We can say that the tablet market is stagnating, or we can call it stable. At least one of the manufacturers feels very confident on it – Apple. While other companies are looking for meaning for themselves to release products of this class or are trying to interest them with their current models, Cupertino seems to clearly know what to do. New iPad models are released annually, there is their clear positioning, from size to performance.
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In the fall of 2021, a new model was presented. iPad 9 (detailed review) is the cheapest device for those looking for a full-size tablet from Apple. At the same time, every year, which is logical, iPads increase their productivity. As a result, the initial 2021 model can already compete with the more advanced models of yesteryear. We propose to compare the new product with last year’s iPad Air 4.
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Design iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
At the first glance at these two devices, it becomes obvious that they belong to different classes. iPad Air 4 has features that are relevant for the flagships of recent years – with rounded corners, with chopped edges and thin frames. The top-end iPad Pro looks very similar.
IPad Air 4 (2020) design
The power button with a built-in Touch ID sensor is located on the top edge. On the right side edge of this model, below the volume control buttons, there is a magnetic surface for connecting branded accessories.
Power button with built-in Touch ID in iPad Air 4 (2020)
iPad Air 4 has four speakers, two at the top and two at the bottom. The stereo effect is achieved when the device is horizontally oriented. The classic Lightning port is the answer here – it has been replaced by a more modern and versatile USB Type-C. There is also no 3.5 mm audio jack.
Location of buttons and ports in iPad Air 4 (2020)
But iPad 9 exploits the image of the very first iPad, except that the side frames have become smaller. The classic Home button is still there. The side edges are more rounded here.
IPad 9 Design (2021)
The stereo speakers are located on the bottom edge, on either side of the Lightning port. On the top, there is a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Perhaps for some, this factor will become significant when choosing. On the right, you can see buttons for adjusting the volume, the power button is at the top, above the camera, just like the iPad Air 4.
Location of buttons and ports in iPad 9 (2021)
The different positioning also influenced the color options of the two models. So, iPad 9 is presented in only two boring colors: silver and gray space.
IPad 9 Colors (2021)
But the iPad Air 4 received a much richer gamut. In addition to the two options for the iPad 9, the tablet also comes in sky blue, rose gold, or green.
IPad Air 4 Colors (2020)
Dimensions and weight:
- iPad 9: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5 mm, 487 g (498 g in version with cellular module)
- iPad Air 4: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1 mm, 458 g (460 g for cellular version)
The difference in design also affected the size of the devices. The iPad 9 feels a little larger and thicker, although it has a smaller screen. Only the width speaks in its favor. And Air wins by weight, it is no coincidence that the model received an “air” name.
The difference is also noticeable in the camera module – in the iPad 9 it is simpler and flush with the body, but in the iPad Air 4 the camera protrudes slightly. If we talk about a design solution, then the younger and newer model looks more interesting in this aspect. However, a step a couple of millimeters thick will still be hidden by any cover.
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IPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021) screen
Tablets are advantageous and differ from smartphones in that they have a large display. Apple has not been fixated on the classic 9.7-inch diagonal for a long time, especially since the reduction of the frames allowed to increase the size of the work area. Moreover, in the flagship models, the corners of the screen are also rounded. So the display looks more stylish, and it was also able to grow due to this. The difference in approach can be clearly seen when comparing the iPad Air 4 and iPad 9. Last year’s model has a larger display and looks more sophisticated.
IPad 9 (2021) display
- iPad 9: diagonal 10.2 inches, resolution 2160 × 1620 pixels, density 264 PPI.
- iPad Air 4: diagonal 10.9 inches, resolution 2360 × 1640 pixels, density 264 PPI.
While the iPad 9 maintains a crisp 4: 3 aspect ratio, the iPad Air is slightly different, due to the more vertically elongated screen.
Display iPad Air 4 (2020)
Obviously, similarly sized tablets have a clearly different screen size. In this case, the density of points is the same, since the iPad Air has slightly increased resolution.
There are differences in the types of screens. If iPad 9 is just Retina, iPad Air 4 already has Liquid Retina. Both displays are made using IPS technology, have LED backlighting and support multi-touch gestures. The standard brightness in both models is also the same, it reaches 500 cd / m22, there is support for True Tone technology. IPad 9 and iPad Air 4 have an oleophobic coating that resists fingerprints. But the iPad Air 4, as a representative of a more status line, has its own clear bonuses: a fully laminated display and an anti-glare coating. The iPad Air 4 also features a wide P3 color gamut, while the 2021 model has a more gamut-limited sRGB color profile.
Unfortunately, both tablets did not have the ProMotion feature, which overclocks the display refresh rate to 120Hz. As a result, these models operate at standard 60 Hz. Summing up the comparison of screens, it is obvious that the devices belong to different classes. The iPad 9’s display falls short of last year’s iPad Air 4 in almost every way.
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Performance iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
The iPad Air 4 has a fairly powerful 64-bit Apple A14 Bionic chipset. It is made using 5-nanometer technology. The iPhone 12 has exactly the same value. This solution is only a year old, and it simply did not have time to become outdated, so the tablet shows an impressive performance close to the flagship Apple solutions. The iPad 9, although it was released in 2021, received a 7-nanometer A13 Bionic chip that was already slightly outdated in 2 years. Its performance is quite enough for the base model, and more is not required.
The A14 Bionic uses less power than the A13 Bionic, but still has 40% higher overall performance. The iPad Air 4 chip renders graphics 30% faster.
Both tablets for solving problems of artificial intelligence received the Neural Engine system. But the iPad Air 4 has 16 cores, while the iPad 9 has 8 cores in the neural processor. There are also differences in the amount of RAM. The iPad Air 4 has a whopping 4GB, while the initial 2021 model only has 3GB. Gradually, as applications grow in size, this difference can affect.
Speaking of the performance of the two devices, the iPad 9 is quite good. It surpasses most of the models on the market. But in direct comparison with the iPad Air 4, the 2021 model is inferior. Still, she plays in her own league, where the main thing is the stable operation of simple and not heavy applications. If the task is to choose a productive solution for the next few years, then the iPad Air 4 is a good choice.
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Cameras iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
When talking about cameras in tablets, you should always understand that this is a nice addition, and not a basic tool. It is more convenient to take pictures with a smartphone, which is why both the best modules and advanced technologies are sent there in the first place. But tablets are trying to keep up with their mobile counterparts. And more and more often, the physics of the camera itself fades into the background, while the software processing of the image solves more and more.
Both tablets received a single-core camera module, but they have no built-in flash…
Main camera specifications:
- iPad 9: wide-angle, 8 MP, aperture ƒ / 2.4
- iPad Air 4: wide-angle, 12 MP, aperture ƒ / 1.8
The main camera of tablets can use autofocus, change exposure, carry out continuous shooting and panoramic shooting (up to 43 megapixels in the iPad 9 and up to 63 megapixels in the iPad Air 4), and automatically stabilizes the image. Both models have 5x digital zoom. But in the iPad Air 4, the module is noticeably more functional, it has both a higher resolution and an improved aperture. In combination with an advanced processor, this system can create very good photos, in good lighting conditions, quite comparable to the results of the flagships of the last couple of years. The 2021 model uses HDR for photos, while the iPad Air 4 gets a much more advanced Smart HDR 3.
Main camera iPad 9 (2021)
The improved sensor and processor help iPad Air 4 capture video better, up to 1080p or 4K, or up to 60fps. For iPad 9, the maximum is 1080p 30fps. Both models can triple the picture during shooting, received a “Time-lapse” mode with stabilization. The iPad 9 can shoot 720p slow-motion video at 120 fps, while the iPad Air 4 can shoot 1080p at 120 or 240 fps. Both tablets have cinematic video stabilization, tracking autofocus, and write in HEVC or H.264 formats.
Main camera iPad Air 4 (2020)
But the front camera turned out to be better in the iPad 9. The ultra-wide-angle module received an f / 2.4 aperture and a resolution of 12 megapixels, while in the iPad Air 4 it was a 7-megapixel module with f / 2.2. Both tablets have cinematic video stabilization and Retina Flash. But the 2021 model has 2x zoom out and a fresh Spotlight feature, as well as expanded dynamic range at up to 30fps. Smart HDR 3 speaks in favor of iPad Air 4, the competitor has regular HDR. And the front camera of the iPad 9 shoots video better – 1080p at up to 60 frames / s. iPad Air 4 can shoot 720p 60fps or 1080p 30fps.
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Biometric security in iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
Each user wants no stranger to enter his device. Biometric protection helps with this. Apple first put the Touch ID sensor in the Home button, which turned out to be very convenient. You didn’t just press that single button to activate the device, but you went through an identity check along with it. This level of protection is implemented in the iPad 9.
Home button with Touch ID sensor in iPad 9 (2021)
With the iPad Air 4, the situation is slightly different. Apple has introduced a new mechanism that is even more efficient – Face ID. Now the device itself, using cameras, can identify users. This eliminated the Home button and made the bezels thinner, which spawned a new design. It is in it that the iPad Air 4 is made. But this tablet did not receive the flagship function Face ID, it went to the representatives of the Pro line.… The manufacturer has implemented an intermediate version. iPad Air 4 received a Touch ID sensor, but it is located in the power button located on the top edge. To unlock the tablet, you will have to take it in your hands with a special grip.
Power button with built-in Touch ID in iPad Air 4 (2020)
Not to say that it is very convenient, but the design of the device requires it. In favor of the sensor, we can say that it works very quickly, no worse than in the iPad 9 with the traditional location of this module.
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Connectivity, ports and accessories for iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
For several years, all Apple devices have used the proprietary Lightning port. But gradually the company began to move to the more versatile USB Type-C. First, this port appeared in the Pro line, and the first representative of the Air line with this solution was the iPad Air 4. Thanks to the transition to USB Type-C, the functionality of the tablet has significantly expanded, to which you can now connect various gadgets. He himself acquired some functionality of a laptop, which cannot but please users.
USB-C in iPad Air 4 (2020)
But the iPad 9 retains the classic Lightning connector, not so fast and clearly outdated.
iPad Air 4 received an updated Smart Connector for connecting branded accessories. Now you can connect to this tablet the most advanced accessories from Apple, which work with iPad Pro too. We are talking about Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. With their help, the tablet becomes even closer to a laptop in its form factor.
iPad 9 can only work with the Smart Keyboard, a much simpler accessory. In any case, it’s worth noting that even the entry-level model already has keyboard connectivity.
Both tablets can work with a stylus, but here the difference is in favor of the iPad Air 4 with its second-generation Apple Pencil support. iPad 9 supports the first generation accessory, which is less accurate. It has to be charged through the Lightning port, while in the iPad Air 4 this is done by magnetising the side of the device. And again, we emphasize the lack of a 3.5 mm audio jack in the iPad Air 4 – gradually Apple is transferring users to wireless audio transmission technologies. Not even a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is included. The iPad 9 still has this audio jack.
iPad 9 can operate on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks at speeds up to 866 Mbps. This is more than enough for most home scenarios. There is support for Bluetooth 4.2, although this version is clearly outdated. The iPad Air 4 with networking is much better. The tablet received support for Wi-Fi 6, it can also operate at 2.4 and 5 GHz, but the maximum speed is already 1.2 Gb / s. There is support for Bluetooth 5.0.
Both tablets can work with gigabit LTE, but the iPad 9 supports 27 bands instead of 30 in the iPad Air 4. It should be noted that the iPad 9 no longer supports GSM / EDGE when working in mobile networks, this feature is present in the iPad Air 4. On the one hand, this approach is understandable – low-speed protocols will not allow you to work comfortably, on the other hand, sometimes a slow connection is better than none at all. Both models have a built-in GPS / GLONASS module, as well as eSIM support. The main set of sensors is also the same: barometer, accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope, light sensor.
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Battery and autonomy iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
The exact battery capacity of the devices is already known. The iPad 9 has a 32.4 Wh battery, while the iPad Air 4 has a smaller 28.6 Wh battery. But that difference is offset by the more energy efficient system in last year’s model. As a result, both tablets are capable of working up to 10 hours of surfing the Internet or watching videos. If you activate the mobile Internet, then the autonomy will be reduced by 1 hour.
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Complete set of iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
iPad Air 4 ships with a 1m USB-C cable and 20W power supply.
The iPad 9 has a similar configuration. The tablet comes with a 20W USB-C power adapter and a Lightning to USB-C cable for recharging.
The user is encouraged to purchase all other accessories on his own.
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Detailed comparison of technical characteristics (specifications) iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
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Price iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad 9 (2021)
Both models are available in two versions: 64 and 256 GB. The amount of memory of 64 GB is frankly small in modern realities, but for basic scenarios this should be enough (besides, do not forget about cloud storage). A 256GB drive is already an option for more advanced users who need more storage space.
Prices for iPad Air 4:
Prices for iPad 9:
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In this review, we looked at two representatives of different lines of tablets from Apple. One would hope that the most recent model announced in fall 2021 would be able to compete with the more advanced but last year’s model. Nevertheless, the difference between the outputs of the devices was not enough for a year to neutralize the advantages of one model over another. iPad Air 4 has a new design, a better screen, improved performance, better main camera and accessory compatibility. On the iPad 9 side, there is perhaps a better front camera, 3.5mm audio jack and biometrics implementation. But this model has its own undeniable trump card – the cost. iPad 9 является самым дешевым планшетом от Apple, позволяя за сравнительно небольшие деньги приобщиться к фирменной экосистеме и предлагая вместе с этим достойные возможности и производительность.