Tablets

Good balance of price and performance

The iPad Air 2019.
The iPad Air 2019.

The longest holdout in Apple's iPad family - the iPad Air 2 - has finally been updated after nearly five years.

The most prominent change in the new model, which launched last month and reverts to the iPad Air name, is its larger 10.5-inch display with True Tone technology - it will adjust its colours to be consistent with ambient lighting, unlike the iPad Air 2's 9.7-inch display.

In addition, this fully laminated display comes with an anti-reflective coating and a wider palette and is nearly 20 per cent brighter than the iPad Air 2's display. While it lacks the ProMotion technology or 120Hz refresh rate of the high-end iPad Pro line, it is gorgeous to look at and very responsive to taps and swipes.

The display also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil ($138). Using the pressure-sensitive stylus to draw or sketch on the display is like using a real pencil.

Due to its bigger display, the iPad Air 2019 is slightly longer (by 10.6mm), wider (by 4.5mm) and heavier (by 19g) than the Air 2, but has the same 6.1mm thickness. It resembles the current entry-level 9.7-inch iPad - same Touch ID home button, bottom speakers, headphone jack and Smart Connector on the left side.

It works with the Apple Smart Keyboard ($248) for the discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

This keyboard protects the iPad Air 2019's display when folded and makes the tableta handy work laptop replacement on long-haul flights. The downside is the keyboard's lack of backlight.

The iPad Air 2019 is equipped with Apple's A12 Bionic chip - the same one powering the iPhone XS and XS Max. Perhaps this is to help differentiate it from the current 11-and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which are powered by the A12X Bionic chip.

The iPad Air 2019 scores 4,759 (single-core) and 10,725 (multi-core) in the Geekbench 4 benchmark test, outperforming the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro (3,963, single-core; 9,460, multi-core). But as expected, it loses to the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5,014, single-core; 18,256, multi-core).

In real life, whether it is running the PUBG Mobile battle royale game or using Pixelmator to edit photos or iMovie to edit videos, the tablet performs admirably. It can render the intricate textures in the game smoothly as well as execute photo filters and video transitions seamlessly.

  • FOR 

    •Great bang for buck 

    •Nice display 

    •Supports Apple accessories like Apple Pencil (first generation) and Smart Keyboard (10.5-inch iPad Pro) 

    AGAINST 

    •Only up to 256GB storage 

    •No improvement in rear camera 

    SPECS 

    PRICE: $749 (64GB Wi-Fi), $949 (64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular), $969 (256GB Wi-Fi), $1,169 (256GB Wi-Fi + Cellular, version tested)

    OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS 12.2 

    PROCESSOR: A12 Bionic with Neural Engine, M12 co-processor 

    DISPLAY: 10.5 inches, 2,224 x 1,668 pixels 

    CAMERA: 8-megapixel f/2.4 rear camera, 7-megapixel f/2.2 front-facing FaceTime HD camera 

    WEIGHT: 456g (Wi-Fi), 464g (Wi-Fi + Cellular) 

    RATING 

    FEATURES: 4/5 

    DESIGN: 4/5 

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The 8-megapixel rear camera is the same as the 9.7-inch iPad's, and not the improved 12-megapixel one found in the high-end iPad Pros.

But the front-facing camera gets an upgrade to a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera. This allows you to FaceTime video chat in 1080p.

Battery life remains the same as its predecessors'.

It lasted eight hours and 30 minutes in an intensive battery test (looping a 720p video with Wi-Fi switched on and the display at full brightness). In comparison, the discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro clocked eight hours and 40 minutes, while the iPad Air 2 clocked eight hours and 15 minutes.

I used the Air 2019 to check e-mail, type articles on the iA Writer app, browse Internet on Safari during the day and catch up on the news with the News app before sleeping and I found I needed to charge the tablet only every other day.

Perhaps the best part is its price. Starting at $749, it is more accessible than the iPad Pros that start at $1,499. Yet, it provides performance close to the Pros. One disadvantageis its storage, which is capped at 256GB - the Pros can go up to 1TB.

Still, the Air 2019 is probably the ideal iPad to get now because it strikes a perfect balance between price and performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'Good balance of price and performance'. Print Edition | Subscribe