KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — A month or so ago, I got asked whether the iPad Air is worth getting over the new iPad 8th-gen.

I finally got the answer to that question. Short answer is, I really do like this iPad. The long answer? There’s a lot more to tell.

Beauty contest winner

If it was just about which iPad was better-looking, I’d say the new iPad Air is the prettiest of all the iPads ever made.

While the previous Air felt more like a stretched out version of the basic iPad, the iPad Air is more like a svelte rendition of the iPad Pro’s design.

Much has been made of the new colour options — they have now expanded to five, with the newest colours being green and sky blue, joining Apple’s usual space grey, silver and rose gold tones.

My personal preference is the green. It’s a very nice green, somewhere between mint and apple green, almost light enough to be pastel.

Of course it’s kinda funny to have pretty shades for iPads when it’s smarter, really to engulf them in a case to protect that aluminium chassis.

The new design features a nearly edge-to-edge display that maximises screen real estate so you get 2360×1640 resolution with Apple’s Liquid Retina display, which might be a good enough reason to choose this over the basic iPad.

The display now has a thin bezel to maximise the viewing area of the screen, to better enjoy the Liquid Retina resolution. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

Watching my streaming shows on the larger, brighter display was more enjoyable on the iPad Pro compared to the basic iPad what with the latter’s larger bezels. The True Stereo speakers might not be as fancy as the quad speaker setup on the Pro but they’re loud and pleasant enough.

Even with the new processor I don’t see significant differences in the battery life. Which means you’ll get the usual 10 hours, give or take, though I often shortened that to five to six hours with my intense gaming sessions.

The beating heart

What’s interesting is that the iPad Air has the latest Apple A14 Bionic processor that will also power the iPhone 12 models — it’s a newer processor than the latest iPad Pro, that runs the A12Z, a tweaked version of the older A12X.

Does this mean the iPad Air is more powerful than the current Pro model? Not exactly. While the A14 Bionic is newer, the A12X handles graphics better thanks to an extra GPU.

It still makes the iPad Air a compelling alternative to the Pro, though it has 4GB of RAM to the Pro’s 6GB.

Gaming on the iPad Air was problem-free and as it’s a newer processor, I found long periods of gaming didn’t heat it up as fast as on the iPad Pro.

Editing the photos for this article on the iPad Air was also easy, whether I used Apple’s built-in image editor or the more resource-intensive Affinity Photo.

Being able to use the newer second-gen Apple Pencil is also great as it can attach itself to your iPad. I do not miss the frantic days of the first-gen Apple Pencil rolling off the table, under the bed, out of my bag… you get the drift.

The USB Type-C port also opens up the possibility to more accessories though you’ll need to make sure they are compatible with Apple’s ports — you can connect external drives or even to network drives, accessing files via the Files app. That’s one way of getting around limited storage.

If you foresee your life being full of teleconferencing meetings, the iPad Air’s front camera might be another reason to spend the extra money — with the 7MP sensor, it will offer brighter, sharper pictures than the basic iPad’s basic 1.2MP camera.

Doesn’t hurt that the rear camera is also very good for a tablet: 12MP with a large aperture and support for 4K video recording up to 60fps. I may not be the type to take photos with an iPad but for the iPad Air’s price, it’s nice to see a fairly decent camera on it.

Instead of a Touch ID home button or Face ID, the iPad Air relies on Touch ID embedded in the top button. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

The lighter (on your wallet) alternative

If you’re on a budget, the basic iPad 8th-gen would probably be your best bet unless you’re using it for heavy graphic design or video editing.

However if you want, and could really use, an iPad Pro but the pricing is what is putting you off, the iPad Air offers a lot of performance for a lot less.

Unfortunately the base 64GB storage for RM2,599 (Wi-Fi only) seems too little though if you can go up to 256GB for RM3,249 you get a lot more storage for your buck compared to the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro in comparison is RM3,499 for 128GB and RM3,949 for 256GB, and that’s just the 11-inch version, Wi-Fi only.

There is also the argument you could probably just buy a Windows laptop for the money but the use-case scenario for a high-spec iPad is very specific.

For digital artists, the iPad offers a way of drawing anywhere and everywhere, and sharing the results of their work online via streaming or social media.

Only one niggle here: the need for accessories. For creative work, the newer and more expensive Apple Pencil would probably be necessary as the alternative third-party styluses available just wouldn’t cut it.

If you want to use it as a laptop replacement, Apple’s keyboard cases are pricey but the good news is there are plenty of third-party choices that will work just as well.

For people who find the basic iPad too limiting, the iPad Air will likely be the best choice as the Pro, as much as I like the device, will be overkill for most people except the professionals.

With the newest processor, the iPad Air, if you see it as an investment, will likely last you around four years and that might be as good a reason to choose this over the other two current models.

The iPad Air is available to order at all official Apple retailers as well as online, starting from RM2,599.

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