Apple iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Which one should you buy?
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iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Design, color options and displays
Let's start with the obvious – the design differences between the iPad 8th generation and iPad Air 4. As plenty of rumors had suggested before its announcement, the new 2020 iPad Air now features a modern and sleek design that closely resembles the iPad Pro models. It has symmetrical, slim black bezels around its 10.9-inch display, which itself is laminated, has antireflective coating and True Tone support. Artists may also be interested to know that it is a P3 wide color display.
The budget iPad 8th-gen on the other hand has a very outdated design for a 2020 tablet – exactly the same old design last year's iPad 7 had, and many iPads before it. It has giant top and bottom bezels surrounding its smaller 10.2-inch display, which itself isn't laminated, reflects sunlight to the point of being unusable outside, and doesn't support True Tone.
To clarify, True Tone is an iPad and iPhone feature reserved for the flagship ones, which tunes the screen to match the lighting of your surroundings, making it appear more natural. It doesn't sound like much, but it does make a difference.
As for color options, you have the default Silver, Space Gray and Rose Gold to choose from on both the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4, but the latter also has two additional fun color options – Green and Sky Blue.
Design aside, both the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4 have similarly sharp and nice-looking displays, with the one on the Air 4 being at a resolution of 2360 x 1640, as compared to 2160 x 1620 on the budget iPad 8. You may also be interested to know that the Air 4 is slightly lighter, at 1.01 pounds (460 grams), while the iPad 8 weighs 1.09 pounds (495 grams). The iPad Air 4 is also thinner, at 0.24 inches (6.1 mm), as compared to the budget iPad's 0.29 inches (7.5 mm).
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Performance
This is where things get muddy, as both the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4 are capable of effortlessly doing any tasks you may wish to do on iPad OS 14. The Air 4 is just a bit ahead. It sports Apple's A14 Bionic chip, while the iPad 8 sports the A12 Bionic. What does that mean in real-life usage? Both are very powerful, and any performance differences they may have are basically unnoticeable.
Students and professionals will be happy with both, although the iPad Air 4 will allow for editing more video layers at the same time, or using a bigger number of image layers in Procreate and other graphics editors, but that's pretty much it.
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Apple Pencil support and accessories
While both iPads have Apple Pencil support, the iPad 8 works with the 1st generation Apple Pencil, while the iPad Air 4 works with the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. Thus, if you pick the budget iPad 8, you'll have to settle for the older, glossy Apple Pencil that charges awkwardly from its Lightning port.
If you get the iPad Air 4 – you'll be using the new, matte Apple Pencil (2nd generation), which charges more intuitively by magnetically snapping on top of the iPad Air 4's frame. This is also a great way to store your 2nd-gen Apple Pencil, while there is no similarly-convenient way to store your 1st-gen Apple Pencil on the budget iPad 8.
That aside, both iPads support a variety of great keyboards with and without trackpads, from Apple and Logitech, so both iPads can turn into a laptop if you need them to. The big difference is that the iPad Air 4 supports Apple's awesome Magic Keyboard accessory, which was initially compatible only with the iPad Pro. So once again, the two iPads are about equal, the Air 4's accessories are just a bit cooler and more modern.
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Cameras
Most people don't care about camera quality on tablets, but if you're a professional, you'd definitely want a great camera. You can, for example, film and edit YouTube videos entirely on your iPad. At least on the iPad Air 4, because, as is to be expected, the budget iPad 8 has pretty low-quality main and selfie cameras.
Without going too much into specifications, let's just (accurately) say that the iPad 8's cameras are only good for video calls and the occasional photo or QR code scan. You can see photo samples of the iPad 8 in our full review, which is linked at the beginning of this article.
The iPad Air 4 on the other hand has a promising 18-megapixel main camera that can record up to 4K video, at up to 60 frames-per-second. Its FaceTime camera is 7 megapixels, capable of 1080p HD video recording.
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Fingerprint sensors, ports and speakers
Most notably, the iPad Air 4 comes with a USB Type-C port like the iPad Pro models. This makes it instantly compatible with a huge variety of accessories and devices, like external hard drives and cameras. The iPad 8 still uses Apple's Lightning port.
The iPad 8 also has a headphone jack, which the new iPad Air has lost with its redesign. So wired headphone users may lean towards the budget iPad 8 because of that.
As for speakers, both iPads have only two, as opposed to the iPad Pro models, which pack four. That doesn't make the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4 equal, though. The iPad Air 4 has each speaker on the opposite side of the tablet, creating a true stereo experience for the user, when watching movies and videos.
The iPad 8 has both speakers placed on the bottom of the tablet, which, when you turn it in landscape orientation, means they will both fire to your right. So even though they're stereo speakers, they won't be giving you a true stereo experience. On top of that, the speakers on the iPad 8 sound tinny and lack the punch we've come to expect from 2020 tablets. So, the iPad 8 is not a good choice for a movie-watching tablet, unless you plan on using headphones.
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Battery life
This is an area where both iPads are equal. Both can survive about 9-to-10 hours of heavy usage on a single charge. For both the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4, Apple promises up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching videos, and up to 9 hours of surﬁng the web using cellular data network.
If you're a student or wish to use your iPad for other work, either iPad will comfortably last you a full work day, with battery life to spare.
iPad 8 vs iPad Air 4: Which one should you get?
If you've decided that you want an iPad, but still aren't certain which one will be better for you, let's sum things up and add pricing and base storage options into consideration.
The iPad 8th-gen starts at $329, with only 32GB of storage. It supports the first-gen Apple Pencil, plus plenty of keyboard and trackpad accessories. It's powerful and capable of everything you may want to do on iPad OS, but you're losing on a modern design, speaker quality, camera quality and USB Type-C, though you're getting a headphone jack. If you're on a budget and don't mind its design, it is without a doubt the best tablet to get.
The iPad Air 4 starts at $599, with 64GB of storage. It supports the second-gen Apple Pencil, the Magic Keyboard, and many other keyboard and trackpad accessories. It's even more powerful, future-proof, and will easily handle anything you may plan on doing with it, from gaming to professional work. On top of support for modern accessories, you're getting a beautiful, modern design on the iPad itself, with true stereo speakers, great cameras (for a tablet) and a USB Type-C port. You're only losing the headphone jack. It is arguably the most appealing iPad to get out of all iPad models, especially if you're a professional on a budget. $599 isn't a small price, but it's worth it if you plan on using this iPad as your main computer, and for many years to come.