Apple’s iPad Air should not be mistaken for iPad Pro. It stands out on its own
It’s been two years and there is still that familiarity the new Apple iPad Air bears with its immediate predecessor. Two reasons – first, the iPad you see today is future-proof enough and we may be repeating this mantra two years or so from now; secondly, not a lot needs changing with every cycle, except incremental upgrades that may be the need of the hour.
The Apple iPad Air for 2022 isn’t entirely different from the iPad Air of 2020. But what has changed gives it a personality to punch above its weight.
At the core of what’s new is the Apple M1 chip. What’s the deal? This extremely powerful chip is also in use in the more expensive iPad Pro series (both 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions). Not just that. The MacBook Air, MacBook Pro series, iMac 24-inch and Mac Mini run the same chip as well, and that lends credence to the argument that the latest generation iPad Air is powerful enough for an option that essentially sits in the middle of the iPad line.
The result is performance, as you’d experience with almost every app, demanding tasks and complex usage scenario in your workflow at par with the more expensive iPad Pro series. The advantage the M1 chip has over the A15 Bionic one that’s found in the iPhone 13 series (albeit those are much smaller form factors) is the more high-performance cores and GPU cores, despite similar clock speeds. The iPad Air also has 8GB RAM, same as the entry spec MacBook Air.
This simply stacks up to a reality that the iPad Air is at par with the iPad Pro models as far as performance goes. Additionally, it reaffirms the belief that the iPad models, particularly the ones that aren’t ‘Pro’, aren’t in any way inferior to the latest MacBook Air or MacBook Pro when it comes to speed.
But is the iPad Air almost an iPad Pro? For performance, particularly in the 8GB RAM models, it is at par. Subscribe to Apple Arcade gaming service and download Gear.Club Stradale (it’s exclusive for the time being), and the game load times as well as the ability to hold graphics performance is at par in the latest generation iPad Air and the iPad Pro 11-inch. For the significant amount of lesser money spent on getting an iPad Air, you still get something that’s almost as versatile – the hard graft and the lighter tasks such as reading books, video streaming, web browsing and editing photos, for instance.
On the display front, you’ll ideally find the decisive difference which will have a bearing on which one should buy – the iPad Air or the iPad Pro 11-inch. This gets a 10.9-inch liquid retina display with 2360x1640 resolution (slightly lower than the 2388x1688 resolution on the iPad Pro), maximum rated brightness of 500 nits (slightly lesser than 600 nits) and no ProMotion technology. Having said that, the screen is more than well-placed for playing games, watching videos, reading and even connect a keyboard for work.
What’s not changed is the design. The flat slab with straight lines, still all-aluminum and the Pencil work the same way. It’s around 5 grams lighter than the similar-sized iPad Pro. You’ll get more colour choices too – starlight, pink, purple and blue, in addition to space grey. It feels great to hold and the fact that it is in line with the modern iPad designs gives it the proofing against looking dated a couple of years from now.
The thunderbolt 4 USB-C port isn’t there yet, but the USB-C port is faster now, capped at 10Gbps, which is twice as fast as the one on the 2020 edition iPad Air. File transfers to external storage will be faster, as well as the option to connect this to an external display with an up to-6K resolution.
There is, however, one concern that Apple will have to address in the next iPad Air update (a mid-cycle reconfiguration wouldn’t harm) – the base storage. The iPad Air starts with 64GB storage, which will not work for most users no matter how much we can tout streaming as a method and cloud storage as a tool. That’s 64GB for a price of ₹54,900 (Wi-Fi) and ₹68,900 (Wi-Fi + cellular). This should be at least 128GB, but that’s also where we land at a complication – the iPad Pro line-up also starts from 128GB, but then again, iPad Air buyers cannot be made to sit through a compromise just because of product differentiation.
For a lot of users, the iPad Air is more than enough of a tablet that you’ll need. Unless you’ve the sort of extensive usage that will be able to fully utilise the extras which the iPad Pro gets you. While you may want a Mini LED display, Face ID and ProMotion display tech, you don’t necessarily need them. As it is, the iPad Air is a value proposition, particularly in the lower echelons of the price band.
Yet, the more expensive variants do make you wonder if it’d be a better decision to spend more and get the iPad Pro 11-inch. The iPad Pro line-up has been getting a bit too complex for consumers to navigate, and this is one example of the confusing overlap.