New iPad Air and iPad eighth-gen offer major tablet upgrades

Apple has revealed a new, eight-generation iPad, the entry into its tablet range, and a new, completely-redesigned iPad Air, just in time for iPadOS 14. The new iPad tablet range will start at $329 for general buyers, while the new iPad Air borrows iPad Pro styling and features a new power button with a built-in Touch ID sensor.

iPad eighth-generation

Apple's 10.2-inch iPad is designed to serve home users wanting a basic and affordable tablet, kids through to college age students, and those wanting a taste of digital art. It looks much the same as before, but it uses a newer processor, the Apple A12.

It'll support the Apple Pencil, of course, for handwriting recognition, sketching, and annotation. iPad OS 14 is able to convert sketches to the shape you were aiming for, too, such as changing scribbled circles into perfect ones. Alternatively, it also supports treating handwritten text as typed text, for search and more.

The iPad eighth-generation is available to order from today, priced at $329. Education buyers will be able to get it for $299. It'll start shipping from this Friday.

New iPad Air

At first glance you could mistake the new iPad Air 4 for the iPad Pro. Certainly, it's borrowing that model's crisp edged styling – something Apple is also expected to do for the iPhone 12 later this year – but with five different, more eye-catching colors. They're silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue.

It has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina screen, larger than the old Air but in the same overall tablet footprint. That runs at 2360 x 1640 resolution. Since there's now no room for a home button and its integrated fingerprint sensor, Apple has moved Touch ID to the power button on the top edge. That, the company says, is its smallest authentication sensor ever, and taps into a new, faster Secure Enclave for speedier recognitions.

Also inside is the new Apple A14 Bionic processor, built on 5nm processes. It's a 40-percent increase in CPU speed over the old iPad Air, and a 30-percent increase in GPU performance. A new, faster Neural Engine with 16 cores – double that of the old SoC – promises up to 2x the machine learning performance. There's also a set of second-gen machine learning accelerators, which are up to 10x faster than before.

In a welcome change, there's now a USB-C port on the bottom, rather than Lightning, again following the iPad Pro. That's good for 10x the bandwidth, Apple promises, and can also drive up to a 4K external display.

There are stereo speakers, and WiFi 6 is standard. Versions of the iPad Air with LTE will also be offered, with up to 10x faster data rates thanks to a new modem. For the front, there's a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera. That has an f/2.2 aperture lens, Smart HDR support, and promises better low-light performance than on the old Air. It also captures video at up to 1080p 60fps.

The rear camera, meanwhile, is borrowed from the iPhone 11. It clocks in at 12-megapixels, with f/1.8 aperture and improved video stabilization. It can shoot 4K 60fps footage, or alternatively 240 fps slo-mo video.

There's support for the same Apple Pencil as on the iPad Pro, and you'll be able to charge it in the same way, with the stylus magnetically-clinging to the side of the new iPad Air. Apple has also made it compatible with the same Smart Keyboard cover as its more expensive tablet.

Apple says the new iPad Air will begin shipping from next month, priced from $599 for the WiFi-only versions, and from $729 for the WiFi + LTE versions. It'll come in 64GB and 256GB storage options. The Apple Pencil 2nd Generation will be $129, while the Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Air are available for $299 and $179, respectively. The Smart Folios – in black, white, and three new seasonal colors including deep navy, cyprus green, and pink citrus – will be $79 each.