iPad Air 2019 review roundup: Middle child done good

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The new 2019 iPad Air, with its 10.5-inch screen, works with Apple's existing Smart Keyboard.
The new iPad Air sounds like a winner.
Photo: Apple

The new iPad Air might not be quite as beautiful or cutting edge as its Pro counterpart, but it’s still a gorgeous piece of tech — and a potential “Back to School” winner.

That’s according to the first reviews of the new tablet published. We’ll update this meta review with other opinions as they become available, but here are the first impressions so far.

Pro… but not too Pro

TechRadar writes that:

“The iPad Air (2019) was made for anyone who wants more grunt from their tablet compared to the iPad 9.7. It’s a far better fit for most people – people who aren’t cash-flushed early adopters or professionals willing to invest in the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9.”

Engadget seemingly backs this up with the assertion:

“Apart from the lack of a ProMotion display, everything about the Air would’ve been considered Pro not too long ago. And when you consider this thing offers a bigger screen, better performance, a cleaner design and more flexibility than the standard model for not much more money, it’s not hard to imagine tablet shoppers embracing the Air.”

Don’t expect the latest features

This isn’t the iPad to get if you want all the latest features. Nods to the past include lightning port over USB-C, two instead of four speakers, first-gen Apple Pencil compatibility only, Touch ID instead of Face ID, and (good news!) a headphone jack. But these all work well enough not to be worthy of complaint.

It’s surprisingly powerful

The iPad Air was the iPad Pro before there was an iPad Pro. But how does it stack up for a person looking for a decent iPad, circa 2019? Quite well it seems.

“We found in our tests that it doubles the performance of the entry-level iPad 9.7 (2018), offering another perk for anyone seeking serious productivity and looking for a long-term investment,” TechRadar notes.

“It’s equipped with Apple’s custom A12 Bionic chipset, the same powerful System-on-a-Chip inside the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Among tablets, it’s only bested by the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9, which has the A12X Bionic chipset, the best mobile chip on the market.”

It can also manage 10 hours of battery life. That’s the same as Apple’s other iPads. In other words, don’t buy the latest iPad Pro just because you want an iPad that can last longer between charges.

The display won’t let you down

TechRadar writes that the, “10.5-inch display with thinner bezels is a nice upgrade over 9.7-inch iPads.” This is the first iPad Air to boast a 10.5-inch Retina display and thinner bezels. Compared to the 9.7-inch entry level iPad it adds a laminated screen, wider color palette, True Tone display and anti-reflective coating. All of these impress.

An acceptable camera

The iPad camera has never been all that important to me, compared with the iPhone’s shooter. The iPad Air manages to deliver adequate results. The rear camera captures 8MP photos with an f/2.4 aperture, just like the entry-level iPad 9.7. The 7MP front-facing camera is a big upgrade over the the 1.2MP FaceTime camera for the iPad 9.7, though. Its better 1080p video vs 720p also makes it superior for FaceTime.

One for the Smart Keyboard lovers

The iPad Air is the cheapest iPad with Apple’s Smart Connector, which allows users to opt for the Smart Keyboard over a Bluetooth keyboard. As TechRadar notes: “It’s one of the things you can’t pass up if you’re looking for 2-in-1 productivity from an iPad.”

Engadget opines that:

“Apart from the screen, the biggest thing the Air has going for it (over the mini and standard iPads, anyway) is the Smart Connector wedged into its left side. This is the first time Apple has built one of these into a non-Pro iPad, and for most people, it basically just means you can magnetically attach a keyboard. (Seriously, there are hardly any accessories that make use of this port.)”