While we continue to wait for info about the iPhone 12, which was nowhere to be seen at today’s Time Flies event, Apple is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the iPad with the release of the new 8th-gen iPad and iPad Air.
Sporting an A12 Bionic processor and a 10.2-inch display, the new 8th-gen sports 40% better CPU performance and two times better graphics performance than before, while also boasting a new neural engine that should make it easier to edit images or even analyze certain types of videos. And like previous iPads, the new 8th-gen iPad still supports handwriting recognition using the Apple Pencil.
In fact, to help support stylus input, Apple is adding a new compact UI that also better understands natural language input, with the new Scribble feature able to convert handwriting into standard text on the fly. (This feature is available in iPadOS 14, which is available as a free software upgrade for older iPads, too.) Furthermore, the Smart Selection features makes it easier to intuitively highlight sections of text, while Shape Recognition makes it easier to draw perfect circles, squares, and more.
The 8th-gen iPad starts at $330 (or $300 for education), with pre-orders going live today before official sales begin on Friday, Sept. 18.
But for people who want more from a thin and light tablet, Apple also announced a completely redesigned iPad Air. Featuring a new more rectangular body, the iPad Air looks more like an iPad Pro than a standard iPad, while also boasting an almost bezel-less design surrounding its larger 10.9-inch 2360 x 1640 Liquid Retina display.
However, the biggest change for the new iPad Air is that Apple has ditched its traditional front-facing Touch ID home button in favor of a top-mounted fingerprint sensor built into its power button. This change helps the iPad Air offer a cleaner and more symmetrical front facade, without sacrificing the ability to sign in quickly with a single touch.
On the inside, the iPad Air also comes with Apple’s latest homegrown processor: the A14 Bionic. Created using an industry-leading 5nm architecture, Apple claims the A14 is 40% faster than Apple’s previous generations chips while also offering 30% speedier graphics. And by enhancing the A14's neural engine, Apple says the iPad Air boasts twice the machine learning performance as well. And with the 14 comprised of a six-core CPU with four high performance cores that work alongside two energy sipping high-efficiency cores, the iPad Air should also deliver better battery life too.
And just like its more expensive sibling—the iPad Pro—the iPad Air is also getting a USB-C port for charging and data transfer. Around back, Apple claims the iPad Air’s new 12-MP rear camera captures videos with better stabilization and photos with improved low-light quality, while in front there’s a new 7-MP selfie cam. The iPad Air even comes with a magnetic charging zone on the side of the tablet for charging an Apple Pencil.
All told, between these updates and a new slightly larger 10.8-inch display, the $600 iPad Air now feels like it’s better positioned as a good middle ground between the $330 8th-gen iPad and the 11-inch iPad Pro, which starts at $800.
The iPad Air is slated to go on sale sometime next month.