Apple’s latest tablet is an iPad Air upgraded with the M1 chip from the newest Macs and iPad Pro – turning it into a compact powerhouse that’s just as happy manipulating images in Photoshop as it is binge-watching the latest series of Star Trek: Picard.
This new fifth-generation model is £10 cheaper than the outgoing model, costing £569 ($599/A$929). While certainly premium-priced, it undercuts Apple’s other M1-equipped 11in tablet, the iPad Pro, by £180.
The design of the new tablet is identical to the 2020 iPad Air, which still looks top-class in 2022. It generally feels solid and well-made, though a device this thin will need to be treated with care and kept in a case for transport. Oddly two small spots next to the Apple logo on the aluminium back creaked slightly when pressed with a finger.
The power button doubles as a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which works well but isn’t quite as effortless to use as Face ID on the iPhone or iPad Pro.
The iPad Air has a great 10.9in screen. It is crisp, clear and bright, but lacks the firm’s ProMotion 120Hz technology, which makes it less smooth and leaves it suffering from a bit of so-called “jelly scroll” when scrolling in landscape, similar to the iPad mini.
M1 power and iPadOS 15.4
The M1 chip and 8GB of RAM give the small tablet desktop computer-level processing power. It’ll fly through all the usual tablet tasks such as browsing, email, updating your Premier League team or watching TV. But, as with the latest iPad Pro, it also has unrivalled performance to handle complex image manipulation in Affinity Photo, the drawing and rendering of 3D worlds in SketchUp, or the creation of a cinematic masterpiece in LumaFusion.
Outside of gaming, most will not need that much power on a regular basis, but having a more powerful chip hasn’t hurt battery life. The iPad Air still gets a reliable 10 hours of browsing, light app use or offline video.
The iPad ships with Apple’s latest iPadOS 15.4, which introduces a major new feature called Universal Control that allows you to use a Mac’s keyboard and mouse to control the iPad or visa versa, including dragging and dropping files between the two. The long-awaited feature is quite something, extending the usefulness of the tablet as a second screen or input device, but only if you also have a modern Mac computer running macOS Monterey.
The webcam has been upgraded over its predecessor with Apple’s game-changing 12-megapixel automatic panning and zooming video call camera that was introduced first to the iPad Pro, but is now available on all current iPads.
Screen: 10.9in 2360×1640 Liquid Retina display (264ppi)
Processor: Apple M1
Storage: 64 or 256GB
Operating system: iPadOS 15.4
Camera: 12MP rear, 12MP selfie
Connectivity: Wifi 6 (5G optional), Bluetooth 5, USB-C, Touch ID, Smart Connecter
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm
Weight: 461g (5G version: 462g)
Apple does not provide an estimated lifespan for the iPad Air’s battery, but it can be replaced for £99. Batteries in similar devices maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for at least 500 full charge cycles. The tablet is generally repairable, with the out-of-warranty service cost being £396.44, which includes the screen.
The tablet has a 100% recycled aluminium body, 100% recycled tin in the solder of its main board, 96% recycled rare earth elements, and at least 35% recycled plastic used in multiple components. Apple breaks down the tablet’s environmental impact in its report and offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
For comparison, the 10.2in iPad costs £319, the iPad mini costs £479 and the iPad Pro costs from £749, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 costs £90, the Fire HD 10 costs £150, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 costs £649.
The 2022 iPad Air is one of the best premium tablets you can buy, now with enough power to be as good at content creation as general-purpose browsing and TV-watching.
The slim design and 10.9in screen strike an excellent balance between usability and portability, slotting nicely in between the small iPad mini and giant 12.9in iPad Pro. With the right accessories it can be a laptop replacement, too, or the new Universal Control feature helps it be a seamless second screen for a Mac.
Centre Stage is brilliant for video calls, Touch ID works great, the speakers are really good, and you’ll get 10 hours of useful battery life out of it. You can expect at least seven years of software updates from release, meaning you can keep using it for longer than any Android competitor. Then there’s the unrivalled library of apps from desktop-class software to almost every media consumption service.
As brilliant as the iPad Air is, its biggest problem is being undercut to the tune of £250 by Apple’s basic 10.2in iPad, which offers many of these benefits without as much raw performance and in a much older design. If all you want to do is watch TV on it, the basic model is the better buy.
Pros: modern design, unrivalled M1 performance, good battery life, great screen, USB-C, iPadOS with long software support life, huge range of apps, great speakers, great mics, best-in-class Centre Stage video-call camera, recycled aluminium.
Cons: expensive, no multi-user support, relatively small storage on the starting model with no way to add more, no Face ID, slight “jelly scroll” effect, must be treated with more care than cheaper rivals.