Back when tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab were first announced, many questioned just how useful they could be. They’re just bigger smartphones after all, right? But with each generation, tablets became thinner, larger and more powerful, and today they’re an invaluable bit of tech for millions around the world, be it for work or play.
No tablet has exemplified that transformation more this year than Apple’s fourth-gen iPad Air, our pick of Tablet of the Year 2020.
The iPad Air has had an interesting past: following the release of the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2 in 2013 and 2014, Apple decided to can the range in favour of simpler iPad branding. Fast forward to 2019 and Apple revived the Air, offering a slimmer build and bigger display than the entry-level iPad, but it still rocked the same design as it did when it was first released six years earlier.
That’s what makes the fourth-gen iPad Air so exciting: it’s a complete redesign of the mid-range tablet, ditching the ageing look for a more premium, industrial look in-line with the premium iPad Pro and iPhone 12 ranges.
It also ditched the Home button for a full-screen experience with relatively slim bezels, offering a larger 10.9in display in a similar form factor, and it’s available in new vibrant colours that inject some much-needed pizzazz into Apple’s tablet range.
In fact, the form factor is near-identical to that of the iPad Pro 11in, so much so that you can take advantage of the same Pro-level accessories previously exclusive to the most premium iPads around, including both the amazingly helpful Magic Keyboard and second-gen Apple Pencil.
It’s not just a step forward in design either: the iPad Air features the same A14 Bionic chipset as the flagship iPhone 12 range, offering a huge jump in performance compared to the A12 Bionic featured on last year’s variant and making the tablet one of the most powerful on the market right now.
It’s not quite iPad Pro-level performance admittedly, and you’ll miss out on Pro-level features like the 120Hz ProMotion display and A12X Bionic, but it’s more than capable enough for the average user – and importantly, much cheaper than the iPad Pro range too. For more on our pick of the tablet of the year, take a look at our full iPad Air (2020) review.
If you’re tempted by the iPad Air, you can pick it up from the following retailers right now:
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Of course, it wasn’t an easy choice with so many great tablets released in 2020, so it’s only right to include a few honourable mentions. These are still great tablets in their own respect – it’s down to personal preference and how you intend to use the tablet, after all.
It’d be hard to ignore Samsung, the only real competitor to the iPad in the Android space, and the company’s Galaxy Tab S7+ is another solid addition to its tablet collection. The hardware is stunningly gorgeous, from the premium look to the 12.4in Super AMOLED display, but the lack of native tablet apps on Google Play means it ultimately loses out to Apple’s iPadOS and the plethora of iPad apps available.
It’s a similar story with Huawei’s MatePad Pro, albeit to an extreme. Like the Tab S7+, the hardware of the MatePad Pro is faultless – especially at the £549 starting price – but like all Huawei products right now, it doesn’t have access to Google Play, making the native tablet app offering even more sparse than Samsung’s tablet. There are workarounds, but it’s ultimately a headache when you can pick up a similarly priced alternative with access to more apps from the start.
We’re partway through dishing out our 2020 awards, so check out our picks for the best TV, smart home product and audio gear of the year.