We compared Apple's basic iPad to the latest iPad Air — and the $529 iPad is still the best buy for most people

Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
  • Apple sells a number of different iPad models, including the entry-level iPad and the more-powerful iPad Air.
  • Because the devices look pretty similar, it can be tough to determine which iPad model is right for your needs.
  • We put the two iPads head to head to find out which is better, and the 2019 iPad is the best choice for bargain hunters with its $A529 price tag.
  • That said, the Air is the clear winner on paper with its faster, newer processor, and it will last you longer if you can afford its $A779 price tag.

Apple’s iPad is largely considered to be the best tablet out there, thanks largely to the fact that iPads have a great design, easy-to-use software, and are relatively powerful. That said, there are multiple iPad models out there – so if you’re in the market for an iPad, then it’s not necessarily as easy as just buying an iPad.

The standard iPad and the iPad Air are two of the more popular iPad models, but they do have a few key differences. Which one is right for your needs? We put the iPad and the iPad Air to the test to find out.

Specs

The standard iPad and the iPad Air may offer a similar design, but there are some major differences under the hood. Here are the specs for the iPad and the iPad Air.

IPhone XS vs iPhone XR chartAlyssa Powell/Business Insider

As you can see, there are a few key areas in which the iPad and the iPad Air have slightly different specs. For starters, the standard iPad is powered by Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, which is an older processor from 2016. By comparison, the iPad Air has Apple’s latest A12 Bionic chip, which is the flagship chip for 2018. As such, it’s quite a bit more powerful.

Of course, that said, the A10 Fusion chip is still more than capable of handling most tasks, so for most people, the standard iPad will still be more than powerful enough. For those that need that extra horsepower, however, the iPad Air may be a better choice. It is also more future-proof, so it will last longer.

There’s also the difference in storage. While the base model of the iPad comes with 32GB of storage, the base model of the iPad Air has 64GB – and it can be upgraded to 256GB, which is double the upgraded storage for the iPad. Again, most people will be perfectly fine with less storage, especially if you’ve gotten used to using cloud storage and streaming services.

Other spec differences are decidedly less important. While the iPad Air has a 7-megapixel front-facing camera, the standard iPad’s front-facing camera is 1.2 megapixels, which will still do the job perfectly well. Apart from that, both devices have a Lightning port, and both have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Buy the iPad Air from $A779 at The Good Guys or via Apple direct

Buy the iPad from $A525 at Bing Lee, The Good Guys from $A527, or via Apple direct

Design

2019 iPad AirApple


When it comes to the design of the iPad and iPad Air, you’ll find that they look very similar. They both feature that “classic” iPad design, with a Touch ID Home Button under the display and a Lightning port at the bottom. Both devices are available in three colour options, including Silver, Space Grey, and Gold.

Perhaps the biggest difference in design is the size of the screen. The standard iPad has a screen size of 9.7 inches, while the iPad Air steps things up to 10.5 inches. It’s not a huge difference, but if screen size is important to you, then perhaps the extra 0.8 inches is worth considering.

The pixel resolution is pretty similar between the two devices, but not exactly the same. The iPad Air has a resolution of 2,224 x 1,668 pixels, while the standard iPad’s display sits in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. Considering the fact that the iPad Air has a larger screen, the pixel density is exactly the same, coming in at 264 pixels-per-inch.

Apart from that, there are only minor differences. Because the iPad Air has a larger screen, the body of the device is also bigger. The iPad Air is also a little thinner: While the standard iPad comes in at 0.29 inches thick, the iPad Air sits in at 0.24 inches.

In use

Both the standard iPad and the iPad Air offer very similar user experiences. That’s because of the fact that they both run Apple’s iOS, soon to be renamed as iPadOS for the iPad. They’re both super easy to use, and they integrate perfectly with the rest of your Apple products, so you’ll be able to sync things like podcasts, photos, and more.

Both the iPad and the iPad Air work with a wide range of accessories, including the Apple Pencil. In other words, if you’re an artist or graphic designer, you’ll be able to use Apple’s much-loved stylus with both devices.

Apart from that, the overall experience will be very similar between the iPad Air and the standard iPad – unless you start using the device for high-performance gaming and video editing, in which case, the iPad Air may run a little more smoothly.

The bottom line

IPad vs iPad Air inline graphicAlyssa Powell/Business Insider

The iPad Air is clearly a better device here, in almost every way. It’s more powerful, has a bigger screen, and is thinner, too. But it’s also more expensive with a starting price of $A779.

Considering the difference in price, we still think the standard $A529 iPad is the best device for most people. It’s still very reliable and able to handle pretty much anything most people need it to do, including running apps, browsing social media, and streaming video.

For those who need a little extra power, or who have the cash to spare, the iPad Air is a worthy upgrade that will likely make for a device that will last a little longer and run a little smoother.

At Business Insider, we independently select and write about products and services we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

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