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6th-generation iPad vs. iPad Air 3: Which should you buy?

Both the 9.7-inch iPad (2018) and 10.5-inch iPad Air (2019) are affordable options if you can't go for the more expensive iPad Pro, but the new iPad Air is definitely the better pick of the two right now.

Let's break it down

Even though you may find the 9.7-inch iPad (2018) more enticing due to the lower price tag, the new 10.5-inch iPad Air (2019) is definitely the better buy. You're getting a ton more features, and the price difference between the two is not that big.

iPad Air (2019)iPad (2018)
CostFrom $499 and upFrom $329 and up
Wi-Fi onlyYesYes
Wi-Fi + CellularYesYes
Screen size10.5-inch9.7-inch
Dimensions9.8-by-6.8-by-0.24 inches9.4-by-6.6-by-0.29 inches
Weight1 pound1.03 pounds
Storage64GB or 256GB32GB or 128GB
DisplayRetinaRetina
Resolution2224-by-16682048-by-1536
Laminated displayYesNo
Antireflective coatingYesNo
True ToneYesNo
ChipA12 BionicA10 Fusion
Apple PencilFirst-generation onlyFirst-generation only
Smart ConnectorYesNo
Back camera8MP8MP
Front camera7MP1.2MP
AudioTwo speakersTwo speakers
Face IDNoNo
Touch IDYesYes

As you can see, while they both look similar in some aspects, the iPad Air (2019) is far superior.

With the new iPad Air (2019), you're getting an upgraded 10.5-inch screen. That means you can see more on the tablet at once, which is always a plus when reading, writing, or drawing. That also means it's easier to watch video or edit photos on-the-go. It may not seem like a huge jump from the previous 9.7-inch screen, but it really helps when you need it to.

The A12 Bionic chip also means that the new iPad Air (2019) is much faster than the iPad (2018), and it should be able to handle more resource-intensive apps and games. And when you're multitasking with split screens, the iPad Air is far more capable of handling whatever you can throw at it.

iPad Air (2019) also has more storage capacity than the iPad (2018). This means that you get 64GB and 256GB options, instead of 32GB and 128GB with the iPad (2018). We believe that having more storage capacity on a device like the iPad is always a good thing, especially if you plan on putting a lot of media or files on it.

True Tone was first introduced on the iPad Pro in 2016, and it has made its way onto most iOS devices ever since. The iPad Air (2019) now has True Tone, and it provides users with color accuracy in ambient light. It's dynamic, and adjusts the temperature, intensity, and percentage of white light on the display depending on your current environment. The end result is a display that appears and feels more natural, and has less strain on your eyes. Having this feature on the iPad Air (2019) is a nice addition.

Apple also first introduced the Smart Connector in the iPad Pro. The Smart Connector is a port on the left side of an iPad that provides power and a data connection to certain accessories. With the iPad Air (2019), there is now a Smart Connector, making it the first non-Pro iPad to have it. This means you can use Apple's Smart Keyboard, which does not have a battery and can receive updates through the iPad.

And finally, while the iPad Air (2019) and iPad (2018) both have the same rear-camera specs, there's a big difference with the front-facing cameras. The iPad (2018) only has a measly 1.2MP front-facing camera and can only do HD video up to 720p. The iPad Air (2019), however, has an impressive 7MP front camera and can do 1080p HD video.

Who should buy the 10.5-inch iPad Air (2019)?

Anyone who is looking to get a powerful but lightweight iPad that isn't too big or too expensive should consider the iPad Air (2019). The 10.5-inch screen is smaller than the iPad Pro options, but it's still very capable in terms of features and should be good enough for most people. Plus, the price is still considerably less than the iPad Pro, even with a maxed out Wi-Fi + Cellular version.

Who should buy the 9.7-inch iPad (2018)?

If you're on a tight budget, don't care about having the fastest processor, think 9.7-inches is plenty of screen estate, don't do video calls often, don't need a lot of storage, and dislike True Tone (not everyone has to be a fan), then the iPad (2018) should be fine. You can also find it on sale for much lower than the regular price on sites like Amazon from time to time.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.