(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced the fourth generation iPad Air during an event in September, offering a new design, upgraded hardware and a step closer to the flagship iPad Pro range.

How does the new iPad Air compare to last year's model though? Here's a run down so you can work out which model you should buy or whether you should upgrade. You can also read our iPad Air vs iPad Pro to see the differences between those models.

squirrel_widget_2670462

Design

  • iPad Air (2020): 247.6 x 78.5 x 6.1mm, 458-460g
  • iPad Air (2019): 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1mm, 456-464g

The fourth generation of Apple iPad Air features a design refresh compared to the third generation model. The bezels have slimmed down around the display and rather than Touch ID in the home button beneath the display, the new iPad Air puts Touch ID in the top button instead.

The build remains familiar with an aluminium body, but the latest iPad Air comes in a range of colours including Rose Gold, Green and Sky Blue, in addition to the standard Silver and Space Grey.

On the back, the single camera lens remains - it doesn't move to the same design as the iPad Pro - but the lens is larger and more prominent on the new iPad Air compared to the 2019 model.

The third generation iPad Air has larger bezels around the top and bottom of the display than the fourth generation model and it features Touch ID in the home button at the bottom. As mentioned, the camera lens on the rear is smaller, though positioned in the same place, and colour options are more classic with Silver, Gold and Space Grey available.

Display

  • iPad Air (2020): 10.9-inch Liquid Retina, 2360 x 1640, 264ppi
  • iPad Air (2019): 10.5-inch Retina, 2224 x 1668, 264ppi

The fourth generation iPad Air has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone technology on board. It offers a resolution of 2360 x 1640, which delivers a pixel density of 264ppi.

The third generation iPad Air has a slightly smaller 10.5-inch Retina display that comes with a 2224 x 1668 pixel resolution, delivering the same 264ppi pixel density.

Both displays offer a maximum brightness of 500nits, are fully laminated, feature an anti-reflective coating and offer a P3 wide colour gamut.

Hardware and features

  • iPad Air (2020): A14 chip, 64GB/256GB storage, USB Type-C
  • iPad Air (2019): A12 chip, 64GB/256GB storage, Lightning

The 2020 iPad Air runs on the latest A14 Bionic chip with Neural Engine, while the iPad Air (2019) runs on the A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine. 

Both iPad Air models are available in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi and Cellular models and both come in 64GB and 256GB storage options. 

The latest iPad Air is compatible with the second generation of Apple Pencil, along with the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio, like the iPad Pro range. The third generation model meanwhile, is compatible with the first generation of the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.

Both models claim to offer up to 10 hours of battery while surfing the web but the 2020 iPad Air has USB Type-C, while the iPad Air (2019) has Lightning for charging.

Cameras

  • iPad Air (2020): 12MP rear, FaceTime HD front
  • iPad Air (2019): 8MP rear, FaceTime HD front

In terms of cameras, the fourth generation iPad Air has a 12-megapixel Wide camera on the rear that has a f/1.8 aperture and a number of features including Live Photos with stabilisation, Smart HDR for photos, Autofocus with Focus Pixels and panorama up to 63-megapixels.

The third generation model meanwhile, has an 8-megapixel Wide camera with a f/2.4 aperture and it too offers a number of features including Live Photos but not with stablisation, Auto HDR for photos, autofocus without Focus Pixels and panaorama up to 43-megapixels.

Both devices have a FaceTime HD camera on the front, offering 7-megapixel photos. 

Software

  • iPadOS 14

Both the third and fourth generation iPad Air models run on iPadOS and they are both compatible with iPadOS 14.

You can read all about the latest software build in our separate feature, but the overall user experience between the old iPad Air and new iPad Air will be pretty much identical on the software front. 

squirrel_widget_237944

Conclusion

The fourth generation iPad Air offers a number of decent upgrades over its predecessor including a much more refined design with a larger display, faster processor, improved camera, a switch to USB Type-C and compatibility with the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, like the iPad Pro.

There are also a much greater range of colour options making the latest Air that little bit more fun. 

The third generation iPad Air is still a powerful device, and one worth considering if you can find it significantly cheaper than the newer model, but you might also want to consider the new entry-level iPad that offers a similar hardware loadout to the third-gen iPad Air but for less money.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.