Hands-On With the New M1 iPad Air

Apple last week introduced an updated iPad Air with an M1 chip, and now the new tablet is available for purchase. We picked one up to see how it compares to the iPad Pro, which also has an ‌M1‌ chip, to give you an idea of which of Apple’s iPads is right for you.

Design wise, the fifth-generation ‌iPad Air‌ looks just like the fourth-generation ‌iPad Air‌, with the exception of the colors. You can get the new model in purple and a new shade of blue, along with pink, starlight, and space gray.

ipad air m1 1
There are no other visual updates, and the ‌iPad Air‌ features the same all-display design with 10.9-inch screen and Touch ID Power Button. Unlike the ‌iPad Pro‌, it does not have 120Hz ProMotion support, which is now one of the main differences between the Pro and Air iPad lines. If you’re used to ProMotion, the lack of it on the ‌iPad Air‌ can be jarring, but if you’ve never had ProMotion, you won’t know the difference.

ipad air m1 3

ipad air m1 3
Though Apple didn’t change the look of the ‌iPad Air‌, there are internal changes. Most notably, the ‌iPad Air‌ is using the same ‌M1‌ chip as the ‌iPad Pro‌, so in terms of performance, they’re identical. You won’t see any speed differences between the two lines until the ‌iPad Pro‌ gets an update with a faster chip, which is expected to happen later this year.

ipad air m1 4

ipad air m1 4
Apple added a new 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front-facing camera to bring the ‌iPad Air‌ in line with the ‌iPad Pro‌, and it supports Center Stage, the feature that keeps you in frame as you move about the room.

ipad air m1 5

ipad air m1 5
The ‌iPad Air‌ has also been upgraded with 5G connectivity, but it is sub-6GHz 5G and it doesn’t work with the fastest mmWave 5G networks. The ‌iPad Pro‌ does work with the faster 5G network, so that’s worth keeping in mind.

ipad air m1 6

ipad air m1 6
If you have the prior-generation ‌iPad Air‌ or the last two ‌iPad Pro‌ models, it’s not going to be worth upgrading to this new fifth-generation ‌iPad Air‌, but if you’re coming from anything else, it’s worth choosing the ‌iPad Air‌ over the ‌iPad Pro‌ because it has almost the same feature set and it’s $200 cheaper.

ipad air m1 2

ipad air m1 2
You’re only going to be missing out on the faster 5G mmWave connectivity, the ProMotion display, and Face ID, and if these are important to you, you should hold out for the next-generation ‌iPad Pro‌ before upgrading.

Did you pick up a new ‌iPad Air‌? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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