Fourth-generation iPad Air evaluation: the performance is on par with Pro, and the battery life is stronger than Pro. Why is it not popular?

In the eyes of many people, the fourth-generation iPad Air (hereinafter referred to as iPad Air 4) is Apple's first press conference in the fall of 2020, and the most interesting machine.

As an iPad Pro 2020 user, honestly, when I first saw the release of iPad Air 4, my psychology was very unbalanced. Because this generation of iPad Air upgrades are really awesome, with the latest A14 Bonic processor and Pro-level design language, it seems that Apple has squeezed a lot of "toothpaste" this time.

A month later, on the day the iPhone 12 opened for pre-sale, the iPad Air 4 was also low-key on the shelves. However, only the wireless LAN version is currently available for purchase, and the release time of the wireless + cellular network version is currently unclear.

After getting the machine, we asked nearly 400 readers about the iPad Air 4, what they most want to know. It can be roughly classified into the following aspects:

  • What are the changes between iPad Air 4 and the previous generation iPad Air, and how is it worse than iPad Pro?
  • How does this A14 chip perform?
  • iPad Air 4, 2018 or 2020 iPad Pro, which one is more worth buying?

Based on the experience of the past few days, I believe that the answers to these questions have gradually become clear.

Full screen design, much more beautiful

Compared with the previous generation of iPad Air, the changes of iPad Air 4 can be described as "make a facelift".

First of all, in terms of appearance, Apple for the first time put the Pro-level full-screen design on the Air product line. However, the iPad Air 4 has a slightly wider frame than the Pro. After all, with the same body size, the screen size of the iPad Pro is 11 inches, while the iPad Air 4 is 10.9 inches. The extra 0.1 inch translates into a wider frame.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

Many friends care about the bezel of iPad Air 4, how much wider than iPad Pro. In fact, if you haven't used the iPad Pro, the slightly wider frame of the iPad Air 4 won't attract your attention too much. It doesn't look as prominent as the "horse racing frame" on the iPhone 11.

But if you have an iPad Pro on hand, then this contrast comes out. After a rough measurement, the frame of the iPad Pro is about 1mm narrower than the iPad Air 4, which makes its front look more delicate. Of course, if you are not a Virgo (I didn't say that Virgo is bad), this gap is acceptable.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

Another intuitive change is the change in unlocking methods. For the first time, Apple integrated Touch ID on the power button of the iPad .

In contrast, the power button of iPad Air 4 is larger than that of iPad Pro. The top material looks like glass, and the color is slightly lighter than the border. In addition, the feel of pressing is different. The "key travel" of the iPad Air 4 is relatively short, and the feel is soft, not as tight as the iPad Pro.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the top; iPad Pro 2020 on the bottom

It is understood that the power button of iPad Air 4 is specially customized, and it can be successfully recognized no matter which direction the finger presses. And it uses the second-generation Touch ID technology, and the speed of fingerprinting is relatively fast.

In the actual test, the speed of unlocking with facial recognition is basically the same , but this requires your fingers to be relatively dry. If there is sweat or water, the unlocking success rate may decrease. Compared with face unlock, which unlock method is better? This is like the question of whether KFC is delicious or McDonald's is delicious. It is difficult to answer.

However, after a few days of experience, I feel that I still haven't fully adapted to this unlocking method. A more prominent problem is that the unlocking steps are slightly more redundant than face unlocking . For example, when I use the iPad Pro, double-tap the screen to wake it up, and quickly complete the unlocking to enter the main page. When using iPad Air 4, I have to reach out and touch the power button to complete the unlocking action.

But fingerprint unlocking is not without benefits. For example, when I’m shopping, Face Unlock will ruthlessly deduct my balance immediately after I click to pay. And the extra hand gesture to unlock the fingerprint will make me think about whether or not I need this thing. Furthermore, in the post-epidemic era, we will wear masks in public areas such as school libraries, and fingerprint unlocking will be more friendly at this time.

What makes many friends curious about the screen quality of the iPad Air 4 after "full screen". This generation of iPad Air screen evolved into Liquid retina display. Compared with iPad Pro, the biggest difference is the difference in refresh rate. The screen refresh rate of iPad Air 4 is still 60Hz. In addition, the screen of the iPad Pro is darker blue when the screen is on, while the iPad Air 4 is darker gray.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

To be honest, the animation effects of the iPad are already very good. If you haven't experienced the iPad Pro screen, then this screen already looks great. The difference between the two is mainly obvious when scrolling the page.

▲Slow motion playback, left is iPad Air 4; right is iPad Pro 2020

It can be seen that the iPad Pro, which supports a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, appears more silky when scrolling. This difference will also be reflected in the iPad Pro’s high refresh rate when writing or drawing with Apple Pencil.

▲Slow motion playback, left is iPad Air 4; right is iPad Pro 2020

In terms of screen performance, the frontal look and feel of iPad Air 4 and iPad Pro are very similar, and there is almost no difference. However, the viewing angle, iPad Pro will be better. The iPad Air 4 will appear slightly pink when the viewing angle is shifted, as if a light filter has been added.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

It is worth mentioning that the maximum brightness of the iPad Air 4 screen is 500 nits, which is the same as the previous generation. The iPad Pro supports up to 600 nits. In fact, there are very few opportunities to use iPad under strong outdoor light, and this gap is basically not perceivable indoors, so there is no need to entangle this parameter.

The concept of iPad as a "productivity tool" has been marketed by Apple for a long time. But for many iPad users, its "video tool" role is more obvious. The speakers of the iPad Air 4 are very interesting. It looks like there are four open areas on both sides, but in fact only two areas can be used for sound. They are located in the lower position on the left and right sides respectively.

I don't quite understand why Apple does this, maybe for aesthetics? Just like some cars will be equipped with decorative exhaust ports. In addition, the speaker opening of the iPad Air is slightly larger than that of the iPad Pro.

In terms of hearing, iPad Air 4 puts the speakers in two sections, so the stereo effect is much better than the previous generation. But compared with the four-speaker iPad Pro, it is still weaker.

Compared with the previous generation iPad Air, the iPad Air 4 has a very fragrant upgrade, which is to replace the "Ten Thousand Years Thunderbolt Port" with a type-C port . This means that the adapter cable used on the Mac, iPad Air 4 can also be used, and the transmission speed is 10 times faster than the previous generation iPad Air.

▲ Below is iPad Air 4; above is iPad Pro 2020

The camera on the back has also been upgraded, from the previous generation's 8 million to 12 million pixels. Higher pixels means higher resolution, and it is clearer to take pictures of blackboards or PPT during class or meetings.

▲ Below is iPad Air 4; above is iPad Pro 2020

It is worth mentioning that iPad Air 4 now supports the second-generation Apple Pencil . For users who often take notes and draw, the experience of using the second-generation Apple Pencil is significantly better than that of the first-generation. In addition, it also supports Magic Keyboard . The codeword feels much better than Smart Keyboard, although it is heavier.

Speaking of weight, the iPad Air 4 is only 458 grams, which is 13 grams lighter than the iPad Pro. Although there is not much difference in the data, the difference in hand feel is more obvious. The first sentence of my colleagues who almost got it was "It's so light", which makes me puzzled. You can go to the physical store to try it out.

The reason for the "Appearance Association" is also the colorful color scheme. iPad Air 4 has 5 colors: silver, space gray, rose gold, green and sky blue. These colors are lighter than those used on the iPhone 12 and look very youthful. I personally like sky blue and green the most.

Is the performance of A14 very strong?

After talking about the external changes, let's take a look at the core upgrade, the world's first mass-produced A14 bionic processor with a 5nm process.

According to the official statement, compared to the 7nm A12 bionic processor equipped with the previous generation iPad Air, the CPU running speed of the A14 bionic has increased by 40%, and the graphics processing capacity has increased by 30%. The new generation of neural network engines also makes machine learning performance twice as fast.

However, what makes netizens most concerned about is not how it compares with the A12, but who is better than the A12Z-equipped iPad Pro 2020.

We used geekbench 5 to run the test, and we can see that the single-core score of the iPad Air 4 is higher than that of the "Performance Beast" A12X . However, in terms of multi-core scores, the former is not as good as the latter , with a difference of 431 points. After all, the A12X has an eight-core architecture, and it makes sense that the multi-core score is higher.

In addition, iPad Pro 2020 has 6GB of RAM, and iPad Air 4 has 4GB . In fact, there will be no obvious difference in daily use. For this reason, I conducted an extreme test. I opened the same software on both machines. When the 23rd software was opened on the iPad Air 4, the first opened software was "killed" by the background, and the iPad Pro 2020 is still there. strong.

It is worth noting that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, which are also equipped with the A14 bionic chip, are not as good as the iPad Air 4 in multi-core running points, with a difference of about 200 points. We guess that the larger volume of the iPad Air 4 gives it better heat dissipation conditions and also allows its built-in A14 bionic chip to release more comprehensive performance.

In terms of AnTuTu running points, the running score of iPad Air 4 is 647017 points, which is slightly inferior to iPad Pro 2018 and 2020 models.

For the graphics processor, we use the 3D Mark benchmark software "3DMark Wild Life", and then output the frame rate graph. The frame rate performance of the iPad Pro will also be more stable than that of the iPad Air.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

This difference in data is too abstract, and is reflected in actual use. What is the difference between the two?

We tested and recorded the boot time, App open time, video rendering time and other data of iPad Air 4 and iPad Pro 2020, and used Lumafusion to export a video with a length of 16:02:00 and a size of about 7.2GB to 1080P, 60 frames Format of the video, and finally the above test results are organized in a table.

It can be seen that although there is a gap in the multi-core running scores of the two, the iPad Air with a higher single-core score is basically ahead of the iPad Pro in software opening speed. It is only inferior to the latter in complex calculations, such as video export.

In addition, we also tested the performance of the two machines with "Yuan Shen", which has a higher quality game screen. Unfortunately, due to the iPadOS 14.1 system upgrade of the machine, it is temporarily unable to obtain game test data through PC software.

▲ The game is only used for testing and does not mean that you agree with its quality

We set the game picture quality on both machines to the highest. In the visual observation, the performance of the two machines is very good: the character's movements, the smoothness of the transition, the stability of the frame rate, and the loading speed of the scene transition are not equal. However, the picture quality of iPad Pro seems to be slightly better than that of iPad Air, especially the strokes of characters seem to be finer.

▲The game is only used for testing and does not mean that you agree with its quality

After half an hour of gaming, the heat generation of iPad Pro was very serious, while the heat generation of iPad Air was significantly lower. Thanks to the 5nm process technology of the A14 bionic chip, the power consumption has been significantly reduced.

The decrease in power consumption is more intuitively reflected in the remaining power in the status bar. After a battery life test, it can be seen that the battery life of the iPad Air is stronger than that of the iPad Pro , although the official website indicates that the battery life of the two is the same.

▲ Comparison of power consumption during the same period

In the test, half an hour of "The Original God" made the iPad Pro consume 23% of the power, while the iPad Air 4 only consumes 12% of the power.

The big gap between the two makes me a little puzzled. I guess that in addition to the screen refresh rate, there may also be a game optimization problem. After all, the heating of the iPad Pro is very obvious. From this we can also speculate that even when the battery capacity is comparable, the more advanced chip manufacturing process can effectively control heat generation, reduce power consumption, and extend the battery life of the device.

To be honest, since becoming an iPad Pro user, its battery life level makes me often doubt life. I clearly remember a business trip. I was lazy and didn't bring a computer. As a result, the iPad Pro had an avalanche of battery power during the afternoon meeting. So in the evaluation process this time, I specially tested the endurance of the iPad Air. It can be said that if you are a student, a fully charged iPad Air can guarantee your daily learning needs, and the iPad Pro may disappoint you in this regard.

How to choose between iPad Air and iPad Pro?

According to the configuration of the iPad Air 4, it seems to have a leapfrog meaning to a certain extent. The overall performance is already very close to the "big brother" 2020 iPad Pro. I remember that when the iPad Air 4 was introduced at the press conference, many iPad Pro users couldn't hide their disappointment and tried to comfort themselves with a high screen swipe.

However, when the price was announced, the psychological reaction of iPad Pro users should be "I cried, I installed it."

After all, Cook's knife technique is too precise. With a starting price of 4799 yuan, only the 64GB wireless LAN version of the iPad Air 4 can be purchased. After calming down, many netizens sent out a soul torture: Is it not good to buy a 64GB iPad Pro 2018 at a third party? Wouldn't it be more comfortable to buy a 128GB iPad Pro 2020 for another 1430 yuan?

This analysis does have some truth, let's take a look at the configuration differences of these three models .

To be honest, the performance of the iPad Pro2 2018 model is still very good. The performance of A12X can be compared with that of A14. The price can be clearly judged. If you have cellular network needs, then the iPad Pro 2018 style is a very good choice .

But the problem is that this model has been removed from the official website. When I made a selection on a shopping website, I found that many of the 2018 iPad Pros are US or disassembled versions. The Bank of China has very few original ones, and there may be a risk of refurbishment . So if you don't have a need for high refreshing and focus on battery life, then iPad Air 4 is obviously more suitable for you.

If you have a strong demand for high-resolution screens, such as painting, design, or related work, then the iPad Pro 2020 model will be more suitable for you. Because of the third-party iPad Pro 2018, the starting price of 64GB is only 1,000 yuan behind the 128GB iPad Pro 2020. Of course, if you use the education discount, the difference between the two is only 600 yuan.

Of course, if you are an AR developer or decoration designer, then you have no choice. The iPad Pro 2020 with a radar laser rangefinder will perfectly fit your needs.

In addition, the iPad Pro series is also suitable for people who have a special liking for large screens. The 12.9-inch version is exclusive to the Pro series. For heavy Apple Pencil users, the larger screen is easier to use.

So who is the iPad Air 4 more suitable for? The first is those with a budget of less than 5,000 yuan. The best choice for this price segment is the iPad Air 4. Especially if the education discount is used, the price is only 4399 yuan, which is actually quite fragrant.

Secondly, there is no high demand for high screen refreshing, and people who use iPad to take notes, edit pictures, and edit videos everyday. iPad Air 4 256GB will be a better choice, especially its battery life is better than the Pro series, allowing you to sit in the library for a while.

One thing that is very friendly to photographers or photography enthusiasts is that the A14 bionic processor on the iPad Air 4, and its machine learning capabilities are currently the best in the iPad camp. The A14 Bionic Neural Network Engine can realize the super pixel function . It can be used with pixelmator to enlarge the cropped photos, and the pixels will be automatically added to make the photos clearer.

In addition, there is no need to entangle the difference between the screen quality of the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. After all, it is difficult to see the difference between the two. It is enough for daily photo editing. After all, commercial photography that requires extremely high color accuracy will not be edited on the iPad.

▲ iPad Air 4 on the left; iPad Pro 2020 on the right

After the iPad Air 4 is changed to horizontal dual speakers, its audio and video capabilities have also been greatly improved compared to the previous generation, and users of "iqiyi after buying" can also get a good experience.

After the update of the iPad Air product line, Apple has "full bloom" on the track of tablets. The 2,000-yuan iPad 2020, the 3,000-yuan iPad mini 5, the 4,000-yuan iPad Air 4, and the 6,000-yuan iPad Pro 2020. Of course, you can also buy an iPad Pro 2018 for 5000 yuan from third-party channels.

From another perspective, this iPad Air update also broke my "stereotype." In my impression, Pro is a symbol of "professionalism" and "productivity" in the context of Apple, and Air is a symbol of "thinness" and "enough use". Especially the Macbook product line has been following this rule.

However, the arrival of the iPad Air 4 this year does not seem to take the "normal path." The iPad Air series is no longer a product that is "not up and down", but a product that can largely be compared with the Pro series.

Combined with the release and iteration of iPadOS, we can see Apple's ambitions in the tablet ecosystem and its determination to release tablet productivity. Unfortunately, the current software ecosystem has not been able to keep up with the pace of Apple's hardware. Few software can completely release the performance of the iPad Pro series.

It's like if you own a supercar, but you don't have a professional track, you can only drive on the road "stubbornly". In this case, if you want to pursue practicality, the iPad Air 4 like a luxury car may be a more "cost-effective" choice.

Tell simple and easy-to-read stories. Work email: wanghelong@ifanr.com.

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