The Apple iPad Air 5th Gen now has even more power than ever with its M1 chip, but who would want to own it? Find out in our full review.
Nothing beats the iPad. During my brief career as a tech journalist, I’ve always had a fondness for the iPad as a gadget. There are things that only the iPad can do very well and despite the improved competition, the iPad remains unbeatable as a tablet. Whether it’s watching movies, browsing social media, playing games, or doing light computing stuff, the basic 9th generation iPad will keep you happy. For those who love sketching and editing, the iPad Pro models are perfect. Where does that leave the iPad Air?
For the past three years, I’ve used the 3rd Gen iPad Air as my desktop companion, popped in a bag when I need to carry my movies or work documents when my laptop doesn’t make the cut. The Air packs more power than the base iPad but isn’t quite the Pro that many are looking for. Even with the 2020 update, the iPad Air was among the least popular iPad models. This year however, Apple took a leaf out of its Mac division and gave it the much acclaimed M1 chip! Yes, the same M1 chip you get on a MacBook Air!
Having a PC-class processor in a tablet seems tempting, especially to power users who aren’t a fan of spending big bucks. With the rest of the package remaining largely unchanged, does the iPad Air 5 finally become the powerhouse tablet to replace your cheap laptop? Let’s find out.
Apple iPad Air 5th generation design
The previous generation iPad Air 4 brought a new design inspired by the iPad Pro models, sporting the same flat sides, angled edges and absolute flat screen. That doesn’t change with this generation of iPad Air, given that it still looks the same. It has a beautiful metal body with a fantastic matte finish and a gorgeous “Starlight” color. The rear camera protrudes considerably and can cause wobble on the desk when placed flat. However, at 462 grams, the iPad Air is incredibly light and despite its angular edges, it’s comfortable to hold.
The power key resides in the “usual iPad position” and still houses the Touch ID sensor for biometric verification. Look around and you’ll appreciate seeing the USB-C port. Apple still hasn’t given it Thunderbolt credentials but data transfer speeds have increased to 10 Gbps, which is nice if you edit your photos on the iPad a lot.
The list of accessories is quite impressive too. You get the Apple USB-C 20W charger in the box. I have the standard Folio case which works great as a kickstand. If you’re willing to spend more on productivity, the Magic Keyboard accessory is also compatible with this iPad. And yes, the 2nd generation Apple Pencil works with this one.
Apple iPad Air 5th generation display
The iPad Air never gets the cutting edge elements from Apple, and as a result, you’re compromising here. No miniLED technology, no 120Hz ProMotion, no higher brightness levels – Apple still wants you to spend more on the iPad Pro. That said, for a tablet in its price class, the iPad Air has one of the nicest displays I’ve seen in a while. The 2360 x 1640 pixel resolution with 264 PPI on the 10.9-inch canvas is pleasing, with natural color adjustment and help from True Tone. Whether watching Formula 1 races live or browsing through a document, this display on the iPad Air impresses. However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 offers a 120Hz refresh rate at a similar price and Apple sticking to the 60Hz refresh rate seems stingy. It’s high time that high refresh rate displays were a standard feature on Apple products, be it the iPad or the iPhone.
Performance of the Apple iPad Air 5th generation
This is where all the hype around the iPad Air rests. I use a MacBook Air M1 as a work laptop and am aware of the M1’s capabilities for maintaining my demanding “journalist workflow”. This chip on the iPad Air only raises eyebrows, considering the theoretical implementation.
In the real world, iPad Air works as smoothly and efficiently as any of the current generation iPad Pro models. iPadOS 15 is not a desktop operating system and therefore you are quite limited in what you can do on the iPad Air. Sure, you can take on lighter office workloads on this iPad, but the learning curve is huge, and you still need a dedicated keyboard accessory to get the most out of it.
In my actual testing, this iPad Air mostly sat on my desk next to my laptop, acting as a second screen for attending meetings, making video calls, catching up on streaming online events, Hourly social media browsing and occasional short sessions. from Shadow Fight 4 or SIMS 4. My old 3rd gen iPad Air had no problem handling these tasks, but on the 5th gen model everything seems a bit faster. These apps and games load faster, processing times in iMovie are faster, and games run smoother than ever. I don’t edit pro-grade video in LumaFusion or other processional editing apps, but based on critical acclaim, I guess the M1 chip should handle it all well.
And thanks to iPadOS 15.4, I was able to take full advantage of Universal Control. The ability to merge your iPad with the Mac feels magical and only takes the productivity appeal of the iPad to another level – no other tablet can do this as easily as the iPad, that too wirelessly. . And once you learn gestures on iPadOS, you can easily manage multiple apps together. You can transfer files with drag and drop functionality which is a boon for us pro users. iPadOS has some of the best-designed tablet apps that work exactly as expected (except Instagram). You can pair a keyboard and mouse to make it work like a Mac, but the use case is quite limited – I couldn’t do my office work just on the iPad.
The dual stereo speakers are loud and deliver good quality audio output, while the new 12-megapixel front-facing camera makes video calls look better. CenterStage is a useful addition for group calls but I found no application for the feature in my use cases.
The 5th generation iPad Air also has a 12-megapixel rear camera meant for scanning documents or doing AR stuff. If you’re still doing tablet photography, this camera will make you smile in the sun but cry once it’s turned off. It can even record 4K video at 60fps. Know that your iPhone 13 or iPhone 12 still has the best camera for doing camera stuff.
Apple iPad Air 5th Generation Battery
The iPad Air’s battery life remains among the best in its class, providing up to 9 hours of use on a single charge. Note that my usage was primarily over Wi-Fi networks and involved a variety of use cases, which included weekend Netflix binge sessions or 2-3 hour weekday meetings. With the charging kit that came in the box, I was able to recharge the battery to less than 10% in over two hours.
To be fair, the 5th Gen iPad Air is just useless for anyone planning to spend more than the base iPad. At the same time, it falls short for those who want to save money on the 11-inch iPad Pro. This iPad Air is designed to sit perfectly in between, enticing potential buyers of the standard 10.1-inch iPad to upgrade for “Pro-like” experiences. For basic “iPad things”, this iPad Air is overkill and you could settle for the standard iPad, or even the iPad Mini.
However, if you’re new to video editing and your ecosystem involves the Mac, iPhone, and AirPods, then this iPad Air comes into its own. The M1 chip offers essentially the same raw power as the iPad Pro, and for basic editing work on the go, this iPad Air 5 will be more than enough. But if you want this iPad Air for editing, the base 64GB variant costs Rs. 54,900 is not enough and upgrading to the 256GB variant will cost you Rs. 68,900 for the Wi-Fi variant. This is extremely close to the 11-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi variant with 128GB of storage. Why don’t you prefer the Pro over the Air then?
Therefore, it’s the 64GB variant of the iPad Air 5 that makes sense and you really have to wonder if it’s necessary to choose it over the base iPad. For creators, the iPad Pro remains the only iPad that makes sense.
That doesn’t mean the 5th generation iPad Air is useless. In my two weeks with this iPad, I enjoyed the finer experience of its immersive display, good speakers, excellent video call camera, smooth performance, and beautifully iPadOS experience. refined. This is an iPad for iPad enthusiasts who want to keep an eye on the budget. If you just want a good iPad without the bells and whistles of the Pro models, I can’t think of anything better than the 5th generation iPad Air.
Apple iPad Air 5th Generation
- Beautifully built
- Superb performance
- Big battery
- iPadOS polished
- No high refresh rate display
- Lean storage in base model
10.9-inch IPS LCD display with 2360 x 1640 pixel resolution at 60Hz
8-core Apple M1 processor and GPU
28.6Wh, 20W USB-C charging