While Apple says that the iPad Air isn’t for pro artists and designers, there are a few features we prefer to the iPad Pro.
Apple has resurrected the iPad Air brand, launching a new 10.5-inch tablet – alongside a new iPad mini too.
The new iPad Air has a tagline of ‘Power’s not just for pros’ – but there’s a lot professional designers and artists will appreciate if they don’t have the budget for a full-spec iPad Pro. It sits between the entry-level, 9.7-inch iPad for consumers and the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro – essentially replacing 2017 10.5-inch's iPad Pro that Apple was also selling previous to today by offering higher performance at a lower price.
iPad Air vs iPad Pro
The iPad Air has a resolution of 2,224 x 1,668, which is 264dpi. By comparison, the 11-inch iPad Pro has the same pixel density and a slightly higher resolution, 2,388 x 1,668 (and rounded corners). Both have the same wide colour gamut and a support Apple’s True Tone technology that adjusts the screen’s colour to your environment. They both have the same brightness, 500nits, and have a matte finish. However, the iPad Air doesn’t have the Pro’s ProMotion technology that reduces the frame rate when the full 120Hz isn’t necessary, extending the battery life.
The chip inside the iPad Air is the A12 Bionic, as found in the iPhone XS and XR phones. This is less powerful, we presume, than the A12X used by the current generation of iPad Pro tablets.
The design of the iPad Air is more in keeping with older iPad models than the latest iPad Pro. There’s a thicker bezel around the outside, so the iPad Air has a wider ‘flat’ area than the 11-inch iPad Pro. This also includes a physical Home button with a fingerprint scanner, and there’s no Face Unlock on the Pros. However, some creatives may see this as a benefit, as when the iPad is flat on your desk – the natural drawing position for many – unlocking an iPad with a finger is easier than looming over it or tilting it up so it can recognise your face.
The iPad Air has a Lightning connector rather than the iPad Pro’s USB-C, and – cue trumpets – there’s a headphone jack.
Another key difference is that the iPad Air supports the older, first-generation Apple Pencil rather than the newer model. The second-generation Apple Pencil has definite benefits over the first model – wireless charging on the side of the iPad Pro rather than stuck in the bottom like a giant flyswatter, a more compact design than doesn’t roll off the desk, and a tappable area that allows you to, essentially, click for additional control in apps such as Procreate.
The older design to the iPad Air means you get two speakers and two microphones to the iPad Air’s four speakers and three microphones. There’s also a more conventional Smart Connector for the keyboard (which was moved for the latest iPad Pros to allow wireless Pencil charging.
For many creatives, one reason to choose the iPad Air over the Pro is the price. The iPad Air costs £479/US$499 (64GB), £599/$629 (64GB with cellular), £629/$649 (256GB) or £749/$779 (256GB with cellular) from Apple. It's also available from vendors including EE.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at £769/$799 for the 64GB model from Apple, with storage options for 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. A 1TB iPad Pro with cellular costs a whopping £1,699/$1,699.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro that Apple was selling previous to today cost from £619 – almost 30% more than the new iPad Air.
The 7.9-inch iPad mini has many of the same features as the iPad Air including the same chip, and a 2,048 x 1,536 display. Pricing begins at £399/$399 from Apple.