It’s probably going to be the best iPad for new users, but its power-limiting operating system makes me wonder…why not just buy an older model?
iPads are one of my favorite devices to use for tablet tasks. Indeed, after more than 2 months of use of the new aerial model almost daily for work and leisure, it has earned a permanent place in my daily bag.
However, I mean it when I say “tablet tasks”. Even with the addition of 5G and the powerful M1 chip, the iPad Air is held back by its operating system. That makes it a tough sell against older, cheaper models, especially when paired with the excellent Apple. magic keyboard,.
To see the iPad Air (5th generation) in action, watch the video below.
What is different?
The design is basically the same as last year’s Air: it’s an ultra-thin glass slab with a 10.9-inch screen and a 100% recycled aluminum chassis. The only major additions are under the hood: it gets 5G connectivity, the M1 chip and the new center camera functionality. That is just about everything.
This is a good thing. This design consistency means the Air will comfortably fit all your old 11-inch accessories and the Apple Pencil 2. Any reason not to buy new accessories when upgrading is a huge plus in my book.
Prices start at 929 australian dollars, which is a pretty good deal for such a powerful little machine. However, before you get too excited, that price is for the 64GB Wi-Fi version. If you want 256GB of storage and 5G network access, the price goes up to $1,389.
For most users, 64 gigabytes isn’t a lot of storage. Once you factor in the iPad OS system files and pre-installed apps, you’re left with almost 50 gigabytes in all. Unless you plan to only use it for cloud-based activities like streaming, Google Docs, or web browsing, you’ll want to pick the 256GB model.
My favorite thing about the iPad Air is the same thing I’ve loved about the iPad Pro for years: it works. You can open whatever you want and it will work perfectly. I never experienced any crashes and switching between multiple apps or multitasking is an absolute breeze.
Plus, the battery life is more amazing than ever, lasting around 10 hours.
It’s not a huge difference from almost every other iPad of the past few years, but you’ll still be guaranteed to use one of these for a full day, making it a very reliable device to carry around. .
Unfortunately, all that power and speedy performance of the M1 is held back by the device’s operating system which is somehow stuck in this odd not-quite-laptop but wants to be an identity crisis. Managing files and folders on iPad feels almost wickedly obtuse compared to desktop experiences, and many popular programs are seriously stripped down to their iPad OS form.
Also, fun fact: there’s still no native Instagram app for iPad in 2022. It just runs the iPhone app. Wild!
So why does this need the M1 chip? Thanks to iPadOS, it’s often barely noticeable how much extra power this chip provides, especially when you compare it to older models.
iPad Pro 2018 (A12X Bionic chip)
For example, compared to my 2018 11-inch iPad Pro, the actual speed of loading and running apps is almost exactly the same. It wasn’t until I tried exporting large photos that the Air clearly outperformed the 4-year-old device. Even then, he was only a few seconds ahead.
For a clearer idea of how similar in performance these two tablets are, you can watch me try different apps side-by-side in the video above.
iPad Pro 2021 (M1 chip)
I had the exact same gripe with last year’s iPad Pro, so it’s not at all surprising that their software performance is basically the same.
There are some hardware features you miss if you buy the Air.
You lose the Pro Motion display, Thunderbolt USB-C, lidar, ultrawide camera, quad speakers, and a few other minor items. Honestly, since I only use the iPad for tablet tasks, I didn’t really miss any of these features. The average tablet user probably won’t either.
The thing I miss the most is Face ID unlocking with the Air using a fingerprint reader instead. It’s not a huge loss, but touching the top of the tablet is never so sweet as giving it a quick, cheeky smile.
M1 MacBook Air 2020 (M1 chip)
I also think it’s worth noting that for just a few hundred extra dollars (about the price of a Magic Keyboard) you can buy the MacBook Air. Sure, you miss the cleaner tablet form factor, but this laptop actually makes good use of the M1 chip and can run most software an iPad can and more.
If you’re looking for a device for work or school, the Macbook Air isn’t much heavier, has better battery life and a bigger screen, all for the same price. If you don’t need the iPad Pro’s Lidar or cameras, it’s probably a better choice for you than either tablet.
If you’re looking for a tablet that will last you a long time, you don’t really need to look much further than the M1 iPad Air. The M1 chip means it should perform at a high level for many years to come and it’s just a very smooth and seamless experience no matter what you’re doing. It’s also the best choice if you need it with a mobile network, thanks to the addition of 5G.
But here’s where you can save some cash: if you just want a tablet for basic browsing or streaming, you can find older models for a cheaper price and be just as happy. iPads just don’t need the M1 power supply that often, and older models still work just fine.
Buy cheap iPads
If you want to save a few bucks on your iPad purchase, a pre-2022 model is a good way to go. As we explained above, you really only need the M1 chip if you regularly multitask with graphically demanding applications. For everyone else, an older iPad should be more than enough.
Here are some deals you can get right now.
How we tested
I used the iPad Air almost daily both as a travel companion and at home. It has been used for everything from photo editing to writing, web browsing, messaging and of course gaming. The iPad was loaned by Apple for the purposes of this review.
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