The big picture: During the "Time Flies" Apple event, the company said it's sold over 500 million iPads since their debut a decade ago. The Cupertino company is updating its already capable tablets with a more powerful SoC at the entry-level, and a Pro-like redesign for the iPad Air, which is now faster than all current iPhone models powered by the A14 chipset.
As expected, Apple is updating the rest of its full-size tablets to complement the new iPad Pro launched in March. The company has revealed a redesigned iPad Air ($599), and much-improved internals for the standard iPad ($329), targeting people who study and work from home and are on a tighter budget.
The eighth generation iPad remains a 10.2-inch, entry-level option, but is now powered by the faster A12 Bionic SoC present in the 2019 versions of iPad mini and iPad Air. The biggest advantage of the A12 chip is the neural engine and a two-fold increase in graphics performance, which is a first for this class of iPad.
Apple says the A12 SoC makes this new iPad up to 6 times faster than the best selling Chromebook, up to three times faster than the top-selling Android tablet, and up to two times faster than the top-selling Windows laptop. But more importantly, iPad OS 14 makes Apple Pencil a more useful addition by letting you scribble in any text field.
If you can get over the aging design or if you prefer Touch ID to the more advanced, but slightly less reliable Face ID found on more expensive models, the new iPad is definitely worth considering.
Just like the seventh generation, it starts at $329 ($299 for education) and will be available for order this Friday. For people in the US, you can also use Apple Card to pay through an interest-free instalment plan.
The new iPad Air is no longer just a sweet spot in terms of price and performance. The 2020 version of Air now looks an awful lot like an iPad Pro, sporting a similar flat-edged chassis and a larger, 10.9-inch "Liquid Retina" display with thin bezels and an anti-reflective coating. No 120 Hz ProMotion technology here, but then again this isn't an iPad Pro.
It also has an updated camera with a 12-megapixel sensor and the Touch ID sensor is now integrated into the top button. But more importantly, the new iPad Air has been blessed with a much more useful USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector. This means that you can now get 20W charging and data transfers at up to 5Gbps.
Just like the iPad Pro, it supports the second generation Apple Pencil and will charge it by magnetic attachment. Keep in mind that this also means you can't use a first generation Apple Pencil with the new iPad Air. On the other hand, the new Air supports Apple's Magic Keyboard accessory in addition to the Smart Keyboard Folio and Smart Folio covers.
If you're wondering what powers the new iPad Air, it turns out Apple has chosen to integrate its new A14 Bionic SoC into it, which makes it the most powerful iOS device as of writing. The A14 chipset is a six-core beast (two high power cores, four lower-power ones) manufactured on a 5nm process node, with no less than 11.8 billion transistors.
Apple says the A14 Bionic delivers up to 40 percent higher CPU performance and up to 30 percent higher graphics performance when compared to the A13. It also sports a beefier neural engine for machine learning tasks, with twice as many cores as the one in the A13 chipset and the ability to perform 11 trillion operations per second.
The new Air does miss a few features from the iPad Pro. It only has two speakers instead of four, and doesn't integrate a five-microphone array. The screen resolution is slightly lower at 2360 x 1640, and there's no ultra-wide and Lidar like you get on the Pro. But that is reflected in the starting price of $599, which is $100 more than the old iPad Air but less than the $749 asking price of an iPad Pro.