The iPad Air is the best tablet of 2022 — here’s why

iPad Air 5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I’ve always appreciated tablets since they’re great for watching streaming content and for reading comic books and novels. With a keyboard attachment, they can even double as a pseudo laptop. As a computing writer for Tom's Guide, I get to test slates released by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Lenovo and more. I reviewed several tablets this year, but one stands as my personal favorite: the Apple iPad Air (2022).

You may have forgotten about this tablet since the recently released iPad Pro 2022 has gotten so much attention. This makes sense given how its Apple’s most powerful tablet — especially now that it packs the M2 chip. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro also commands so much attention due to its size. While its design is identical to the iPad Pro 2021, it’s hard to knock this year’s model. I gave the tablet a high score for a reason — it’s one of the best iPads and best tablets out there.

However, while the new iPad Pro is certainly great, I prefer the iPad Air. Here's why it’s my favorite tablet of 2022.

Perfect size 

The biggest tablet I've reviewed was the gargantuan Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. It also taught me that large tablets aren't necessarily ideal. Don’t get me wrong, I think its 14.6 inch (2960 x 1848) Super AMOLED, 120Hz display is perfect for watching YouTube. And when you attach the optional Samsung Book Cover Keyboard, the tablet turns into a halfway decent laptop replacement. But reading books on the monstrous Samsung tablet is cumbersome, to say the least. I feel the same way about the new iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

No, that's not a laptop. That's the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPad Air hits the Goldilocks sweet spot of being just right. Sure, its 10.9-inch (2360 x 1640 pixels) Liquid Retina display is smaller than Samsung and Apple’s largest slates, but its image quality is great for a tablet of its size. And since it’s small and lightweight at 9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches and 1 pound, I can easily read books on it for hours without my hands and arms getting tired. It’s also discreet enough that it's easy to forget that it's in my bookbag — which is something I can’t say about larger tablets.

But what about the new 11-inch iPad Pro? It’s only slightly larger than the 10.9-inch iPad Air and has a faster processor. Why not choose it over the iPad Air? I’ll explain.

The M2 chip is overkill (for now)

The new iPad Pro packs an M2 chip and is the most powerful Apple tablet yet. It outshined most of its competitors in our various performance tests. It’s a beastly tablet for sure.

iPad Pro 2022

Apple Pencil hover preview is a feature that's exclusive to the M2-powered iPad Pro. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the M2 chip gives the iPad Pro impressive performance, I don’t need such a powerful tablet. Outside of features like Apple Pencil hover preview, the iPad Pro isn’t yet fully utilizing its CPU. And even if it were, I only use tablets to watch streaming content and to read. The pencil feature is cool, but I’m not an artist and therefore have no use for it. I think the M2 chip is perfect for the MacBook Air M2, but it's arguably too much for a tablet.

And before you ask, yes, I realize that I can say the same thing about the M1-powered iPad Air. The M1 chip gives this tablet better performance than its A14 bionic chip-driven predecessor —  but it could also be seen as overkill. That being the case, an M2-powered tablet wouldn’t make sense for me, even the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro.

Right price

The iPad Air has a starting price of $599 while the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799. The former features an M1 chip and 64GB of storage, while the latter has an M2 chip and 128GB of storage. Though $799 wouldn’t break the bank, the iPad Air’s cheaper price makes it more enticing.

The current iPad Mini is even cheaper at $499. That's great, but I'm not looking for a tablet with a display smaller than 10 inches. A 8.3-inch display might be ideal for some, but not for me.

You could argue that 64GB of storage isn’t enough. If you download a lot of apps, especially games, then I’d completely agree with you. However, I’m not a fan of mobile gaming and most of the apps I use such as Spotify and Discord, don’t take up considerable space. 64GB, while admittedly small, is enough storage space for my needs.

Bottom line 

The iPad Air currently resides at the top of our best iPad and best tablet lists because it’s a great slate for most people. It’s fast, intuitive, portable and easy to carry around. The relatively low starting price is also a plus.

While the iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra are worthwhile devices, they don’t suit me as well as the smaller iPad Air. Bigger and newer aren't always better.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.