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iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: how does Apple's new Air compare to its predecessor?

iPad Air 3 (L) vs iPad Air 4 (R)
iPad Air 3 (L) vs iPad Air 4 (R) (Image credit: Apple / TechRadar)

Apple has finally unveiled the iPad Air 4, the new slate from the company which slots into its mid-range Air line. The new tablet is a big jump up from its predecessor, the iPad Air 3, from its specs and features to its design.

Saying 'big jump up' is quite vague though, as tablets are complex gadgets that are important for creativity, communication, business and gaming functions alike.

So if you're interested in upgrading your current Air 3, or want to treat yourself to a new tablet, we've put them side-by-side so you can see how they differ.

iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: price and availability

The iPad Air 4 price starts at $599 / £579 / AU$899 for the 64GB model, and 256GB: $749 / £729 / AU$1,129 for the 256GB variant. That makes the new iPad Air comfortably more expensive than its predecessor.

When it launched the iPad Air 3 cost $499 / £479 / AU$779 for 64GB of storage, and $649 / £629 / AU$999 for 256GB, and it cost an additional $130 / £120 / AU$200 on top of those prices if you wanted LTE connectivity on top of the default Wi-Fi.

Over time, its price has gone down slightly at third-party retailers, and with the arrival of the Air 4, we'd expect the iPad Air 3 price to drop again as retailers look to get rid of the old stock.

iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: launch prices
iPad Air 4iPad Air 3 (2019)
64GB$599 / £579 / AU$899$499 / £479 / AU$779
64GB + Cellular$729 / £709 / AU$1,099$629 / £599 / AU$979
256GB$749 / £729 / AU$1,129$649 / £629 / AU$999
256GB + Cellular$879 / £859 / AU$1,329$779 / £749 / AU$1,199

iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: design and display

The iPad Air 3 has a resign reminiscent of entry-level iPads, with rounded edges, thick bezels, a physical home button and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It has a Lightning port for charging. 

It's very different to the iPad Air 4, which resembles an iPad Pro more. It has a flat edge, not rounded, with a USB-C port instead of Lightning, no bezels to the side and an edge-to-edge display. The Touch ID scanner is in a button to the side of the tablet, not in a button on the front.

The screen of the iPad Air 3 is 10.5 inches across, with a 1668 x 2224 resolution, running LCD tech. It has some of Apple's display software running like True Tone Display which subtly tweaks the color composition in order to match the environment you're in.

Apple Event 2020

iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Apple)

That's a tiny bit smaller than the iPad Air 4 with its 10.9-inch display, but the resolution is roughly similar at 2360 x 1640, and it's also LCD. 

There's loads of Apple's screen software features here like True Tone display, which tweaks the screen color and brightness based on your environment, and anti-reflective coating so it's easier to see in the sun.

iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: camera and battery

The iPad Air 3 had an 8MP rear camera and a 7MP front-facing camera, which is good enough for video calling or taking reference images for projects, but won't take fantastic photos that'll get put up in art galleries. That's roughly the case with the Air 4 too, with its 12MP rear and 7MP front-facing snapper, though the rear camera might be a bit better for snaps.

In terms of battery capacity the iPad Air 3 has an 8,134mAh power pack, which Apple states will last 10 hours of use. We found that figure roughly accurate if you're using the thing quite a bit, but with lower use it can get to 24 hours or even a week if you barely use it at all.

Apple didn't talk about battery life at the iPad Air 4's launch, so we'll have to test that for ourselves when it comes out.

The iPad Air 3 next to an iPhone

The iPad Air 3 next to an iPhone (Image credit: Future)

iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: specs and features

The iPad Air 3 runs on Apple's A12 Bionic chipset, which was top-of-the-line at time of release, but now it's a tiny bit out of date - the iPad Air 4 runs on the newer A14 Bionic, which we're also expecting to see in the iPhone 12.

Apple hasn't mentioned the RAM of the iPad Air 4, but we'd expect it to be a little more than the 3GB for the iPad Air 3. Apple doesn't tend to use high RAM counts on its gadgets though, so we wouldn't expect it to be as high as 8GB.

You can use the Apple Pencil with the iPad Air 3, but only the first generation stylus, so if you want to use the second-generation version (which clips magnetically to the side of the slate to charge, not via the Lightning Port) you'll have to use the iPad Air 4.

iPad Air 4

iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Apple)

Takeaway

The iPad Air 4 seems like an improvement on the iPad Air 3 in just about every way possible - those some of its changes are big, and others are relatively minor.

The design is the biggest change, with a more professional-looking square edge, a useful USB-C port, and an edge-to-edge display to ensure the device has a small body but big screen.

The Apple Pencil gen-2 connectivity, improved rear camera and better chipset will also be useful for a range of users, depending on what you need your tablet for.

The iPad Air 4 price is quite a step up from its predecessor though, especially given the iPad Air 3 will likely see a fair price cut now it's older, so people who don't need all the creativity and business features might find that older slate just as good as the newer one.