iPad Air (2020): Magic Keyboard, and Apple Pencil 2: Are They able to Replace Your Laptop?
In late 2020, the iPad Air received a major upgrade. It features an all-screen design that is similar to the iPad Pro’s, the Apple A14 Bionic processor, which promises outstanding performance, and many other unique features.
Although this model is priced lower than the iPad Pro models, it offers many of its capabilities at a much lower price. To see how these products interact, I spent more than a month using the 2020 iPad Air and Apple Pencil 2.
This package can replace a comparably-priced laptop. Can the iPad Air be used for entertainment and productivity? We will find out.
Accessories and prices for the iPad Air
There are many options when it comes time to buy the iPad Air. This is only one of five iPad models that are currently available. After narrowing down your choices to this model, there are five color options: Space Grey, Silver Rose Gold, Sky Blue, and Green.
The iPad Air 2020 starts at Rs. The 64GB model costs Rs. 54,900 and the 64GB version at Rs. The 256GB option with Wi-Fi costs Rs. 68,900, and the Wi-Fi-enabled options cost Rs. Rs. Rs. 80,900 and 66,900 respectively.
Additional Rs. will be required to purchase the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil. 10.900. This iPad is not compatible with the 1st Generation Pencil. The Magic Keyboard will set you back Rs.
There are two options: a Smart Keyboard Folio Case for Rs. 27,900 or a more sophisticated Smart Keyboard Folio Case for Rs. 15,900, and a plain Smart Folio case in multiple colors for Rs. 7,500.
Apple’s Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2, and various USB Type-C accessories are also available. However, third-party products should be just as good.
The box includes a 20W charging adapter, which is a departure from what Apple does with iPhones and Apple Watches.
iPad Air (2020), Design and Usability
In 2018, the iPad Pro models received a major makeover. Now, the same design has been applied to the iPad Air which is lower down in the hierarchy.
The new 2020 iPad Air (4th Generation) features a larger screen than the iPad Pro models and no physical Home button.
This makes it easier to use for people who are used to older models. Face ID is not available on the iPad Air (4th Gen). Instead, Apple has moved Touch ID’s fingerprint sensor from its Home button to the top.
This will be as long as the iPad is held in portrait orientation.
Although the borders around the screen are thicker than before, you won’t feel an edge-to-edge feeling.
However, that is not a problem. This allows you to hold the iPad Air 2020 with one hand, and not have your palm cover the screen or trigger actions accidentally. It takes some time to learn to use iPhone-style swipe gestures instead of hitting the Home button.
However, the fingerprint sensor is awkward. Although there are prompts on the screen to remind you where it is, reaching for it is not as easy as using the Home button on older iPads.
You can tap to wake the screen (though not raise-to-wake) and tap with the Apple Pencil 2 to go straight into a Notes page, where you can draw or scribble immediately.
The fingerprint sensor on the iPad Air 2020 (2020) will be attached to an Apple keyboard accessory. This is a problem for right-handed users.
Apple may tout the narrow Touch ID sensor’s accomplishment as a major achievement, but it’s not a new technology. It also creates some ergonomic problems.
The iPad Air 2020 (on its own) is 458g and 460g respectively, while the cellular-enabled version weighs 460g. It measures 6.1mm in thickness. It is easy to carry around and can be used with one hand.
My Green review unit looks very nice in its matte finish. These colors are new for the iPad models, and they also match the AirPods Max line.
Although the aluminum frame now has flat sides, it isn’t any less comfortable than previous models due to its overall shape and proportions.
The Apple Pencil 2 snaps magnetically to the right (which then becomes the top when docked). It can also charge wirelessly when attached.
The USB Type-C port at the bottom replaces Apple’s Lightning connector. This is a major change. This feature was previously reserved for iPad Pro siblings.
It allows faster charging and data transfer, as well as compatibility with accessories like SSDs and external monitors. The lower right of cell-enabled models will feature a Nano-SIM tray.
There are two speaker cutouts at the top and bottom. Stereo sound will be available in landscape orientation.
However, the iPad Air does not reroute sound to different speakers depending on how you hold it. This is similar to the iPad Pro models.
The current iPad Pro design does not have a 3.5mm audio socket. This is a common problem. It also makes it difficult to obtain wired audio output if a MIDI instrument or other device is plugged into the Type C port.
Unless you purchase a dock, this is an inconvenient feature. This seems like an unnecessary hassle for a device that is aimed at content creators. No, there’s no Type-C-to-3.5mm dongle included in the box.
Specifications for iPad Air (2020)
The iPad Air’s A14 Bionic CPU was a big deal at the launch. It has since been used to power all of the iPhone 12 models. The Apple M1 processor is a more powerful version of the Apple M1 processor.
It was launched with the new MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. Apple’s 5nm chip, the A14 Bionic, is a licensed ARM architecture that features two high-performance CPU cores and four power-efficient ones.
It also includes an integrated four-core GPU. The major news is the new “Neural Engine” logic, which accelerates machine learning and is twice as fast as the A12 Bionic SoC on the iPad Air.
The new 2020 iPad Air features a 10.9-inch screen, which is slightly larger than the 10.5 inches one from the previous model. It also has a narrower and higher screen.
The difference is not noticeable because iPads are remarkably consistent with a 4 to 3 aspect ratio. Most people won’t notice it. Apple uses what it calls Liquid Retina Display.
This means that this is an LCD panel, not an AMOLED. It supports the P3 wide color gamut and Apple’s True Tone feature, which dynamically adjusts the white points based on ambient lighting.
Apple does not disclose the battery capacity of its iPad Air, but third-party teardowns show that it has a 7,606mAh lithium battery. According to official specifications, you can expect to surf the web for up 10 hours or stream video.
A single 12-megapixel rear-facing autofocus camera can record 4K 60fps video and a front camera with 7MP for video calls. Wi-Fi 6 is also available and Bluetooth 5. You can also use an eSIM or Nano-SIM if you purchase a cellular device.
The iPad Air 2020’s design and screen size are very similar to the iPad Pro 11-inch. They are only a few millimeters smaller than the iPad Pro.
The iPad Air doesn’t have the 120Hz ProMotion feature, and the maximum brightness is 500nits rather than 600nits.
But that’s about it. While the iPad Pro lineup has superior cameras, including a LiDAR sensor, flash, and 3D-sensing TrueDepth array on the front, the iPad Air (2020), however, offers the superior A14 Bionic SoC.
You can also use the lower-priced model with the same accessories, including the Apple Pencil 2 (and Magic Keyboard). This creates a conflict in Apple’s lineup that will continue until the iPad Pros get their inevitable 2021 refresh.
iPad Air (2020), and Magic Keyboard
The back of the iPad Air will have three dots in a row. These are contact points for accessories.
Magnetic technology allows the entire tablet to be attached to docks or cases. Apple’s Magic Keyboard is the most intriguing accessory. It transforms your iPad into a clamshell that includes a trackpad and keyboard.
It is priced at a shocking Rs. It costs Rs. 27,900 which is enough to buy a fully functional laptop.
Apple offers different cases for the 2020 MacBook Air, 11-inch iPad Pro, and the Magic Keyboard accessory for each.
While older boxes won’t be compatible with the new iPad Air they will still work. The only thing you will have to accept is an overly square camera cutout. This is not the attention to detail that Apple products are known for.
You can tilt your magnetically attached iPad by turning the hinge on the Magic Keyboard’s magnetic lid. This allows you to see the screen more closely and makes it easier for you to use a finger or Apple Pencil to touch it.
Apple’s signature design for the iPad is that it appears floating. The iPad can also be suspended from the dock without a kickstand so that you can use it on your lap.
Although the Magic Keyboard’s key layout is a bit cramped, the keys are well-traveled and the action is clear without being too loud. The backlighting is uniformly white. The trackpad is large and the wrist rests are soft-touch, just like the exterior.
The Fn row is missing, which means that there’s no Esc key. This is a big flaw. iPadOS 14 has keyboard and trackpad optimizations, but you will sometimes have to move your fingers to use the touchscreen.
You can’t use shortcuts to media playback or adjust the keyboard backlight. There is a brightness slider in the Settings app. But at least it would be nice to have something in the Control Center.
600g is the weight of the Magic Keyboard for 2020 iPad Air and 11 inch iPad Pro. This is significantly more than your iPad. This puts the total weight of the tablet within reach of ultraportables today.
It is also quite thick when closed. To open and close the docked iPad it takes two hands. The keyboard can’t be folded over so you can use the iPad on your lap or take portrait orientation notes.
A USB Type-C port is located on the left side. It charges the iPad and leaves its Type-C port open for accessories. You’ll need a Type-C plug that is narrower than the ones found on Apple’s accessories.
iPad Air (2020), and Apple Pencil 2
Steve Jobs was known to ridicule styli when he introduced iPhone. Some people enjoy mocking the Apple Pencil because of that.
He was not talking about a stylus that was required for core UI navigation or hunt-and-peck type, which certain smartphones of the era required. The Apple Pencil, however, is primarily used for drawing and writing and is completely optional.
The new iPad Air can only be used with the Apple Pencil 2, a feature that was previously available only to iPad Pro models. The Pencil 2 is large and feels like a real-world writing instrument.
While some might find it comfortable, I found it cumbersome. Apple does not disclose information about the pressure sensitivity levels that it can apply. However, Apple does state that tilt detection is supported and that lag is non-perceptible.
The Apple Pencil integrates well with the iPad’s software and hardware. The writing experience is very natural. You can also set up a forefinger double-tap shortcut.
The only problem I have with the tip is its hardness and loud sound when you tap it on the screen. This can be annoying when you are writing cursive notes by hand and could be distracting in a classroom setting.
The box does not contain any other tips or replacements. An iPad with an Apple Pencil is a great tool for artists and creative professionals.
I find it responsive and much more intuitive than Windows-based tablets or styli. Although it does feel as though you are drawing directly on the iPad’s glass surface, this doesn’t make it as natural as a pencil on paper.
Software and use of iPad Air (2020)
iPadOS 14 brought improved home screen widgets, many usabilities and UI refinements to iPadOS, and redesigned default applications that better take advantage of the available screen space.
The biggest changes are made when you use the Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard. Even for iPad users who have been using it for years, trackpad support with an integrated cursor makes productivity a whole lot easier.
The Pencil is now more versatile than ever by allowing you to scribble text in any field.
Many apps, including Microsoft Office, have gained trackpad support since the launch of the 2020 iPad Air. Although the iPad UI remains touch-first, you now see a circular cursor when you touch the trackpad.
You can drag it around and tap to interact UI elements. The cursor disappears if you touch the screen for more than a few seconds or stop doing anything. When you work with text, the cursor changes to the familiar bar. There is no learning curve.
Multi-touch gestures are supported by the trackpad of Apple’s Magic Keyboard. You can tap and hold, tap with two fingers, or swipe with two fingers, to display context menus.
To scroll, swipe side-to-side with three fingers, and switch between full-screen applications with full-screen apps. You can slide up with three fingers to show the home screen. If you hold down and stop before you complete the gesture, the app switcher will appear.
To see the Control Center and the Notifications Pane, swipe up from the top and bottom left corners.
iPadOS 14 lets you use your pencil to freehand write in any text field. This makes it easier to use the iPad. The software recognizes text regardless of whether it is overlapped or written in a different direction.
It recognizes characters quickly and is very accurate, but it can’t compensate if you have very poor handwriting. It currently works in English and Chinese, but it is possible to expect more language support..
With all this in mind, the iPad Air 2020 can replace a laptop and be your primary computer. You must decide whether you want it.
You would pay at least the same as a premium laptop for the combination of iPad Air 2020, Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil, and it wouldn’t be as portable or lighter. You could, on the other hand, take the iPad apart and move it around, read comfortably and use interactive touch-first applications for content creation.
I tried the iPad Air with Magic Keyboard as my primary computer. I installed Office 365, Slack, and Google Docs. Many tools work in any Web browser. I was able to open over 20 tabs in Safari no matter how fast I tried.
Even though I had been using the Magic Keyboard for just half an hour, it was becoming a little too cramped for my liking.
I would find it difficult to do simple tasks like copying and pasting text between applications, managing multiple open files, or multitasking. This is in contrast to the way they feel on a Mac or PC.
Soon after iOS 14 was released, Microsoft Office apps now have trackpad support. It feels seamless and not a gimmick. It is easy to select and manipulate text. However, the apps aren’t as flexible as their traditional desktop counterparts.
The iPad’s poor USB connectivity and opaque file system made it difficult for me to use. I tried a variety of pen drives, hard drives, as well as portable SSDs. Only Apple’s ExFAT and FAT32 file systems are recognized – NTFS volumes can’t be readable.
It is impossible to safely eject a hard drive. Also, only one disk can be connected at a given time without a dock or hub. It was annoying that there wasn’t a 3.5mm socket for headphones.
Apple offers many bundled services, in addition to its software. Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade are included in every purchase.
You also get integration with the iCloud ecosystem. You’ll find many little conveniences that will make your life easier if you own an iPhone, Mac, AirPods, and/or Apple Watch.
iPad Air (2020) Performance
Apple’s in-house ARM-based processors have had a very successful run. With its A14 Bionic SoC, the iPad Air (2020), can handle heavy apps and games.
When playing graphically intense games, I felt the upper left corner getting warm. Lara Croft Go and Alto’s Odyssey all ran smoothly, but the iPad Air was the hottest due to the older Fieldrunners 2.
Benchmarks prove that the iPad Air (2020), can perform well. Geekbench 5 scored 1,581 and 4,182 respectively in single-core and multiple-core tests. AnTuTu had a score of 631,340.
The new 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test averaged at 50fps. GFXBench’s Aztec Ruins (Normal Tier), and Car Chase tests ran at 39.87fps each.
App developers are still working on updates to take advantage of the A14 Bionic’s machine learning capabilities. These include the photo and video manipulation, media creation, and even secure, on-device facial and handwriting recognition.
The iPad Air is not ideal for augmented reality apps. LiDAR sensors can only be used on the more expensive models.
Audiokit’s Synth One was one example of an app and game that ran letterboxed with garbled or cropped UI elements. These issues could be due to scaling to the new resolution.
However, they work perfectly on previous-gen iPad Pros (12.9 inches). Developers will need to fix this issue with future updates.
The screen is very sharp and crisp. The widescreen video will be letterboxed. However, this is normal considering that the aspect ratio must strike a balance between landscape and portrait use cases.
The videos look amazing, thanks to the lack of a notch or camera hole that obscures content.
HDR is not available. It’s bright enough to use outdoors and you can’t avoid fingerprints on the glossy screen. Although the speakers produce a loud sound and a full sound, the bass is not as strong as one would expect.
The rear camera captures crisp details in the daytime and is quite good. This tablet is not the easiest to use as a camera. Even in dim indoor lighting, the front-facing camera performed well, which is great news for video chats.
The downside is that if you use the iPad Air 2020 in landscape mode with the Magic Keyboard attached, it will appear awkward to callers because the camera will be at the center of the left screen border.
However, battery life is one of the best features of the iPad line. With the Magic Keyboard connected, and the backlight on automatic, I was able to get at least two days of almost continuous use per charge.
The iPad Air 2020 was used to edit and type documents, stream videos and play some games. The HD video loop test lasted 11 hours and 32 minutes, which is consistent with Apple’s claims.
The battery will be more drained if you play heavy games. The iPad’s battery life is indeed superior, but Apple’s M1-based Macs also have the same advantage.
The universal Type-C 60W charger charged the iPad Air to get it from zero to 34 percent in just 30 minutes and to 64 percent in one hour. The charging process took a while longer and 95 percent was reached after that.
This is quite impressive, and the Type C port makes it easier to charge your phone on the move.
iPad Air (2020) Verdict
The iPad Air 2020 looks sleek and modern, and it offers lots of functionality and power. The iPad Air (2020) is very similar to the iPad Pro 11-inch and will be a more practical option for many people.
The new iPad Air is a good choice if you don’t require a high refresh rate HDR screen, better speakers, cameras, LiDAR scanner, and higher storage options.
The new iPad Air has a faster processor, the same design, USB Type C port, and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard/Pencil 2.
Rumors claim that the iPad Pro lineup will be getting a major update with Mini-LED and OLED screens, 5G, as well as a more powerful processor. This will bring some order back to Apple’s hierarchy.
The iPad lifestyle is not for everyone, so if you are thinking about replacing your laptop, think again.
You might find the iPad life best suited for your work style. However, you will also need to spend a lot of money on the iPad plus the Magic Keyboard/Apple Pencil. This money could be used to buy a premium ultrabook.
If the combination package was lighter and more affordable than the current-gen MacBook Air, then the iPad’s small screen and cramped keyboard might have been more manageable.
The tradeoffs were not worth it for me. However, your mileage may vary depending on how you work, which apps you use and what model of iPad and keyboard that you purchase.
The design and features of the new iPad Air should eventually be available at a lower price. This is a solid, but expensive, all-rounder that can be used for entertainment, content creation, and productivity.
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