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How the M1-powered iPad Air compares to other iPad models

How the M1-powered iPad Air compares to other iPad models

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A comparison of the current iPad lineup

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The latest iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad Mini (from left to right).
The latest iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad Mini (from left to right).
Image: Apple

Apple announced a new iPad Air during its “Peek Performance” event on March 8th. While the design is similar to that of the last-gen Air, Apple did introduce a few iterative changes.

For one, the iPad Air now shares the same blazing-fast M1 processor found in the most recent iPad Pro. The new Air also touts a 12MP front camera (updated from the last gen’s 7MP) equipped with Apple’s Center Stage feature, which can automatically follow you in the frame during video calls. There’s also 5G connectivity on the cellular models, a USB-C port that’s up to twice as fast as the last gen’s port, and 10Gbps of data transfer speeds.

Like the last-gen model did, the new 10.9-inch iPad Air starts at $599 — although note that the LTE models cost $20 more. While it won’t be available until March 18th, you can preorder it starting Friday, March 11th, from Apple, B&H Photo, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.

Yet are all of those changes worth buying the new iPad Air? After all, many of Apple’s current tablets share a lot of these features, including support for Apple’s aforementioned Center Stage feature and the same battery life. Before you buy, you might want to consider that perhaps one of the smaller, cheaper iPads — like the 10.2-inch iPad or 8.3-inch iPad Mini — might be better suited for your needs, even if neither is powered by an M1 chip or are compatible with the Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Folio.

The latest entry-level iPad, for example, offers 64GB and 256GB storage options, a 3.5mm audio jack (that the new iPad Air lacks), and up to 10 hours of battery life and starts at $329. And if that iPad’s lack of 5G support, A13 Bionic chip, compatibility with only the first-gen Apple Pencil, and lack of USB-C is a turnoff, there’s also the new iPad Mini. For $499, you’ll still get a more affordable iPad but with the more powerful A15 Bionic processor — the same chip found in the newly announced iPhone SE and Apple’s current iPhone 13 lineup — as well as support for the second-gen Apple Pencil, which, unlike its predecessor, conveniently charges while magnetically docked to the side of the iPad.

The new iPad Mini is the smallest in the lineup and works with the second-generation Apple Pencil.
The new iPad Mini is the smallest in the lineup and works with the second-generation Apple Pencil.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

At the top-end of the iPad spectrum, there’s the 2021 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which offer everything the iPad Air does and more, starting at $799 and $1,099, respectively. While only the 12.9-inch model features a Mini LED screen, both size configurations offer a maximum of 2TB of storage and faster 5G mmWave connectivity (the new iPad Air doesn’t come with mmWave support). They both also feature ProMotion support, a technology that improves display quality and minimizes power consumption by automatically adjusting refresh rates up to 120Hz. That allows for greater responsiveness while using the Apple Pencil for a more fluid experience as you draw, while a maximum 120Hz refresh rate option makes for a smoother gaming experience.

In addition, both iPad Pros offer a better megapixel front camera with a 10MP ultra-wide camera; a four-speaker system as opposed to the two found in the latest iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Air; and support for Thunderbolt / USB 4 and USB-C. Plus, if you’re not a fan of Touch ID, there’s Face ID, so you can use your face to unlock your iPad Pro.

That’s just a glimpse of the current lineup. If you’re curious as to how the forthcoming Air stacks up against the last-gen model and Apple’s current slate of tablets, we’ve compiled the raw specs of each model in the chart below ahead of our upcoming review.

Apple iPad lineup

Category12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)11-inch iPad Pro (2021)iPad Air (2022)iPad (2021) iPad Mini (2021) iPad Air (2020)
Screen type12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display11-inch Liquid Retina display10.9‑inch Liquid Retina display10.2-inch Retina display8.3-inch Liquid Retina display10.9‑inch Liquid Retina display
Resolution2732 x 20482388 x 16682360 x 16402160 x 16202266 x 1488 2360 x 1640
Front camera12 megapixels12 megapixels12 megapixels12 megapixels12 megapixels7-megapixels
Rear camera12 megapixels (10-megapixel ultrawide)12 megapixels (10-megapixel ultrawide)12 megapixels8 megapixels12 megapixels12-megapixels
ApertureWide: ƒ/1.8 aperture Ultra Wide: ƒ/2.4 apertureWide: ƒ/1.8 aperture Ultra Wide: ƒ/2.4 apertureƒ/1.8 apertureƒ/2.4 apertureƒ/1.8 apertureƒ/1.8 aperture
Video recording4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fpsNo 4K video recording 4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps4K video recording at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
Stylus supportApple Pencil (2nd-gen)Apple Pencil (2nd-gen)Apple Pencil (2nd-gen)Apple Pencil (1st-gen)Apple Pencil (2nd-gen) Apple Pencil (2nd-gen)
Keyboard supportMagic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard FolioMagic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard FolioSmart Keyboard Bluetooth keyboards Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, and
PortsUSB-C with support for Thunderbolt / USB-4USB-C with support for Thunderbolt / USB-4USB-CLightning connector, 3.5mm audio jackUSB-CUSB-C
ProcessorApple M1 chipApple M1 chipApple M1 chipA13 Bionic chipA15 Bionic chipA14 Bionic chip
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB,1TB, 2TB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB
Weight1.5 pounds (Wi-Fi) / 1.51 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular)1.03 pounds (Wi-Fi) / 1.04 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular)1.02 pounds (Wi-Fi) / 1.02 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular) 1.07 pounds (Wi-Fi) / 1.09 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular)0.65 pound (Wi-Fi) / 0.66 pound (Wi-Fi + Cellular)1.02 pounds (Wi-Fi) /1.02 pounds (Wi-Fi + Cellular)
Price (Wi-Fi)$1,099 / $1,199 / $1,399 / $1,799 / $2,199$799 / $899 / $1,099 / $1,499 / $1,899$599 / $749$329 / $479 $499 / $649 $599 / $749
Price (Wi-Fi + Cellular)$1,299 / $1,399 / $1,599 / $1,999 / $1,399$999 / $1,099 / $1,299 / $1,699 / $2,099$749 / $899$459 / $609$649 / $799$729 / $879
AuthenticationFace IDFace IDTouch ID built into the top buttonTouch ID built into the Home buttonTouch ID built into the top buttonTouch ID built into power button
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6, 5G (support for mmWave), Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 6, 5G (support for mmWave), Bluetooth 5.0 Wi‑Fi 6, 5G, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi, 4G LTE cellular, Bluetooth 4.2Wi‑Fi 6, 5G, Bluetooth 5.0Wi-Fi 6, 4G LTE cellular, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life10 hours10 hours10 hours10 hours10 hours10 hours
Misc.Lidar, ProMotion, True Tone, four-speaker system, Center Stage supportLidar, ProMotion, True Tone, four-speaker system, Center Stage supportTrue Tone, two speaker audio landscape mode, Center Stage supportTrue Tone, two speaker audio, Center Stage support True Tone, two speaker audio landscape mode, Center Stage support True Tone, two speaker audio landscape mode

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