iPad Air 3 (with iPad OS) review
What is it?
The ideal iPad, which, after the iPad OS update, makes a strong case for itself.
Design & Construction
- There is nothing extraordinary or ground-breaking about the iPad Air 3. It’s based on Apple’s previous-gen design language, but that’s a good thing actually because the bezels really help with gripping this big tablet.
- Then, the fingerprint scanner is still here. It’s not as fast the new Face ID but much more practical to use nonetheless. And of course, let’s not forget that this iPad Air is that rare new Apple mobile device which still comes with a headphone jack.
- The rear of this device is made from aluminium which feels quite premium. Its overall weight is reasonably light and balanced.
- The iPad Air 3 also has pogo pins which means that it supports Apple’s smart keyboard accessory. However, that has to be purchased separately and it does not come cheap.
Display & Media Consumption
- The 10.5-inch LCD on this iPad is really bright and colour accurate. It also has Apple’s True Tone tech to adjust the colour temperature as per the ambience.
- While the Air does not have the quad stereo speaker setup of the iPad Pro series, its single speaker is still very loud and clear. So, for media consumption, which is very important on a tablet, by the way, the Air is pretty perfect.
- If you take notes or are a creative professional, then the Air also has support for Apple Pencil (1st-gen). However, the display here is not 120 Hz as that on the Pro, so there is a slight latency when you use the Pencil, but it’s not bothersome.
iPad OS & Performance
- Power here is supplied by the A12 Bionic SoC with 3GB of RAM. Basically, it’s the same specification as the iPhone XR, and just like the XR, the performance here is fantastic as well. The only time you’ll miss the A12X from the iPad Pro is if you do heavy video editing or rendering.
- Now, this brings us onto the iPad OS. Don’t get confused, iPad OS is basically iOS 13 with a few more practical features to utilise the iPad’s big screen to its full potential.
- On the home screen, you can now have a lot more app icons. Not just that, you can also have your widgets on the left-most screen as well.
- A very important addition here is that Safari is now desktop-class, which means that it will now load full desktop-grade websites instead of mobile versions. You can also open multiple windows of Safari if you want. Sadly though, if you use a third-party browser like Chrome, you won’t get any of these features.
- Coming to multitasking, you can now have two windows like before, but with iPad OS you can also have multiple floating windows on top of them. These setup remains in memory if you wish to use it again, pretty neat.
- With iPad OS, there now finally official support for external hard drives and memory cards. This also means that the native Files app is significantly improved with a lot more options to manage/move/rename your files.
- You can also plug in a mouse/keyboard now. But keep in mind that iPad OS remains a touch-based operating system so scrolling and all with an external mouse won’t be super smooth.
- Like all iPads, the battery life of the iPad Air 3 is amazing. You can extract 10 hours of backup from this device on medium-to-heavy usage. Standby times are pretty phenomenal as well, it can last you weeks! Please note that our test unit is the WiFi-only variant.
- We wish that Apple has ditched the proprietary Lightning port on the iPad Air 3 in favour of USB-C, but sadly, that’s not the case!
Is it a laptop replacement?
- No, it’s not! First up, the base storage variant is still 64GB, definitely not enough to replace your laptop. Upgrading to the higher 256GB variant demands a steep additional Rs ~15,000 over the former!
- Then, neither the smart keyboard nor Apple Pencil, come bundled with the iPad Air (or any iPad, for that matter). So, depending on your profession, you’ll probably have to invest in either one or both of them, and none of them come cheap!
- For keyboards, there are third party alternatives available, but most of them won’t connect via pogo pins to give you that seamless experience.
- The lightning port also poses a big problem. Finding good dongles with a lightning connector is hard, and most of them are priced on the higher side. Remember, Apple takes a commission for every certified lightning accessory!
- You also cannot overlook the learning curve associated with iPad OS, which can be frustrating at times. And then, compatibility with Android phones is pretty poor as well. So, if you use an Android phone, transferring files onto the iPad can be a bit annoying.
- Either way, a reasonably-spec’d iPad Air 3 with all required accessories will cost you over Rs 70,000, and at that price, you can get an i7-powered Windows 10 laptop with a dedicated graphics card!
- The iPad Air 3 has an 8MP f/2.4 rear camera and a 7MP f/2.2 selfie shooter. The former takes average photos in good light, while the latter is decent enough for Facetime calls.
- The iPad Air 3 is the best iPad as of now. It merges Apple’s iconic design with very powerful hardware, excellent battery life and a decent price tag.
- While the new iPad OS brings some fantastic additions to the generally-restricted iOS. However, an iPad with iPad OS still best serves as a supplementary device which should be primarily used for media consumption and occasional work.
- Apple’s profit-driven approach of not bundling the smart keyboard or the Apple Pencil with any iPad remains annoying. With all accessories purchased, the iPad Air 3’s price jumps into the powerful laptop category, which works against it.
Watch our iPad Air 3 video review: