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iPad Air (2022) review

Almost Pro and just enough for most

Apple iPad Air 5
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The iPad Air in its fifth generation is still as good a device as the previous generation was. We're still wowed by the modern shape and easy to use body. The addition of the M1 chipset is much appreciated and the fact that there are colours to choose from is something that sets it apart. Unfortunately, with the iPad Air 5 getting the M1 and the price being way to close to that of the iPad Pro, it become a hard sell at higher storage levels. That being said, the iPad Air 5 is still a worthy tablet for content creators, mobile gamers and provides a solid tablet experience for those who are looking for one.

Pros

  • +

    Great design

  • +

    Speedy performance

  • +

    Incredibly versatile

Cons

  • -

    Too close in cost to iPad Pro

  • -

    Battery life only average

  • -

    64GB is too little storage for base model

Two minute review

Last year's iPad Air 4 had already made it a very difficult decision for most users to choose the Pro over the Air. This year the new iPad Air fortifies that decision. 

Adding their own ultra powerful M1 chipset and 5G, the iPad Air takes a step closer to providing users with a powerful (yet some what affordable) tablet option that isn't the all mighty iPad Pro. 

The M1 in the iPad Air 5 isn't underclocked by any shape or form. It's the same one on the iPad Pro, Macbook Air, Macbook Pro 13" and the Mac Mini. 

The iPad Air 5 retains it's modern design, slim bezels, 12MP camera on the back, compatibility with the second generation Apple Pencil and type-C charging. The front camera remains a 12MP sensor but gains center-stage for better video calls and even recording yourself with your friends and family. 

Starting at AED 2499, unfortunately for just 64GB of storage, the iPad Air 5 becomes the best option for most looking for a tablet. Unless you need the Pro-motion 120Hz refresh-rate, a Mini-LED or a triple camera on the back, the Air is definitely the way to go.

The decision does take a 180-degree turn if you're looking at the 256GB storage where prices safely enter the iPad Pro territory and that might make it a bit tough to choose the Air. 

iPad Air 5 price and release date

The iPad Air 5's release date is confirmed for March 18th. You can pre-order the tablet now at Apple’s website, and we expect to see other retailers offering it soon.

The iPad Air 5 price starts at AED2499 for the WiFi model with 64GB of storage. The price remains the same as its predecessor but the hike in power thanks to the M1 makes it a worthy purchase.

It’s available in a variety of configurations, with either 64GB or 256GB of storage, and with 5G connectivity or just Wi-Fi.

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

Design 

I was thrilled when I opened our review unit's box and saw that it's the Purple one. I personally love this colour on the new iPad Air. There's also their new Blue, along with Space Grey, Pink and Starlight. 

The 2022 iPad Air looks like and weighs just as much as last year's model. The Wi-Fi-only version of the tablet weighs 461 grams, while the 5G version is slightly heavier at 462 grams. The dimensions of both models are 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm.

While holding the tablet to read, scroll, write or even play games, the tablet isn't strenuous. Obviously prolonged use will encourage you to change positions but that isn't any issue with the Air. 

The bezels on the display are still thick but provide enough place to hold the device with ease. On top you find the Touch ID fingerprint reader. The sensor works as well as expected and finding comfort in portrait or landscape orientations to use it comes pretty natural. 

Apple iPad Air 5

Smart connector on the back allows you connect the iPad Air 5 to the Smart Folio case as well as the Magic Keyboard (Image credit: Future)

On the back of the iPad Air 5 is the smart connector. The same one found last year which works with the Smart Folio as well as Apple's Magic Keyboard. In our use with the latter, the iPad Air provided a great laptop-like feel but it is a very expensive accessory compared to the price of the Air. 

Speaking of accessories, on the side you find the magnetic placement for the second generation Apple Pencil. On the same side you also find the volume rockers, which now (iPad OS 15.4 update) support orientational placement. So depending on how you're holding the tablet, the function of each button changes to increase and decrease the volume. 

On the iPad Air 5 you've also got the same four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom. 

Display

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

The 10.9-inch size of the iPad Air 5 is what I would call the perfect size. While the iPad Mini provides a kind of portability no other tablet does, and the iPad Pro 12.9 is amazing for creative professionals, the iPad Air's size is perfect for the rest of us. 

The Liquid Retina display is a pleasure to look at and the resolution at 2360 x1640 is impressive. At 264 ppi, I don't see most needing more out of the display unless anything you do on the tablet involves pixel peeping. 

I understand why there's no ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate on this tablet and I do miss it, but everything can't be on the Air. What would be left for the iPad Pros? 

Power, Processing and Storage

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

Coming with Apple's own M1 chipset, the iPad Air joins the iPad Pros in the league of the best internals you can find on a tablet. This is the same M1 processor we find across Apple's tablets and laptops. It comes with 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU and while Apple does specify 8GB of RAM it doesn't specify the number of cores on the neural engine. 

Considering M1 scored over 1.1million points on Antutu's benchmarks (and our review unit did too) using the iPad Air 5 for the past few days, the tablet shows the sheer power of the M1 chipset. I rendered about 2 minutes of 4K 60fps footage on Lumafusion in just over 2 minutes and using Lightroom to edit scenic images from my Sony A6300 was easy too. 

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

Coming into iPad Pro category, our review iPad Air scored 1702 on single-core and 7302 on multi-core score on Geekbench 5. So even while playing Asphalt 8, graphics are super smooth and controls are almost too sensitive. There's no denying that a ProMotion display could help here but the M1 processor does a fantastic job with creating a smooth gaming experience. 

Obviously to do all this you need storage. Unfortunately the iPad Air has only 2 storage options. 64GB and 256GB. While the 64GB might be too less for most, the 256GB storage option brings things too close to the Pro level. If what you're about to do with the tablet is all cloud based (for example, Notes or Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop), the 64 GB could be an option but i don't see that working out in the long run.  

Camera

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

This year's iPad Air gets a new 12MP ultra-wide camera on the front with a 122-degree field of view. This brings Center Stage to the tablet too. 

In case you don't know what Center Stage is, its Apple's way of creating a follow-effect if you're in front of the camera and moving around or even centering the camera when more people enter or exit the frame. A useful feature, specially while recording yourself or moving around on a video call. 

The rear camera remains the same as the previous generation with a 12MP  wide sensor and an f/1.8 aperture. It's not going to be come your next mobile photography tool but it's always good to have a good Apple camera on hand for situations where you need a quick click for an email or a note. 

Apple iPad Air 5

The iPad Air 5 gets a new 12MP front camera with Center Stage (Image credit: Future)

Software

With the iPad Air 2022, Apple brings iPad OS 15.4. The latest version of iPad OS (just another name for iOS on iPads) beings with it the same expert syncing, fantastic app optimisations (expect you Instagram) and an overall smooth usage experience. 

It doesn't need to be reiterated constantly (and we still do) but Apple's sheer optimisation for apps is one of the biggest reasons iPad are a pleasure to use. Android tablets aren't even in the vicinity (even thought they're trying) when it comes to app optimisations. 

Apple iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Future)

Battery-life

In our little time with the iPad Air, the battery has held up its end of the bargain and given me almost about 9 hours of usage. This includes everything from rendering video on Lumafusion to note-taking on Notability. 

We did use the tablet a bit on 5G but not enough to comment on the drop in battery-life. I do suspect that with Apple's optimisations, it wouldn't be a drastic drop from the promised 10 hours. 

You do still get a charger in the box. This is good news. The 20W charger provides about 30% of a charge to the tablet in around 30 mins. 

Should you buy the iPad Air?

Buy it if...

You're upgrading from an old iPad

If you've got an old iPad with the old shape, the iPad Air 5 will swing you right into 2022. The modern 'Pro" body and M1 processor, along with a second generation Apple Pencil should be all you need. 

You need high-level processing power

If raw power is one of the main things you need, the M1 processor on the iPad Air 5 is going to be all the power you need on a tablet. 

You need colour on your tablets

Getting tablets that aren't silver or space grey is a rarity in the world of Apple. The iPad Air fills that gap with it's five colours. We especially love this purple. 

Don't buy it if...

You need lots of storage

If the kind of work you plan to do on the iPad requires lots of storage, the 64GB option on the iPad Air 5 is definitely out of the question and unfortunately when you reach the 256GB pricing the iPad Pro is not too far off.  

You need it all from a tablet

If you're looking for the ultimate tablet experience, you need to look over at the iPad Pros. With their ProMotion displays, triple cameras and so much more, the iPad Air 5 just might not cut it for you

Your needs are simple

If you need an iPad for the most basic use such as simple content consumption, the regular iPad might be a better fit for you. You've save money and still get the Apple iPad OS experience. 

Daanesh Kalyaniwalla
Daanesh Kalyaniwalla

Daanesh Kalyaniwalla is the Executive Editor at Techradar Middle East and is a consumer tech journalist, based in the UAE, who has spent almost a decade in the industry covering events, writing reviews and creating a whole load of content relating to everything from smartphones and laptops, to headphones and tablets, to air purifiers and robot vacuums and so much more. If you're looking to figure out what product is perfect for you, he's probably going to be the one to set you on the right path.