Apple revamped its iPad lineup during its Sept. 15 Time Flies event, introducing new versions of both the standard iPad and the iPad Air. Those updates join the new iPad Pro Apple introduced earlier this year, all of which will run iPadOS 14.
The iPad 8 largely centers around a processor upgrade that should improve the performance on Apple's most widely used tablet. As welcome as the A12 processor will be to the iPad 8, though, the even bigger processor news comes with the iPad Air (2020). It's the first Apple device to run on Apple's new A14 processor, beating even the iPhone 12 to the punch. The iPad Air 4 boasts a number of other improvements, including new colors, a slimmer bezel and Touch ID built right into the tablet's top button.
- The best tablets: Where the iPad ranks
- iPad 8 vs iPad 7: Should you upgrade?
- Check out our iPad Air (2020) review
Put it all together, and you've got some interesting updates aimed squarely at the specific audiences both both Apple tablets. To put these changes in context, this iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 face-off looks at all the improvements added to both updated iPads.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 specs
|Row 0 - Cell 0
|iPad Air 4
|Screen size (resolution)
|10.2 inches (2160 x 1620)
|10.9 inches (2360 x 1640)
|Rated battery life
|10 hours web surfing over Wi-Fi
|10 hours web surfing over Wi-Fi
|9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches
|9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches
|1.08 pounds (Wi-Fi), 1.09 pounds (cellular)
|1 pound (Wi-Fi); 1.01 pounds (Cellular)
|Silver, gold, space gray
|silver, space gray, rose gold, green, sky blue
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 price and availability
You won't have to wait around for the iPad 8. It's available for pre-order right now before hitting stores Friday (Sept. 18). The iPad Air 4 doesn't go on sale until next month.
As before, the iPad 8 will be the less expensive of the two tablets. It starts at $329 for the Wi-Fi only model, with cellular connectivity bringing the price to $459. The base model features 32GB of storage, and for another $100 you can upgrade to 128GB. Here's how to pre-order the iPad 8.
The iPad Air will start at $599, with a cellular version available for $729. Its base model comes with 64GB of storage; increasing that to 256GB tacks on another $150. iPad Air 4 pre-orders haven't begun yet.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 design and display
There's not much difference between the new iPad and the 7th-generation model it replaces, with Apple reserving the biggest changes for inside the device. As before you've got a 10.2-inch Retina display in a 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29-inch body. The iPad 8's colors are pretty typical of Apple's palette — silver, gold and, as always, space gray.
Stack an iPad Air 4 next to the iPad 8 and the new design for the former tablet really stands out. While the iPad maintains the same bezels and Touch ID button as before, the iPad 4 slims down the bezels surrounding its 10.9-inch Retina display. The Home button is gone, with Apple moving the fingerprint sensor to a button now on the top edge of the iPad Air.
The screen on the iPad Air 4 is slightly bigger than before — last year's edition of the tablet had a 10.5-inch screen — though the device remains as thin as ever at 0.24 inches. Apple has also broken out new colors, with rose gold, green and sky blue joining silver and space gray. This is the most colorful iPad Apple offers.
Other changes to the iPad Air's design include stereo speakers when you use the tablet in landscape mode, plus a USB-C port. The iPad 8 still uses Lightning as its connection interface of choice.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 performance and cameras
Comparing the iPad 8 to the iPad Air 4 is a tale of two processors. Apple's 8th generation iPad adds the A12 Bionic chip, an upgrade from the A10 Fusion processor in the previous model. That translates to a 40% jump in CPU performance, according to Apple, as well as twice the graphics capability as before. The A12 processor includes Apple's Neural Engine as well, which improves Siri performance, photo editing and augmented reality experiences.
If that sounds like a big jump, consider the iPad Air 14, which introduces an entirely new Apple-designed processor. The A14 Bionic chip is the first 5-nanometer processor in Apple's mobile devices, which means more power in a more compact design. That should translate to a 40% improvement in performance over the A12 Bionic chip in the iPad Air 3. Graphics should get a 30% boost, Apple says.
The rear camera on the iPad 8 hasn't changed from the 8-megapixel sensor on the last generation model. Meanwhile, the iPad Air 4 adapts the 12MP rear camera from the iPad Pro, which allows the new tablet to capture 4K video.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 special features
The special features in the iPad 8 are largely limited to the improvements Apple's introducing in iPadOS 14. These include the ability to scribble on the tablet's screen with an Apple Pencil — unfortunately, there's no support for Apple Pencil 2 with the iPad 8 — and have that convert into text. Other iPadOS 14 improvements include more compact notifications, new app sidebars and improved Universal search, though those features aren't limited to the iPad 8 — all iPads will get them when iPadOS 14 becomes available for download on Sept. 16.
Because the iPad Air 4 has Apple's Smart Connector, it will work with the Magic Keyboard accessory — something the iPad 8 can't do. This new tablet also works with the Apple Pencil 2, the much better version of Apple's input device. And all those iPadOS 14 improvements slated for the iPad 8 will be available to iPad Air 4 users, too.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 battery life
Apple didn't dwell too much on battery life when it unveiled the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4. Based on the spec sheets for both tablets, you can expect similar longevity, though. Both the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4 promise up to 10 hours of battery life when you surf the web over LTE or watch video; switch to cellular and the battery life drops to 9 hours.
iPad 8 vs. iPad Air 4 outlook
The iPad and iPad Air have always attracted different audiences, with the iPad appealing to a more general crowd while the iPad Air courts people who want a light, thin tablet that still functions as a productivity device. Those distinctions are only going continue with the iPad 8 vs. the iPad Air 4. We look forward to seeing how these two tablets stack up in real-world use, so stay tuned for our full reviews.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.