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Coming back from the dead last year, the iPad Air is doing well. Thanks for him. Not only is the most famous iPad back, draped in the garb previously reserved for iPad Pro, but it has taken over the A14 Bionic, the latest Apple Silicon chip, the one found in the four models ofiPhone 12 this year. Suffice to say that with these two weapons alone, the iPad Air has something to seduce. But does he transform the essay?

iPad Air and iPad Pro: design brothers

Like a moult that never ends. The iPad Air will have gone in the space of three generations from the wide bezels and the 9.7-inch screen, to a 10.5-inch panel still surrounded by an imposing frame to finally endorse a 10.9 panel. inches, almost edge to edge. A design straight out of the iPad Pro, attractive and proven, and that makes you wonder what is left of the 11-inch iPad Pro. Especially since the iPad Air brings a little colorful air to it that is clearly not to displease … Our model, in sky blue, is very pleasant to look at, almost festive.

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To be honest, the new Air and the 11-inch iPad Pro are so close in format that they can even lend each other their accessories. Thus, the iPad Air can now accommodate the Apple Pencil of 2e generation, much more pleasant to use and easy to charge / synchronize, but also the Magic Keyboard, which joins the Smart Keyboard.

For the record, the Magic Keyboard is Apple’s best attempt to turn tablets into laptops. Compatible with the iPad Air 2020 and the 11-inch iPad Pro, this keyboard-trackpad is extremely comfortable for working long hours. On the other hand, he will always be criticized for being not very versatile. Its design makes it not possible to fold it over the back of the iPad if you want to take notes with the stylus, for example.

The Smart Keyboard is therefore always the weapon of choice for those who want the best compromise between all uses: protective shell, keyboard, and flap for note taking in tablet mode.

The iPad Air is also breaking away from the historic Lightning port to adopt USB-C, like the iPad Pros. A detail in appearance … but which greatly facilitates daily life. If you also use MacBooks, you can use the same AC charger, and if you want to transfer photos, you can directly connect your camera, for example. Not to mention of course the USB keys that can connect to it to copy a file faster that is not in the cloud.

The magic finger is still there

One huge difference is, however, the iPad Air does not upgrade to Face ID. The facial recognition function remains the prerogative of Apple’s “pro” tablet models. Tim Cook’s engineers therefore had to find a new location for the Touch ID button. They tucked it into the On / Off button, which is always on the top right of the iPad Air when it is held vertically.

On a daily basis, the idea is not bad, even if it requires you to adopt new habits in holding your tablet, whether in portrait or landscape mode. For a long time, we had the reflex of sliding our finger on the Home button (which has also disappeared) to confirm a purchase or unlock the iPad. We must now put our phalanx elsewhere.

Apart from the new gestures and this need for adaptation, we have nothing to complain about the operation of this new Touch ID. Fingerprint identification is fast and efficient. Moreover, Apple had the good idea when starting the iPad Air to have the user register two fingers from the start: one for the right hand in vertical mode and one for the left hand. horizontally. This will avoid contortions in the heat of the moment.

Of course, you can always register more fingers (five in all) for more flexibility or to give access to the iPad to someone you trust. Be careful, however, even with iPadOS 14, which powers the iPad Air, the management of different user accounts is still absent subscribers. Registering a fingerprint also means giving the keys to access your credit card, personal data, etc.

Of course, Apple knows how to build a range and has not given all the advantages to the Air 2020. Thus, the LCD panel is a little less bright: 500 against 600 cd / m2, and in fact we measured it at 488 cd / m2, against 515 for the 11-inch iPad Pro 2020. Similarly, the panel of the Pro is better contrasted (1609: 1 against 1393: 1) and reserves the ProMotion technology, which varies the refresh rate of the slab depending on the use.

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Nevertheless, the screen is laminated and treated against glare, besides the P3 technology (for a wide color gamut) and the True Tone display are there. The essential is therefore perfectly assured.
Better still, the iPad Air has the luxury of displaying a better Delta E 2000 than its big brother. Our measurements give it 1.35 compared to 1.45 for the 11-inch iPad Pro. Remember that the Delta E measures the difference between the true value of a color and the one displayed. Anything below 2 is great.

It should also be noted in passing that the panel of the iPad Air 2020 is a little less bright than that of the iPad Air 2019, on the other hand, it has much better contrast.

A14 Bionic: power for today, potential for tomorrow

Let’s do a little reminder. Announced last September, the iPad Air 4e generation had the rare honor for an Apple tablet – it hasn’t happened since the very first iPad – to introduce a new chip. In this case, it is the A14, which has demonstrated its power on iPhone 12 Pro, especially.

Whether on iPhone or iPad, we find the same number of cores: six for the CPU part, two high performance and four low consumption, and four for the GPU part. However, there is a difference, on the iPad Air, the new chip is content to be accompanied by 4 GB of RAM, where the iPhone 12 Pro have six.

However, as we said during the announcement of the new iPads last September, the A14 may well embody the new generation, it is still a “smartphone” version, and not a “version”. tablet ‘of the chip, as Apple typically does for the iPad Pro. Its somewhat special SoCs can be recognized by the letter following the number, an X or a Z. These chips have a greater number of cores, whether for the processor part or for the graphics chip.
As seen in the table above, the A12Z has eight CPU cores and eight GPU cores (and eight cores for the neural engine), compared to six and four cores respectively for the A12 Bionic, from which it is derived. This explains why the A12Z, found in the 2020 iPad Pros, is keeping control in certain areas.

When we observe the bench results obtained with Geekbench 5, we notice several things. The first is that the iPad Air, within a generation, has increased its multi-core performance on the CPU side by almost 50%. It comes close to the performance of the iPad Pro, which still keeps the upper hand, which makes sense given the number of cores it carries.

The second notable thing is the colossal jump in graphics performance recorded thanks to the Metal API that Apple is pushing into its ecosystem, instead of OpenGL ES or Vulkan. Between the iPad Air 2019 and the 2020 model, it is almost a tripling of the score of the GPU part that we recorded (x2.8) with Geekbench 5. If we request an application more dedicated to the measurement of graphics capacities of a chip, in this case, GFXBench Metal, there are more moderate gains but still quite significant.

We recorded more than 43% of gain between the two models of iPad Air on the bench Car Chase, almost 73% between the iPad Air 2020 and the iPad 2020. On this test, the new iPad Air even allows itself to dethrone the 11-inch iPad Pro, which despite everything retains its dominant position after the other GFXBench test, T-Rex, which is however less taxing for the chip. If we turn to the Aztec Ruins test, again from GFX Bench, we see that here too the iPad Pro retains control and that the hierarchy of generations and the iPad range is respected. The iPad Air 2020 is then said to be around 200% more efficient than the model of the previous year. While the iPad Pro dominates it by around 40 percent.

You will have understood it, whether you only intend to surf the Web and send a few emails, to play “realistic” or complex 3D games, enriched with many effects, or even to work: office automation in From multitasking to HD / 4K video editing, the iPad Air 2020 should hold its ground and not fail you. We will even slip that its format makes it a perfect travel or isolation partner, accompanied by a Bluetooth controller, to explore the Apple Arcade catalog.
The A14 Bionic is nothing short of impressive and gives it more than enough power for all the uses you can imagine on an iPad. This extra power is the guarantee of being able to take advantage of today’s demanding applications, but also a good indicator of the longevity of this tablet. It should be able to withstand the shock for several years, without weakening.

Do not forget either that the A14 Bionic has 16 cores in its neural engine, which will allow Apple and third-party developers to introduce new functions, new uses that will enrich applications, including image processing. This is the case of Pixelmator Photo, which ported its ML Super Resolution feature to iPadOS. Until now, this tool was only available for macOS, and it was still better to have a solid Mac with a solid setup.

We have thus, for comparison, used the tool of machine learning Pixelmator on various iPad models, including the 2020 Air, and a 13-inch 2020 MacBook Pro. The 2020 iPad Air is the fastest at applying Super Resolution to a large image.
It took 1 min and 54 seconds, where the 11-inch iPad Pro needed 2 minutes and 2 seconds and the 2020 iPad 2 minutes and 22 seconds. It is interesting that all these tablets are now equipped with an SoC which embeds a neural engine, which explains why they are doing quite well, especially if we compare them to what we get by applying the same tool with the same image on a 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro (Core i5 quad core 2 GHz, Iris Plus Graphics, 16 GB RAM from 2020). It then takes 4 minutes and 32 seconds for the Mac to come out with force ventilation … So much for those who still doubted the interest of a “neural” chip …

Autonomy: very honest, but not the best

Finally comes the issue of battery life, which has always been central to the history of iPads. The iPad Air 2019 was not the best of Apple tablets in the field, its successor follows the same path. Moreover, for our versatile autonomy test, which simulates and connects daily uses (Web, video, etc.) and gives a fairly precise idea of ​​what the device will give in “real life”, the iPad Air 2020 adds just two minutes to the range established by the previous model, at 9:59 a.m.

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In video autonomy, which consists of streaming a movie until the battery runs out, the Air 2020 is even slightly behind. Funny enough (or worrying, it depends), we see that the iPad 2020, the model of any entry level, is in fact the most autonomous of the iPad, since it is even better than the iPad Pro. 2020 in 11 inch format.

Either way, the battery life performance of the fourth-generation iPad Air is pretty good. They will obviously vary depending on the uses you prefer, however you should be able to use it or work a good half day away from an electrical outlet.

Aggressive positioning

To work ! Because this iPad Air, you will understand, has almost everything an iPad Pro, except the price. Apple has clearly decided to open wide the door to advanced uses that were until then rather reserved for Pro models. This year 2020 has seen all refreshed iPads, and all of them have been pulled very strongly upwards, whether it’s a new chip or a new design, and sometimes, as is the case here, both.

In fact, whether for handwritten note taking with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, or with the Magic Keyboard, the iPad Air can replace a laptop PC or an iPad Pro – except for space. display a little less. It will even afford the luxury of being more versatile than a MacBook Air, for example.

Nevertheless, it will still face certain functional and ergonomic limitations, even though iPadOS 14 has fixed a lot of problems. Apple developers still have to relax windowing, rethink workspaces and document access to make working on a tablet like the iPad Air as efficient as opting for a MacBook or a laptop. .

With the on-board power, the quality of the materials and the finish, one thing is certain this iPad Air 2020 should hold out for a long time and give you the opportunity to install many future iterations of iPadOS, which unfortunately is not still the case with tablets running Android, less well finished and less fortunate in terms of updates. Clearly, this iPad Air is the most aggressive model in the range, the most attractive point of balance between ergonomics, performance, accessories and price.

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