For a long time, the iPad vs. iPad Air debate remained settled, in large part due to the vast price gap between Apple’s entry-level iPad (9th generation) and mid-range iPad Air models. But with the 2022 upgrade to the “budget” iPad – the 10th generation iPad – things are not so clear-cut anymore. With Apple’s most affordable tablet getting a hefty feature and price bump, should you prefer it over the 2022 iPad Air?
Also Helpful: before you upgrade your iPad this year, you may want to decide whether it’s worth getting an iPad with cellular service.
Overview: iPad 2022 vs. iPad Air 2022
Before we compare these two models on various parameters, let’s glance at what’s under the hood.
|Tech Specs||iPad 2022 (10th generation)||iPad Air 2022 (5th generation)|
|Display||10.9-inch (2,360 x 1,640) Liquid Retina LED||10.9-inch (2,360 x 1,640) Liquid Retina LED|
|Processor||Apple A14 Bionic||Apple M1|
|Front Camera||12MP FaceTime HD camera with Center Stage (landscape)||12MP FaceTime HD camera with Center Stage|
|Battery and Charging||28.6 Wh, 20W charger included||28.6 Wh, 20W charger included|
|Apple Pencil Support||First-generation||Second-generation|
|Speakers||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers|
|Ports||USB-C||USB-C (up to 10Gb/s)|
|Authentication||Touch ID (on power button)||Touch ID (on power button)|
|Storage||64GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB|
|Weight||1.05 lbs||1.02 lbs|
|Price||Starting $449||Starting $559|
The 2022 iPad refresh brought the entry-level iPad closer than ever to the modern iPad design with smaller bezels and plenty of color options. It also gave it a significant bump in the processor, display, and audio departments. But the Apple Pencil support is still limited to the first-generation Pencil. The asking price for the entire package starts at $449, a $120 increase from the 9th generation iPad that still retails for $329.
The iPad Air 2022, on the other hand, is a more incremental upgrade to the previous iPad Air. Apart from the jump to the M1 chip (from A14 Bionic), upgraded cameras, and the inclusion of 5G in the cellular models, there’s very little to differentiate the latest iPad Air from the previous one.
With the specs out of the way, let’s dissect which of these two new entrants in the iPad lineup is the better choice for you in 2023.
Design and Display
At first glance, it’s relatively difficult to tell the 2022 iPad and iPad Air apart, as they share the 10.9-inch display, tiny bezels, and flat edges of Apple’s premium iPads. You can, however, notice that the 2022 iPad’s bezels are marginally bigger, and it weighs slightly more, too. These aren’t significant differences by any means.
The display quality is also identical on both iPads. The 2,360 x 1,640 resolution Liquid Retina display on each is bright and sharp, with the only difference being the anti-reflective coating on the iPad Air’s screen.
However, the big difference here is in the front camera. While the pricier iPad Air still doesn’t have the front camera on the side, the 2022 iPad does bring it to the ideal landscape orientation for video calls.
The charging port on both is USB-C, with the iPad Air sporting faster transfer speeds. More similarities are seen in both models: stereo speakers, rear cameras, and Touch ID authentication.
Good to know: if you’re purchasing a new iPad for an aging parent or grandparent, set it up for senior use before gifting it.
This is where Apple has decided to keep the two models geared toward different users. While the 2022 iPad is powered by the A14 Bionic chip and 4GB RAM, the 2022 iPad Air gets the Apple M1 silicon (the same processor used in several MacBooks and iMacs) with 8GB RAM.
Although the A14 Bionic is more than capable of handling tasks like streaming video content, web browsing, taking notes, and drawing art, it doesn’t perform as well as the more powerful M1 chip in the iPad Air. More demanding workloads, like photo and video editing, high-performance gaming, and full-fledged office tasks, are better suited to the iPad Air.
This is not to say that the 2022 iPad will feel slow or old when running demanding games or using it to replace your laptop. But the iPad Air will eliminate the few edge cases where your entry-level iPad may start to show its limitations.
With regard to battery life, both models feature the same battery capacity and charging speeds. You won’t see a big difference in battery life in similar scenarios.
If using the Apple Pencil to create art is essential to you, the 2022 iPad Air may be the better choice. The iPad Air supports the newer 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, while Apple still provides only first-generation Apple Pencil support on the 2022 iPad. This creates several quality-of-life issues. While both the 1st-gen and 2nd-gen Apple Pencil are equally capable on the performance front, they differ in other areas.
For starters, you need an additional dongle to charge the 1st-gen Apple Pencil with your 2022 iPad, as it has a Lightning port, and the iPad features a USB-C port. With the iPad Air, however, you can snap your 2nd-gen Apple Pencil to the edge of the device to charge it. Secondly, the 2nd-generation Pencil has a flat edge that prevents rolling on a flat surface. Lastly, the newer version also features customizable gestures, such as the “double-tap to switch to eraser” gesture.
Moving on to the keyboard support, the 2022 iPad and 2022 iPad Air are, again, quite similar. The Magic Keyboard Folio on the 2022 iPad has a keyboard and trackpad, making it just as functional as the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Air, one of the best iPad keyboards available.
This feature applies only to cellular models, but it still deserves a mention, especially for users who prefer uninterrupted Internet connectivity. Both the 2022 iPad and the 2022 iPad Air get 5G support in their cellular models in addition to 4G LTE. You’ll have to spend more for these models, but it can be worth it if you value the feature enough.
Otherwise, both models support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard that’s considerably better than Wi-Fi 5. And in terms of Bluetooth support, the 2022 iPad barely edges out the 2022 iPad Air by providing Bluetooth 5.2 instead of Bluetooth 5.0 in the latter.
Tip: if you don’t want to shell out big bucks for Apple-branded headphones, check out these outstanding AirPods alternatives.
It all comes down to the price. The iPad Air 2022 represents the best of both worlds at Apple, where you can get most of the Pro models’ features without spending over a grand. On the other hand, the 2022 iPad is the company’s attempt to offer enough design, display, and performance improvements over the 9th generation iPad to warrant spending $120 more for the newer model.
You need to decide whether the $100 premium for the 2022 iPad Air over the 2022 iPad is worth it for your usage scenario. If you feel the differences highlighted are significant enough, then spending more on the Air can be a worthwhile decision. If not, you’re getting yourself a redesigned, modern-looking iPad with just a few drawbacks.
Verdict: iPad vs. iPad Air
At a minimum, the 2022 iPad Air costs $100 more than the 2022 iPad. What you get for paying the premium is a faster chip, additional RAM, and a much better Apple Pencil experience. You can also be more confident about replacing your laptop with an iPad (to an extent), due to its superior specs.
In contrast, if all you want from your iPad is a smooth and reliable experience for regular daily use cases, the 2022 iPad is a great option and will save you $100. Whether it’s basic editing or creating digital art, or even playing games, the newer entry-level iPad won’t disappoint.
The raised price point of the 2022 iPad puts it in an awkward position among the likes of the 9th generation iPad, the 2022 iPad Air, and even the 2020 iPad Air. For someone willing to spend nearly $450 on an iPad, it makes sense to add $100 more and get the more advanced 2022 iPad Air. For many users, the disappointing Apple Pencil experience on the 2022 iPad alone would be enough to make the jump to the Air.
Users can even buy the previous-gen iPad Air (if you can find it) over the latest iPad. It features the same A14 Bionic chip and the similar seamless Apple Pencil experience as the latest iPad Air. It’s tough to make a case for the 2022 iPad, when users can pick up the 9th generation iPad to save money or jump to the 2022 iPad Air for a better experience.
Winner: 2022 iPad Air
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an iPad completely replace a laptop?
It all depend on your usage. Although Apple claims that iPads are meant to do everything, from casual usage to productivity, you’ll still need a laptop or desktop for heavy-duty work and gaming. There are some use cases, such as writing, web browsing, and even basic editing, that you can perform with an iPad, but complex workplace scenarios do not translate well onto an iPad. Similarly, gaming laptops and desktops are much better equipped and convenient for full-fledged gaming.
Is a 64 GB hard drive enough for an iPad?
If your iPad is not your primary photo- and video-shooting device, and you’re not storing any app data and other files, 64 GB should last you for years. On the other hand, if you’re a regular photo and video editor and like to store a lot of content on your iPad, you might want to consider 256 GB or 512 GB models to ensure that you don’t run out of space soon.
How long does an iPad last?
iPads, like other Apple devices, typically receive five to six years of software updates. Even after that, iPads work just fine for casual usage. For users who always want an up-to-date device, the lifespan of an iPad is around three years, after which they can sell it or trade it in for a more current model.
Image credit: Unsplash
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