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Apple iPad Air 4 256GB LTE Review:  A top tablet without weaknesses?


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With the fourth generation iPad Air, Apple offers a successful alternative to the expensive Pro series in review. With an outstanding performance thanks to the A14 chip, the brilliant Liquid Retina Display and its high-quality workmanship, the iPad also scores in its relatively cheaper version. The equipment scores with the good cameras, Touch ID in the switch, the four speakers. The tablet supports the Apple Pencil 2.0 including a magnetic docking surface, but neither the Pencil nor the practical Magic Keyboard are included in the scope of delivery.


Apple iPad Air 4 256GB LTE test: beautiful display
The 10.9 inch Liquid Retina display of the new iPad Air is one of the highest quality screens on the tablet market. It offers a high resolution of 2,360 x 1,640 pixels in the 4.3: 3 format of the iPad Pro 11. This format is particularly suitable for working and reading, but for series and films that are traditionally offered in 16: 9 format, this means thick black borders. In contrast to its direct predecessor, the now fourth iPad Air offers an 81 percent display area because it does not have a home button.

Apart from its high resolution, the IPS display is also convincing across the board: We measured a very high brightness of 515 cd/m² and a good checkerboard contrast of 138: 1. But the special highlight of the Air-Display lies in its colors. In the test, the Retina display not only covers almost the entire sRGB color space, but also represents 98.1 percent of the extended DCI-P3 color space.

The colors here always appear bright with realistic representations that are common when streaming HDR content particularly come into their own through Netflix. The only drawback: Unlike its Pro colleagues, the iPad Air only offers a standard frame rate of 60 Hertz instead of the particularly fluid 90 or even 120 Hertz.

Although it is significantly cheaper than its Pro colleagues, the iPad Air is on par in terms of performance. Equipped with the new Apple A14 Bionic, the Apple tablets are among the most powerful models in our entire list of the best. With the iPad Air, all processes happen extremely quickly, be it the startup process, opening applications or multitasking. Extensive video and image editing is no problem using the appropriate apps and 3D gaming runs smoothly.

But the iPad also scores with its performance aside from subjective impressions. The tablet achieved excellent results in the performance benchmark: 3DMark determined a strong 8,007 points, while the complex GFX benchmark “Manhattan Onscreen” achieved an average of 45.4 images per second.

With a productivity score of 1,892 points and especially the extremely fast rendering of our test PDF within just 2 seconds, the Air easily secured first place on the podium at the time of the test. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is the only Android tablet to offer an approximately comparable performance.


Touch ID, mobile communications and competent speakers
While the equipment itself may seem rather unspectacular, it is the accessories and the functional operating system in particular that make the iPad an excellent work device. But first to the features: When unlocking the iPad Air, unlike its 4th generation Pro colleagues, uses fingerprint recognition via Touch ID, the corresponding sensor is easily accessible in the on / off switch of the tablet.

The display can be activated with a tap, and we enter the system by placing our finger on the button. This is very convenient in practice, but if you change the position of a tablet frequently, you should configure several fingerprints at the same time.

The iPad Air transmits via WLAN-ax, Bluetooth 5.0 and LTE mobile communications and if you do without the latter, you save 140 euros. In addition to the eSIM, there is also a SIM slot. Apple does not have a classic headphone output here, but at least it uses USB-C for the main interface. We particularly like the four speakers in the test, which offer an impressive sound. However, their positioning on both sides of the device also ensures that they are occasionally covered by your hands.

The processing of the tablet is of high quality as usual. With the fourth generation, Apple is saying goodbye to the rounded sides, as with the iPhone 12, and is turning back to the classic edge design. Not only does it look very good, it also gives the tablet a certain professional look. The iPad is also available in a wide variety of colors, which includes the variants space gray, silver, rose gold, green and sky blue.

According to Apple, the tablets are mostly made of recycled materials, which also applies to the packaging. The housing itself is made of aluminum. The device weighs around 460 grams and is therefore neither particularly lightweight nor an unnecessary burden in the backpack. The separately available “Smart Folio” cover is appealing due to its high-quality workmanship with magnetic surfaces, but at 89 euros it is really not a bargain and cheaper alternatives do the same.

 

High functionality, thanks to iPadOS
Apple's tablet-specific operating system iPadOS is particularly strong. In its current version, iOS 14, it offers a multitude of useful functions that are helpful for work or study at home. For example, streams of lectures can be faded in via picture-in-picture, while at the same time the accompanying material can be shown in a PDF reader on the left and the notes can be written on the right using Apple Pencil. Documents can be easily synchronized between iPad, iPhone and Mac / PC via iCloud. 

In addition, widgets enhance the home screen, the interface is designed to be simple and beautiful to look at, and the seamless integration into existing Apple ecosystems is also pleasing. With the latter, for example, the setup via iPhone takes place almost automatically, AirPods and Co. are directly coupled and app data is transferred from the cloud.

Apple's headphones also enjoy the ability to automatically switch playback between the iPad and iPhone. For example, when calls come in on the smartphone. Siri is of course also at the start with iPadOS and is available on call or by holding the switch.

Not included, but still compatible with the iPad Air, are of course the Apple Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil. The latter is also supported in its second generation and can be attached and charged via a magnetic surface on the side of the tablet. This area is also used for coupling with the Bluetooth pen.

The operation is excellent and, thanks to its low latency and good pressure recognition, is still considered one of the best tablet pens on the market, both for notes, transcripts and works of art. Thanks to the palm recognition, there are no problems and the hands are reliably differentiated from the pen tip. At around 130 euros for the pencil and 200 or 340 euros for the keyboards, the accessories are not only of the usual high quality,

 

Cameras for more than just video conferencing
The fourth iPad Air uses a 12 MP camera with a wide-angle lens and a ƒ / 1.8 aperture. In practice, our experts like the image quality very much, especially in daylight, and good results are still achieved even in more moderate lighting conditions. Specifically, the camera offers autofocus, live photos, panorama, Smart HDR and automatic image stabilization. For video recordings, 4K images are possible at up to 60 frames per second. There is a microphone next to the Lise, but there is no flash on the Air.

The front camera is of course crucial for video calls. A 7.2 megapixel camera is used here on the iPad Air, which, in the opinion of our experts, also offers very good image quality in daylight. Here the pictures suffer significantly more in poor lighting conditions, but they are still okay, but a good exposure is recommended.


Apple iPad Air 4 256GB: Good battery for everyday work
The performance of the 7,730 mAh battery in the iPad Air is decent, although not outstanding. In the test, the tablet lasted for around 10 hours, which applies to both continuous video playback and surfing the net. Thanks to USB-C and the 20 watt power adapter, the charging time is relatively short at 2:35 hours. The iPad should have enough juice for a normal working day, but can also be recharged relatively quickly in an emergency.

With its large 10.9-inch display, the iPad Air is not exactly one of the handiest members of its squad. The device measures 24.8 x 17.9 centimeters and is 8.2 millimeters thick. At 463 grams it is not exactly a flyweight, but it is also not noticeable in the pocket. In order not to damage the display, we recommend buying a protective film or a cover and none of these are included in the scope of delivery.

Apple iPad Air 4 Pros:

  • Retina display with strong colors
  • Outstanding performance
  • Feature-rich iPadOS
  • Great speakers and cameras

Apple iPad Air 4 Cons:

  • Very expensive with cellular
  • Apple Pencil not included
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