iPad Air (2020) review: Still the best iPad for most people

Last spring, Apple revived the iPad Air branding after letting it lie dormant for several years. The 2019 iPad Air was a great compromise between the affordability of the standard iPad and the performance and features of the far more expensive iPad Pro.

The new 2020 model continues in that tradition. It’s more expensive than the 2019 version, but incorporates more of the Pro’s features and design and offers a substantial leap in performance.

With a starting price of $599, it’s not quite the bargain the 2019 Air was at $499, especially when you start tacking on accessories like the Apple Pencil or Magic Keyboard. Still, it’s a better buy than the iPad Pro for most people and a big step up from the standard iPad.

Taking cues from iPad Pro

As with the iPad Air from 2019, the 2020 model takes some cues from the iPad Pro, including a wide color display with True Tone support, but this year’s Air borrows a lot more.

Apple has shifted the iPad Air to the iPad Pro’s flat-edged design, ditching the home button in favor of a bigger display with smaller bezels all around. It’s exactly the same size as the 11-inch iPad Pro, and even supports the Magic Keyboard made for that model.

ipad air 2020 keyboard Jason Cross/IDG

The new iPad Air supports the excellent (but expensive) Magic Keyboard.

Like with the iPad Pro, the iPad Air now has a USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector, which means easier access to external storage devices and cameras. Last year’s iPad Air supported the first-generation Apple Pencil, while this year’s model supports the second-generation Pencil. It costs $30 more, but the magnetic attachment and charging is a much better design.

ipad air 2020 pencil Jason Cross/IDG

The second-generation Apple Pencil is more expensive, but the magnetic attachment and charging is worth it.

The 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera has been swapped out for an upgraded 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera that takes much better photos and videos. The front camera is nicely improved, too, and also supports 1080p FaceTime calls.

But you don’t get everything you get in an iPad Pro. That improved front camera is not accompanied by the TrueDepth module for Face ID and Animoji. Instead, Apple has incorporated a Touch ID sensor into the top button (as there is no more room around the bezel for a home button).