Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) vs Apple iPad Air (2019) full review

Apple must have decided that people really want iPads with screens just over 10in, because now it has two of them.

The iPad Air (reviewed here) with a 10.5in display launched in March 2019, and now, as of September 2019, we have a new 10.2in iPad.

Both these iPads have exactly the same dimensions in terms of width and length, but the Air is thinner and lighter and has a bigger screen. It also has a higher price (starting at £479/$499).

So, should you save £130/$170 and get the 10.2in iPad instead for £349/$329?

We think the extra £130/$170 is more than worth it when you consider what you are getting for your money if you choose an iPad Air over the iPad. Read on to find out why the iPad Air is so much better than the new iPad.

Price and availability

The new 10.2in iPad costs $329 in the US, exactly the same as the previous iPad generation, the 9.7in model, did. This is great if you live there, but in the UK it's now £40 more at £349. The 9.7in iPad (reviewed here) used to cost £319, which was a nice entry level price. The problem with the new price is that it means you only need to pay £130 more to get the iPad Air, or just £50 more for an iPad mini (£399).

If all these models had the same specs then maybe sticking with the cheaper model would make sense. But, as you will see if you read on, the 10.2in iPad has specs that are a few generations behind those inside the iPad Air and iPad mini despite it being 6-months newer. So that extra £130/$170 you could spend to get your iPad Air will get you a lot more for your money.

You can order a 10.2in iPad now on Apple's website here, but it won't go on sale until the 30 September.

The iPad Air is available on Apple's website here. We have this article that covers the best deals for a new iPad if you want to pick up a bargain.

Design and build

Side-by-side the iPad and iPad Air are very similar. The colour choices are the same (silver, gold and Space Grey). Both devices have a Home button for Touch ID (no Face ID on either of these models). The length and width dimensions are exactly the same, despite the iPad Air having a bigger display.

10.2in iPad: 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 7.5mm, 483g

10.5in iPad Air: 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 6.1mm, 456g

Other than the screen size, the other difference is the depth - the iPad Air is 1.4mm thinner. You might think that won't make a big difference to you, but what might interest you more is that the thinner design translates into a lighter iPad: 27g lighter. Ok, so 27g extra weight isn't going to break you back exactly, and being 1.4mm thicker doesn't mean you won't be able to fit your iPad in your bag.

The message here is that the thinness and lightness of the iPad Air probably isn't enough of a reason to choose it over the iPad. So is it worth getting the Air because it has a bigger screen? Actually, the screen is a very good reason to choose the iPad Air over the iPad, as we'll explain next.

iPad Air

Screen

There's a lot more to sell the screen on the iPad Air than it being a fraction bigger, and having a few more pixels to boot.

Here's how the two screens compare

  iPad (2019)
iPad Air (2019)
Screen size 10.2in 10.5in
Screen type
LED-backlit with
Multi‑Touch and IPS technology
LED-backlit with
Multi‑Touch and IPS technology
Resolution 2160x1620 at 264 ppi 2224x1668 at 264 ppi
Brightness 500 cd/m2 max 500 cd/m2 max
Other screen tech Un-laminated display Fully laminated display
    Anti-reflective coating
    Wide colour display (P3)
    True Tone display

As you can see from the table above, there are some features of the iPad Air that mark it out as a higher-quality display.

There is a world of difference between a fully-laminated display versus a un-laminated display. If you touch the un-laminated display on the standard iPad you'll notice that there is a small gap between the screen glass and the display elements underneath, so when you press down on it you'll be able to discern a tiny but noticeable 'flex' as it bends inwards. This might not bother you, but it does bother us. It just makes the iPad feel cheaper, and the slight gap between where you place your finger and where the elements on screen are makes it feel less like you are interacting with what's on the screen less precisely.

New iPad 2019

Features and specs

You might be thinking that with the iPad being about six months newer than the Air it would be better, but you'd be wrong.

There are a few features that are the same: the colour options are identical, both have a lightning port for charging, a fingerprint scanner for Touch ID (there's no Face ID on either of these iPads), and a 3.5mm audio jack. But there's much more that's different.

To illustrate this, here's the entry level model of each iPad:

  • 10.2in iPad, 32GB storage, A10 Fusion chip, 8MP rear camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera, £349/$329
  • 10.5in iPad Air, 64GB storage, A12 Bionic chip, 8MP rear camera, 7MP front-facing camera, £479/$499

As you can see, in terms of the specs, there is a vast difference between the iPad Air and the 2019 iPad.The Air's processor is two generations newer. The camera - particularly the front facing camera used for FaceTime - is far superior. And the entry level storage option in the Air is preferable. Being an iPad, and likely used offline at times, you will want the space to store downloaded films, TV shows, and games for those long car journeys or commutes.

Incidentally, that A10 Fusion processor in the 10.2in iPad is the same one that featured in the previous generation iPad - and it actually first appeared in the iPhone 7 in 2016. So a bit long in the tooth.

Both iPads are compatible with Apple's Smart Keyboard thanks to the integrated Smart Connector. That keyboard costs £159/$159 and is compatible with both iPads. You could just use any Bluetooth keyboard though.

iPad Smart Keyboard

Here’s how the specs compare

  iPad 10.2in (2019)
iPad Air 10.5in (2019)
iOS iPadOS 13 iOS 12, will run iPadOS 13
Colours Space Grey, Silver, Gold Space Grey, Silver, Gold
Display 10.2in Retina Display (2,160 x 1,620, 264ppi) LED 10.5in Retina Display with True Tone (2,224 x 1,668, 264ppi) LED
Processor Apple A10 Fusion Apple A12 Bionic with Neural Engine
Storage 32GB/128GB 64GB/256GB
Rear camera 8Mp rear-facing camera, f/2.4, Live Photos, no flash, no OIS, Panorama mode up to 43Mp, 1080p HD video, slo-mo video at 720p and 120 fps 8Mp rear-facing camera, f/2.4, Live Photos, Wide colour capture, no flash, no OIS, Panorama mode up to 43Mp, 1080p HD video, slo-mo video at 720p and 120 fps
Front camera 1.2Mp front-facing camera, Live Photos, Retina Flash, 720p HD video, HDR 7Mp front-facing camera, Live Photos, Retina Flash, Wide colour capture, 1080p HD video, Auto HDR
Ports Lightning charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack Lightning charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack
Security Fingerprint scanner Fingerprint scanner
Wireless Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac, simultaneous dual band
LTE Gigabit-class LTE (up to 27 bands) Gigabit-class LTE (up to 28 bands)
Apple Pay (NFC) Yes Yes
Support for Apple Pencil (1st Gen), Smart Keyboard Apple Pencil (1st Gen)
Dimensions 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 7.5mm 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 6.1mm
Weight 483g 464g
SIM
nano-SIM, eSIM nano-SIM, eSIM
Buy link Order Now Order Now
Price From £349/$329 From £479/$499

Verdict

Placed side-by-side there's little difference between the 10.2in iPad and the 10.5in iPad Air, at least in terms of the amount of space they take up on your desk. But the differences are actually vast. Even if the iPad Air didn't have a bigger screen than it's identically sized sibling, along with being slimmer and lighter, it would be a better choice. But what's inside counts even more, and inside the iPad Air are some far superior components.

Frankly you would be mad not to pay the extra £130/$170 to get the Air. And if you can't run to that then we suggest you look for a discounted 9.7in iPad from 2018, because the only real difference between the 2018 and 2019 iPad is the size.

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