iPad Air: The new iPad Pro Mini

Yesterday evening Apple held their long-awaited September event and announced among other things new versions of the iPad Air and iPad with the iPad Air getting a big do-over. In fact, it now looks like an iPad Pro Mini (10.2” vs 11”). But before I go into the details, I want to give you a short rundown of what I currently have and what my pain-points are:

Current setup

My current setup consists of a iPad (5th generation) from 2017 with 128GB. This was the last generation that didn’t support Sidecar and does not support either Apple Pencil 1 or 2. Performance-wise I’m mostly happy with it with the exception of when doing post-processing of photos. In fact, this lack of performance is currently holding me back from doing more photo processing in general. The lack of Pencil support currently also means I do most vector graphics work on the Mac. While absolutely feasible I want to do it on a tablet and iPadOS 14 will make all that even more attractive to me.

With that out of the way, what do the new devices have to offer?

iPad Air (4th gen.)

The new iPad Air has moved quite close to the iPad Pro in my opinion with removing the home button and giving the frame a more sturdy look. It also** no longer supports the Apple Pencil 1** in favour of Apple Pencil 2 which was previously only supported by the recent Pro models. They’ve also done away with the Lightning port and put an USB-C port at the bottom of the device.

This all means that if you have any accessory for a previous iPad Air you will probably have to buy a new version of that. My current setup is too old for that to matter, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.

Internally, the new Air sports an A14 chip (compared to the A12Z in the current iPad Pros and A12 inside the new iPads) which Apple claims to be 40% faster than the A12 on the CPU and 30% faster on the GPU.

If I’d buy one, I’d choose the following configuration:

  • iPad Air (Wi-Fi) with 256GB: (previously 699€): 819€
  • Apple Care+: 79€
  • Apple Pencil 2: 135€
  • Apple Smart Folio: 89€

With a total of 1,122€!

Honestly, the new iPad Air pretty much matches what I had hoped for with this generation except for the price which is now 120€ higher than with the previous generation, not including the additional 36€ for the newer Pencil and the additional 30€ for the Smart Folio instead of the Smart Cover. I still think it’s quite an attractive package thanks to the new chipset and Apple Pencil 2 support!

iPad (8th gen.)

The 8th generation iPad on the other hand sticks with the previous design but improves with regards to CPU and GPU. It now features the A12 chip (similar to the previous generation iPad Air) instead of the A10 and also comes with the Neural Engine for enabling on-device AI. Compared to the iPad Air it comes at a much lower price point. If I’d buy one, I’d go with the following setup:

  • iPad (Wi-Fi) with 128GB: 479€ (same as before)
  • Apple Care+: 79€
  • Apple Pencil: 99€
  • Apple Smart Cover: 55€

With a total of 712€, making it 410€ cheaper than the Air but also with less storage.

Apple Pencil 1 vs 2

Currently, Apple Pencil 1 is supported on the new iPad and iPad mini, while the iPad Air and iPad Pro support only Apple Pencil 2. The main difference between these two is how the pairing and charging works. Generation 1 does everything via Lightning while Generation 2 does this wirelessly. Additionally, Pencil 2 can also be attached magnetically and also supports a tapping-gesture to switch between tools depending on the application.

In general, support for Apple Pencil 1 seems to be fading out eventually with fewer and fewer devices supporting it. For this reason alone I’d prefer a device that uses Apple Pencil 2. Perhaps I might be able to re-use it in future generations.

Which to take?

I absolutely want to have a new iPad or iPad Air. I want Pencil support and I want can see myself needing the additional performance for photo processing and vector graphics, not to mention gaming which I’m doing more and more on iOS/iPadOS thanks to Apple Arcade. The price difference of around 400€ is hurting, though. Still, Apple Pencil 2 support and the new, gorgeous look might push me towards the new iPad Air with 256GB. I’ll let you know once the new devices appears at my doorstep which one I took 😅 With the release of the PS5 it’s going to be an expensive year…