iPads are head and shoulders above any other tablet in the market. I am certainly biased as I am knee-deep in the Apple’s ecosystem and a low-key fanboy, but most people acknowledge Apple’s devices are beautifully crafted and certainly powerful, whether it justifies the price is down to personal opinion. As the name suggests, iPad Pro is geared towards the professional market, packed in the top of the line features and mind-blowing processing power that they claimed can replace your laptop. But when Apple announced the iPad Air 4 in October 2020 only 7 months after the iPad Pro 2020 upgrade, it muddied the water, BIG TIME. Packed in their latest A14 chip, the single-core processing power even out-performed the A12Z chip in the iPad Pro. So which one should you get or should you wait for the rumoured iPad Pro upgrade just around the corner?
Let’s get the important spec out of the way
iPad Pro 2020
iPad Air 4
11” or 12.9” Liquid retina and true tone ProMotion Technology 600nits
10.9” Liquid retina and true tone 500nits
A12Z: 8 cores CPU 8 cores GPU 1.59GHz (boost 2.49GHz) 7nm process
A14: 6 cores CPU 4 cores GPU 1.80GHz (boost 3.01GHz) 5nm process
128, 256, 512GB or 1TB
64 or 256GB
12MP Wide 10MP Ultra Wide LiDAR
FaceTime HD camera
USB-C (Up to 10 Gbps)
USB-C (Up to 5 Gbps)
The main advantage with iPad Pro is their ProMotion (as in “Pro” in “Motion” not like the supermarket sales…I know) technology. It is an adaptive refresh rate that can scale between 60Hz or 120Hz depends on the task at hand. So when you are scrolling through pages, they scale up to 120Hz to give that extra buttery smooth experience or when you are using the Apple pencil to draw to give you take low latency as if you are actually drawing using ink and pen and maybe some games that can take advantage of the fast refresh rate. But then drop back down to 60Hz if you are just reading a news article or watch a YouTube video to save you those precise juice to make your entertainment last longer through the day.
Although iPad Air 4 remains only 60Hz, the argument is that you won’t notice what you are missing unless under direct comparison. We have been using a 60Hz screen for years without any problem and surely if you are an iPhone user, have you ever sit there and think this screen is so laggy and slow? With that said, if you need that absolute minimal latency or you have an android phone that you are so used to 90Hz or 120Hz display screen, iPad might be your choice, so 1 : 0 to iPad Pro.
iPad Air 4 takes the latest A14 Bionic chip, with an industry-leading 5nm fabricating process allowing more transistors to be packed in and a higher frequency. It is not hard to see the A14 chip is just more advanced than the A12Z, and surely enough A14 crushed the A12Z in single-core performance. Although what is a lack in single-core performance, A12Z compensate by having more cores. 2 more high-performance cores and 4 more GPU cores to be precise. So iPad Pro still has an edge over the iPad Air 4 in multitasking power. What is surprising though is that despite having 4 fewer GPU cores, iPad Air 4 still managed to out-perform iPad Pro in graphic performance. Here is a link to all those numbers crunched by MacRumors. Unless you are a power user that requires every drop of CPU core performance like 4K video editing, “mid-tier market” iPad Air 4 out-powered the “professional market” iPad Pro in almost another scenario. ONE ALL!!!
iPad Pro has an extra 10MP ultra-wide camera lens compared to the Air 4. I am not judging, but walking around on the street taking pictures with your iPad doesn’t sound like what the majority of people do. So the fact that Air 4 has one less camera, in my opinion, is better. Get rid of the unnecessary thing to keep it cheap(er) – everything is relative…
Although the same argument cannot be used for the front-facing camera, iPad Pro comes with their TrueDepth camera also seen in iPhones for portrait mode and Face ID unlock. This TrueDepth can unlock your iPad both on portrait and landscape orientation which is very handy. iPad Air 4 only has the usual FaceTime HD front-facing camera which means no blurry background selfie or Face ID. Although nowadays with us all wearing masks everywhere, you might actually appreciate the Touch ID that is integrated on the top button more. So let’s say they draw on this one.
iPad Pro offers four different storage options to choose from, 128GB all the way to 1TB, but Air 4 only has two, 64 or 256GB. Let’s be honest, with today’s 4K movies and the million selfies you have, the 64GB option is a bit petty. But Apple notoriously over-charging their storage and no 128GB option, Air 4 quickly loses its price advantage. 256GB Air 4 starting at £729 which is merely £40 difference from the iPad Pro 128GB version. It is like giving you the option of either using a toothpick or a nuclear bomb to clean your house. This is where it kind of gets difficult in judging who comes out on top. If you only need 128GB storage, iPad Pro seems a bit more sensible with the many extra minor boosts for £40 extra. But if you are only a 128GB kind of person, do you really need all those minor boosts or should you instead use those £40 to treat yourself to a takeaway tonight?
Something good to know but unlikely to be a make or break deal to most people. Pro has a 600nits display rather than a 500nits in Air 4, they both use a USB-C connector but Pro offers transfer speed up to 10 Gbps rather than 5 Gbps in Air 4. There is a 0.1″ difference between the Air 4 and Pro 11″, and the Air 4 is 0.2mm thicker but 13 gram lighter.
With the iPad Air 4 only released 7 months after the iPad Pro upgrade, Apple has quickly closed the gap between its mid-tier product and its flagship pro-level product. Some say iPad Air 4 is the true iPad Pro killer, but some also argue with their weird storage options, Air 4 is really a product to sell the most basic config. Pro.
If you want an iPad Pro but think the price is just slightly out of reach, iPad Air 4 is a very good alternative with minimal compromise. Faster chip, USB-C and support Apple Pencil Gen 2 that charges magnetically rather than sticking out like a giant lollipop.
If you have the money and require the top features all-round, iPad Pro, despite an older chip, is still a go-to choice. There are not many apps out there capable of challenging its processing limits. And if you require a bigger display such as a digital artist wanting a large physical canvas, you have no other choice but the Pro that offers 12.9″.
What I really think though, unless you need the iPad right now, you might benefit from waiting for a few weeks. Some rumours suggest Apple is going to release an updated iPad Pro in April. They all seem to suggest that this year iPad Pro will have the latest mini-LED display (at least in the 12.9″) and carry the chip with similar processing power to the M1 chip used in MacBook Pro/Air that has blown the whole computer industry away. If that is all true, it might worth waiting until then to either see some discount on the 2020 iPad Pro or get the best iPad Pro possible.
Although how much you can rely on those rumours, you can look at Jon Prosser’s eyebrows and judge it yourself 😉
Speaking of instant photography, most people think of “Polaroid”. And from this evolves much confusion over the use of the term. I have heard people refer to Instax camera as “Fujifilm’s polaroid camera.” or “take a polaroid with your Fujifilm camera”. In today’s blog, let’s tackle this Frankenstein gibberish and what you need to know before you decide which system to go into.
Why can’t we see the picture now?
Start with some history…In my opinion, without a doubt, Instant photography is one of the most mind-blowing innovations. Dr Edwin H Land, the founder of Polaroid, revolutionised the industry by integrating the whole darkroom developing and fixing process into the film itself, allowing the photos to be developed just minutes after the deciding moment of pressing the shutter button. Saving the guesswork and the disappointment of only finding out days later that you have missed the shot.
This Polaroid legacy stemmed from an innocent question Dr Land’s daughter asked while they were on vacation in Santa Fe in 1943. Till today, the signature white square frame and the hypnotic way of the photos developing within minutes in front of your very own eyes, comes vividly into everyone’s head when anyone speaks of Polaroid.
Polaroid Originals vs original Polaroid?
With Dr Land achieved, seemingly at the time, an impossible task, most people today are still referring to any instant photo as “Polaroid”. Ironically, although Polaroid still exists and offers instant film today, they are far from the one Dr Land created. After being bankrupted and reformed twice, they are now owned by a Dutch company, the Impossible Project, which exists under the name of Polaroid Originals. During their struggles, a Japanese co-operative giant, Fujifilm, has risen to take over the instant photography world. So nowadays Polaroid to instant photography is merely like Hoover to vacuum cleaner, they were once so influential the brands essentially become synonyms with the product, though only the names stand the test of time. Polaroid still has instant cameras but, certainly, in today’s market, Instax is the new King.
Polaroid to instant photography is merely like Hoover to vacuum cleaner
Things you need to know
Phew, with some history lesson out of the way and getting the terminology right, we can finally be civilised and talk about other interesting things.
1. The Recipe
In analogue photography, the film plays a key part in how the photos look and feel. Since Polaroid went out of business in the 2000s, chemical companies whose sole business was to supply chemicals for Polaroid also closed for good. Polaroid Originals, therefore, has to re-develop their instant film formula. They have come a long way, but their formula still far from perfect. Apart from the long development time, reports of colour shifts, colour streaks and faded colours are not uncommon.
Fujifilm has been in the photography game for donkey’s year and with all the resources at hand, they seem to have nailed their instant film formula which produces a very consistent result. Although I once had a film that came out wrong, it rarely happens that made me wonder if that was caused by my malfunctioned brain rather than a dodgy film. Instax films also manage an amazing colour separation. They produce vivid images with a punchy contrast and incredible saturation. It is perfect for someone looking to have a system that does exactly what it says on the tin without any surprises. Although from a photography hobbyist perspective, you can say that’s a bit boring. Sometimes that little accident, be it a light leak or colour smudge, give the photo that unique charm that cannot be replicated.
2. One speed to rule them all…
Film speed is just about how sensitive to light the film is and most people know it as ISO. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is to light. You may want to know a little because it also picks up “noise” although nowadays everyone loves a bit of grain.
All Instax films come in only one speed, ISO 800. It is a good choice for indoor photography where the room is usually artificially lit. With the combination of an automatic flash that most Instax cameras come with, I took pride in somehow manage to mess one up.
However, when you shoot outdoor on a sunny day, with ISO 800, the problem is reversed – there is too much light. With a fast film, it forces the aperture to close down small where diffraction becomes significant and soften the image (Yeah Mr White, yeah science…). If the fastest shutter speed and smallest aperture cannot compensate for the excess light, the film can get overexposed and “washed out”. Worst-case scenario, the film gets “blown out”.
Meanwhile, Polaroid offers 2 different speeds, ISO 160 or 640, ready for your tanning session on the beach or a drunken night out.
3. Size doesn’t matter, it’s how you use it
Well… it’s a kind sentiment but in the photography world, size does matter. As we are discussing Instax and Polaroid, we will keep on topic. Instax has 3 sizes: Mini, Square and Wide. While Polaroid technically has two sizes their standard size and large format, as their large-format film needs an 8×10 film camera with a specific holder and processor, we will disregard it here.
A larger film means you can pack more into one frame. More people, more stories and possibly more freckles on show. In Fujifilm line-up, Instax Wide is the largest, providing a 1:1.618 golden ratio but still fall short of Polaroid signature gigantic 3.1×3.1inch square frame.
Apart from the picture size itself, I always think there is just something about a square format that pulls people in. From the good ol’ large format 4×5 and medium format 6×6 or 6×7 to the nowadays Instagram aspect ratio, they are more squares than rectangular. Maybe it’s the symmetry of a square that feels more natural to the eyes. With that, Instax came up with their square version back in 2017, basically a smaller version of a Polaroid film. It is understandable that Polaroid wasn’t well pleased about it and got some lawyers involved.
To me, the ultimate winner for having more options in the market is always going to be the consumers. Both manufacturers produce great products and it is difficult to say if anyone has an edge over the other. Instax film has good colour and consistent results but Polaroid has their enormous picture size and their “artistic flair” that won them a very loyal fan base. My personal approach is to start with Fujifilm Instax to dip my toes in the instant world in a more controlled and consistent way. Now I am satisfied with Instax, I would love to get my hands on the legendary Polaroid SX70 and see what their diehard fans see. The whole concept is like a gateway drug, once you are hooked by Instax, then experiment with Polaroid and you might understand the “inconsistency” might just be the way layperson interpret “character”.
Thanks for reading! Go check out my review on Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 if you haven’t already. Share your thoughts with me below, are you a fan of Instax or Polaroid?
During 2020, the world took an unprecedented turn. One year later, despite the effort the world has put in, we are still under strict guidance to stay at home. To get the most out of this time where entertainment and relaxation are limited indoors, I decided to focus some of my energy into self-growth. As Margaret Fuller once said “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”, reading more books is my baby step towards bettering myself.
If you are reading this, you have now probably done some digging into the world of e-readers and are still a bit undecided whether to pull the trigger. Hopefully by reading through my thought process and experience in getting one, you can have a clearer idea of whether you should be getting one, and if so, which one.
What is an e-reader and do you need one?
Just a background for those who are unfamiliar to e-readers. It is an electronic device that one can use to read electronic versions of books, magazines, newspapers etc. Amazon’s Kindle and Rakuten’s Kobo are arguably amongst the most popular choices available. But why do you need a dedicated device when nowadays almost everyone has a smart phone or tablet on them to download a reading app and more importantly why choose them over a physical book?
Natural reading experience: Most e-readers use E Ink’s technology to mimic the appearance of traditional ink on paper, giving a more natural or even a nostalgic reading experience compared to the modern era of bright LCD/LED phone and computer screens.
Less glare: Most e-readers are optimised to offer a matt screen that reduce glare compared to glossy screen finish in most modern-day phones and tablets. Although you may argue putting on a matt finished screen protector can achieve a very similar result, you are however sacrificing the visual quality for other tasks your phones/tablets are capable of doing such as watching a movie. And although expert opinions and research does not suggest any obvious benefits on eye straining, in my personal experience, it certainly feels easier to read in certain lighting condition.
Battery life: E Ink technology is sometimes referred to as bistable meaning it retains an image even when the power source is removed. That significantly reduces the power consumption of the device and you can therefore enjoy a battery life measuring in weeks rather than hours. And you don’t have to worry about not being able to pick up that important phone call after long hours of being absorbed by that murder scene in Gotham City or fighting the fire breathing dragon of tomorrow land.
No distraction: One big issue reading on your phone or tablets is the distraction. The constant notifications from your mum asking when you are coming home for dinner or your favourite YouTuber has just uploaded a new video, stop you from fully immersing into the world of the story. E-readers cut out all those background distractions and noise so you can just immerse into the magical world.
E-books tend to be cheaper: Without the cost of having to physically print out the books, delivering to or stocking on the book stores’ shelves, authors and publishers can afford to offer a lower price to retain the same profit margins and therefore e-book version tends to be lower in price.
Portability: Maybe less of an issue at present which hopefully will change in a very near future, it can make a massive difference while travelling. From being able to read one handed on the train without worrying about flipping pages on your day to day commute, to no longer having to sacrifice that extra pair of shoes or jacket in your weekend trip backpack. The small form factor means you can carry that 500+ pages book without having that internal turmoil of choosing between your what-if-I-need-to-go-to-a-fancy-restaurant shoes and finding out if Harry defeated Voldemort.
Read anywhere: Some e-readers provide water-resistance capability that allow you to read by the pool side or in the comfort of your bath tub without the worry of dropping and ruining it.
One more thing to carry: Nowadays, everyone has a handheld device of some sort be that a phone or a tablet. They are more than capable of downloading a free app that displays some texts and images. This might be a deal breaker for a lot of people especially if you are one who is trying to cut down the number of items carried with you to only your phone.
Upfront cost: Yes, e-books tend to be cheaper but don’t forget you have to purchase the device in the first place and that should come into calculating the cost. If on average you are saving £4 a book, depending on which e-reader you get, you are going to at least buy 20 books over the course of the e-reader life cycle to just break even. Let’s assume the reader lasts you 5 years, that’s at least 4 books a year. Not a difficult target, but worth assessing how reading fits into your life before investing into one.
It cannot replace the feel of a book: Yes the screen technology is impressive in mimicking the ink and paper look. But the physical feeling of holding a chunky book, able to feel the coarse texture of the paper and that “book smell” is irreplaceable.
In my specific case, I was looking for something that could help me make this new resolution of mine sustainable – which means the easier reading is, the more likely I would keep doing it. I summed up 3 main points that would make me more likely to read:
Read everywhere, even when I am in my bath
I don’t find it a chore to bring it around with me
Give me a break from my phone and computer screen
Given those 3 main needs, e-readers are almost a no brainer for me, the upfront cost of it can give me some motivation to read more so as to not feel like a tube wasting money.
Kindle vs Kobo
By now, if you have come to the same conclusion as me – I need one in my life. You might want to know who to give your money to. Most people are likely to have heard of Amazon’s Kindle even if you are not in the market of getting an e-reader. And if you are, you will perhaps have also heard of Rakuten’s Kobo. These two companies are the Samson and Goliath of the e-book realm. What they offer on their e-readers’ line up are very similar but each have their own edge over the other, making it unclear who wins and really it just depends on what you need. Let’s start with the gut as I think it is the most important decision to make – which eco-system to buy into?
Over 6 millions
Over 5 millions
.Azw or .mobiNot support .epub
Most file type including .epub
External app support
OverDrive, Pocket, Dropbox
Prime members have access to selected titles for free on top of their existing Prime service Monthly £7.99Annual £79
VIP programme to collect 2x points for discount on future purchase and 1 free book per year Annual £6
Amazon remains the largest e-book store on the internet, having over 6 millions title to choose from, which means if you can think of it, they are likely to have it. Being the largest also means there is a good chance that any new titles being released will be on the kindle bookstore as well. Some might even be exclusively on it. That being said, Kobo is by no means far behind with roughly 5 million titles plus it has a big advantage over Kindle in that it supports .epub format. This means you can buy and import e-books from other e-book shops online. Both book stores offer audiobooks as well for those of you who also enjoy a good story.
External app support
Amazon purchased Goodreads, an online social community of book lovers, back in 2013. The integration between Kindle’s personalised recommendation and Goodreads’ list of recommended books provide a powerful way to discover new titles. On the other hand, instead of gearing towards discoverability which is great for business, Kobo’s external app support seems to focus on providing a supportive environment to encourage reading. OverDrive is a service that allows people to borrow e-books and audiobooks from local libraries for free. This opens up even more channels for readers to source their next adventure at no extra cost to them. Just head down or go on your local library website to register your library card and you are set to go. You might find your “local-local” ones do not support OverDrive and you might need to use someone’s address to gain access to one that does (Not that I would suggest this…). Pocket and Dropbox integration is also surprisingly handy, just Pocket any article you find on the web or drag and drop any e-book you have on your Dropbox account, and they will sync to your Kobo automatically for you to read next time you link your Kobo to Wi-Fi.
Amazon Prime Reading gives Prime members a sizable selection of titles to read for free without any limit. So if you already have a Prime membership to enjoy Amazon’s other services such as shipping with no extra cost, music and video streaming, you can now take advantage of their massive e-book collection as well to maximise your benefits with your Prime account. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account already and don’t see the need for the other benefits such as delivery and streaming service associated with it, to a normal reader, a monthly cost of £7.99 (annual £79) is not exactly a bargain just to read only a part of their e-book collection. On the other hand, Kobo’s VIP programme only charge £6 for the whole year, which turns out to be 50p a month. It gives you one free book every year, 10% off on a large e-book collection and allows you to earn their Super Points twice as quickly as their free basic account. Super Point is essentially like your flight miles, you can use it to buy more books once you get to a certain amount of points. And even if you decide not to opt for their VIP programme, you are still earning points every time you purchase any book on their store, and redeem a book free once and a while.
Although I am a Prime member of Amazon and in the last few years have turned to rely heavily on their incredibly fast delivery and movie streaming service, the difference between both Kindle and Kobo’s service in terms of the amount of native e-book titles are so minimal that I will be happy with either. However, how Kobo had the edge over Kindle in my case was the fact that they support .epub natively and I appreciate the OverDrive, Pocket and Dropbox integration that make importing books and articles just that much easier. But that decision wasn’t set in stone yet…
Which model to get though?
At this point of the blog, if you are still here, you might be leaning towards one or the other but yet still not 100% sure. Because let’s be honest, at the end of the day, which e-reader model to get is the million dollar question. I have summarised the boring spec into two tables of what Kindle and Kobo offer in their ranges that you can still purchase directly from their website.
Kobo Libra H2O
6” 212ppi1024 x 758 res
6” 300ppi1072 x 1448 res
7” 300ppi1680 x 1264 res
8” Mobius 300ppi1440 x 1920 res
Size (H x W x D) and weight
160 x 112 x 9.2mm172g
160 x 110 x 8.4mm166g
159 x 144 x 7.8mm192g
178 x 160 x 8.5mm197g
8GB / 32GB
Adjustable brightness. One-colour light
Adjustable brightness and colour temperature
Adjustable brightness and colour temperature,page turn buttons, auto-rotation
Adjustable brightness and colour temperature, page turn buttons, auto-rotation
Size (H x W x D) and weight
160 x 130 x 8.7mm 174g
167 x 116 x 8.2mm 182g Wi-Fi 191g Wi-Fi + mobile connectivity
159 x 141 x 8.4mm 188g
8 GB / 32 GB
8 GB / 32GB
Wi-Fi +/- free mobile connectivity
Wi-Fi +/- free mobile connectivity
Physical page turn button, adjustable warm light, auto-rotation, Aluminium body
Why I bought it.
Both Kindle and Kobo offer very similar line up and I have constructed the table above in a way to also give a visual comparison between the line ups. Kindle offers 3 devices, the most basic of Kindle, the middle ground Kindle Paperwhite and the flagship Kindle Oasis. Kobo offers similar line up with Kobo Nia competing with Kindle at the basic level, Kobo Clara fighting with Kindle Paperwhite for the middle ground market and Kobo Forma to lock horns at the flagship market with the Kindle Oasis. You may ask how about the Kobo Libra H2O then? That, in my opinion, is where Kobo excel. Kobo launched the Kobo Libra H2O back in September 2019 and positioned it perfectly to bridge the gap between Clara/Paperwhite and Forma/Oasis, having the flagship features that you would appreciate but cut down on the luxury features to keep it at a reasonable price point.
Water-resistance/-proofing is my top priority feature. I would like to read anywhere I feel like picking up a book, so I don’t have to worry about dropping it when I am using it in my bath tub. The waterproof rating of IPX8 (meaning able to immerse in up to 2 meters of water for up to 60 minutes) is an important feature. That helps me narrow down to only a handful of options. I am from a generation who still appreciate the tactile feeling of actually pressing a button rather than just pure touch screen. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with touch screen especially nowadays the technology is so good that there is no issue with swiping to turn a page like you would in a normal book. But I grew up in the era where touch screen wasn’t as sensitive as today’s, and that has left me with an ingrained bias that once in a while, I just enjoy the physical feedback I get from pressing a button. Plus that extra grip gives a substantial area for my hand to hold on to the tablet more comfortably. So that left me with 3 options, Oasis/Libra H2O/Forma. I have concluded that I don’t need the highest quality of screen. At the end of the day, I am getting an e-reader to display text rather than watching movies. With Kobo Libra H2O, it gives me the “luxury reading experience” without the premium price tag.
This is a very smart pricing tactic from Kobo, a product that bridges the massive £130 price gap between their middle product and flagship product. Utilising the psychology of paying an extra £40 instead of £130, you can get the majority of the Forma’s feature with only a small compromise on the screen quality. This makes Libra H2O look even more attractive. Although done so at the expense of the sales of Forma and Clara to boost the sale of Libra H2O, they , in the process, can even take away some potential customer swaying between Paperwhite and Oasis as well. I am definitely one of them. When I was debating between Kindle vs Kobo for my needs, Kobo was only leading very slightly and it was the Libra H2O that sealed the deal.
In the ever expanding world of e-books, Kindle and Kobo stand out as the leaders. They both provide a very similar line up to each other but, in my opinion, Kobo won by investing into the void between the mid-tier and flagship product. If you are just looking into getting an e-reader in the most simple form to read text, both of their basic products do that brilliantly and price may be the most important factor. Just remember that Kindle’s price mentioned above included “special offers” (just another word for ads) at their home screen that you have to pay an extra £10 to get rid of. And if you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated, like a better screen because you want to read some comics, Kobo Libra H2O is a very solid choice if you can stretch that extra £30-40.