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iPad Air shootout — 2024 M2 iPad Air vs M1 iPad Air compared

Fifth-gen iPad Air [left], sixth-gen iPad Air [right]

Two years after the last update, Apple has introduced the sixth-generation iPad Air with the M2 processor and a new size. Here's how they compare on paper.

The iPad Air is decidedly the mid-range option in the Apple tablet catalog. It's a step up from the iPad and iPad mini in offering Pro-level performance through its use of Apple Silicon, but it's not quite at the level of the iPad Pro range itself.

Apple's last change to the iPad Air was in March 2022, meaning there has been a two-year gap between the fifth and sixth generations.

To make the wait worth it, Apple has not only upgraded the chip to M2, but also added a new size option. One that offers a lot more screen space for users to work with.

That could be enough of a jump for end users to upgrade to the latest model. In this comparison, we will explain what to look out for.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Specifications

Specifications2024 iPad Air2022 iPad Air
Screen size (inches)11,
Base price$599,
Resolution2,360 x 1,640 (11-inch),
2,732 x 2,048 (13-inch)
2,360 x 1,640
Pixel Density (dpi)264264
Brightness (nits)500 (11-inch),
600 (13-inch)
Display typeLiquid Retina,
True Tone,
Wide color (P3),
Fully Laminated,
Apple Pencil Hover
Liquid Retina,
True Tone,
Wide color (P3),
Fully Laminated
Apple PencilApple Pencil Pro,
Apple Pencil USB-C
Apple Pencil Second Generation,
Apple Pencil USB-C
Smart ConnectorYesYes
Dimensions (inches)9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 (11-inch),
11.04 x 8.46 x 0.24 (13-inch)
9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24
Weight (lbs)1.02 (11-inch),
1.36 (13-inch)
Rear camera (MP)12MP Wide12MP Wide
Front camera (MP)12MP Ultra Wide Landscape12MP Ultra Wide
Video recording4K at 24/30/60fps4K at 24/30/60fps
BiometricTouch IDTouch ID
SpeakersLandscape Stereo,
Increased bass (13-inch)
Landscape Stereo

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Physical Appearance

The iPad Air is a tablet that bridges between the utility of the iPad Pro and the value of the iPad. A best-of-both-worlds bit of kit.

It uses the same design language as the iPad Pro. Effectively it's an aluminum and glass slab with flat edges and an edge-to-edge display.

The fifth and sixth-generation models are very similar in terms of appearance. There are barely any externally visible differences between the two, style-wise.

There is one big difference, and that's size. The sixth-gen models consist of both 11-inch and 13-inch variants, while the fifth has a 10.9-inch screen.

Size is a new option for the sixth-gen iPad Air
Size is a new option for the sixth-gen iPad Air

However, for the 11-inch and 10.9-inch screens, the difference is in name only. In Apple's small print, the measured diagonal is 10.86 inches for both models.

There's still quite a lot of similarity between the 10.9-inch fifth-gen and the 11-inch sixth-gen versions, if not what Apple calls it.

The fifth-generation model measures 9.74 inches by 7.02 inches, with a thickness of 0.24 inches. The 11-inch sixth-gen has exactly the same dimensions, as well as the 1.02-pound weight.

The 13-inch sixth-gen is, naturally, bigger and heavier. At 11.04 inches by 8.46 inches and 0.24 inches thick, it has a much larger overall footprint. The 1.36-pound weight is also unsurprising here.

2022 Apple iPad Air 5 in Blue

iPad Air 5

The 5th Generation iPad Air features Apple's M1 chip, a 12MP Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage, and 5G capability (Wi-Fi + Cellular models only).

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Displays

Using a 10.9-inch display, the fifth-generation iPad Air is fairly close to the iPad and 11-inch iPad Pro in general appearance, and that includes the display.

A Liquid Retina screen, the 2022 iPad Air has a resolution of 2,360 by 1,640, which gives it a pixel denisity of 264 pixels per inch. In terms of brightness, the LED backlighting of the fifth-gen model manages to push out a usable 500 nits.

The fifth-gen model also includes True Tone and Wide Color (P3) support, though it stops short of having the iPad Pro's ProMotion feature.

The screen on the 10.9-inch fifth-gen iPad Air is practically the same as the 11-inch sixth-gen.
The screen on the 10.9-inch fifth-gen iPad Air is practically the same as the 11-inch sixth-gen.

These specification points also apply to the 11-inch sixth-gen model, save for the marginally larger screen size.

The 13-inch iPad Air has a higher resolution at 2,732 by 2,048 pixels, with a similar pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. It's also brighter, going up to 600 nits.

For stylus usage, Apple includes support for the second-generation Apple Pencil in the fifth-generation iPad Air, as well as the Apple Pencil with USB-C. The sixth-gen models both support the new Apple Pencil Pro and the Apple Pencil USB-C.

The newer displays also include support for Apple Pencil Hover, the feature that shows where the Apple Pencil is located on the display without actually making contact.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Performance

First introduced in 2020 as a Mac chip, the M1 in the fifth-gen iPad Air has shown its worth for productivity. An eight-core CPU with four performance and four efficiency cores, it also has an eight-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine, as well as 8GB of memory.

While all other Apple Silicon chips have Media Engines, the M1 still has hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding for H.264 and HEVC video footage. All it misses out on is ProRes and ProRes RAW acceleration.

The sixth-gen models have the M2, a chip with a faster 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU. Apple claims the new iPad Air is nearly 50% faster than the M1 version for many productivity and creative tasks.

Again, the 16-core Neural Engine is available which is 40% faster than the M1's version. Onboard RAM remains at 8GB.

Single-core GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro
Single-core GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro

Before the new iPad Air models ship, the nearest comparison we can make is actually quite pertinent. The previous-generation iPad Pro used an M2 chip with 8GB of memory, so it therefore will be very close to reality.

According to Geekbench, the fifth-gen M1-equipped iPad Air manages 2,255 for the single-core benchmark and 8,081 for the multi-core version. It also manages a Metal score of 31,752.

Multi-core GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro
Multi-core GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro

The 11-inch iPad Pro with M2 is rated at 2,536 for the single-core test, which is a 12% improvement over the M1. Under multi-core, the 9,631 result works out to be a 19% boost of performance.

The Metal score, measuring graphical performance, is 45,160 for the M2 iPad Pro. That's a 42% improvement over the previous iPad Air.

Metal GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro
Metal GeekBench scores for the 5th-gen M1 iPad Air and M2 iPad Pro

Suffice it to say, the M2 should give consumers a lot more performance to use with their iPad Air than the M1 did.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Cameras and Audio

Around the back of the fifth-gen iPad Air is a 12-megapixel Wide camera with an f/1.8 aperture and a 5x digital zoom. That camera is capable of 4K video recording at up to 60fps, 1080p Slo-mo at 240fps, and extended dynamic range at up to 30fps.

Apple didn't fiddle around with the rear camera, with the sixth-gen models having the same specifications. The only difference is the use of Smart HDR4 support fro photos, rather than Smart HDR 3.

The camera on the back of the sixth-gen iPad Air is the same as the fifth-gen.
The camera on the back of the sixth-gen iPad Air is the same as the fifth-gen.

The front camera has a bigger change going from the fifth to sixth generations. The fifth places the front camera on the short edge, optimizing it for portrait orientation usage in video calls.

The sixth instead moves it to the longer edge, making it better for landscape-orientation FaceTime calls.

That camera in both generations is a 12MP Ultra Wide shooter with an f/2.4 aperture. It can handle 1080p video at 60fps, complete with cinematic video stabilization, but its real party piece is Center Stage support for video calling.

For audio, the fifth-gen iPad Air doesn't quite get the iPad Pro's quad-speaker setup, but it does have landscape stereo speakers. A pair of microphones are used for audio capture.

There's no sound change for the 11-inch sixth-generation model, but the speakers do manage to get double the bass for the 13-inch version.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Connectivity and Battery

The main physical connection of the 2022 iPad Air is a USB-C connector in the base, which operates at USB 3.1 Gen 2, or 10Gbps. It handles charging duties, as well as connecting accessories and storage, and can even handle an external display with DisplayPort support.

There's no change for the sixth-generation models, as it still uses USB-C.

There is a secondary connection in the form of a Smart Connector on the back for both variants. It's used for connection to accessories like the Magic Keyboard.

There's still a smart connector available, to use the iPad Air with the Magic Keyboard.
There's still a smart connector available, to use the iPad Air with the Magic Keyboard.

A magnetic connector exists on one long side, which is used to pair and charge the Apple Pencil 2 or Apple Pencil Pro, depending on the vintage of the tablet.

For wireless connectivity, there are both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular editions for each generation. The cellular connectivity is the same, supporting sub-6GHz and Gigabit LTE, not mmWave.

One thing the sixth-gen models lack is a SIM card slot, which is only available on the fifth-gen model. While the fifth-gen can use a physical card or an eSIM, the sixth relies only on eSIM.

Bluetooth does differ between the two, with Apple opting for Bluetooth 5.3 in the newer models over version 5.0. Wi-Fi is also improved, from Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E.

Biometrics are handled by Touch ID, and stays in the same place embedded in the top button.

Battery-wise, the 28.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery of the fifth-gen model is exchanged for a similar 28.93-watt-hour version in the 11-inch new model, while the 13-inch gets a 36.59-watt-hour version.

Regardless of model, Apple still says all versions can last for up to ten hours of web surfing or video watching over Wi-Fi, or nine hours of cellular web surfing.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Capacity and Pricing

The 2022 iPad Air was sold in two capacities, with the 64GB Wi-Fi model priced at $599, with the 256GB version at $749. Cellular cost an extra $150, bringing them up to $749 and $899 respectively.

The 2024 model's 11-inch option starts at $599 for the 128GB starting capacity, with upgraded storage options available. You could get 256GB for $699, 512GB for $899, or 1TB of storage for $1,099.

The 13-inch version starts at $799 for the 128GB capacity, making it $200 more expensive. At 256GB, it's $899, with the 512GB at $1,099, and 1TB at $1,299.

The colorways of the iPad Air for 2024
The colorways of the iPad Air for 2024

Cellular upgrades are $150 across the board. This can push the price of the sixth-gen models up to $1,249 at the most expensive 11-inch iPad Air, or $1,449 for the 13-inch iPad Air.

For colors, Apple reduced the range for the sixth-gen, from five to four.

The fifth-gen iPad Air has colorways in Space Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, and Blue. The sixth-gen go for Space Gray, Starlight, Purple, and Blue.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Should you upgrade?

It has been a while since the last iPad Air update. But, despite the time between upgrades, there's not a massive amount of changes on display here.

Between the 10.9-inch fifth-gen and the 11-inch sixth-gen models, you're basically looking at a chip upgrade from M1 to M2. There's also the shift of the front-facing camera to the long axis like on the 10th generation iPad, as well as support for a newer Apple Pencil.

Owners of earlier iPad Air models and people wanting more power than the baseline iPad will find it attractive. And, the new Apple Pencil paired with a 12.9-inch screen that doesn't cost $1299 are compelling as well.

That said, anyone who really cares about tablet performance will be looking at the M4 iPad Pro lineup, not the Air family.

If size matters, then this along with the other updates could be enough for a fifth-gen iPad Air owner to make the jump.

That size matters in some cases, both in the space you work in and in price. For some people, the 13-inch iPad Air is a good balance of features and price, especially for users who are not iPad-primary and prefer their iPhone or their Mac over an iPad.

2024 iPad Air vs 2022 iPad Air - Where to buy

The 2022 iPad Air 5 is currently on closeout special at Apple resellers, with prices dropping as low as $499 at press time.

AppleInsider is also tracking the best 11-inch iPad Air 6 prices as retailers begin selling the new tablets.