All things considered, 2020 has been a fairly substantial year for the iPad. Three of Apple's four iPad lines have been updated to one degree or another. It's a rare event, one which also means that there are many new iPads to choose from when searching for Black Friday deals.
The big iPad news of the year is, of course, the iPad Air 4. It has a substantial redesign, adopting the look of the current iPad Pro. There's also been another screen size jump to 10.9-inches, and the Home button is gone, with Touch ID moved up to the sleep/wake button. The tablet has also gained support for the second-generation Apple Pencil.
Then there's the iPad Pro. While it might not seem like there's too much to talk about here, there are a couple of interesting points of note. For one thing, there's the camera system. Apple added a second camera, a 10MP ultra-wide unit, to the back of the iPad Pro, in addition to improving the 12MP standard sensor. It also added LiDAR for better AR. LiDAR has since made its way to the iPhone 12 Pro phones.
There's also the small matter of RAM. Apple doesn't like to talk about it, but the 2020 iPad Pro includes 6GB of RAM across the board. This is up from 4GB in most of the 2018 iPad Pro models, except for the 1TB model, which also had 6GB, which was necessary to utilize 1TB of storage. This increase helps the iPad Pro run more memory-intensive applications, which tend to fall more towards the "pro" end of the spectrum. Two additional gigabytes of RAM might not seem like much, but consider that it's an increase of 50% over the previous model.
Then there's the iPad. Not Air, not Pro, just iPad (or iPad 2020, if you like). Not the best iPad around, but the entry-level, least-exciting-to-the-tech-crowd iPad. Well, there's a reason that it's less exciting: nothing about it is, strictly speaking, new. It has the same design as last year's model, same support for the first-generation Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio. But there is a big new addition to this iPad: the Apple A12 Bionic system-on-a-chip.
The A12 isn't Apple's newest chip, obviously. That's the A14. But the A12 is only two years old now and still capable. Conversely, the A10 that powered last year's entry iPad was three years old when it launched and was already showing its age. The A12, on the other hand, was powering the iPad Air (and still powers the iPad mini) until October 16 of this year when the iPad Air 4 launched.
This is, undoubtedly, the most capable entry-level iPad since Apple started making tablets. And that's not damning with faint praise. Especially if you're cash-strapped or not as committed to tablet use (which, I'd argue, you should be if you're buying a new iPad Air or iPad Pro), then the new iPad is a fairly powerful tablet that'll last you a good long while.
So while you might want to look at the iPad Air or iPad Pro if you're more serious about your tablet use, if you just need a streaming device or something for light computing (checking email, web browsing, viewing photos, and messaging), then the entry-level iPad is a great choice.
Any of these iPads would be a great choice to pick up this Black Friday. The best Black Friday deals are likely going to crop up for the iPad 2020, just because it's already the lower-end model, uses older parts, and is generally less enticing. But if you only need a lower-powered tablet, you might want to take a look at it. It supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. It's a perfectly capable if slightly unimpressive machine.
The iPad Pro will also definitely be discounted this Black Friday. The 2020 model, with its dual camera and A12Z system-on-a-chip, is still the best model for serious tablet users, even with the iPad Air 4's A14 in the mix. It'll handle multicore and graphics-bound tasks extremely well, and there's always the option of the biggest tablet screen you can get from Apple, 12.9 inches.
Finally, the iPad Air 4 is the newest of the bunch, having only launched last month. While it's certainly possible that there'll be discounts, I wouldn't place money on it. By the time Black Friday actually rolls around, the iPad Air 4 will be just over a month old, so I'm not expecting to see much. Still, while Black Friday might not be the best time to buy an iPad Air, it certainly won't be any worse than any other time over the next few months.
Note: If you come across the iPad Air 3 and are tempted by it, skip it. It's essentially the same tablet as the iPad 2020 with a .3-inch larger screen. You can get double the storage for less money in the newer iPad than you'll get with the iPad Air 3.
Apple's entry-level tablet lacks the bells and whistles of the iPad Air or iPad Pro, but it's a great choice if you need a tablet for light computing or streaming content.
The new standard
The new iPad Air 4 is the best all-around tablet that most people should get. It has a brand new design, along with support for the second-generation of Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard for iPad, just like the iPad Pro, though it still features Touch ID (now in the sleep/wake button) instead of Face ID.
Still top of the line
While it's not running the latest Apple chip, the iPad Pro is still the best (and biggest) iPad for people looking to get the most out of a tablet for professional and creative endeavors.
More Black Friday deals
iPads aren't the only Apple devices discounted this Black Friday. There are a lot of Apple Black Friday deals out there already, with more coming as the actual day grows closer. There are also countless great deals in the run-up to Black Friday on pretty much anything you can imagine.
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