The iPad Air needs no introduction. It’s one of the most refined iPads, with a modern design, at an affordable price point. With this new generation, Apple has done it again; they’ve created something truly spectacular. From impressive hardware to a robust software experience, the new generation iPad Air mostly feels the same, but it surely has more going under the hood. This time around, Apple fitted the M1 chip, closing the gap between an iPad Air and a Pro. It’s clear the Air is the iPad for most people, especially when you look at the price, features and overall value.
Featuring the same design language as the previous generation, the new Air has an aesthetically pleasing design, wrapped in an aluminum body. The device comes in five different colors: Space Grey, starlight, pink, purple and blue. On the top, the fingerprint sensor/power button can be spotted, with volume buttons on the side and a USB-C port on the bottom. The Air is also impressively light, weighing only 1.02 pounds for both the Wi-Fi and cellular models.
- Performance. The new iPad Air now rocks an M1 chip, making it one of the most powerful portable computers of this generation. However, the overall performance is overkill, as the operating system, iPad OS, is still not taking advantage of all that power. With this exponential growth in performance, it would have been nice if Apple introduced more Pro apps such as Final Cut Pro, tuned the software for Pro users and incentivized developers to take advantage of the M1 chip. For people who love gaming, there are not enough triple-A games to harness the power of the M1 chip.
The M1 chip has 8 CPU cores, 8 graphics cores, 16 Neural Engine cores and 8GB RAM.
- Display. 10.9-inch with a resolution of 2360 by 1640 at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). The display is fully laminated with antireflective coating, true tone display, Apple pencil 2 support and a peak brightness of 500 nits.
Of course, the quality of this display is nothing close to the 12.9 inch iPad Pro’s mini-LED technology, which really enhances those deeper blacks, but it’s not far off. It also sucks that the display is only 60hz. Either way, the iPad Air’s display feels responsive and it looks good.
- Models. There is a Wi-Fi and a cellular version. Both models offer the same features, with the Cellular version having a Nano-Sim slot and support for e-SIM.
For frequent travellers, the cellular version might be worth the higher price tag, but for most people, the Wi-Fi version is the model to get. In addition, most people who would own an iPad probably already own an iPhone/smartphone, that can tether internet when Wi-Fi is not available.
- Connectivity. All models have Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Meanwhile, the Cellular model adds 5G to its connectivity which brings impressive download and upload speeds when using a sim card. 5G availability will depend on location and the carrier.
- Battery. Battery life is good, but it could be better.
- Camera. The front sports a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera with center stage, which uses Apple’s AI to automatically add people into frame. The camera will automatically adjust by zooming in and out depending on how many people are in frame. The software will also compensate for distance and movement by following you. It works superbly, especially when you compare it to Samsungs Auto-framing technology. It is by far the best implementation of auto-framing software.
The rear camera has a 12 MP sensor and it can record 4K @24/25/30/60fps or 1080p @25/30/60/120/240fps with HDR. Most people don’t use it, but it’s nice to have it when it’s needed.
Apple’s proprietary smart connector allows you to connect Apple’s Smart Keyboard, Smart Folio, and Magic Keyboard. The connecter can also be used by third-party accessories such as the Logitech Combo Touch. Accessories from the previous generation are also compatible with the new iPad Air, as the dimensions are the same. Furthermore, the iPad has support for the Apple Pencil 2 and other digital styluses.
Should you get the iPad Air 5?
The Base iPad Air costs $599 for the Wi-Fi model with 64Gb of storage. That’s hardly enough for content creation, gaming and media consumption. The next storage option is the 256Gb for $749; if you add accessories like the Apple Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil, you’re looking at a price over $1000. At this price point, you can easily grab a Macbook Air for $999 which is arguably a better computer for work.
For anyone considering the M1 iPad Pro, the iPad Air presents amazing value for money, especially at the base price point. For most people, this is possibly the best iPad to buy.