At its 'Peak Performance' March media event, Apple took the wraps off an all-new iPad Air. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Powered by the M1 chip
While the smart money was on the iPad Air 5 gaining the A15 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 13 line and the iPad mini 6, Apple surprised watchers by unveiling the iPad Air 5 featuring the M1 chip.
Apple states that the move to M1 makes for a 60% increase in CPU performance with twice the graphics performance.
The chip, which first debuted in 2020 Mac models is super powerful and incredibly efficient. It will be interesting to see how many potential iPad Pro buyers will now opt for the iPad Air instead given the top-end chip is now in the mid-tier iPad.
It also begs the question as to where the iPad Pro goes next. Is an M2-powered iPad Pro on the cards for the near future?
Featuring Center Stage
Center Stage was one of the most delightful iPad features to launch in 2021, so it's great to see it come to the iPad Air at the first opportunity.
Using a mixture of machine learning software smarts and 12MP Ultra Wide camera hardware, Center Stage keeps you, and anyone else with you, in the frame on your video calls. The result is buttery smooth, automatic adjustments that keep you in shot even as you move around. It works with FaceTime and a bunch of third-party video calling apps already.
The rear camera remains a 12MP shooter, though it now allows for 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps and 30 fps in addition to the previous 60 fps. There's also extended dynamic range for video up to 30 fps.
Another feature the iPad Air is getting in order to bring it up to speed with other iPad models in the lineup is 5G connectivity in the cellular models.
The iPad Pro was first to get 5G in spring 2021, with the iPad mini 6 following suit in late 2021. While the 9th-gen iPad didn't get 5G, it's good to see the faster networking tech made available on Apple's mid-tier iPad model and bring it level with the mini in this respect.
Though iPad Air already made the jump to USB-C in the iPad Air 4, the USB-C port in the 2022 iPad Air is now up to twice as fast.
That means data transfers up to 10Gbps which will allow for pro workflows that include importing large photos or videos are even more efficient. the port can be connected to a wide variety of USB-C accessories including cameras, external storage, iPad USB-C hubs, and external displays with up to 6K resolution.
The same size
Despite getting significant internal upgrades, iPad Air 5 retains the same basic form factor as the previous-gen model. That includes the same 10.9-inch size and Liquid Retina display — no OLED upgrade for the iPad yet! — as well as landscape stereo speakers, and Touch ID top button.
The continuation in size also means it still supports the accessories like the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil.
Touch ID is still here
While some wanted Face ID to make its way to the iPad Air this time, it looks like we'll have to wait a little longer for that. The same button-based Touch ID system is still in place with the iPad Air 5 keeping it on a level with the iPad mini 6.
Though the design hasn't changed fundamentally, the fifth-gen iPad Air features a new range of colors that includes purple, blue, pink, starlight, and space gray. That all-new blue color is particularly stunning.
Same starting price
The starting price for the iPad Air 5 is $599 — that's the same as the previous-gen model retailed for. Apple raised the iPad Air price by $100 in 2020 so we weren't expecting a change in price here.
The storage capacities stay the same, too, at 64GB and 256GB.
iPad Air 5 pre-orders open on Friday, March 11, with units shipping from March 18.