Is the iPad Air really enough for most people? | Technology/Gadgets

The new iPad Air is sleek and powerful, but thanks to its price, it’s a tough sell. — Photo by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 – It has almost become dogma: the general tech advice that the basic iPad is for those on a budget, the iPad Air is good enough for just about anyone, the iPad mini for those who prefer portability over everything else and the iPad Pro is for specialist and power users.

In Malaysia, however, it seems that the basic iPad is the best choice for most people, mainly because of what is called price.

A friend asked which iPad she should buy (my friends seem to have a better instinct than me for knowing when I’m getting review units) and I said, well, it’s really about which iPad is the best for you.

She contacted me later and sighed, “Isn’t Apple’s stuff just selling your kidney?”

Maybe too much for most

I think that’s probably the biggest difficulty I have in recommending the iPad Air. There is nothing wrong with that.

It’s ridiculously fast, comes with an excellent M1 processor but I was quite happy to put it aside once I was done with photography and testing.

The basic iPad is just that – basic. But iPads last forever, and with each generation even the base models are miles ahead of their nearest Android competitors.

For most people, iPads are for watching shows, playing casual games, basic surfing, or just sharing a family device or something to keep the kids entertained in the car.

The iPad Air’s M1 chip lets you handle heavier items. I managed games such as Genshin Impact without graphical stutter and on Procreate, the creators of the application said that the new iPad Air can support up to 116 layers compared to the previous iPad 4 (47 layers).

However, when it comes to pricing, this is where it gets tricky – you only have two options, RM2,699 for the 64GB version and RM3,349 for the 256GB model.

That’s an RM650 difference and arguably for a bit more you could opt for a Microsoft Surface Go with a Type Cover instead.

Here’s the catch – genuine Apple accessories such as Apple’s own keyboard covers are very expensive, although you can also opt for cheaper alternatives like Logitech.

Why Air?

I’d say the Air would be for dabblers, or people who aren’t sure they can commit to an iPad Pro just yet.

The iPad Pro is not a hobbyist’s machine. It’s for people who need to do things like illustration, video editing, and the like on a production level.

There are creators who, for example, prefer editing videos on an iPad Air or Pro because getting a laptop capable of editing 4k videos would cost a lot more.

As an experiment, I had decided to see if an iPad Air would be good for the new YouTube craze – Vtubing. If you don’t know what it is, basically you’re streaming images, but instead of your face, you’ll be using a virtual avatar instead.

Alas, on an iPad Air, as the kids say, that just wasn’t happening. iPhones and iPad Pro are popular for VTubing because of the LiDAR scanner which allows for better face tracking, but of course that’s not on the iPad Air camera.

There’s also another one of the great weaknesses of the iPad OS – it was virtually impossible to overlay the VTuber input from the camera onto a screen, which was only possible on a dedicated laptop.

Not that you can’t stream on an iPad. You can use Streamlabs as well as Twitch to stream from your device, but there are limits to customizing your streaming interface on an iPad.

The thing about iPads is that what you can do on one is limited by apps, and apps are limited by what the iPad OS will support.

True multitasking still isn’t possible – for me, I always had to scroll through app windows and be very limited in what apps I could use side-by-side onscreen.

Still, as an additional screen, the iPad Air worked flawlessly in both Sidecar and Universal Control mode.

Unlike much older models, the Air didn’t get too hot and connected almost instantly and if you wanted a more portable extra screen for your Mac laptop, the iPad Air would be a better choice than the standard iPad.

The iPad Air is a great tablet and what it has over the base iPad are the color options: Space Grey, Starlight, Pink, Purple and Blue.

There’s also the premium Liquid Retina display and wide 12MP rear camera and 2nd-gen Apple Pencil support.

As impressive as the performance of the iPad Air is, only get it if you plan to do more than consume media on it.

Get it if you want to improve your skills as a digital illustrator and want to draw and paint on the go, instead of being tied to a graphics tablet.

Get it if you want to learn how to edit 4K video (LumaFusion is the app you want) or maybe connect to a portable wireless keyboard.

But if your tablet goes no further than your couch or bedroom, you’ll do fine with the entry-level iPad.

The iPad Air isn’t the tablet for just anyone, and that’s okay.

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