This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
The global outbreak of the new coronavirus has caused many schedule changes this year, but so far, Apple has been able to avoid making any major schedule changes. However, due to development delays on the new iPhone, which would normally be released in September in time for Apple's quarterly results, Apple itself admitted early on that this year's iPhone is expected to be delayed.
So Apple had to announce to investors in advance that it wouldn't be launched, because sales in the first week of the iPhone's launch or not would make a huge difference in quarterly earnings. So there was no chance of an iPhone being announced from the start, but on the other hand, the announcement exceeded expectations.
That is, the latest model of the iPad Air with the A14 Bionic chip was a well-balanced product with more appeal than even the iPad Pro.
All iPads are now powered by the Neural Engine as the 8th generation iPad uses A12 Bionic
This presentation focuses on iPads in three ways.
On the product axis, the iPad Air is still the star of the show, and as we'll discuss below, the iPad Air has most of the appeal of the iPad Pro's 11-inch model and is competitive in terms of performance.
Meanwhile, for the entry-level iPad, the A12 Bionic is notable for its inclusion. The difference is that the display is not a full lamination structure, but despite having the same performance as the third-generation iPad Air, the price in dollar terms remains unchanged. Apple is talking about a doubling of performance, but the focus is actually on the inclusion of the Neural Engine. This means that all iPads, including low-cost devices for the education market, will be equipped with Neural Engine, and various functions, such as video analysis of the built-in camera, can be optimized for Neural Engine.
For example, the accuracy and speed of the handwriting recognition feature introduced in iPadOS 14, the ability to recognize the movement and shape of a subject from camera footage, and the performance and accuracy of classifying various media data will improve. When that happens, developers will start designing apps with the assumption that the Neural Engine will be included.
And the third point of interest is that for the first time we're getting an overview of the latest Apple-designed SoC ahead of the iPhone. The A14 Bionic is only touting performance improvements as a quickie, but we can expect to see a high-performance version of this design for the Apple Silicon-powered Mac and the fully redesigned iPad Pro.
As for the A14 Bionic, we think it's likely that Apple hasn't told you all about it yet. Nonetheless, it's still something that will further raise our expectations for the high-performance version of the SoC, which is predicted to have names like the A14X Bionic.
The iPad Air largely retains the charm of the iPad Pro
The iPad Air is the star of the product axis, but it's a completely new design and the best parts of the iPad Pro have been rebuilt with the latest technology. Even taking into account the minor differences in specifications, the 256GB model is a 16,000 yen less expensive bargain than the 11-inch iPad Pro model.
The new iPad Air supports the same second-generation Apple Pencil as the iPad Pro and weighs about the same as the previous model. The resolution of the Display-P3-enabled wide color gamut LCD display is also nearly identical to the 11-inch iPad Pro, only the display size is 0.1 inches smaller. The bezels are thicker for that, but many people wouldn't notice them unless they were side by side.
It's 0.2 mm thicker, but it weighs 13 grams less. This difference is only an error. With the same footprint and aligned magnets, the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Pro will work with the new iPad Air.
Apple has informed us that the iPad Air has the same camera as the iPad Pro, but this is at the hardware level, and the A14 Bionic has the latest generation of image processing processors, so the video processing process has been upped to the latest generation, when shooting in the dark, the image quality is higher. In other words, the camera quality has improved.
So what makes it different from the Pro? Excluding the on-board processor, the iPad Air does not support a 120Hz refresh rate, True Motion, which samples the Apple Pencil, is not available on the iPad Air, and the maximum brightness is 500 nits compared to 600 nits on the Pro. This may be why there is no mention of HDR support for the display. There is also no size variant available that is equivalent to the 12.9-inch model.
And while the iPad Air is now available in five colors, there are only two on-board storage options, a 64GB and 256GB version, and it doesn't have a LiDAR sensor or an ultra-wide angle camera.
But in other words, that's the extent of the difference, and we think the iPad Air will look very attractive to those who have been eyeing the 11-inch Pro.
The only regret is that the price of the Magic Keyboard has not been changed. It would have been nice if the price of the keyboard accessories had been revised at the same time, as more and more products will be compatible with it and a wider range of users will be using it.
Beyond the A14 Bionic, which looks to be more powerful than you can imagine
So, the iPad Air is a product that feels uniquely valuable, including to the user base that was considering the MacBook Air, due in part to the increased functionality of the iPad OS. Personally, I would choose the larger 12.9" model for the iPad, but if you're more concerned about carrying it around, you''ll choose the iPad Air without question.
On the other hand, my own intellectual curiosity was fueled by the A14 Bionic. This chip, which is expected to be used in the iPhone 12, has the same six CPU cores (two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores), according to Apple, but is 40% faster than the A12 Bionic, which was used by the previous model of the iPad Air.
The A12's high-performance cores were 20% more powerful when it came to the A13's high-performance core "Lightning", which had about twice as much performance per core as a typical ARM of the same generation. We don't have information on the operating clock frequency and other details at this time (it seems likely that the clock frequency has been increased), but it's surprising to see a total of 40% faster CPU performance versus the A12.
Due to thermal design issues, performance will be evaluated on the actual device as a general rule, but in terms of CPU performance alone, we can expect to see numbers similar to the four-core iPad Pro (but with the A12 generation).
When it comes to GPU performance, where the number of cores counts, the A14 Bionic has four cores compared to the eight-core A12Z (although the design itself may be different). The performance per core is about 30% better, so it should provide adequate GPU performance, although it cedes in absolute performance.
A14 Bionic also has an ML accelerator that accelerates matrix multiplication to speed up the machine learning process, which is said to be 10 times faster in performance. As for the Neural Engine, it also leaps to 11 trillion operations per second (5 trillion operations per second for A12 Bionic and 6 trillion operations for A13 Bionic).
What would the elements that make up the A14 Bionic be like if it were reimagined for an iPad Pro or an Apple Silicon-powered Mac?
For example, just four high-performance cores and eight GPUs would be enough to get some very attractive performance. That's still a long way off, but if it would be designed for the desktop... isn't it exciting to think about it?
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.