iPad Air (2019) + ApplePencil Review: Can it Replace a Laptop?

Avatar for Stevan Vlaski
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iPad Air 3rd Generation

569€
9.3

Display

10.0/10

Processing Power

9.0/10

Battery Life

10.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • Excellent display
  • Strong battery life
  • Snappy performance
  • Support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard
  • Great for creatives and writers

Cons

  • Outdated design
  • Uses old generation Apple Pencil
  • Only two speakers

Replacing a computer with a tablet is something that Apple is working on for quite some time now. Apple has released more iPad models these past few years than ever before.

This March, Apple silently revealed their revamp of the iPad Air, the middle child in Apple’s current iPad lineup, aiming to offer buyers a convenient tablet that can easily double as a mobile entertainment hub or a decent laptop replacement.

The Air has the same design as 2017’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro and shows a handful of changes, some improvements and some downgrades, to keep the Air out of iPad Pro territory. Aside from a few technical compromises, like the use of a first-gen Apple Pencil and an old-school lightning port, the iPad Air easily re-cements Apple’s place at the top when it comes to tablets.

Hardware

It has the same iconic look as every iPad. This isn’t a bad thing, as the design still ticks all the right boxes. It’s comfortable to hold, well built and features all the trappings of a modern tablet, including a TouchID sensor. 

Though it’s not Apple’s latest, the A12 Bionic chip inside is also more than powerful enough for most users. Games run stutter-free and it is fine for basic photo editing and sketching. Sometimes, I had small issues when doing seriously large creative projects, like Vector artwork.

The screen is laminated to the front glass, which eliminates the pesky air gap you find on lesser tablets. This makes the pixels feel that much closer to the fingertip. It also has an anti-reflective coating, a wider color gamut, and Apple’s True Tone tech, which adjusts the color temperature based on the ambient lighting around.

The laminated display makes all the difference, the pixels are closer to the fingertip.

One of the downgrades is the camera, which is only good for FaceTime and Skype calls. This model has only two speakers at the bottom, but since I rarely listen to music without AirPods, this is not a deal-breaker. 

Thankfully, Apple didn’t skimp on storage: this base model comes with 64GB of storage, double of the 389€ entry-level iPad.

Accessories

As a creative, I bought this iPad especially for designing. So, this time I finally got my hands on the Apple Pencil which is one of the best things to arrive for an iPad in years. The Pencil makes it quick and easy to scribble notes and do some serious creative work. This is especially true given the wealth of excellent creative apps on iPadOS, which include stellar suites like Affinity Designer and Procreate.

The downside is that this older first-gen Apple Pencil uses a fairly awkward charging mechanism, but the good thing is that it charges fairly quickly.

Sketching and designing with the pencil is a seamless and pleasant experience.

This model features a magnetic connector for clipping it to the optional and pricey Apple Smart Keyboard. This review was written on it, and I’m blown away: it’s comfortable to type on, and it’s soft to the touch. This is a big deal for anyone who wants to do some writing with the iPad.

And yes… using a cheap Bluetooth keyboard is an option, but there’s something nice about having the keyboard built right into the iPad’s cover.

The typing on the keyboard feels comfortable and it’s soft to the touch.

These accessories complete “the iPad being a laptop replacement” experience. Unfortunately, as with all Apple products, they don’t come cheap.

For me it’s still a “hit or miss”. I use both my laptop and iPad for different purposes. I cannot rely completely on a tablet being my every day driver. It gets the job done for design and quick note taking, but for all the other tasks, I have to use my laptop. 

In conclusion, the majority of people shopping for an iPad are probably not concerned with Apple’s vision for the future of computing and whether or not a tablet can replace a traditional laptop. Chances are that they want a device that’s light, fast and well-built. The Air checks all these boxes. And it’s great for all the usual iPad things: web browsing, messaging, watching videos and streaming music, and running whatever apps and games from the App Store one desires. That’s why I think that this one is a great option for this gift season 🎁.

Avatar for Stevan Vlaski

Digital Marketer & Brand Identity Developer for Icecat based in North Macedonia.

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