When I’m not writing for TechRadar, I run a film production company, and the iPad Pro 12.9 I use for it is an important tool. It’s perfect for every step of the creative process, from writing documents and scripts to annotating PDFs, taking notes, and sketching storyboards. I’m basically the exact type of user Apple has in mind for this type of slate.
However, the new iPad Air 4 made me rethink that latter stance – it basically has all of the features a creative person would expect from a tablet, but without the unnecessary extras and without the high price tag that many people believe (Starving) Artists can’t buy tablets over $ 2,000.
iPad Airs has never really had this effect on me ̵
The iPad Air is an iPad Pro Lite
The best parts of the iPad Pro models are contained in the iPad Air 4.
Perhaps most useful is peripheral compatibility. The iPad Air 4 works with the second generation Apple Pencil, also known as “the only version of the Apple Pencil you should use,” and Apple’s rugged keyboard liners and Magic Keyboard – making it far more versatile when it comes to angles the screen. These two features transform an iPad from a large phone into a productivity powerhouse.
The edge-to-edge screen on the iPad Air is great too, helping you maximize the screen real estate without rotating around a huge blackboard. In the past, you had to buy an iPad Pro for this type of screen, but nothing more.
I can’t stress enough how useful a USB-C port is – iPad Pros used to be the only Apple tablets with this port. USB-C allows for much faster charging than Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable, but also faster data transfer.
If you’re transferring 100GB of video from an external hard drive to an iPad for editing, this type of connection makes a dramatic difference in duration.
No more unnecessary functions
In addition to having all of the essential features of the iPad Pro, the iPad Air now includes some of the tremendous extras that few would want to pay for.
There is no LiDAR scanner on the back, which is used for AR tools. How many professionals or creatives actually need to use AR for their work? Some for sure, but definitely not many.
The iPad Air doesn’t have a variable refresh rate like the iPad Pro, and I’ll likely miss that feature. As a result, the refresh rate of the screen can vary between 120 Hz and 60 Hz, depending on the version.
At 120Hz the screen refreshes 120 times per second (and therefore creates smoother movement), but few apps actually support 120Hz so I rarely notice the difference.
The iPad Air 4 is smaller than an iPad Pro, which you can get in 11-inch or 12.9-inch versions. I use the latter, and while I appreciate the extra screen real estate, I honestly hardly use it.
Documents never fit on the edge of the page, especially when viewing scripts, as it is usually a narrow column. I could probably upgrade to the 10.9-inch iPad Air without noticing much of a difference.
You can imagine that an “iPad Pro” has more processing power than an “iPad Air” since the latter is the top-end type of Slate, but since the iPad Air was later launched with a newer chipset this is not the case is not the case.
The iPad Air 4 is now Apple’s most powerful tablet. This will likely stay that way until a newer Pro version hits the market in 2021.
Finally, Face ID – I can’t tell how much I hate the Face ID that I have on my iPad Pro but that isn’t used in the iPad Air (that panel has Touch ID on the power button instead).
I’ve found that Face ID rarely just works, and I often have to move to a different position for it to work or just type in my password – that’s a real inconvenience. This feature works for some people, and I’ve heard it isn’t that bad on iPhones but not on iPads. I’m glad Touch ID is making a comeback for these top-end slates.
Apple won’t mind
It’s curious to think who iPad pros are when the ideal audience (me) realizes that the cheaper iPad Air is now a much better deal.
There will likely be some power users looking for LiDAR or a higher refresh rate or whatever the 2021 iPad Pro will bring, but there won’t be many, and I see the iPad Air taking its place in people’s hearts.
Apple doesn’t mind at all – when people buy an iPad, they still make money, and as much as I’m a fan of Android phones, I’ll readily admit that there are simply no Android tablets showing the one candle right now hold the top iPads (or all iPads, honestly).
Perhaps this is the first step in a plan by Apple to sort out its tablets and make the distinction between the four different lines (entry-level, Mini, Air, and Pro) a little more obvious – perhaps the next Pro will be a super-premium tablet and that next mini a really affordable one. All I know is that as a creative professional, the iPad Pro is probably no longer the best tablet for me.