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


The fourth-generation iPad Air, announced last month, is finally ready to be released to the market. The iPad Air is a very similar experience to the iPad Pro, and we'll give you an advance review of the iPad Air before it goes on sale on October 23.

The iPad Air has a 10.9-inch screen, which is slightly smaller than the 11-inch iPad Pro. It doesn't have a LiDAR scanner, and the camera is a single, wide-angle-only configuration with no ultra-wide-angle. It also has 4GB of main memory capacity, which, as we'll discuss below, is less than the iPad Pro's 6GB.

However, the difference in screen size is only noticeable by comparing them side by side, and like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, and it can be used with other peripherals for the 11-inch iPad Pro. The colorful iPad Air and the tacky dark gray Magic Keyboard (along with the ill-fitting bezel around the lens) may not look like a good fit, but we like that it's compatible with the Smart Keyboard Folio as well.

In short, what I'm trying to say is that there's no need to force yourself to choose the iPad Pro because it's significantly less expensive. In terms of quality of experience, there's no definitive difference, except for the presence or absence of LiDAR and an ultra-wide-angle camera.

Of course, there is a difference between Face ID and Touch ID. Face ID is far more convenient for use at home, for example, but Touch ID is more convenient for use in public (given the current world situation). Which one is better depends on the situation, but if we're going to be out and about as often as we used to be, I'd say the iPad Air is probably the better choice.

If so, the difference in computer capabilities, such as processor speed, is the key to deciding whether to choose the iPad Air or the iPad Pro.

Related Article:

Apple unveils 4th generation iPad Air, with A14 Bionic chip and USB-C

The iPad Air's benchmark score over the iPad Pro

From the time of its announcement, there were suspicions that the A14 Bionic in the iPad Air may have the same or better performance than the iPad Pro, though it's only a benchmark score and how it performs in real applications is another story.

"Suspicion" is a terrible word because of its good performance. However, according to our coverage, the A14 Bionic could not possibly match the A12Z Bionic's four high-performance cores and eight GPUs, even if it had a different generation of CPUs, and since Apple didn't change its stance that the iPad Pro had a role to play in the iPad Pro either, we completely underestimated the Air's A14 Bionic.

When we actually benchmarked the iPad Air, however, what we found was a performance that was unlikely to be matched by an Intel processor with the same class of power consumption.

iPad Air (Geekbench 5)
iPad Pro (Geekbench 5)
ipad air
Engadget Japan

The iPad Air's single-core score by Geekbench 5 is 1597, which is comparable to the 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7, or Tiger Lake's Core i7. The A14 Bionic has two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, so the multi-core score is lower than the four-core Tiger Lake, but still, the Tager Lake is 5400 compared to the A14 Bionic's 4300, which isn't as different as the number of cores (probably due to heat protection). And this value is close to the multi-core score of around 4650 for the A12Z Bionic (which has four high-performance cores) that the iPad Pro is equipped with.

On the other hand, the SoC that the iPad Air is powered by was developed for smaller smartphones. When measured on the iPhone 12/12 Pro with the same SoC, the multi-core score is 3950, which is considerably lower than the iPad Air equipped with the same SoC. What we can derive from this is that the iPad Air, which is less concerned with heat generation than the iPhone, performs better in an environment where many cores are running simultaneously.

iPad Air (Geekbench 5)
iPad Pro (Geekbench 5)

This is even more pronounced when looking at the Compute value for GPU computing power, with the iPad Air hitting a value of 12,232. This is a 30% improvement compared to the iPhone 12 Pro's 9357, which is also thought to be due to the margin of the thermal budget. This is a better score than the iPad Pro's A12Z Bionic, which has a built-in 8-core GPU of around 12,000 (previously it was around 9400, but after the iPadOS update, Metal's Compute score went up).

However, keep in mind that this is just a simple benchmark value. How the CPU and GPU are used in the app depends on the implementation of the app.

In benchmarks that are more similar to real-world apps, the Pro gets the nod

These results are slightly different from what Apple has been claiming for some time.

According to Apple, the iPad Pro is still one of the most powerful mobile computers in the world as a model with the performance for professionals, and has been positioned above the Air.

iPad Air (AnTuTu Benchmark)
iPad Pro (AnTuTu Benchmark)

We ran the AnTuTu Benchmark to try to measure the processing a bit closer to the real app, and the values here show the results as they were originally expected. In other words, it doesn't necessarily seem that the iPad Air surpasses the iPad Pro.

CPU scores are nearly identical, with the iPad Pro slightly outperforming the Air. This is a reasonable figure considering the difference in core performance and clock frequency (2.5GHz vs. 3GHz).

On the other hand, the GPU performance of the iPad Pro is 8 cores compared to the iPad Air which has 3 cores. Even though the high-performance cores are running at high speed, the amount of hardware is very important for GPU processing. The iPad Pro has a score of 1.5 times better than the iPad Air, so the Pro certainly looks better in terms of 3D graphics performance.

In fact, this result is also linked to the memory bandwidth score. The A12Z Bionic that the Pro is equipped with is designed to have an extended memory connection bandwidth to increase the number of CPU and GPU cores, so that it can run smoothly on multiple cores. Although it is two generations old, it is measured to have nearly 25% more memory bandwidth, which may be a good result for 3D graphics.

In any case, the Geekbench 5 score results should not be used as the sole basis for determining the power differential between the iPad Air and iPad Pro.

What about in Lightroom and Premiere Rush?

Then, the next tests were done in Adobe's Lightroom and Premiere Rush.

In Lightroom, I tested 20 RAW files from the Ricoh GR III to be developed. The results were 33 seconds for the iPad Air and 34.5 seconds for the iPad Pro. The iPad Air outperformed the iPad Pro, although they were about the same. We expected Lightroom's RAW development to be a close match, as most of the processing is done by the CPU, but it may be somewhat surprising that the iPad Air was faster than the iPad Pro. However, this should be evaluated as "no difference".

The next test was in Premiere Rush, where the GPU made a significant contribution. We have previously compared it to the 13 inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but the iPad Pro was faster than the latest MacBook Pro, which is the iPad's forte, so to speak.

When I exported one full HD video editing project in Premiere Rush, the iPad Pro finished in 24 minutes and 26 seconds, while the iPad Air finished in 30 minutes and 12 seconds. While not as different as the AnTuTu Benchmark score, the iPad Pro is still more powerful when it comes to media processing.

For reference, the same project took 35 minutes and 11 seconds to export on the higher-end MacBook Pro and 57 minutes and 4 seconds on the MacBook Air (with Ice Lake).

Even with the limited comfort of Premiere Rush, the iPad Air is still faster than the MacBook Pro, so it's also very capable. At least in the tablet category, it's one of the frontrunners.

The A14 Bionic's ability from a thermal margin

What has been revealed is that the A14 Bionic's CPU and GPU performance is quite high.

From our tests of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, we were able to experience the enhanced Neural Engine, ML accelerator, and ISP. Although it is an SoC designed for smartphones, it lightly surpasses a MacBook with Ice Lake and seems to have the instantaneous power of a Tiger Lake, albeit with a simple score. It seems to be able to unleash the true power of the SoC by being freed from the smartphone's chassis and placed on the iPad Air.

In this regard, we can assume that the new power-saving design introduced in the A13 Bionic (which not only controls power for each functional block but also turns on and off only the circuits actually being used) is also being utilized in the A14 Bionic.

In the future, hypothetically, the A14X Bionic (4 cores of high-performance CPU and 8 cores of GPU?) will be available, we can expect its performance to be quite high.


Related Article:

iPad Air 4th generation review with video and photos

New iPad Air review: A new standard for iPads with specs to suit everyone

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


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.