and measuring 0.24 inches thick, the new iPad Air is one svelte device compared to my 1.5-pound and bulging 0.5-inch original iPad.

No, seriously, compare the two and you can see how hefty the original iPad was. It’s a giant brick in comparison to the new iPad Air.

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An iPad Pro by another name

Hopefully after all this, you get a better sense of how 499 gets you way more iPad than it used to. Sure, it took nine years to get here, but if you look at how much the iPad has evolved and how many features Apple’s added without increasing the price, it’s hard to deny that the new iPad Air is a great value.

Perhaps the most impressive thing I realized about the new iPad Air while testing it was just how much of a “pro” iPad it is. The new iPad Air can do nearly everything a pre-2018 iPad Pro could do, and do it better because it’s got a more powerful and faster A12 Bionic chip.

Simply put: The new iPad Air (opens in a new tab) might as well be an iPad Pro.

Raymond Wong is Mashable’s Senior Tech Correspondent. He reviews gadgets and tech toys and analyzes the tech industry. Raymond’s also a bit of a camera geek, gamer, and fine chocolate lover. Before arriving at Mashable, he was the Deputy Editor of NBC Universal’s tech publication DVICE. His writing has appeared on G4TV, BGR, Yahoo and Ubergizmo, to name a few. You can follow Raymond on @raywongy (opens in a new tab) or Instagram @sourlemons. (opens in a new tab)

iPad Air 2019: A review

To all intents and purposes, Apple’s iPad Air is a budget-priced iPad Pro. While it lacks some of the features that make the pro tablet great, for the price you’ll get a slab of glass that should be equal to everything most casual users throw at it.

The iPad Pro for the rest of us

Apple patents the entire experience, right from the moment you tug the small green tag on the packaging to open the iPad Air’s box.

When you pull that tag you’re guided through the whole experience – the entire set-up process takes just a few minutes on an iPad (329), iPad Pro (from 799) or the all-new iPad Air (499). (The iPad mini remains my favorite model and costs from 399.)

Apple now offers iPads in a cumbersome range of configurations, but here are the specs for the basic models.

A spec for everyone

So, where are we on the specifications?

  • iPad mini: 7.9-inch Retina Display, A12 Fusion chip, up to 256GB storage, Apple Pencil 1 support, weighs under 0.7 pounds, 6.1mm thin, Touch ID. From 399.
  • iPad: 9.7-inch Retina Display, A10 Fusion chip, up to 128GB storage, Apple Pencil 1 support, weighs around one pound, 7.5mm thin, Touch ID. From 329.
  • iPad Air: 10.5-inch, A12 Bionic processor, up to 256GB storage, Apple Pencil 1 support, weighs around one pound, 6.1mm thin, Touch ID. From 499.
  • iPad Pro: 12.9-inch or 11-inch Liquid Retina Display, A12X Bionic chip, up to 1TB storage, Apple Pencil 2 support. Weight from 1.03 pounds, 5.9mm thin, Face ID. From 799.

You’ll get around 10 hours battery life in all the tablets, all models are equipped with Wi-Fi, and LTE/4G supporting models are available at a higher price. All the iPads except the iPad Air use Lightning connectors rather than USB-C.

Apple iPad Air 3 (2019): Unboxing & Review

In comparison with the previous Air, Apple claims the new iPad Air delivers a 70% boost in performance and twice the graphics capability.

The specs have it, the specs have it

At the risk of sounding obvious, quick glance at the specs should make it clear that the only iPad better than an iPad Air is an iPad Pro.

The recent iFixIt teardown of the product confirms this, saying:

“Your eyes don’t deceive you! That Air 3 looks an awful lot like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.”

You even get a Smart connector for peripherals such as Apple Smart Keyboards.- but there are some limitations. For example, you’ll see a clear bezel around the screen, not the minimal surround you find in the Pro, despite which the Air’s display is nearly 20% larger than that of its predecessor.

Other compromises include the lack of that second set of high-quality speakers you’ll find inside the Pro, and that storage maxes out at 256GB rather than the mighty 1TB of the Pro range. You also get 3GB of RAM in comparison to the 2GB inside the entry-level iPad and 4GB inside the Pro, which makes a difference when using the most demanding apps.

Does it truly deliver iPad Pro performance?

In part this is because the Pro tablets use the souped-up A12X chip, which Macworld’s benchmarks show delivers significant speed enhancement.

There are several other differences that demarcate the difference between Pro and Air.

For example, while on the Pros you get a ProMotion display with a 120Hz refresh rate, the Air delivers 60Hz. That means you’ll find a Pro delivers slightly smoother usage when writing with Apple Pencil of scrolling with touch, at least on paper. I n my experience the difference is pretty minimal, and most people won’t really notice it.

When it comes to using the Air I experienced no significant lag in anything I did. Writing with an Apple Pencil was certainly good enough to annotate a few PDFs, sketch, or take notes. (The iPad Air 2019 also carries a headphone jack – making it the only iPad Pro-class Apple system you can use your headphones with.)

Must or miss?

While it costs more than the entry-level model, iPad Air casts a huge shadow across the entry-level iPad. Its superior display, powerful processor and near iPad Pro performance means I’d now find it hard to recommend the entry-level iPad to many people.

Instead, I’d urge first time customers to see the iPad mini (which costs 70 more than the entry-level iPad) as a starting system for casual use, or to choose the iPad Air.

If you need a tablet for professional use, then you should GoPro.

In most cases, the iPad Air is the iPad Pro for the rest of us. It sets the scene for what an entry-level iPad should be, and it seems inevitable that all the iPads Apple sells will coalesce around this level of performance.

Please follow me on. or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Review: iPad 2019 vs. iPad Air

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Apple’s newest tablet is a bit of a curiosity. Especially when the company already has two very capable tablets: the iPad Pro is a productivity beast while the iPad Air is more for leisure browsing.

So where does the latest iPad fit in? Let’s compare:

iPad (2019)

The just-announced iPad is Apple’s latest entry-level tablet. It’s more than 100 cheaper than the iPad Air and, depending on which model you get, at least 1,000 less than an iPad Pro. I’m leading with the price of the iPad, because, to be blunt, that’s its greatest advantage over the other iPads. Yes, it has a larger 10.2″ display and it can use a Smart Keyboard, but other than those two things, this new iPad is just an upsized 6th Gen iPad. It has the same A10 chip, the same 128GB max storage, the same 8mp camera. It’s just bigger.

When you look at it side-by-side with the iPad Air, it’s hard to justify not paying the extra 170 for the better tablet. The older chip in the iPad is already showing its age with iPadOS, whereas the A12 in the Pro still has plenty of life. This is truly an entry-level device, meant for play and very, very light productivity.

iPad Air

I’ll never understand Apple nomenclature. The iPad Air was released as a slimmed-down successor to the original iPad, until the iPad got more power and took the title back. Whereas MacBook Air models are thinner, decidedly underpowered versions of the laptops they occupy an ecosystem with.

Currently, the iPad Air is actually superior to the just-announced iPad. It boasts an A12 chip (almost as good as the Pro’s A12X) and an impressively large 10.5″ screen. It supports Apple’s Smart Keyboard (but not the Folio) and the 1st Gen Apple Pencil (which makes sense since the Air has a Lightning port). Its Retina display is almost the same as the iPad, but with an anti-reflective coating and TrueTone capabilities. The 8mp camera can capture crystal clear images and HD video. Since it keeps Touch ID, it doesn’t need the enhanced front-facing camera of the Pro, so no Portrait Mode here. But, really, when you look at the specs, the iPad Air is almost like an iPad Pro Light—it can do just about everything the Pro can do, but for hundreds of dollars less. For 499, the iPad Air is a very attractive mid-range tablet for those who have explored what a tablet can do and want to do more.


If you just want to see if an Apple iPad will work for you, by all means, get the latest iPad. The large screen is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. But if you’re looking to get a more capable tablet that will go the distance, don’t get sucked in by the iPad’s newness, get the iPad Air instead.

Read my review of the iPad Pro vs. the iPad (2019)

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