- This article originally appeared on iMore and has been inducted into our Back to School guide
Most students are on a limited budget, but that doesn't mean that you'll need to skimp out on features. The new iPad Air 3 is the best iPad that a student can get because it packs in a lot of power, including some Pro features, but is at a much more affordable price point than the iPad Pro lineup.
- Best Overall: iPad Air 3 (2019)
- Runner-up: iPad Pro
- Value pick: iPad mini 5
- Our pick: iPad Air 3 (2019)
Who should buy the iPad Air 3 (2019)
The iPad Air 3 is perfect for students, and anyone else who wants a powerful iPad that is capable of pro features, such as support for Apple Pencil (first-generation only) and the Smart Keyboard, but doesn't want to pay the Pro-level prices, which start at $800. It's also great for those who want a mid-size screen, don't need Face ID, and don't plan on using it for taking new photos.
Is it a good time to buy the iPad Air 3 (2019)?
Yes, it is an excellent time to buy the new iPad Air 3. It launched in early 2019, so it's packing the latest in Apple chips and specs, along with the iPad mini 5 (2019).
Reasons to buy
- 10.5-inch screen size
- Laminated, wide-gamut display with True Tone
- Support for Apple Pencil (first-gen) and Smart Keyboard
- Comes with fast A12 Bionic chip
- Touch ID and Lightning cable
- Great balance of price and power
Reasons not to buy
- No Face ID
- Only supports first-gen Apple Pencil
- Rear camera is only 8MP
The iPad Air 3 is perfect for students who want an affordable tablet without skimping on power features
The iPad is a great option for students who don't want to carry around a heavy laptop computer, but still want something that's lightweight and powerful enough to take notes on during class lectures, work on research papers, or even draw on for projects. But if you're looking at an iPad Pro, the prices are a little out of reach for most students, who are probably on tight budgets. That's why the iPad Air is such a great pick.
With the new iPad Air 3, students will have an iPad that provides plenty of screen estate with the 10.5-inch size. This means plenty of room to type and read on, especially if you're using a first-gen Apple Pencil for hand-written notes or drawings. Plus, the 10.5-inch size means the Apple Smart Keyboard fits perfectly with it, giving you the option of a full-size keyboard that is powered through the Smart Connector on the iPad Air itself.
The iPad Air 3 also comes with an A12 Bionic chip, and while it's not as fast as the A12X of current iPad Pros, it's still a huge step up from the previous iPad Air with the A8X chip. It also comes with the Neural Engine for machine learning and computer vision, such as Augmented Reality. It's not the latest and greatest, but still powerful enough for what a student would use an iPad for.
Apple also decided to include a laminated, wide-gamut display with True Tone on the new iPad Air 3. With the laminated display, you get an anti-reflective coating, so it's easier to use your iPad outdoors if necessary. A laminated display also means that the touch layer of the screen and the display LCD are fused together as a single layer, producing a better overall display. Wide-gamut gives you the truest colors available, so if you plan on using your iPad Air 3 for things like drawing and photo editing, you're getting the most accurate and precise colors available.
While most of us don't think that the iPad should be used as your main camera, people still do, and that's perfectly fine if that's your only option. However, the iPad Air 3 only comes with an 8MP camera on the back, so photos taken with the tablet won't look as good as they would if you took the same image with an iPhone XS or XS Max, for example. But it still works fine for things like document scanning and the like. The front-facing camera is 7MP, which makes it great for video calls.
We think the iPad Air 3 is an excellent pick for students, and pretty much anyone else who wants an iPad that offers power but at a much more reasonable and affordable price. It's the perfect middle ground, offering some Pro-level features at a midlevel price.
Honestly, for what a student would be using an iPad for, the iPad Air 3 does it flawlessly, and so much more.
Alternatives to the iPad Air 3
The iPad Air 3 sits right in the middle of offering powerful features while being highly affordable. However, you can go for the Pro for a few hundred dollars more, or you can even grab an iPad mini 5 for less.
If you need the best of the best and also have the money for it, then you definitely need to go with the iPad Pro line. You'll get the best Liquid Retina Display with True Tone, ProMotion, and wide color gamut for the most precise hues for drawing and photo editing work. It's also equipped with the fastest A12X chip for raw processing power and can make use of the second-generation Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories. The cameras are also much better, and you can choose between 11 and 12.9-inch screens to best suit your needs.
The iPad mini 5 is very much like the iPad Air 3 in terms of the internals but packed into a smaller package. It's fast with the A12 Bionic chip, has the same specs for both the front and rear cameras (7MP and 8MP, respectively), and also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, making it a great compact note-taking or sketching machine. The only thing it's missing is the Smart Connector, but you can always just use a Bluetooth keyboard with it.
The iPad Air 3 is the best middle-ground option for students who want power and affordability. Sure, the A12 is not as powerful as the A12X in the iPad Pros, but it's still pretty darn fast and powerful, especially compared with the previous generation of Airs. Plus, having support for the Apple Pencil in a non-Pro iPad is a huge bonus, even if it is just the first-gen. And the support for the Smart Keyboard makes being productive with the iPad Air easier than ever before. It has enough Pro features at a fraction of the price, making it one of the best options for students.