Apple iPad Air Is an Excellent, Do Everything Tablet

Apple’s iPad Air Fourth Generation leaves the past behind and embraces performance and productivity

Lance Ulanoff
Oct 21, 2020 · 10 min read
The slim iPad Air 4th Gen weighs just 1 lb.
The tablet is just 6.1 mm thick.
The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display is pleasure to look at and use.

Setup and benchmarks

Setup for virtually all of Apple’s products is uniform and simple, especially if you already have an Apple ID and a backup of legacy device that you can use to jump to start your new Apple Product. The iPad Air is no exception. Even the new Touch ID button worked smoothly, and the setup guided me to register not one, but two fingers. Usually, I’d register my thumbs, but the button’s placement made both index fingers better candidates. I registered each digit quickly and have used the button to unlock and verify purchases without a single missed read. The button can even read my prints upside down.

The new Touch ID button is perfectly positioned and works like a charm.

What’s an iPad

There was a time when I happily called the iPad a “content consumption device.” It’s still that but, perhaps thanks to convertible tablet computers like Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pro line, iPads have slowly but surely become productivity devices.

Multitasking is easy on the iPad Air.
The iPad Air in a Magic Keyboard case with the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen attached to the top.
With the Magic Keyboard, the iPad Air floats above the keyboard.
The iPad Air has a single USB-C port, but you can use the Magic Keyboard’s USB-C port (it’s on the other side, to charge the tablet.

Capture and create

Long before the advent of Bluetooth styli, I was drawing on iPads. As soon as I saw, in 2010, the 7.9-inch iPad Gen 1 display, I couldn’t wait to start creating, even if it meant drawing on the screen with my fingers.

Drawing with the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen on the iPad Air is a pleasure.
Drawn on the iPad Air.
The iPad Air’s 12 MP Wide rear camera.

Pure fun

It wasn’t all work. I watched Netflix and iTunes library movies on the iPad Air (Netflix and the TV app support iPadOS PiP, but not YouTube), taking note of the new stereo audio system which switches to stereo separation depending on whether you have the iPad in portrait or landscape mode. I can’t say I noticed much of a difference. In general, the iPad Air’s audio is excellent and can get very loud. I prefer, however, to listen to music and video content through my paired AirPod Pros. Thanks to iPadOS 14, the Bluetooth earbuds now have spatial audio, which is akin to virtual surround sound. It’s awesome.

Want to watch Netflix while you edit video? No problem.
The T-Rex did not eat my shrubbery.

Battery life and price

Overall, the iPad Air is, for its size and weight, a battery champ. I could play music or videos all day long (at least 10 hours). Doing more processor-intensive productivity work cuts battery life down to between seven and eight hours. Still good enough for an average workday.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +792K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Lance Ulanoff

Written by

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

Lance Ulanoff

Written by

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store