iPad (2022) vs. iPad Air 5 (2022): Which should you buy?

iPad (2022) vs. iPad Air 5 (2022): A very strange comparison

The iPad Air has seen its position in the overall Apple iPad lineup change over time. The first two models arrived as the only regular-sized Apple tablet on the market when Apple (temporarily, it turned out) retired the singular iPad name after four generations. Meanwhile, Apple placed the third iPad Air version, launched five years after its predecessor, between a (revived) singular iPad and iPad Pro, where it continued to sit in the lineup when both the iPad Air 4 (2020) and iPad Air 5 (2022) were released. 

When it comes to an iPad Air 5 vs. iPad (2021) comparison, you can quickly see the difference between the two. The former is superior, with better specs and a higher price. Replace the iPad (2021) with the new iPad (2022), and things get fuzzy. The new "budget" iPad is vastly different than its predecessor as it offers better specs and a fresh design. For this, you're expected to pay much more than the earlier version. 

Surprisingly, the iPad (2022) is nearly identical to the iPad Air 5 (2022). And although the iPad (2022) is much more expensive than the iPad (2021), it's much cheaper than the iPad Air 5 (2022).

Let's dig into the (few) differences between the iPad Air 5 (2022) and the latest iPad (2022). 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 iPad Air 5 (2022)iPad (2022)
Retail pricefrom $599from $449
ProcessorM1A14 Bionic chip
Storage64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB
Display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display10.9-inch Liquid Retina display
Resolution2360x1640 resolution at 264 ppi2360‑by‑1640 resolution at 264 ppi
True ToneYesYes
P3 wide colorYesNo
Rear camera12MP Wide camera12MP Wide camera
FaceTime camera12MP Ultra WideLandscape Ultra Wide camera
Center StageYesYes
SecurityTouch ID (in button)Touch ID (in button)
Battery lifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10 hours
ColorsSpace Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, BlueSilver, Pink, Blue, Yellow
Apple Pencil supportApple Pencil (2nd generation)Apple Pencil (1st generation)
Smart ConnectorYesYes
Apple Keyboard compatibilityMagic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard Folio

iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad (2022): More alike than different

As you can see above, the iPad Air 5 (2022) and iPad (2022) are nearly the same on most points. They both, for example, have a USB-C port and Smart Connector, and each offers Touch ID through a fingerprint identity sensor built into a top button. Both devices offer similar battery life, storage options, and rear camera system. 

The most crucial difference between the two iPads is that the iPad Air 5 (2022) contains an Apple M1 chip, while the iPad (2022) includes an A14 Bionic chip. The M1 offers an 8-core CPU with two performance and two efficiency cores, an 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, and 8GB RAM. The A14 Bionic chip, also available in the iPhone 12 series, comes with a 6-core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores, a 4-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. These differences mean the iPad Air 5 handles things like performance, multitasking, and graphics better than the iPad. Does this mean the iPad (2022) is somehow bad at handling all those things? Absolutely not, and for the average iPad user, it will probably mean very little. 

Other differences between the two tablets are more nuanced. For example, both tablets feature a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display. And yet, the iPad Air 5 is the only one between the two with a fully laminated display with an anti-reflective coating. This means the tablet screen is better protected from the elements and will look better in bright conditions. The iPad Air 5 also offers a Wide color display (P3), which provides more vibrant greens and reds than the traditional sRGB color gamut that's found on the newer iPad.

iPad Air 5 showing lyrics in Apple music app

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Perhaps the most confusing difference between these tablets is that the iPad (2022) only supports the Apple Pencil (1st generation), while the iPad Air 5 is compatible with the Apple Pencil (2nd generation). Apple's decision to only allow the iPad (2022) to support the first Apple Pencil is goofy and annoying at the same time.

On the one hand, the compatibility difference means anyone upgrading to the iPad (2022) can keep their existing Apple Pencil. And yet, those same folks won't be able to charge that Apple Pencil with the tablet since it comes with a USB-C, not a Lightning connector that the first Apple Pencil supports. And this says nothing about the technical advances the Apple Pencil (2nd generation) has over the older model that iPad (2022) users won't be able to appreciate.

There are two other perks iPad Air 5 buyers will get to experience. Of the two tablets, this is the only one that supports Stage Manager, which offers a new way to multitask. The more expensive tablet also includes a media engine, a fancy name for specialized cores within Apple Silicon (in this case, the M1). This engine is dedicated to processing digital media codecs, including hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, and video encoding/decoding.

The only other difference between the iPad Air 5 and the iPad (2022) are the color choices. The former comes in Space Gray, Starlight, pink, purple, and blue. The latter also comes in a pink and blue option, but the hues here are darker. The iPad (2022) is also available in silver and yellow.

iPad (2022) vs iPad Air 5 (2022) vs: Which should you buy?

You'll need to decide whether it's worth paying $150 extra for the extras the iPad Air 5 provides. If you're OK with paying more just because you want a better iPad, the iPad Air 5 is your choice. However, if money is a significant concern, understand that the new iPad for 2022 is a terrific device and not that much different than the iPad Air 5. 

The choice really comes down to whether you want better performance, multitasking, and graphics, which may or may not mean so much during everyday use. You'll also need to decide whether an ever-so-slightly better display is high on your list of priorities and whether you're okay with a first-generation Apple Pencil. 

The bottom line: For most folks, I would recommend the iPad (2022). If you're still not convinced, check out our list of the best iPads of the year. 

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.