Apple iPad Air (2022) review: A new standard for tablets

The new iPad Air packs M1 power into a thin and light tablet

iPad Air 5
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The new iPad Air outshines its predecessor thanks to its powerful M1 chip, 12MP front camera with Center Stage and 5G connectivity. It sets a new standard for ultra-thin tablets and is one of the best tablets of 2022.

Pros

  • +

    Thin and elegant design

  • +

    Sharp, colorful display

  • +

    Speedy M1-powered performance

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Solid 12MP cameras

Cons

  • -

    Peripherals are expensive

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IPAD AIR (2022) SPECS

OS: iPadOS 15.4
CPU: M1
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Display: 10.9-inch (2360 x 1640 pixels) Liquid Retina
Front and rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8)
Video: Up to 4K at up to 60 fps
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, optional 5G
Battery: 10 hours 9 minutes (tested)
Size: 9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Price: $599

I'm a big fan of Apple's new iPad Air ($599 to start). I thought its predecessor, the iPad Air 4 (2020), was one of the finest tablets on the market, but this new 2022 model is a step above.

However, it's not a revolution: Apple has kept the basic form and function of the previous iteration. And in terms of everyday use, the changes may seem subtle. But the upgraded M1 chip powering this fifth iteration of the iPad Air marks a notable step forward. 

Thanks to the addition of M1, the iPad Air 2022 is almost on par with the iPad Pro. That isn't to say the Air is now a Pro replacement, but the gap in power is considerably smaller. This, along with its relatively affordable $599 starting price, could make this new iPad Air more compelling than the iPad Pro for budget-minded shoppers who still want the best iPad their money can buy.

In this iPad Air 2022 review, I'll go over what makes the iPad Air 5 one of my new favorite tablets and why it's now one of the best tablets you can buy. I'll also compare it to its predecessor and the iPad Pro to see how it measures up. Is the new iPad Air right for you? Read on.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Release date and price 

  • Starts at $599
  • Highest-end model sells for $899
  • Features 5G connectivity

The iPad Air 5 (2022) releases in the United States on March 18 with a starting price of $599 for the 64GB configuration with Wi-Fi (opens in new tab), and it comes in your choice of 5 colors: Blue, Pink, Purple, Starlight and Space Gray. You can pay $749 to get a Wi-Fi model with 256GB, or pay the same price for a 64GB model with Wi-Fi and 5G cellular connectivity. You can get both the expanded 256GB of storage and the 5G connectivity in the most decked-out model, which comes in at $899.

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There's no price bump this year from Apple, as the new iPad Air costs the same as the 2020 model when it launched. The standard iPad 2021 (starting price $399) costs $609 if you buy it with 256GB and Wi-Fi + Cellular. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, and for $899 (the price of the kitted-out iPad Air 5) you can buy one with 256GB of storage and Wi-Fi.

We reviewed the blue iPad Air featuring Wi-Fi + Cellular connectivity and 256GB of storage. Our unit also came with a number of accessories, including the Magic Keyboard ($299) and Apple Pencil 2 ($129), which are sold separately. 

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Design 

  • Slim, elegant design
  • Ultra-thin and ultra-light
  • No headphone jack

The new iPad Air measures 9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches and weighs 1.02 pounds, which is the same as the previous model and the 11-inch iPad Pro. It sports a 10.9-inch screen and a USB-C port for charging and peripherals. 

iPad Air 5

The iPad Air 5 is a sleek and elegant tablet. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I loved the iPad Air 4’s design so I’m glad Apple didn’t change it for the latest model. The tablet is true to its “Air” moniker by being super light, not to mention extremely portable. The Magic Keyboard weighs a little over a pound, but it’s not enough to make a significant difference for most.

I could complain about the lack of a headphone jack, but since most devices are ditching the port in favor of wireless solutions, it’s not a big deal. I also can’t quibble about this tablet only having a single USB-C port. It’s not meant to be connected to a bunch of external devices, though you could always use a dongle. 

One thing that's worth noting is some users are complaining about iPad Air 5 build quality.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Display 

  • 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
  • Colors pop and details are easy to see

The iPad Air 5 has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with a resolution of 2360 x 1640 pixels – which is identical to the iPad Air 4. We were impressed with the old model's display since it delivered sharp picture quality on a relatively small screen. Our only minor critique was that the screen could have been a tad brighter. Considering these factors, I was very interested to see how the current iPad Air’s display compared to the older model.

Per our brightness test that involves using a light gun, the iPad Air 5 tops out at 484 nits with adaptive brightness off. This matches the normal iPad (484) but is less than the iPad Pro (571 nits). However, the new iPad Air is brighter than its last-gen counterpart which topped out at 440 nits of brightness.

iPad Air 5

Disney's "Encanto" looks brilliant on the iPad Air 5. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In our lab testing, the iPad Air 2022's display covered a very good 111.8% of the sRGB color gamut and 79.2% of the DCI-P3 color space. The color accuracy is superb with a Delta-E score of 0.29, where 0 is perfect. In contrast, the 11-inch iPad pro hit 113.1% of the sRGB spectrum while the last-gen Air produced 102.9% of the sRGB color spectrum.

Colors pop on the new iPad Air's screen and visual details are easy to discern. YouTube, Twitch and programs on streaming services like Netflix all look great on the relatively small iPad Air screen. For my purposes, it’s a perfect tablet to watch my favorite YouTube channels on.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Performance 

  • Multi-tasks without skipping a beat
  • Beats its predecessor in terms of performance
  • Isn't quite as powerful as iPad Pro

The new iPad Air packs the M1 chip, making it the second Apple tablet to sport the company’s powerful chip after the iPad Pro 2021. This M1 injection is the main thing distinguishing the new iPad Air from the previous model. As we saw with the 2021 iPad Pros, the M1 chip can give an iPad a remarkable boost in performance and power efficiency. But how much of a difference does the M1 chip make in the iPad Air 5?

iPad Air 5

Games like Genshin Impact run smoothly on the iPad Air thanks to the powerful M1 chip. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPad Air 5 earned an impressive 7,151 on the Geekbench 5 general multi-core test. This trounces the iPad Air 4's 4,262 score. However, it doesn't quite reach or exceed the 7,293 earned by last year's 11-inch iPad Pro. Still, it's clear the M1 chip is a monster of a chip, especially compared to the old A14 Bionic that powered the 2020 iPad Air.

I opened up 15 different tabs in Google Chrome and ran HBO Max to see if I could make the iPad Air 5 flinch. The tablet laughed and kept chugging away without a hitch. I also fired up Genshin Impact and was pleased to see it maintain a consistent frame rate throughout my brief playthrough.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPad Air (2022)iPad Pro (2021)Galaxy Tab S8
Price$599$799$699
Display10.9-inch (2360 x 1640 pixels) Liquid Retina11 inches (2388 x 1668 pixels)11-inch (2560 x 1600) 120Hz LCD display
CPUM1M1Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Storage64GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB/256GB
Camera12MP wide (f/1.8) (Front and rear cameras)12MP wide (f/1.8), 10MP ultra-wide (f/2.4) (rear) / 12MP wide (f/1.8), 10MP ultra-wide (f/2.4) (front) 12MP (front), 13MP/6MP (rear)
SecurityTouch IDFace IDFingerprint sensor
Pencil supportApple Pencil (2nd generation)Apple Pencil (gen 1 & 2)S-Pen
Weight1 pound1.04 pounds1.1 pounds
PortsUSB-CUSB-C with Thunderbolt, USB-4USB-C, microSD
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, optional 5GWi-Fi 6, 5G optionalWi-Fi 6E

On the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited benchmark, the iPad Air 2022 scored a whopping 17,966 and 107.6 frames per second, compared to 8,975 and 53 fps for the iPad Air 4. 

The iPad Air 4 was a performant little machine, but its successor takes things to the next level in this category.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Audio 

  • Stereo speakers deliver room-filling sound
  • Sound quality is somewhat thin
  • Movies and TV shows sound good

The iPad Air 5 may be a small tablet but it delivers sound that’s big enough to fill a medium-sized room. Though the sound quality lacks bass and is somewhat thin, it was easy to hear every explosion, scream and roar in Godzilla vs Kong. I found the speakers perfect for YouTube content like Star Talk and other podcast-like channels. Voices always come through natural and clear.

I then turned to Spotify. Sure, songs like Trivium’s “Catastrophist” and Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D.” didn’t sound as punchy as they would on a proper sound system, but for a tablet, they were pretty decent. Music quality tends to degrade when the volume is at 100 percent, and to me, it sounds best around the 60 to 75 percent range.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Cameras 

  • 12MP front and rear cameras deliver sharp images
  • Center Stage tracks you during video calls

I’ve said it before and I'll say it here: Using a slate to take pictures is, in my opinion, awkward. If you try to do that with the new iPad Air, though, you should be happy with the quality of images it captures.

The new Air sports a 12MP front camera, which is a full 5MP more than the 2020 model. Not only will you look great when snapping selfies, but you’ll also appear your best during video calls. The 12MP rear-facing camera also takes quality pictures.

iPad Air 5

Center Stage intelligently keeps you centered in the frame. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Since this new iPad Air has an ultrawide front-facing camera and an M1 chip, it supports Apple's Center Stage feature, which is only available on Apple hardware like the iPad Pros, the iPad mini and the iPad 2021, as well as the new Apple Studio Display with its A13 Bionic chip.

That's good news if you like to move around while making video calls, as Center Stage automatically crops and zooms to keep you centered in the frame as you move in front of the tablet.

On top of that, the camera will intelligently pan and zoom out if someone else joins you during a call to include them, and intelligently focus on whoever is speaking. The camera’s smooth panning makes it feel like there’s a tiny director inside your tablet, and it's a neat feature to finally have on the iPad Air.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Battery life 

  • Strong 10 hours of battery life

During my personal testing, it took about 5 hours to drain the iPad Air's battery to 50 percent from a full charge. I watched a number of YouTube videos, surfed the web while having multiple open tabs and played some Genshin Impact. Aside from playing video games (something I don't do on mobile devices outside of tests), this closely resembles how I use a tablet during a normal day.

On the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which involves surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of screen brightness, the new iPad Air lasted 10 hours and 9 minutes. That's excellent endurance and a bit longer than Apple's claimed 10 hours. The previous iPad Air 4 lasted a slightly longer 10:29. 

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard 

  • Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard sold separately
  • The Magic Keyboard turns the iPad Air into a mini laptop
  • Both peripherals are very expensive

The Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard are great optional accessories for the iPad Air that help you get more out of the device.

With the Magic Keyboard, you can convert the iPad Air into a mini laptop. The keyboard base is sturdy enough to let you comfortably carry the tablet around your home while watching content. As for the keyboard, it has plenty of space to let you type comfortably, while the trackpad feels responsive and easy to use.

The Apple Pencil 2 is a great tool for taking notes and drawing. It’s a thick pencil that feels good to use and comfortable to hold. Though digital pencils still don’t provide the same tactile satisfaction as old-school pens and pencils, the Apple Pencil 2 functions well.

iPad Air 5

The Magic Keyboard is a great, if expensive accessory. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While I think both peripherals are great, they're pretty expensive. The Magic Keyboard is a must-have attachment if you want to use the iPad Air as a mini laptop, but the $349 will make you wince. The $129 Apple Pencil should have been included with the iPad Air in the same way the S-Pen comes with the Galaxy Tab S8 lineup.

I still recommend the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2 because of their usefulness, but it would be nice if they were priced a little lower.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Touch ID security 

  • Touch ID works seamlessly
  • Some may wish the tablet also had Face ID

If you expected the new iPad Air to have Face ID, I have bad news for you. It wasn't included in the iPad Air 2020, and the same thing goes here. 

iPad Air 5

Touch ID is simple to set up and simple to use. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, the new iPad Air does still support Touch ID via the fingerprint reader built into the power button. I think Touch ID security works fantastically when using Apple Pay and passwords, and personally speaking, I prefer Touch ID over Face ID.

Pressing my finger to the power button isn’t as awkward as staring at a screen. I also like how fast it is to log in via Touch ID. Samsung tablets have their version of Touch ID that works well, but Apple’s version feels snappier.

Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Verdict 

I own the iPad (2019) and have used it extensively. But as great as that tablet is, the iPad Air 5 has replaced it as my everyday slate. It hits a sweet spot between portability and power. The new iPad Air 2022 is ideal for consuming and creating content, and its $599 starting price is within reach for many people. 

But if you want a more powerful tablet with a larger screen, you can't go wrong with the iPad Pro, which is still Apple's premiere tablet. The 11-inch Pro is basically the same size and close to the same price as the new Air, so while the cost of trading up is reasonable it's also not much of an upgrade. The 12.9-inch Pro is larger and has a more impressive 120Hz display, but with a starting price of $1,099, it's a big jump up from the Air. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 is another great alternative if you're not keen on purchasing an Apple product, though it's not as powerful as the iPad Air. However, it has good cameras, great battery life and an S Pen stylus included at no charge.

Overall, the latest iPad Air is an almost perfect tablet. While there's still some room for improvement, it's hard to put this sleek, powerful slate down. This is arguably the best tablet for most people. 

Next: Here's why we think the iPad Air is the best tablet of 2022.

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 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.