Should you upgrade to the iPad Air (2019)?

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

Should you upgrade to the iPad Air (2019)?

Best answer: It depends on your current model iPad, what you need a new iPad for, and how much money you've budgeted to spend. It's complicated, but I've got some advice for you.Thin and light: iPad Air (From $499)Wallet-friendly: 10.2-inch iPad (From $329)Go pro or go home: iPad Pro (From $799)Tiny but mighty: iPad mini (From $399)

Should you upgrade to the iPad Air (2019)?

There are several things to consider when deciding to upgrade from your old iPad to the iPad Air, the most important ones being what your current model iPad is and what you can afford.

The first question you should ask yourself is, "What do I need a new iPad for?"

Do you want Apple Pencil support, and your current iPad doesn't have it? Does your current iPad have a Retina display or True Tone? Are you dead set on a gold finish? Do you need a super-fast processor or 1TB of storage? Which of these things is most important to you?

Let's get into the details.

iPad Air (2019)

With a fast processor, Apple Pencil support, and reasonable price, the 2019 iPad Air is best for most people.

Stocked with the same processor chip as the iPad Pro, the Air is plenty powerful enough for your everyday use. Plus, with Apple Pencil and Smart Connector support, it's a fantastic purchase all-around.


The iPad Air starts at $499 for the 64GB model and $649 for the 256GB model. You can add AppleCare for an additional $69 (or $3.50 per month for two years) and get the Wi-Fi + Cellular models for $130 more. Are you able to afford this? If not, you should consider the 10.2-inch iPad.

The 10.2-inch iPad (2019) starts at $329 for the 32GB model and $429 for the 128GB model and is the lowest priced iPad available (even lower priced than the entry-level iPad mini).

The storage capacity is smaller with the 10.2-inch iPad, which is something else to consider. Do you need a lot of storage space?

If money is no object, consider the iPad Pro instead.

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 and goes up with each storage size increase (up to $1,699 for 1TB of storage for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model). The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 and maxes out at $1,899.

If you're upgrading from an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, or a 9.7-inch iPad 4 (late 2012), and you can afford it, the latest iPad Air (2019) is markedly better than it's predecessor and has some significantly better features than the older 9.7-inch iPad. It has better screen resolution, True Tone display, a better FaceTime camera, and a faster processor.

If you're currently using a fifth-generation iPad (2017), and your wallet is thin, consider investing in the reseller market. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro was replaced by the 11-inch iPad Pro in 2018 and is reselling at a reasonable price. The specs of the 2017 iPad Pro are better than that of the 2018 iPad Air.

If you already own an iPad Pro, even one from 2017, you should consider just sticking with what you've got. The iPad Pro (even the 2017 model) is superior to the iPad Air (2019) in many ways.


The 2019 iPad Air sports a 2224x1668 Retina display with a ppi (pixels per inch) density of 264. It also has P3 wide color gamut for richer colors and bolder blacks. It has 500 nits brightness for crisper clarity in the details.

The True Tone display subtly adjusts the screen's tone, depending on the ambient lighting in the room you're in. It's hardly noticeable at all unless you're looking at a tablet with True Tone and without. It makes reading and looking at screens easier on the eyes.

The 2019 iPad Air screen is fully laminated, which means there is no gap between the pixels and the top glass. This is helpful for reading and working outdoors or under bright lights.

If display quality is essential, the iPad Air has the best resolution of the non-pro models (the 10.2-inch iPad has a 2160x1620 display) and features P3 wide color gamut and True Tone.

If display quality is the most important thing to you (for example, if you're a graphic designer, filmmaker, or photography editor), you should consider an iPad Pro instead, and more specifically, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2732x2048 resolution) for its superior pixel resolution and quality.


In terms of processing speeds, the iPad Air is practically in the same race as the iPad Pro (2018) with the latest A12 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, a Neural Engine, and an embedded M12 coprocessor. It's fast. Not quite iPad Pro fast (the iPad Pro sports the faster A12X chip), but fast.

Apple has leveled the playing field across the board, with the 10.2-inch iPad being the only model not sporting an A12 processor chip. So, there are a few additional things to consider if speed performance is of the utmost importance to you.

RAM, for example. The iPad Pro houses 4GB of RAM, which significantly improves speed and graphics performance. The iPad Air maxes out with 2GB of RAM, which is perfect for most people, but not if you use graphics-heavy processing programs for long periods.

If speed and performance are important to you, you're getting an improvement by upgrading from the base iPad model, the iPad mini, and older-generation iPad Air models.


The iPad Air comes in two storage configurations: 64GB and 256GB. If either seems like enough storage, you're in a good place.

If you've never even come close to filling 32GB on your current iPad, and money is tight, consider the 10.2-inch iPad, since it starts as low as 32GB for $329. It's hard to beat that price tag.

If 256GB seems like it might be cutting it too close for all the photos, videos, music, and books you download and store on your iPad, you may need an iPad Pro (2018). The Pro models go up to 1TB of storage space. Most people won't ever even come close to hitting the 1TB mark. Still, if you're an industry professional who stores your media on your iPad, you'd be doing yourself a favor by spending the extra money on an iPad Pro.

Apple Pencil support

As of 2019, all models of iPad support either the first or second-generation Apple Pencil. This is great news for artists, coloring book fans, and people that just hate fingerprints.

The iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad all support the first-generation Apple Pencil, while the iPad Pro (2018 and newer) supports the second-generation Apple Pencil.

The question here is, which Apple Pencil do you prefer?

In terms of performance, both the first generation and second-generation Apple Pencil are the same. They have the same palm-rejection, zero-lag, and fantastic use.

The second-generation Apple Pencil received a few cosmetic upgrades, like a flat edge, so it doesn't roll off the table, and a matte finish.

Most notably, however, is that the second-generation Apple Pencil has a double-tap feature that allows you to switch between pencil/pen tip and eraser. The double-tap can actually be mapped to any second action by app developers. For example, an app developer could map the double-tap to switch to a highlighter pen instead of a paintbrush.

Additionally, there is a completely different way to charge the first and second-generation Apple Pencil, the latter supporting magnetic charging.

I can't imagine anyone would choose one iPad over another based on Apple Pencil support, especially because they both perform the same. That being said, if you absolutely must have magnetic charging support and a double-tap to erase feature, you should get an iPad Pro (2018) instead of an iPad Air.


As far as photo and video capturing goes, all non-pro models of iPad are very similar, with an 8-megapixel backside camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture, panorama, auto image stabilization, and more. Video recording features are exactly the same across all non-pro models.

The front-facing, or FaceTime, camera on the iPad Air is 7-megapixels, a significant upgrade from the 10.2-inch iPad's paltry 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera. Video recording is also better at 1080P HD instead of just 720P.

All that being said, the pro model iPad lineup all have better back-facing and FaceTime cameras with a 12-megapixel camera, Quad-LED True Tone flash, up to 4K video support, a 7-megapixel "TrueDepth" front-facing camera with Animoji and Memoji support, and a whole lot more.

If a high-quality camera and 4K video recording are important to your iPad usage, you should definitely spring for a Pro model.

If, however, you don't plan on taking many, if any, pictures with your iPad, but you do want a quality camera for video chats, the iPad Air will fit your needs.

Touch ID vs. Face ID

The 2018 iPad Pro models are the only ones that support Face ID at this time, and, likely, this will not change any time soon. Face ID requires a lot of expensive materials that would price out any lower-end iPad.

The good news is that the iPad Air still supports biometric security in the form of Touch ID with a security enclave built right into the Home button.

A lot of people are still on the fence about Face ID and prefer Touch ID. If you're one of those people, you're in luck. The iPad Air is your friend.

If, however, Face ID (instead of Touch ID... you can't have both) is the type of security you want, the iPad Pro (2018) is the one you want.

Personally, if biometrics were the only factor, I'd recommend choosing Face ID. It's more secure than Touch ID for several reasons, works very fast, and frees up room on the screen for more display fun.

Who should upgrade to the iPad Air (2019)?

If you're upgrading from an iPad Air 2, an iPad mini 4, or an older model iPad, you're probably ready for an upgrade. The iPad Air is a great choice with the most advanced features for its price, like a 2224x1168 display, an A12X processor, Apple Pencil (1st-gen) support, and an 8 mp camera with 1080p video support.

If you're looking to upgrade to the latest and greatest, but don't need the advanced features of an iPad Pro, get an iPad Air. It's the perfect in-between, with a great display, fast processor, larger storage capacity, and a better camera than the entry-level model. It's also priced much more affordable than the iPad Pro, starting at just $499.

Who should upgrade to a 10.2-inch iPad instead?

If money is tight, the 10.2-inch iPad is a worthy opponent. It's got a fantastic screen resolution, only slightly lower than the iPad Air at 2048x1536. The A10 Fusion chip is not as fast as the iPad Air, but it's still a mighty powerful processor. It has the same camera and video support as the iPad Air, and also works with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

At only $329 to start, it's Apple's lowest-priced iPad.

Who should upgrade to an iPad Pro (2018) instead?

If you plan to use your iPad for photo and video editing or music production, you should consider the iPad Pro instead. With the fastest processor you can get, plus 4GB of RAM, you can use resource-intensive programs without too much strain.

For the pleasure of the top-of-the-line iPad, you'll pay a pretty penny. Starting at $799, the iPad Pro is definitely for the pros.

What about the 2019 iPad mini?

Small, but not forgotten, the incredible update to the iPad mini puts it on par with the iPad Air with just two exceptions: size and Smart Connector support.

If you're looking for something more portable, something you can hold in one hand and is lightweight, the iPad mini can't be beaten. It has all of the same features as the iPad Air, like an A12 processor, 8 mp camera, 1080p video support, Apple Pencil support, and more. The screen resolution is 2048x1536, but because the screen size is only 7.9-inches, it's got more pixels-per-inch (326), making it a better quality screen.

The only thing missing is Smart Connector support, so you still won't be able to connect keyboards or cases that can also be charged by and connected to the iPad without some form of Bluetooth connectivity.

If you want something smaller, and you don't care about Smart Connector support, you're going to love the 2019 iPad mini.

iPad Air (2019)

With a fast processor, Apple Pencil support, and reasonable price, the 2019 iPad Air is best for most people.

Stocked with the same processor chip as the iPad Pro, the Air is plenty powerful enough for your everyday use. Plus, with Apple Pencil and Smart Connector support, it's a fantastic purchase all-around.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).