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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's latest September event added a new entry-level iPad to its roster, and once again it's an interesting one to compare to the iPad Air that it debuted last year.

Both look like really excellent options for the "mid-range" pricing tiers that Apple's targetting, coming in below the iPad Pro range's costs but still bringing some of the same great features, or even some upgrades. Which is right for you, though? We've compared them around some key elements, below. 

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Design and display

The iPad Air marked a pretty major change to the lineup by adopting the iPad Pro's looks to a great extent - it's got those rounded-off corners and flatter edges, making it arguably look the more modern of the two tablets. 

It also comes in a wide range of colours, comprising silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue - giving a great range of stylish options to pick from.

AppleiPad Air (2020) vs iPad 10.2 (2020): Apple's tablets compared photo 4

Meanwhile its display was boosted up to a full 10.9 inches, with Apple's Liquid Retina tech ensuring that its clarity and detail are pretty much unmatched. That also brings benefits like True Tone for accurate colour and an anti-reflective coating. 

The 2021 iPad, by contrast, keeps everything outwardly the same, sticking to the design that's worked for it so far and making no major changes. That said, True Tone does debut on the display, so there are some subtle improvements. It's available in grey, silver and rose gold, like before. 

It's got a 10.2-inch Retina display, making for great picture quality and colours, too, which might be less pixel-dense than the Air but will still impress most users.

Specs and hardware

The iPad Air 2020 was a bit of a big device on the hardware front for Apple - it was the first to feature its new flagship chip, the A14 Bionic, and that makes for some pretty blistering performance. 

With a 5 nanometer process, this was and remains a bleeding-edge chip that makes the Air comfortable editing 4K video, handling demanding games and multitasking effortlessly. It's a big leap up in power terms compared to the last Air, and also a margin more powerful than the new iPad.

The 9th generation iPad, by contrast, uses the A13 Bionic to grab a 20 percent performance boost compared to the previous model, even if it'll be a tad slower than the Air's chip. 

AppleiPad Air (2020) vs iPad 10.2 (2020): Apple's tablets compared photo 7

Both tablets will soon ship with iPadOS 15 installed, bringing new functionality to the tablet OS and even further opening up the world of widgets for your home screen. They both work with Apple Pencil, too, but the iPad Air is the only one that can support the second-generation Pencil, sadly. 

Another difference comes in the charging and with data transfer - the iPad Air uses USB Type C for far more universale cable support, while the iPad sticks to Lightning for now. 

Cameras

The new iPad Air has a 7MP selfie camera for video calls and other uses, but gets a nice bump on the rear camera, matching the iPad Pro with a 12MP camera that can manage 4K video.

The iPad, meanwhile, might actually have one advantage here thanks to being newer - it has a new 12MP selfie camera that's nice and wide-angle, and supports Center Stage to keep you in focus as you move around during calls or recordings.

Price

There's a bit of a gulf when it comes to price between these two models, too, largely as a result of the iPad Air's upgrades.

The Air starts from $599 (£579) for Wi-Fi only, while Wi-Fi and Cellular models start at $729 (£709). 

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The iPad 9th Gen, meanwhile, starts from $329 (£319), with Cellular from $459 (£439).

Conclusion

Of these two iPads, it's still the iPad Air that's causing a stir at Pocket-lint - we think it remains the default pick for most people looking for an iPad.

That A14 chip makes it a powerful beast for a good number of years to come, while its updated design and USB-C compatibility only further that impression.

The iPad 9th Gen is still a great option if your budget is more restrictive, and the upgrade's welcome, but we think if you can stretch to it the iPad Air should probably be the choice most people opt for. 

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 15 September 2020.