Skip to content

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
Screen Size9.7"10.5"10.9"+4%
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…


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.