Apple iPad Air: Cheat sheet

This midlevel iPad gets an upgrade that puts it on par with the iPad Pro, including a new chip that provides a faster CPU and GPU.

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There were no phones at this year's Apple event, but Apple fans did get two new iPad models and upgrade to the Apple Watch. Here is a look at the new features and capabilities that are part of the iPad Air 4. 

What is the iPad Air 4?

At its annual September event, Apple announced a new version of its iPad Air 4. This is the mid-range iPad, bigger than the iPad 8th generation but with fewer features than the iPad Pro. This update makes the iPad Air model a serious competitor with the iPad Pro.

What are the key features of the iPad Air 4?

This iPad Air has a new chip, the A14 Bionic. This chip is designed to improve performance and battery life. This iPad Air also has Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and 60% faster LTE.

Apple moved the Touch ID sensor to the top button on the IPad Air. Users can use a fingerprint to unlock the iPad Air, launch apps, and use Apple Pay. This is the smallest authentication sensor the company has ever designed, according to Laura Legros, vice president of hardware engineering. 

This version of the iPad Air has improved support for the Apple Pencil. Users can turn handwritten notes into typed text, and the Scribble App converts writing entered into any text field into text. Ted Merendino, product manager for the iPad, announced improvements to the Apple Pencil as part of iPad OS 14. With Scribble, users can enter information into any text field with the Apple Pencil in any app. Handwritten notes can be added into another app as typed text. The Apple Pencil clicks onto the side of the iPad Air via a magnetic connector. 

Customers who buy a new iPad Air will get a year of Apple TV+ included with the purchase. Apple also announced a new service, Fitness+. The collection of workouts covers everything from yoga to cycling. The service is designed to be used with the Apple Watch but the workouts can be viewed from the iPad Air as well. 

SEE: Apple unveils a number of health and fitness features, apps, and more (TechRepublic)

What are the specs?

Capacity: 64 GB and 256 GB

Size: 9.74 inches (247.6 mm) x 7 inches (178.5 mm)

Weight: Wi-Fi models: 1.0 pound (458 grams); Wi-Fi + cellular models: 1.01 pounds (460 grams)

Speakers: Top and bottom

Connector: USB-C

In the box: iPad Air, USB-C charge cable, and 20W USB-C power adapter

Display: liquid Retina; 10.9 inch (diagonal); LED-backlit multi-touch display with IPS technology; 2360 by 1640 pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch; wide color display (P3); True Tone; fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating; fully laminated display; antireflective coating; 1.8% reflectivity; 500 nits brightness; supports Apple Pencil, second generation.

Chip: A14 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture and neural engine

Camera: 12MP wide camera; f/1.8 aperture; five-element lens; hybrid IR filter; backside illumination sensor; Live Photos with stabilization; autofocus with Focus Pixels; tap to focus with Focus Pixels; wide color capture for photos and Live Photos; panorama (up to 63MP); exposure control; noise reduction; smart HDR for photos; auto image stabilization; burst mode; timer mode; photo geotagging; image formats HEIF and JPEG

Video recording: 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, 60 fps; 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps; slo-mo video support for 1080p at 120 fps or 240 fps; time-lapse video with stabilization; cinematic video stabilization 1080p and 720p; continuous autofocus video; noise reduction; take 8MP still photos while recording 4K video; playback zoom; video geotagging; HEVC and H.264 video formats captured

FaceTime HD camera: 7MP photos; f/2.0 aperture; 1080p HD video recording at 60 fps; wide color capture for photos and Live Photos; smart HDR; Retina flash, backside illumination sensor; auto image stabilization; burst mode; exposure control; timer mode

Microphones: Dual microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording

Cellular and wireless: all models: 802.11ax WiFi 6; simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO; Bluetooth 5.0; WiFi + cellular models: UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); Gigabit-class LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 48, 66, 71)

SIM card: Nano-SIM (support Apple SIM)

Location: all models: digital compass; Wi-Fi; ibeacon microlocation; Wi-Fi + cellular models: built-in GPS/GNSS; cellular

Sensors: Touch ID; three-axis gyro; accelerometer; barometer; ambient light sensor

Touch ID: Unlock iPad; secure personal data within apps; make purchases from iTunes, App Store, and Apple Books

Charging and expansion: USB-C

Power and battery: all models: built-in 28.6 watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery; up to 10 hours of surviving the web on Wi-Fi or watching video; charging via power adaptor or USB-C to computer system; WiFi + cellular models: up to nine hours of surfing the web using cellular data network

OS: iPadOS 14

SEE: Apple iOS 14: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

How does the iPad Air compare to the iPad 8th gen and the iPad Pro?

The iPad Pro is the top of the iPad line. Its display is bigger at 12.9 inches and has ProMotion technology. The iPad Pro uses the A12Z chip, an older version compared to the iPad Air 4. The iPad Pro has up to 1TB of storage, much more than the iPad Air 4. The Pro also has a 10MP ultra-wide camera in addition to the 12MP wide camera. The Wi-Fi version of the iPad Pro with 128 GB starts at $999, quite a jump up from the 64GB iPad Air at $599. The 1TB version is $1,499. The iPad Pro is also slightly bigger and weighs 183 grams more (almost half a pound).

The iPad 8th generation is the entry-level model. The Retina display is slightly smaller and it uses the A12 Bionic chip with the neural engine. The iPad 8th Gen is compatible with the Smart Keyboard and the first generation Apple Pencil. The entry level model has up to 128 GB and a 8MP wide camera. It comes in only three colors: Silver, gray, and rose gold. It starts at $329 for the Wi-Fi model and $459 for the Wi-Fi + cellular model, which is cheaper than both iPad Air models.

SEE: iPad Air 4 looks like the iPad Pro for less (CNET)

What security platform does it use?

Apple moved the unlock button to the side of the iPad Air. Apple moved the Touch ID sensor to the top button. Users can use a fingerprint to unlock the iPad Air, launch apps, and use Apple Pay. This is the smallest authentication sensor the company has ever designed, 

What is the A14 Bionic chip?

Apple said this new A14 Bionic chip is what makes the iPad Air faster than some PC laptops. Several advancements in this chip improve the performance of the iPad Air. 

The 5-nanometer process manufacturing technology used to make this chip makes it possible to fit more transistors on the chip--11.8 billion in this instance. This allows for better performance and more power efficiency for up to 10 hours of battery life. 

The new six-core central processing unit has four high efficiency cores and two high-performance cores. That makes this iPad 40% faster than the previous generation. 

The chip's four-core graphics processing unit allows for 30% faster graphics compared with the A12 Bionic chip in the last generation of iPad Air.

SEE: Apple iPad 8th generation: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

What is the neural engine? 

Apple designed this component of the chip that can process 11 trillion operations per second. This also allows a 2x increase in machine learning and a 10x increase in computations. Apple's 

What accessories can I use with it?

The latest version of the iPad Air works with the Magic Keyboard, the Smart Keyboard Folio, and the Apple Pencil. Logitech iPad keyboards also will work with this iPad Air. 

What colors does it come in?

Apple has added several new color options for the iPad Air 4: Green, rose gold, silver, sky blue, and space gray.

When will it be available, and how much will it cost?

The latest iPad Air will be available in October and prices start at $599. The WiFi + cellular model will be available later this year. According to Apple, the latest iPad Air will be available in 30 countries and regions, including the US.

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