Review: 2020 iPad Pro v iPad Air v iPad 8th generation

The 2020 iPad Pro v iPad Air v iPad 8th gen - which is best?
As with its iPhone range, Apple is offering a lot of choice with its new iPads. Photo credit: Newshub.

For Apple fans, buying a new iPad can be a tricky process - there's so much to consider, from price to performance.

I've been trying out the three new full-sized models: the 2020 iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad 8th generation.

If you're planning on getting a new iPad, here's a quick look at what each has to offer to help you decide which one might be right for you.

Bang for buck

The iPad 8th generation with its 10.2-inch screen is Apple's most affordable tablet. It's not fancy but it has enough oomph to make it a worthy addition for a household with kids.

Those after the squared look of the Air and Pro will be disappointed as the regular iPad has kept the same curved edges of old and the Lightning connector has stayed put. No USB-C port here.

Instead, the upgrade to an A12 Bionic chip with Apple's Neural engine on the inside is what makes it worth a serious look.

Everyday activities such as watching videos, reading books, browsing the web, word processing and putting together presentations can be carried out with ease.

The rear camera is 8MP which is OK, but the selfie camera doesn't impress me with its mere 1.2MP. With so much this year carried out online from dance classes to school lessons, I wish it was a little bit better.

With 1.2MP there sure is not any looking good on FaceTime or Zoom. 

As the more basic iPad, there's no anti-reflective coating for the screen, no True Tone setting and - perhaps most importantly - not much in the way of storage. The most you can get is 128GB, unlike the Air which goes up to 256GB and the Pro which offers up to 1TB.

2020 Apple Pencil.
The Apple Pencil. Photo credit: Newshub.

It's worth noting the regular iPad only supports the original Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, though for most regular users that will suffice. It's also the only remaining full-size iPad to keep the headphone jack.

In my view, this is a wallet-friendly option that outclasses similar spec tablets on the market from the likes of Lenovo and Samsung. Get the 128GB version though as the 32GB just is not enough.

Prices for the iPad 8th gen start at $569.

The iPad Air 4th generation.
The iPad Air 4th generation has been completely redesigned. Photo credit: Newshub.

Airily awesome

The iPad Air has had a major makeover this year and I love it - I can see it featuring highly on many Christmas wishlists. 

With its 10.9-inch screen and squared edges, this 4th generation model is very similar in appearance to the smaller iPad Pro, except it's a tiny bit thicker. Many are calling it the Pro-Lite.

The display is fully-laminated and has an anti-reflective surface. It's a 2360 x 1640 IPS panel with a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch and a peak brightness of 500 nits. It also features Apple's True Tone technology.

There's no home button on the Air, like the Pro, but no FaceID either. Instead, TouchID is in the power button which some people might actually prefer. 

The Air packs a fair amount of power with its A14 Bionic chipset, the same as the latest iPhones.

According to Apple, that six-core CPU offers a 40 percent bump in performance over the A12 Bionic processor, with a four-core GPU for 30 percent faster graphics performance.

The iPad Air, like the iPad Pro, gets the USB Type-C port that can be hooked up to an external drive, dongles and external monitor.

Interestingly, the Air has a 20W power adapter which is more powerful than the Pro's 18W adapter, which means it will charge a little bit faster.

It comes in a range of colours (OK, I'm shallow): Silver, Space Grey, Rose Gold and interestingly Green or Sky Blue. Why the Pro didn't get those last two colours, I don't know. Or does the professional look need to be all serious and boring?

Buying an Air won't hurt the pocket as much as buying a Pro, but you're still needing to pay for that jump-up in power and the snazzier look. 

If you're trying to weigh up between an iPad Air and iPad Pro, you might be persuaded to go this way. It certainly makes getting an iPad Pro a lot harder to justify, unless you're after more storage space or a larger screen.

Prices start from $999 for a 64GB iPad Air.

The 2020 iPad Pro and iPad Air are almost identical in looks.
The iPad Pro (L) and iPad Air are almost identical in looks. Photo credit: Newshub.

Seriously superior

For some people only the very best will do and that means the pricey iPad Pro.

It's powerful enough to allow you to do away with your laptop (though if you're going down that route, check out the Pro with the larger 12.9-inch screen).

Under the hood is an A12z Bionic Chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. That's double the cores of the iPad Air.

The Pro's display is brighter than the Air's with 600 nits of peak brightness compared to 500 nits, and it features an adaptive frame rate technology that goes as high as 120Hz/120 frames-per-second. This allows for smoother graphics and a more responsive feel when using the Pencil.

The camera set-up is made up of a main 12-megapixel camera, 10-megapixel ultra-wide and a 2x telephoto zoom lens. It also has that LiDAR scanner for depth perception and AR wizardry.

The rear cameras can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, as opposed to the Air which can only capture 1080p.

As you'd expect, the Pro does feature better audio than the rest of the iPad family with a quad speaker system instead of the Air's stereo two-speaker system.

Storage is great. As mentioned earlier, the lowest capacity is 128GB but you can go as high as 1TB. 

The iPad Pro is the ultimate professional powerhouse. People such as graphic designers and video editors are unlikely to look at other tablets.

It starts from $1499 for the 128GB 11-inch model.

Emma was supplied iPads for this review