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iPad Air 5 vs. Air 4: Which should you buy?

iPad Air 4 backside
iPad Air 4 backside (Image credit: Lory Gil / iMore )

Apple's fifth-generation iPad Air isn't a device that's going to have owners of the fourth-gen model clamoring for an upgrade, though it does improve the iPad Air experience in a bunch of ways. It's up to twice as fast thanks to the M1 chip powering it, and 5G connectivity and Center stage will suit some users' specific needs. Outside of those tentpole features, it's still very much a mid-tier tablet offering from Apple.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad Air 4: Breaking down the specs

The easiest way to see which iPad Air is right for you is a head-to-head spec breakdown, so that's where we'll start. Below is a list of the key specifications for the iPad Air and how each device compares.

iPad Air 5iPad Air 4
Retail price$599$599
ProcessorM1A14 Bionic
Storage64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB
Display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
Resolution2360x1640 resolution at 264 ppi2360x1640 resolution at 264 ppi
True ToneYesYes
P3 wide colorYesYes
FaceTime camera12MP Ultra Wide7MP FaceTime HD
Center StageYesNo
Rear camera12MP Wide camera12MP Wide camera
Cellular5G4G LTE
ConnectorUSB-CUSB-C
SecurityTouch IDTouch ID
Battery lifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
ColorsSpace Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, BlueSpace Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Sky Blue, Green
Apple Pencil 2 supportYesYes
Smart ConnectorYesYes

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad Air 4: iPad Air 5 upgrades some key areas

Ipad Air

Ipad Air (Image credit: Apple)

As you can see from the spec sheet above, the iPad Air 5 has advanced the product line in some key areas.

It's much faster — 60% faster CPU performance with twice the graphics performance, according to Apple — thanks to the M1 chip. Putting that much power in the mid-tier iPad is a bold move from Apple and, since the starting price is staying the same, you're getting iPad Pro-level speeds without shelling out top-dollar. USB-C speeds have also been improved, though not quite to the iPad Pro's Thunderbolt 4 levels.

Speaking of speeds, the move to 5G in the iPad Air 5 is a boon to those who like to use their iPad out and about away from Wi-Fi. Of course, only cellular configurations benefit from this so you'll be spending more than the $599 starting price, but you'll have a much more pleasant experience browsing when you're in an area with 5G. It also brings the iPad Air in line with the iPad mini 6, which got 5G support back in the fall of 2021.

The other main reason to consider the iPad Air 5 over the previous-gen model is the adoption of Center Stage. It uses some machine learning smarts, plus the new 12MP Ultra Wide front-facing camera, to ensure that you're always in the frame on video calls. Again, this feature launched first with 2021 iPad releases, but it's nice to see Apple add it to the Air at the first opportunity.

The 2022 iPad Air also offers a new selection of hues to choose from. Whether or not you prefer them to the iPad Air 4's color lineup will come down to personal preference, but I think I prefer the slightly more vibrant colors of the 2020 model.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad Air 4: Not everything got upgraded

News app on iPad Air 4

News app on iPad Air 4 (Image credit: Lory Gil / iMore)

Most of the upgrades the iPad Air 5 got are internal, so they may be lost on the average user, and not everything got upgraded this time around.

Center Stage, while a prototypical 'magical' Apple experience, is only of use to those that make and take a lot of video calls. Plus, 5G support only applies to the cellular configurations and day-to-day iPad users aren't going to come close to maxing out what the M1 chip is capable of.

Design-wise, the iPad Air 5 and iPad Air 4 are almost identical — so much so that they work with the same accessories. They have the exact same display, the same dimensions, and a practically unchanged rear camera. Face ID didn't make the jump to the iPad Air with the fifth-gen model, so it's still Touch ID with whichever you pick and the battery life you'll get is basically the same too.

iPad Air 5 vs. iPad Air 4: Which should you buy?

If you already have an iPad Air 4, it's probably not worth upgrading to the iPad Air 5 unless you desperately want more power or want the best iPad experience without spending a couple of hundred dollars more for the iPad Pro.

Those with older iPad models or just getting started with the iPad should choose the iPad Air 5, though. Since the starting price is the same as it was with the iPad Air 4, there's no real reason to get the 2020 model unless you find a particularly good discount as retailers clear out inventory.

Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.