Home Latest News Apple iPad Air (2022) Review – PCMag

Apple iPad Air (2022) Review – PCMag

The best iPad for creators
I’m that 5G guy. I’ve actually been here for every “G.” I’ve reviewed well over a thousand products during 18 years working full-time at PCMag.com, including every generation of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S. I also write a weekly newsletter, Fully Mobilized, where I obsess about phones and networks.
The 2022 iPad Air offers many of the benefits of the iPad Pro for hundreds of dollars less, making it the ideal tablet for creators.
Badge Art Apple’s 2022 iPad Air ($599) is the epitome of a mobile tablet, with a nearly perfect balance of features and performance. The company’s M1 chip is impressively powerful, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil makes the new Air a better creative tool than its predecessor. While battery life could be better, it’s not bad, so that’s a relatively minor complaint. If you’re looking for a do-it-all tablet with top-notch accessories, the 2022 iPad Air is the best choice in Apple’s tablet lineup—and a better bet than any Android tablet—earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
Apple currently sells five different iPads, including the $329 iPad, the $499 iPad mini, the $599 iPad Air we’re reviewing here, the $799 11-inch iPad Pro, and the $1,099 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The three to pay attention to are the $329 model (which is best for a general audience), this one (the ideal iPad for creators), and the 12.9-inch Pro (the top choice for pros).
At 9.74 by 7.02 by 0.24 inches and 1.02 pounds, the 2022 iPad Air is extremely close in size and weight to both the 4th-generation iPad Air (9.74 by 7.02 by 0.24 inches, 1.01 pounds) and the 11-inch iPad Pro (9.74 by 7.02 by 0.23 inches, 1.03 pounds); it even fits into cases designed for those models. The tablet’s matte aluminum back comes in five colors, including dark or light gray, pink, purple, or blue.
The Air offers a lot of advantages over the base $329 iPad, and one difference is immediately apparent on the front of the device. The Air has a 10.9-inch LCD instead of the base model’s 10.2-inch panel, and ditches the Touch ID sensor on the front in favor of integrating it with the power button on the side. With 500 nits of brightness, Apple’s True Tone color management, and an anti-reflective coating, the 2,360-by-1,640-pixel screen has less glare and looks richer than the one on the entry-level iPad.
The screen runs at 60Hz, so scrolling isn’t as buttery-smooth as it is on the iPad Pro’s 120Hz panel, but most devices in the world run at 60Hz. If you need a 120Hz screen and don’t want to spring for an iPad Pro, Samsung’s $699.99 Galaxy Tab S8 is a more affordable alternative.
Storage is a bit of a concern. The $599 model comes with 64GB of storage, while $749 bumps you up to a 256GB model. iPads, of course, have never offered removable storage—Apple really wants you to store as much as possible in the cloud with an iCloud+ subscription (50GB for $0.99 per month or 200GB for $2.99 per month). To do the math, the difference between the 64GB and 256GB local storage prices gets you more than four years of the 200GB iCloud plan.
The Air also supports the second-generation Pencil, while the base iPad works only with the first-generation model. The second-gen Pencil has a few advantages over its predecessor, including automatic charging when you magnetically clip it to the top of the iPad, a more pleasant-feeling matte material, and a flat side that prevents it from rolling away.
Other accessories make your iPad Air feel more like a traditional laptop. Our photos above shows the luxurious Magic Keyboard With Trackpad ($299), but you can also use a Smart Keyboard ($179), a third-party case, and any Bluetooth mouse or keyboard.
The M1 processor is another big reason to choose this tablet over the base model iPad. As our benchmarks show, this version of the M1 is core-per-core competitive with the 2021 iPad Pro and even M1-based Macs. It has lower overall performance because it has fewer graphics cores than the iPad Pro, but as the Basemark Web results show, the combination of the M1 chip and a 60Hz screen results in spectacular web browsing performance.
The 2022 iPhone SE, in my mind, exists because carriers really want people to upgrade to 5G. The 2022 iPad Air exists because Apple wants creators and app developers to standardize on the M1 chip. There’s power in numbers, and Apple now sells M1-based iPad Pros, iPad Airs, and Macs; even the iPhone 13‘s A15 chip is similar in architecture. Expect more creative apps to take advantage of its power through support for layers, computing-intense filters, and AR.
You can get a Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad Air, or one that offers 4G and 5G connectivity for $150 more (plus the cost of a cellular subscription).
There are two variants of the cellular model: the A2589 model has an eSIM and the A2591 model does not. Both versions fully support all of the US 4G networks, as well as T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s mid-band 5G networks. On AT&T, they work on C-band mid-band, but not 3.45GHz mid-band—that said, no other Apple product supports 3.45GHz yet. You also don’t get millimeter-wave high-band support, but the carriers are now much more focused on mid-band coverage anyway.
iPads generally don’t perform well on our battery tests. This model ran down in 5 hours and 11 minutes of continuous video playback with the screen set to maximum brightness. That’s effectively the same battery life that we got on the base model iPad (5 hours and 18 minutes), and it’s similar to the results we’ve been getting for iPads in this size range for years. Of course, you can make the battery last longer if you turn the screen brightness down. The iPad Air charges relatively slowly (at a mere 18W through its USB-C port)—it reached 15% in 15 minutes, and got to a full charge in about two-and-a-half hours.
Like all the current iPads (and many previous ones), this model runs iPadOS 15. Apple continues to add conveniences throughout the OS that enable easier multitasking without turning it into a fully windowed system. For example, you can now add informational widgets on the home screen, split the screen into panes, and jot down notes on a pop-up notepad at any time.
The iPad Air also supports Apple’s Universal Control feature, which lets you share a mouse and keyboard between the iPad and a Mac, as well as Sidecar mode, which turns your iPad into a secondary display for your Mac. Combining an iPad and a Mac computer gives you power that’s more than the sum of their parts, but you don’t need this new Air model to get on board that train. And if your workflow demands multiple windows and the option to quickly switch between tabs, a macOS or Windows computer is still a superior choice.
One important advantage of Apple products to remember in general is that the company keeps its devices up to date with the latest software versions for many years. Most Android tablet manufacturers don’t push updates out as regularly.
The iPad Air has a single 12MP, f/1.8 rear camera with 4K video recording and a wide-angle, 122-degree, f/2.4 12MP front-facing camera. The rear camera isn’t much to talk about, but it’s fine. Unfortunately, you don’t get the night mode, portrait mode, or any of the depth-sensing and LIDAR features in the iPad Pro. Still, the rear camera performs decently in AR apps because of the powerful M1 processor.
The front-facing camera is more impressive. The camera app lets you record in both regular and super-wide-angle modes, ideal for getting the whole family into a FaceTime or getting both parents into the frame for a parent-teacher conference.
In video chat apps, Apple’s Center Stage feature simulates a normal field of view, but automatically pans around the wider field of view to track you. We’ve seen it in action on the latest round of iPad Pros and Macs as well. In video calls, Center Stage worked fine if I bobbed and weaved a bit, but it’s not magic—you still have to stay basically in front of the camera.
The dual speakers offer plenty of stereo imaging and are noticeably clearer than the lower-cost iPad’s single speaker. But they lack the bass and richness of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s speakers, and they aren’t quite as loud.
After years of reviewing iPads, my perspective on them changed this year when my teenager started using one as their primary school computer. If you have a focused workflow—like taking notes, filling out forms, and/or sketching—the iPad is a better option than a traditional laptop because it keeps you focused. iPadOS unlocks access to the tablet-optimized creativity apps you can’t get on Android devices, including those within the Adobe Creative Suite. It’s the best platform for single-task computing.
If you primarily want a tablet for consuming content, the base model iPad is your best choice. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro remains a luxury option—unless it’s the primary tool with which you make serious money, it’s not necessary. The 2022 iPad Air gives you many of the same features of the iPad Pro, including an M1 processor and second-gen Apple Pencil support, for a much more attainable price. For everyday creators and students with a tablet-focused workflow, the iPad Air is your best option, and our Editors’ Choice winner.
The 2022 iPad Air offers many of the benefits of the iPad Pro for hundreds of dollars less, making it the ideal tablet for creators.
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I’m that 5G guy. I’ve actually been here for every “G.” I’ve reviewed well over a thousand products during 18 years working full-time at PCMag.com, including every generation of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S. I also write a weekly newsletter, Fully Mobilized, where I obsess about phones and networks.
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She has spent the past eight years playing the role of an infrastructure consultant, and has now joined Inferse.com as a full time blogger. Her current profession is a result of her deep interest in computer gadgets, laptops, gaming accessories and other tech happenings.