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iPad Air 5 last-minute leak tips powerful M1 chip upgrade

an image of the current iPad Air
(Image credit: Apple)

The Peek Performance Apple Event is scheduled to take place later today, and one of the many products expected to be unveiled is the rumored iPad Air 5. But this may not be any ordinary iPad Air, because rumor has it that the tablet will come with an Apple’M1 chip.

This tip comes from sources speaking to 9to5Mac (opens in new tab), claiming that the iPad Air 5 will not be powered by the A15 Bionic chip as expected. Instead it means Apple may be about to give the iPad Air range a power-boost we definitely weren’t expecting in the form of the M1 chip from the Apple Silicon initiative.

For those keeping score, that’s the same chip in a variety of Mac products, including the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini, as well as the most recent iPad Pro 2021 refresh. With a balance of high performance and low power consumption, the prospect of this happening is quite exciting.

At the very least it sounds a heck of a lot better than if the next iPad Air featured the A15 Bionic, which can be found in the iPhone 13 and iPad mini 6. The M1 is supposed to be 50% faster than the A15 Bionic, and packs in the hardware to reflect that.

The M1 offers an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU and 8GB of RAM in its lowest configuration, compared to the A15 Bionic’s a 6-core CPU and 5-core GPU. Not to mention the fact it’s designed to be energy efficient and should offer a noticeable boost in battery life.

Of course, having the M1 chip in a lower-specced iPad might seem like a weird choice. But we have to consider the fact that Apple has been trying to position the iPad as a computer replacement for several years now — and offering computer-tier performance is one way to keep people invested.

You also have to remember that the M1 chip is approaching the 18-month anniversary of its debut. That’s quite a long time in chip terms, which is shown by the fact there are rumors the M2 chip will make an appearance at the Apple Event.

With the Apple M2 chip supposedly coming to the next 13-inch MacBook Pro, and possibly the next iPad Pro refresh, adding the M1 chip to lower-specced products means it can stay relevant without detracting from the latest and best devices.

As welcome as an M1-powered iPad Air will be, it isn’t the only upgrade rumored to be coming. Word is that the tablet will also be available with 5G connectivity, a 12MP ultra-wide front facing camera and possibly even a LiDAR sensor. Unfortunately, we can’t expect something as fancy as an OLED display, with reports claiming Apple is sticking with LCD for this cycle.

Thankfully we don't have long to find out. So be sure to follow our Apple Peek Performance event live blog for all the latest news ahead of the event and all of the key details once it begins.

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Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.