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Apple's iPad Air 4 missed the back-to-school window, but it sure looks promising

The $599 revision adds basically everything (except Face ID).

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

The new iPad Air gets a very Pro-like makeover.


Remote school has already begun, but iPads are still on their way. Apple's newest $599 (£579, AU$899) iPad Air looks like the best choice for older students and people who do lots of work on their tablet, but it's not arriving until October. Also, we don't know how good it is yet next to the iPad Pro... but it sure looks promising. The question is, do you get this or just pick up the less expensive new 10.2-inch iPad instead?

The new design looks iPad Pro-like, with a reduced-bezel display with curved corners like the Pro and recent iPhones. But there's no Face ID camera: Instead, there's Touch ID embedded in the top power button. This is a common thing in many other tablets, laptops and phones, but for Apple it's a new move. It seems convenient, and possibly easier than using your face. 

Watch this: Apple's newest iPads: Making sense of iPad Air 4 and iPad 8

The 10.9-inch display is a bit smaller than the 11-inch Pro, but I bet the whole thing feels like the 11-inch model in size and feel. The 11-inch Pro is my favorite size, so that's very good news: It's plenty of screen space for split-screen double apps.

The Air moves to USB-C like the iPad Pro, unlocking lots of possible accessories and dongles (but keep in mind, Apple still locks down some features in iPadOS). It also supports the Apple Pencil 2 via a side-charging magnet.


The iPad Air next to the Pro (left) and 10.2-inch iPad and Mini (right).


One surprising move is that it's the official debut of the A14 processor, as new Apple chips usually make their appearance first on new iPhones. The A14 is promised to be faster (as always), and it should be significantly better than the A12 on the last iPad Air in 2019. But it may not be as fast as the most recent iPad Pro.

The cameras look good, too: The rear 12-megapixel camera, with 4K 60fps and 240fps slow motion, looks similar to the iPhone SE camera; and the front 7-megapixel camera has Smart HDR, and can record at 1080p at 60fps.


The Magic Keyboard works with the new Air.


Support for the Magic Keyboard, however, is a big plus. The Magic Keyboard is my favorite Apple iPad keyboard, but it's expensive at $299 (£299, AU$499).

It's also the first iPad that comes in a wide variety of colors: There are green and blue models, in addition to existing space gray, silver and rose gold options.

I'd mark this as the must-get iPad for anyone looking for a fancy iPad, but with accessories it'll cost you a bunch, possibly upwards of $1,000 or more. In which case, the $329 (£329, AU$499) new basic iPad with an A12 processor might still be the best bet, especially if you're on a budget or buying for kids.