Apple iPad Air M1 (2022) review

Apple iPad Air 2022

With a premium design similar to the iPad Pro and a bright 10.9-inch bezel, the new iPad Air recharges the series. The internals have been upgraded with the unique M1 chipset, and the tablet now has 5G connectivity. You also get a new 12-megapixel front-facing camera capable of changing the angle so you always stay in the frame during video calls, meanwhile iPadOS 15.5 has a terrific app ecosystem not available to Android. Best of all, the 2022 iPad Air now connects via USB-C, and the tablet will get at least five OS updates in the future.

Pros:

  • Incredible performance from the M1 chipset;
  • Cellular model works with 5G connectivity;
  • Bright 10.9-inch display;
  • Charging via USB-C port;
  • The tablet will receive at least five updates;
  • Wide ecosystem of apps;

Cons:

  • The screen continues to run at 60 Hz;
  • Not OLED display;

If you’re looking for a tablet, the iPad has always been the first recommendation. With Google missing out on the initiative to develop tablets, and most Android tablet makers simply dropping out of this product category, there are very few tablets left that can compete with the iPad.

Samsung remains the exception. The manufacturer’s Galaxy Tab S series remains the only decent alternative when you’re looking for a high-performance Android tablet, and while Samsung adds many custom features to its One UI, the company has done little to develop apps.

That situation has finally changed, as Google shows interest in tablets again. Android 12L is paying much-needed attention to tablets, meanwhile the company is developing its own Pixel Tablet, though we won’t see one until 2023. Meanwhile, companies like OPPO, Xiaomi and other Chinese brands are releasing new tablets to satisfy the budget and mid-market segments and, of course, Samsung continues to produce better Android tablets.

iPad Air (2020)

Nevertheless, the shadow of the iPad stands over the tablet segment, this year’s iPad Air in particular being an important indicator. Apple didn’t change much about the iPad Air (2020), but it didn’t need to – after all, it was one of the best budget tablets and, by updating the tablet’s internal configuration with the extremely powerful M1, also adding 5G connectivity, the iPad Air M1 is differentiated enough to stand apart in the market.

Yes, Android tablets are about to get much better. But if you want something right now, the iPad Air M1 fits perfectly.

Apple iPad Air M1: Pricing and configurations

Apple released the iPad Air M1 on March 8, and today the tablet is available worldwide. It’s sold in two versions — Wi-Fi and Cellular — available in two memory sets. The 64GB model with Wi-Fi comes in the base configuration for $599, while the 256GB model costs $749 . If you need cellular service, you’ll have to shell out $749  for the 64GB model and $899 .

By comparison, pricing for the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799  for the 128GB model, equipped with the same M1 chip. Of course, you are deprived of some features, but this point we will discuss below.

Apple iPad Air M1: Design and screen

Visually, there is no difference between the iPad Air M1 and its predecessor, the iPad Air 2020. Both tablets have the same flat-sided aesthetic, which is similar to the iPad Pro design. The Touch ID scanner is integrated into the power button, and at 462 grams, it’s not too heavy or bulky in everyday use – even with a case.

The fact that the iPad Air M1 uses the same design and size as its predecessor allows you to use cases from the iPad Air (2020).

We also plugged the Magic Keyboard that we purchased for the iPad Air (2020) into the new model with the M1, no problem. Apple provided us with a case with the iPad Air M1, but you can save some money by choosing iPad Air (2020) cases.

Colors

As for colors, there are five this time around: series, blue, pink, purple and star. And while the design itself doesn’t change, the iPad Air M1 looks as premium as the iPad Pro. The aluminum body feels great in the hand, and the thin bezels around the screen maximize the usable area. Touch ID does a great job of logging in, and while it’s slightly inferior to Face ID, it’s still fast and reliable.

The tablet’s screen hasn’t changed either, you still get the same 10.9-inch IPS panel as on the iPad Air (2020). The screen works with True Tone technology, supports P3 color gamut, has anti-reflective coating, which is very useful when you use the tablet outside, but the refresh rate is limited to 60 Hz. Like the iPhone 13 models, the 120 Hz option is limited to Pro models, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the Liquid Retina panel boasts bright colors and an excellent level of contrast, it is perfect for everyday use. We would like to see 120 Hz frequencies, but this solution would undermine the iPad Pro’s position in the market, so it is quite obvious that this feature is not available here.

Apple iPad Air M1: Performance

The biggest update to the iPad Air M1 (2022) comes down to the hardware. While its predecessor ran on A14 Bionic, the latest generation iPad Air got an 8-core M1 processor, which takes the tablet’s performance to a whole new level.

That’s not to say that the A14 Bionic is obsolete and not a capable processor in 2022 – nothing like that. It’s just that the new M1 will remain an efficient processor for years to come, because its performance is closer to laptops. As for current performance, we haven’t noticed any difficulties with the tablet in two months.

The MacBook Air runs on the same processor, and whether you’re working with video editing apps or music creation software, the M1 doesn’t lag behind.

Because the iPad Air also runs with the M1 chipset, it comes out on par with the iPad Pro in terms of performance. Another feature that’s new to the tablet is the 12-megapixel front camera, which automatically switches the viewing angle so you can stay in the center of the frame even while moving in front of the device, which is especially useful in Zoom or FaceTime conferences.

Specs

Still, the Pro model has a few distinguishing factors, including the 120Hz refresh rate we mentioned above. You also get upgraded cameras, including a Lidar sensor on the back, improved sound, Face ID and a Thunderbolt 4 connector. And while the iPad Air also has a USB-C port, it’s a standard USB 3.1 Gen 2 connector without Thunderbolt 4.

Otherwise, you get the same Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity features as on the iPad Air (2020), we had no trouble connecting to home Wi-Fi.

If you’re more interested in the cellular model, you’ll be happy to know that the iPad Air M1 has 5G connectivity, but like the iPhone SE 2022, it’s limited to Sub-6 bands instead of fast mmWave.

Battery size doesn’t change from generation to generation, we got similar battery life to the 2020 iPad Air.

iPad Air (2022) speakers

As far as accessories go, the Magic Keyboard is absurdly expensive, but it’s becoming an indispensable accessory. It provides support for the tablet, has decent key travel, and the smooth hinge allows you to tilt the iPad Air into a comfortable position.

Stylus on iPad Air 5

The Apple Pencil works in the same vein, making the tablet a functional digital canvas for drawing. Powerful apps like Procreate let you unlock the stylus’s full potential, but if you’re going to use it for something more fun, Lake is a great coloring app.

Apple iPad Air M1: Software

iPadOS 14 has many meaningful additions, including handwritten note recognition and dynamic widgets. iPadOS 15 relies on a substantial app library, a focus mode, and a new notification center that shows current notifications throughout the day. A new multitasking menu makes it easy to switch to split view and floating window mode.

We’ve been using the iPad Air M1 for more than two months and, like its predecessor, it’s a versatile device. Earlier this year, we had an exercise bike in our newsroom and since it didn’t have its own screen, we put the iPad Air M1 to control our workouts by connecting to the bike via Bluetooth. The iPad Air is also a fantastic device for web browsing, we used it all the time for reading long articles and scrolling through the forum.

The iPad Air 2022 charging port

The stereo sound makes the tablet especially good for video playback. It can be quite loud, so we didn’t feel the need to connect a Bluetooth speaker during YouTube streaming or soccer games, and stereo speakers are also important during gaming.

For this article, we only used the slipcover when streaming videos, and the rest of the time the tablet was used without the slipcover. In two months of use, the tablet didn’t drop, we didn’t notice any new scratches or other signs of wear and tear, and yet we used it regularly during the day.

MIDI keyboard on iPad Air 5 (2022)

Our favorite use for the iPad Air M1 tablet is making music. iPadOS boasts an extensive library of apps designed for music creation, the iPad is especially handy as a portable device for shaping your ideas on the go.

With the move to M1 chipsets, the iPad Air easily handles heavy DAW apps like Korg Gadget, no effort at all. Add to that the fact that you’ll find plenty of synthesized instruments, drum machines, grooveboxes, and other plug-ins in the App Store that make the iPad a powerful music creation machine.

Finally, the iPad Air M1 will get standard platform updates for five years. So even if you’re not going to use the same iPad for that long, it will retain its value from the original purchase.

Apple iPad Air M1: Competitors

If you don’t need 5G connectivity and more powerful hardware inside the tablet, the iPad Air (2020) is still the best choice in 2022. It has the same design, screen and battery, and connects to the same set of accessories. The A14 Bionic has a lot to offer, so whether you even want to play demanding games or edit images, it has a lot to offer.

Need a bigger screen or OLED panel? You should take a look at the iPad Pro. The 12.9-inch screen has a gorgeous OLED display at up to 120 Hz and has all the extra features the iPad Air M1 doesn’t have.

Apple iPad Air M1: Worth buying a tablet?

You should buy it if:

If you want an iPad with

  • the best value for your money;
  • a premium design and thin bezels;
  • 5G connectivity;
  • an extensive app ecosystem;

You shouldn’t buy it if:

You want an iPad with

  • a 120Hz screen;
  • OLED panel;

With the move to M1 chipsets, the iPad Air becomes the best offering in Apple’s tablet lineup. You get the same level of performance as the iPad Pro, but cheaper by $200 ($15,000p + VAT) and while the tablet doesn’t have Face ID, four speakers, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity and a Lidar camera, it’s not a huge omission. The only difference we saw between the two models was the 120Hz option on the Pro.

But if you don’t care about that, the iPad Air M1 is a must-see if you’re interested in buying a new tablet in 2022. It costs $270 ($20,000 + VAT) more than the classic iPad, but you get an extensive selection of features. Including USB-C charging, stereo sound, a bright screen, and a sleeker design with thinner bezels. And, of course, the fact that it runs on the M1 makes the iPad Air worthy of a recommendation.

Verdict

Some two years ago, the iPad Air wowed us, and now the 2022 model repeats the feat: it’s an impressively versatile and functional tablet. We welcome the powerful new M1 chipset, and its additional features will be appreciated by digital artists and gamers, even if it does not offer obvious everyday benefits, such as increased battery life.

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