iPad Air 2022 review: M1 is a very, very nice addition

I’m surrounded by iPads. My family uses them all the time. Personally, I alternate between iPad and laptop. So it was, so it will be. I wanted the iPad to be a Mac tablet for years. The iPad has gradually moved closer to keyboard and trackpad support and now with the same M1 processor as the Macbook Airbut that still doesn’t mean your iPad is now a Mac.

It does, however, mean that the latest iPad Air has a very, very nice processor and it’s lovely and fast. It has the same design as the iPad Air redesign in 2020and the Redesigned iPad Mini last fall. But what’s that fast processor and more iPad Pro/iPad Mini-like design (bigger screen, less bezel, USB-C support, Pencil 2) worth?

Apple’s mid-range iPad comes at a strange time. the Entry-level iPad and iPad Mini were refreshed last fall, and the year iPadPro, which has the same M1 processor as this one but costs more, was released a year ago. This makes the Air the best high-end iPad for its price. And if you’re looking to treat yourself to a great iPad that feels future-proof for a while, at least as far as its processor goes, this might seem like the choice.

iPad Air 2022

iPad Air: pencil not included.

Scott Stein/CNET

But it is not that simple. The 10.2-inch iPad really does a lot of the same things, for a lot less money. Its screen is a bit smaller, the A13 processor may be less powerful, and yes, it has a Lightning port, not USB-C. But it works with keyboard cases, he uses this first generation pencil and everything is fine. This basic iPad probably makes the most sense for casual users. As for portability, it’s almost the same size (with more screen bezel).

As

  • Fast M1 processor
  • Zoom on the center stage front camera
  • Excellent size, as always

Do not like

  • Front camera still oddly placed
  • The cheapest model only has 64 GB of storage
  • iPadOS still feels limited

The Air’s main advantages over the entry-level iPad: USB-C, faster processor, slightly larger screen, better stereo speakers, compatibility with second-generation Pencil stylus which magnetically clips to the side of the iPad (sold separately) and also with Apple is very nice and expensive magic keyboard case, which has its own trackpad (also sold separately).

I’d love to see these features come to the entry-level iPad, but instead Apple is charging you for them. So it’s your choice.

And keep in mind that there are extras. Add some of these accessories, or a case (also sold separately), and expand the storage (the included 64GB for $599 isn’t enough, so you’ll need the 256GB version for $750), and you’ll find yourself with an iPad worth nearly a thousand after-tax dollars. (It starts at £569 in the UK and AU$929 in Australia.)

Also consider that last year’s iPad Pro is technically even better, even if its advantages are relatively minor (better rear cameras, lidar for some 3D/AR depth scans, a smoother refresh rate display, additional speakers, and a USB-C port that has faster Thunderbolt 4 data throughput). If that 2021 iPad Pro ever goes on sale for the same price as that Air, grab it. Or, maybe, wait.

iPad Air 2022

iPad (left), iPad Air (middle), iPad Pro (right). Sometimes it’s hard to see the differences.

Scott Stein/CNET

What is missing ? Not much except for camera placement

Living with this iPad Air for part of the last week, I don’t miss anything from the iPad Pro. I can try to miss these things, but these extras are way too niche for most people. At 10.9 inches, it’s the perfect iPad screen size. Small enough to be portable, big enough to browse and type, a decent canvas for drawing, and dual-app multitasking works well enough, if you’re playing around with the limited split-view options.

The screen looks great, even though it’s not a Mini LED, and doesn’t have that faster 120Hz refresh that the latest iPhone Pro and iPad Pro have.

The one thing I miss, though? The front camera is on the side. Apple insists that its iPads have cameras in the same portrait orientation layout as iPhones, instead of placing them on the longer edge so they’re centered in “laptop” mode connected to the keyboard. Placing the camera along the longer edge would be the correct placement: the Studio display apple added monitor center stage zoom camera, but here it is in the right place. It kills me to video call on this iPad, with its excellent camera, and see my face off center. No other iPad right now is different, and all current models have this Zoom Center Stage camera technology.

iPad Air 2022

The Magic Keyboard is great, but iPadOS is still limited in its flexibility.

Scott Stein/CNET

So, hey, it’s not really a laptop, though.

That’s the thing: just like last year’s iPad Pro, which also has that same M1 chip, Apple didn’t flip the switch to merge iPadOS and MacOS. They’re slowly sharing more in common, and iPads can work well with keyboards, mice, and trackpads, but an iPad just isn’t the same as a Mac or PC. If you’re really interested in an iPad that can feel a bit nicer and more laptop-like, and want that second-gen Pencil that can easily side-charge, this is your upgrade. But for most people, the basic iPad, while unexciting, is still just as versatile and just as cheaper.

That sentiment extends to my thoughts on the M1 processor here. Performance is the same as last year’s iPad Pro, as well as MacBook Air and Mini with the entry-level M1 processor. The new iPad Air is really fast and packs a great graphical punch, but the difference between the M1 and the A14 chip isn’t as dramatic as the jump Macs made by switching to the M1 in late 2020.

iPad Air 2022

The iPad Pro has two rear cameras and lidar. These are among the few unique advantages it has over the iPad Air. Seen here: iPad (grey), iPad Air (blue), iPad Pro (silver).

Scott Stein/CNET

And the iPad Pro?

Apple hasn’t updated the iPad Pro since last spring, and it remains a mystery when that will happen. Do you want the extra power and possibly improved display that this could offer? Will Apple push even further to feel like a Mac? Unknown, unknown. But if you’re spending that much on an iPad Air and fancy a fancier iPad (and you’ve got the money), wait.

5G: Same as iPad Mini, not exactly the same as iPad Pro or iPhone

Tried the optional 5G cellular on the Air, a new addition. The Mini and iPad Pro and iPhone already have 5G. Models equipped with cell phones are $150 more, data plan not included. It’s true that 5G in most places isn’t much faster than LTE, but having the option could make the difference for some. It’s always weird that MacBooks don’t have 5G antennas at all.

This iPad does not support mmWave, just sub-6 5G. Indeed, many times it looks like LTE: speeds at my house were around 290 megabits per second on Verizon, while in Washington Square Park in New York, speeds were only around 60 Mbps at 80Mbps.

iPad Air 2022

The entry-level iPad (left) doesn’t work with the Magic Keyboard like the iPad Air (right) does, but it does have its own compatible keyboard cases.

Scott Stein/CNET

The Magic Keyboard: always good, always expensive!

This keyboard, released two years ago, is still as pleasant as ever. But angles are limited for support, and it’s a bit more cramped on the 11-inch model. It’s expensive, and you can’t use it like a normal folio case either: to read on the iPad, you’ll probably want to take it out of the magnetic case. But I like the feel of typing.

iPad Air 2022

iPad, iPad Air, iPad Pro: The cameras are a bit different. But the body sizes are similar.

Scott Stein/CNET

Bottom line: All iPads are perfectly fine now. Choose your price

Assuming the iPad doesn’t jump into Mac-land, by now all iPads are capable and useful, and all have been updated enough in 2021 or 2022 to feel good enough.

I like how the iPad is a relatively cheaper all-purpose computer in Apple’s lineup, but it all depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. I’d still recommend the basic iPad to a lot of people, but this iPad Air is a solid step up, and the one I’d probably want to buy the most.

But keep in mind: the $599 64GB model doesn’t have enough storage. You’ll need the 256GB model, which costs $750. Apple’s entry-level iPad, meanwhile, costs $329 for 64GB of storage and $479 for 256GB. You’re paying almost double the price of the entry-level Air. Is the extra $270 worth it? May be. Is it worth paying an extra $200 to get the entry-level 11-inch iPad Pro, which has 128GB of storage (more acceptable) and better cameras, a 120Hz display, better speakers, lidar and face id? Probably not. I wouldn’t pay for the Pro at this point…not until Apple finalizes its plans for this model later this year.

GeekBench 5 multicore

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022)

To note:

(longer bars mean better performance)

GeekBench 5 Singlecore

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022)

To note:

(longer bars mean better performance)

3DMark Wildlife Extreme Unlimited

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ (Qualcomm SM8450, 2022)

To note:

(longer bars mean better performance)

amoloans