A model is presented for calculating the AC losses, magnetic field/current density distribution and critical currents of a circular superconducting pancake coil. The assumption is that the magnetic flux lines will lie parallel to the wide faces of tapes in the unpenetrated area of the coil. Instead of using an infinitely long stack to approximate the circular coil, this paper gives an exact circular coil model using elliptic integrals. A new efficient numerical method is introduced to yield more accurate and fast computation. The computation results are in good agreement with the assumptions. For a small value of the coil radius, there is an asymmetry along the coil radius direction. As the coil radius increases, this asymmetry will gradually decrease, and the AC losses and penetration depth will increase, but the critical current will decrease. We find that if the internal radius is equal to the winding thickness, the infinitely long stack approximation overestimates the loss by 10% and even if the internal radius is reduced to zero, the error is still only 60%. The infinitely long stack approximation is therefore adequate for most practical purposes. In addition, the comparison result shows that the infinitely long stack approximation saves computation time significantly.