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iPad Air 5 — biggest upgrades we expect

iPad Air in keyboard case on a yellow background
(Image credit: Apple)

Update: The iPad Air 5 is now out, but some users are complaining about iPad Air 5 build quality.

Apple's iPad Air remains one of the best iPads you can buy, but it's starting to show its age. The current (4th generation) Air was released in October 2020, and since then we've seen Apple step up its tablet game with the gorgeous M1-powered 2021 iPad Pros. 

Now we know there's an Apple event happening Tuesday (March 8), and there's a chance the Cupertino-based company will unveil a new iPad Air there alongside an updated iPhone SE 3, a new MacBook, and more. We've seen reports that Apple has started production on an iPad Air 5 with the goal of launching it this spring, but only time will tell if we actually see it debut this month.

So what should you expect to see in an iPad Air 5? We don't know for sure, but we've seen some reliable reports which paint a picture of a more powerful, more capable tablet with upgraded speakers, better cameras and an upgraded display. Here's what we've heard so far.

iPad Air 5: A15 Bionic power

The A14 Bionic chip which powers the 2020 iPad Air 4 is excellent, helping the tablet deliver speedy performance and great battery life. But it's starting to show its age, and we expect the iPad Air 5 to arrive sporting a beefier chip under the hood.

iPad Air 4 review

Expect the next iPad Air to improve upon the current model's already excellent performance. (Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

As much as we might like to see what an iPad Air with an M1 chip (or maybe even the rumored Apple M2 chip) could do, the most reliable reports we've seen so far suggest the iPad Air 5 will be powered by an A15 Bionic chip — the same chip which powers the excellent iPhone 13.

iPad Air 5: 5G connectivity

I can't think of a better way to promote the 5th-gen iPad Air than by launching it with 5G connectivity, an upgrade over the current iPad Air's 4G cellular options.

iPad Air 4 showing Suicide Squad footage playing on screen

The light, thin iPad Air would be an even better entertainment device on the go with 5G connectivity (Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

That's according to a report from the Macotakara blog which claims the iPad Air 5 will ship with “specifications similar” to the iPad mini 6, including 5G connectivity and the afore-mentioned A15 Bionic upgrade. If it proves true, we may as well start calling this the iPad Air 5G.

iPad Air 5: Upgraded cameras w/ Center Stage

In our iPad Air 4 (2020) review we praised its cameras for delivering surprisingly good picture quality (for a tablet), especially its 7MP selfie cam. However in the year or so since we've seen significant camera improvements in tablets like the iPad Pro 2021 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, so we're eager to see what upgrades Apple can make for the next iPad Air.  

Center Stage

Center Stage is a neat feature that auto-adjusts the frame to keep you centered during video calls — and we expect to see it on the next iPad Air. (Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

If the leaks we've seen prove accurate, we should be in for a treat. Based on "reliable sources in China" cited by the Macotaraka blog, the iPad Air 5 will arrive sporting a 12MP ultra-wide selfie cam that supports Apple's auto-framing Center Stage feature. The inclusion of Center Stage makes a lot of sense, as the auto-framing feature (which automatically adjusts the picture to keep you in frame if you move) debuted in the 2021 iPad Pro and quickly proved to be one of its best features.

iPad Air 5: Display upgrade

The current iPad Air 4 has a sharp, beautiful 10.9-inch display that makes watching videos a joy thanks to some nice touches like anti-reflective coating. However, it can't compete with some of the best displays on tablets today, including the gorgeous mini-LED display on the iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) and the impressive 14.6-inch Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra.

iPad Air 4 review

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

The upcoming iPad Air 5 is likely to get a display upgrade, and we've even seen reports about it potentially getting an OLED display. That would be a big deal, as it would make the iPad Air the first iPad to get an OLED panel. However, we've also seen a report from The Elec indicating an OLED panel may be off the table, as Apple has reportedly decided to ditch plans to work with Samsung Display on said OLED display.

Even if it doesn't end up shipping with OLED, the next iPad Air could really benefit from an upgraded display with a faster refresh rate, as that would make scrolling and doodling on the tablet feel smoother than ever before.

iPad Air 5: More speakers please

The current iPad Air 4 has a stereo speaker system that does a remarkably good job of producing loud, clear audio, even from a room or two away. However, since there's only two speakers, you have to listen to music in landscape mode to get the best stereo sound experience, whereas a tablet like the iPad Pro 2021 with its quad-speaker setup sounds good no matter how you hold it.

iPad Air 4 review

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

That's why we're excited about the rumors we've heard that the next iPad Air will get upgraded to a similar four-speaker audio system. An iPad may not be the first device you think of when planning a listening session, but if the Air gets a better set of speakers it could make the experience of watching movies and listening to music on the go feel far more premium.

iPad Air 5: Outlook

The current iPad Air is an excellent slate, delivering a premium iPad experience in a device that's thinner and lighter than most tablets on the market. If we go another year without seeing a new model, the iPad Air 4 (2020) would still be a pretty great investment.

However, all signs point to an upgraded model being unveiled this year, likely as soon as March 8. While our hopes of seeing it unveiled with a slick OLED screen have dimmed somewhat in the past few months, we still expect some significant upgrades that could help the Air climb a few rungs on our list of the best tablets you can buy.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.