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iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 3: What's the difference and should you upgrade?

iPad Air 3
iPad Air 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Apple's iPad lineup is worth buying at any price, but it is also will sometimes go on sale on Black Friday. Check out this year's Black Friday iPad deals going on now!

The way Apple describes the iPad Air, its job is to bring some iPad Pro-level features down to a more affordable tablet. The iPad Air 4 does that in spades this year, with a brand new design, a powerful new chip, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. While the iPad Air 3 is still a capable machine right now, and you're probably fine skipping the iPad Air 4 if you already have one, a year-and-a-half-old iPad that's on its way out won't last you nearly as long as one that just debuted a brand new system-on-a-chip.

But there's one other point against the iPad Air 3: the 2020 iPad. The baseline iPad, at 10.2 inches, has a display only 0.3 inches smaller than the iPad Air 3. Its casing is the same size, too. But the 2020 iPad also runs on an A12 system-on-a-chip and supports the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. There's also how you can get more storage in the 2020 iPad (128GB) for less money than you can get 64GB in the iPad Air 3.

Between the new iPad Air 4 on the higher end and the iPad (2020) on the lower end, there's no real reason to pick up an iPad Air 3 anymore.

iPad Air 4 vs. iPad Air 3: What are the differences?

Maybe you're wondering, "what's the difference between the iPad Air 3 and 4?" That answer's actually pretty full.

While Apple sometimes offers iterative updates between one generation of its products and the next, this is not one of those occasions. There are several hardware changes between the two tablets, from design to processor, and the answer to the question above is actually straightforward: everything.

Outside of the storage configurations (64GB and 256GB), there doesn't seem to be any overlap between the iPad Air 4 and iPad Air 3. Here's how the two devices break down spec-for-spec.

iPad Air 4iPad Air 3
PriceFrom $599From $499
Display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display at 2360 x 164010.5-inch Retina display at 2224 x 1668
Weight1lbs/485 grams (Wi-Fi-only)
1.01lbs/460 (Wi-Fi + Cellular)
1.005lbs/456 grams (Wi-Fi-only)
1.023lbs/464 grams (Wi-Fi + Cellular)
Storage64GB
256GB
64GB
256GB
ProcessorA14 BionicA12 Bionic
Touch IDIn sleep/wake buttonIn Home button
USB-CYesNo
LightningNoYes
BatteryUp to 10 hours of surfing the web or watching videoUp to 10 hours of surfing the web or watching video
SpeakersStereoStereo
Smart ConnectorYesYes
Magic KeyboardYesNo
Smart Keyboard FolioYesYes
Apple PencilSecond generationFirst generation

iPad Air 4

iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Apple)

The differences between these two products are practically night and day. If you already have an iPad Air 3, you're probably just fine sticking with it for now and waiting until a theoretical iPad Air 5 comes out. However, if you're looking to pick up an iPad Air, and trying to decide between an iPad Air 3 that's still in stock or an iPad Air 4 that's coming out next month, I'd encourage you to wait for the newer model.

You're going to be getting a better product by every metric except price, including a much faster chip, Apple Pencil 2 support, USB-C, support for the Magic Keyboard, and a larger display. While it's too bad that it costs $100 more than the iPad Air 3 for the same amount of storage, the iPad Air 3 isn't exactly a winner there, either.

Because if price is your main concern and you don't mind an older processor, then the new 10.2-inch 2020 iPad is the best iPad to fill that role. It has the same A12 chip as the iPad Air 3, and offers more storage for less money at its high end that the iPad Air 3 does at its low end.

Between the sheer power of the iPad Air 4 versus its predecessor, and the better value provided by the iPad (2020), if you're looking to get an iPad Air with iPad Pro-like features at a much lower price, then you should get the iPad Air 4 over the iPad Air 3, no question. If money is on your mind, get the regular 2020 iPad.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.