The Robservatory

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iPad

How the 2020 iPad Air stacks up to its predecessor

Back in April of 2020, when I replaced my 2016 iPad Pro with a third-generation iPad Air, I wrote about the impressive performance improvements. Fast forward to fall 2020, and I again find myself with a new iPad Air, but this time, it's the fourth generation 2020 edition. Yes, after waiting four years, I now have my second new iPad in seven months.

Why so soon? It was a chain reaction thing, where we wanted to upgrade a relative's very old (think 30-pin connector) iPad with a newer one, and my wife wanted a newer one as well. So my "new" Air went to her, hers went to the relative, and I wound up with the new fourth-generation iPad Air. So I thought I'd take a minute and update a couple of the tables from the prior article…

First up, the specs comparison…

2016 iPad ProiPad Air 3rd GeniPad Air 4th GenAir vs Air
Cost$749$649$749+15%
Screen Size9.7"10.5"10.9"+4%
Resolution2048x15362224x16682360x1640+4%
RAM2GB3GB4GB+33%
Storage128GB256GB256GB--
CPUA9XA12 BionicA14 Bionic

--
Cache64KB + 64KB128KB + 128KB128KB + 64KB--
Cores22 high perf. + 4 high eff.2 high perf. + 4 high eff.--
GraphicsPowerVR 7XT (12 cores)Apple GPU (4 cores)Apple GPU (4 cores)--

The cost went up $100, and for that, it comes with TouchID, a slightly larger screen, and a much faster processor. How much faster? Let's see…

Benchmarks

I re-ran the same two benchmarks I used in the original comparison: Geekbench 5 and 3DMark Sling Shot. Here's how all three iPads compared…

2016 iPad ProiPad Air 3rd GeniPad Air 4th GenAir vs Air
Geekbench 5 CPU Single6561,1141,588+43%
Geekbench 5 CPU Multi1,1982,8924,208+46%
Geekbench 5 Compute (Metal)3,8204,70112,462+165%
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme2,9835,1706,522+26%

There are nice improvements in all the results, but the Geekbench Compute score change is huge—more than double the prior result. I don't know what changed, as both iPads have four-core GPUs. But clearly, something's changed, and for the very much better.

Wrap Up

In day-to-day use, the 2020 Air is quicker than my old one, but it's not like the huge jump I saw moving from the 2016 iPad Pro. I've had it for a few weeks now, and I still don't really like TouchID on the power button instead of on a dedicated button on the front. With the dedicated button, home was one press away, the app switcher was a double-press away.

Now home is a long drag from the bottom of the screen, and the app switcher is a shorter drag with a delay from the bottom of the screen. And then there's the matter of the ugly light (or dark) bar at the bottom of the screen—after dragging from there only a couple times, it becomes automatic and the indiator is merely an annoying visual.

For most anyone except true "power users," I think this new Air is probably more than enough iPad for their needs.

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Six

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: The part you're reading now; wrapping it all up.

So is the Apple Arcade worth its $5 per month cost?

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Five

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The part you're reading now; the second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

And now, the rest of the keepers…

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Four

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. When I planned this, one Part Four post was going to cover everything left…but it was way too long. So I'm still publishing it all today, but I've split the last part into three separate posts. So here's the full series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The part you're reading now; the first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Before I get to the keepers, though, there were two more games released while I was working on these posts, so I'll take a quick look at those.

All of You In this unique puzzler, your character is a chicken that needs to collect a number of lost baby chicks. Your chicken walks from left to right across the circles as seen at right. One circle can be animating at a time while the others are still. On some levels, you can rearrange and/or flip the circles, too. (In the level at right, you animate the dynamite circle first, so it explodes before you walk across.)

Higher levels have more circles, so there's not so much empty space…and some of the puzzles get a bit tricky. It's fun, but I'm not sure it's a keeper just yet.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Three

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: The part you're reading now; a slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Here's the second set of nine games that I felt worth more time testing. Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

No Way Home What starts as a top-down space shoot-em-up turns into more of a mission-focused shooter—collect things for upgrades, take this to that. Lovely graphics and fun gameplay, plus a helpful robot assistant helps you battle. And while it's another dual control, the second control is for firing direction not camera view direction, which is much less of a pain for me.
Operator 41 One of the "sneak about in the dark" games, and the graphics have a nice grainy texture to them. The ground is divided into grid squares, and you move by tapping on a destination grid square. It's a simple concept, but it's well executed here, and some of the moves require impeccable timing—roving guards and rotating security lights make for brief bits of protected space.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Two

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: The part you're reading now—a slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

A Fold Apart This puzzler's unique twist is that the characters are walking around in what is, essentially, a landscape made up of pieces of paper. The paper can be folded and/or flipped over, and solving puzzles involves some combination of flipping and folding in order to complete the path the characters are following. It's colorful and relaxing, yet the puzzles require some creative thinking.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part One

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade.

I thought if I'm going to trial it, I should really trial it. And what better way to do that than by playing everything they offer? So over the last few days, I have downloaded, launched, played a bit of, taken some very brief notes on, and (in most cases) deleted a total of 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: The part you're reading now, it covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

I am not going to begin to pretend I will post a full review of each of these games. For most of them, in fact, I can provide only a passing first impression based on my one-time testing of each game.

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Review: Logitech MX Keys for Mac

In April of 2019, I reviewed the Logitech MX master 2S mouse, which I really liked. Earlier this year, Logitech came out with the Logitech MX Keys for Mac keyboard, so I thought I'd give it a try. (I also upgraded to the MX Master 3 mouse at the same time.)

Executive summary: I love this keyboard. I was on a road trip recently, gone for 12 days straight with nothing but a MacBook Air (of the 'broken butterfly' generation). As soon as I got home and switched back to my iMac, I was reminded of just how much better this keyboard is than the one built into my Air…and the one that came with my iMac.

(Note: The "Mac" in the name simply means that you're getting a keyboard with Mac-specific symbols on the Command and Option keys; I'm pretty sure the Windows version would work just as well, but without the Mac-specific look.)

This review won't be quite as thorough as that of my mouse, mainly because there aren't as many nifty features—it is "just" a keyboard, after all.

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My iPad case of choice—twice over

When I bought my prior 9.7" iPad Pro back in 2018, I wanted to find a case that met my criteria:

  • Full coverage - front, back, and sides
  • Storage for Apple Pencil
  • Auto-sleep on cover open/close
  • Apple Keyboard support was not important to me
  • Relatively inexpensive

I wound up ordering a few from Amazon, tested each of them, kept one, and sent the others back. The one I kept back then is the same general model as the one I've put on my new iPad Air: The JUQITECH iPad Case with Pencil Holder:

This case cost all of $11, and for that, you get a full-coverage case with room not only for the pencil, but the small USB adapter the pencil uses to connect to regular Lightning cables. And when the charging cap is off, it fits in the small hole above the pencil.

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Taking it back to the matte

Many many years ago, Apple made glorious laptops with matte screens. Sadly (for me, at least), these gave way to brighter, shinier, and much more reflective glossy displays. These same glossy screens are found on iOS devices as well, including my new iPad Air.

But on iOS devices, glossy screens are even more annoying than they are on laptops, because of fingerprints. It sometimes seems I spend almost as much time cleaning my iPad as I do using my iPad. But what if there were a product that could solve both the glossy issue and the fingerprint issue?

A friend of mine clued me in to just such a thing…the Moshi iVisor iPad screen protector. (The full line, including iVisor for iPhones, is also available via Amazon.) While I don't have two iPads for comparison sake, here's how my iPad now looks against an uncovered iPad mini:

Obviously, there's a lot less glare on the covered iPad, which I love—it's still not ideal with bright overhead lights, but it's a whole lot more usable.

But what about installation, use with the pencil, fingerprints, and the brightness of the screen under the cover?

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