This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.

The iPhone 12 Festival is going on right now, but there's another device coming out at the same time that shouldn't be missed. The fourth-generation iPad Air is it. It's a redesigned iPad Air that's closer to the home button-less iPad Pro, with support for the second-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard. As a user of the original 11-inch iPad Pro, I'm curious about the new iPad Air. I was able to try out the iPad Air before it went on sale.

Apple iPad Air review
The iPad Air will be released on the same day as the iPhone 12, and it too has been redesigned.

The iPad Air is closer to the iPad Pro in design at first glance, but on closer inspection, there are some differences. First, the bezels. iPad Air has a 10.9-inch display, which is 0.1-inch smaller than the 11-inch iPad Pro, and the bezel around the display is slightly thicker. However, this is only apparent if you don't compare them directly. Because there's no obstruction to the view, it's more immersive to the image than the iPad Air, which had a home button.

Touch ID with an integrated top button, which has never been used on an iPad or even on an iPhone, is another selling point of the fourth-generation iPad Air. When you press the top button to turn on the display, the screen unlocks smoothly. It's also nice that it prompts the user to register a finger to use in both vertical and horizontal positions during the initial setup. Since the hands used in the vertical and horizontal positions are different, we want to make sure we register both properly.

Apple iPad Air review
Fingerprint sensor Touch ID integrated into the top button

Apple iPad Air review
It prompts you to turn around and register during the initial setup.

However, I found it to be a bit of a challenge when I was typing with the Magic Keyboard attached. On my current iPad Pro, when I press the return key, the screen lights up as it is, reads my face on its own, and unlocks the screen, but with the 4th generation iPad Air, you have to take your hands off the keyboard and place your fingers on the top button. This is a bit of a pain. You might want to use a passcode to unlock it, or you might want to set the display to auto-lock for a longer period of time so that the screen doesn't lock up immediately when you're using the keyboard. So it's an operational solution.

Apple iPad Air review
If you're using a keyboard, you might want to set a longer time frame for the screen lock.

For now, though, Touch ID is smoother to unlock than Face ID in some cases. This is because of the coronavirus disaster and the increased opportunity to wear a mask. I mainly use the keyboard on my iPad indoors, especially when I'm out and about. There are often other people around, and many scenes tend to be "intimate" with other people. For this reason, I often find myself unable to use Face ID, which can be very useful. Touch ID is a more efficient way to unlock a device than Face ID, if that's the case. In fact, it would be nice if you could choose either one for both...

The writing experience with the Apple Pencil is smooth. Unlike the iPad Pro, the fourth-generation iPad Air doesn't support a 120Hz refresh rate, so I thought it would be inferior in terms of tracking, but this is not what I expected, in a good way. Maybe it's because I don't use the iPad to illustrate, but if it's just for reddening text, this is good enough for me. It's also nice to be able to use the second-generation Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro, so you don't have to buy another one when you switch.

Apple iPad Air review
The Apple Pencil writes smoothly.

The iPad Pro has been using chipsets with a "Z" or an "X" on them, mainly to enhance the GPU for iPad. The fourth-generation iPad Air, on the other hand, has the same A14 Bionic as the iPhone 12 series. It's not underpowered, though, and from what we tried, it was able to edit 4K video and develop dozens of photos in a crisp manner.

Apple iPad Air review
Photo development and video editing went smoothly.

To test it out, I compared its performance in a benchmark with the first-generation 11-inch iPad Pro, and the CPU performance was evenly matched: the iPad Pro has a single-core score of 1120 and a multi-core score of 4656, while the fourth-generation iPad Air has a single-core score of 1582 and a multi-core score of 4203. The iPad Air has a higher single-core score, although the iPad Pro has the edge in multi-core, and in terms of GPU, the iPad Air has 12549, which is better than the iPad Pro's 10960.

Apple iPad Air review
In terms of CPU benchmark scores, the iPad Air's single-core score outperformed the original 11-inch iPad Pro.
Apple iPad Air review
The GPU scores are as high as the iPhone 12 series.

The "X" in the A12X Bionic is supposed to be a GPU-enhanced chipset, but to lightly outperform it, in terms of performance, this is an iPad that could practically call itself a Pro, just in the name of Air. No wonder it's supposed to be so fast at processing photos and videos. The trouble with this is where to switch from the first-generation 11-inch iPad Pro.

The second-generation 11-inch iPad Pro, which came out in March, is the direct successor, but given the specs, the iPad Air is good enough for some of us. It has LiDAR and an ultra-wide-angle camera, but it's also more expensive. The iPad Air, on the other hand, is a lot of fun to choose from in five different colors, and at 62,800 yen for the 64GB version with Wi-Fi. With the iPad Pro costing 84,800 yen in the minimum configuration, the iPad Air is a lot more affordable.

Apple iPad Air review
It's fun to choose from a wide variety of colors. The photo shows the blue one I used.

However, be careful with the 64GB version. If you're using it too hard to edit photos and videos, you'll quickly run out of storage space. I bought the 64GB version of the first-generation iPad Pro because I thought, "Well, we have the cloud, so it will do just fine." But I quickly ran out of space as I was storing all sorts of images and videos on it. I wish I had a little more space, especially since I've been taking more screenshots at online conferences lately.

Apple iPad Air review
The one I tried was the 256GB version, but the minimum configuration is 64GB, so be careful.

So, if you want to increase the capacity, the iPad Air is next to the 64GB, which goes up significantly to 256GB, and the prices go up to 79,800 yen. This is still cheaper than the iPad Pro's minimum configuration, so it's not a bad option, but it's a rather annoying price difference. However, there's still a 16,000 yen difference between the 256GB versions of the same capacity.

Even though it doesn't claim to be a professional device, I feel that the iPad Air is a tablet that can be used by a wide range of users, from general users to semi-professionals and professionals, at a very affordable price.

Related Articles:

iPad Air 4th generation review with video and photos

The iPad Air (2020) is a great buy, but it made choosing an iPad difficult

The A14 Bionic on the iPad Air (2020) outperforms that on the iPhone 12

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.