Apple’s iPad M2 Air is more than just a spec bump

Most people after an iPad would probably like the iPad Air. That was true for the 2022 version and it is still true for the newly launched 2024 version.

The iPad Pro is too expensive and too powerful to recommend to casual users. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a stunner. But it’s one best left to the actual professionals. What about the standard 10th-gen iPad then? That’s very attractive with its recent price drop but it lacks support for some key accessories, starts with much smaller storage and is excluded from certain multi-functional features.

Where does that take you? Back to the iPad Air. The new one is faster (hello, M2 chip), supports the existing Magic Keyboard and the newest Apple Pencil Pro, and has higher base storage. And, in some of the best news for entertainment fans, a new 13-inch screen size. That’s the one I’ve been testing, and trust me, you’ll notice the 30% size increase.

Apple iPad Air (2024): Design

No shock here, but the iPad Air continues to look like an iPad. It is a flat glass plane with rounded edges and black bezels around the display (about the same size as other iPads) and a convenient USB-C port for charging and connecting peripherals at the bottom.

You also get volume controls and a main button which is also a sensor for Touch ID. Sadly, there’s no Face ID on board here. While I love the security and simplicity of the fingerprint reader, I have to say that it makes a significant difference when you don’t have Apple’s lightning-fast facial recognition technology.

I did notice a slight slowdown when authenticating payments, filling in passwords and when unlocking the device – anyone who’s dropped any iPhone in the last seven years will experience it.

ipad air 2024 review uk

Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Display

There’s not much to say here because Apple is stuck with the exact same LCD it put in the last iPad Air – on the 11-inch resolution 2360 x 1640, which goes up to 2732 x 2048 on the 13-inch version.

You’re not getting the stunning-looking “Tandem OLED Ultra Retina XDR” technology of the latest iPad Pro, but it’s still a good screen. I sometimes wish it was one with a higher refresh rate for smoother animation, but most of the time you will not notice the difference.

What you will feel is the sheer size of that 13-inch version. It is much larger without adding too much extra heft to the weight. 11-inch is 462g, and 13-inch is 618g. It is a great display for watching movies and shows.

I used this to watch the first episodes of the new season of Doctor Who on iPlayer, as well as most of Star Wars: Tales of the Empire on the Disney + app. For anyone who uses streaming services all the time, the larger version is definitely worth considering.

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Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Processor

It’s a bit of a letdown because the iPad Pro is just too powerful, but the new iPad Air is a seriously capable computer. In fact, I think it’s more powerful than most of its users are ever going to need.

Apple’s M2 chip is now seen as the brains of the tablet, and this delivers a 50% increase in speed compared to the M1 iPad Air. It’s fast – we’ve used it to send a lot of emails, Slack messages, FaceTime calls, multitask and write this entire review. But, it can do so much more – we haven’t tried any rendering, animation or editing that would push this to the limit.

It’s also worth noting how good that M1 processor is – it’s the one I use in my work laptop every single day when I’m using 50 different tabs for research, and the one in I used an iPad Air 2022 for it. everything from vacation planning, writing articles, processing and editing photos and watching most of Masters of the Air and X-Men ’97.

The M2 is a pro-level chip present in the Vision Pro headset and previous MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models. It’s faster enough for most work you’ll ever want to do, and better at AI tasks with its upgraded “Neural Engine” – I should be clear, though, that the last generation was better than good enough already. This is a great chip, but you won’t notice the difference in normal use.

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Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Cameras

I know you’re not using your iPad camera for actual photography (you’re not, are you?) but the sensors on these tablets are great for what most of us will use them for. most of the time: video calls.

Yes, the technical specifications of the iPad Air cameras and the iPad Pro cameras are about the same, although the iPad Pro has a handful of additional optimizations including a LiDAR scanner for understanding depth and distance (and removing shadows from document scans ) as well as that. to a “TrueDepth” front camera for FaceID and the ability to shoot 4K or ProRes footage.

In practical use, however, these are good cameras for your video calls and receipt scans. They might not be the best people to take a lot of photos, but that’s not why they are. The front camera is now placed where it should always be at the edge of the landscape and supports “Centre Stage” to keep you always in the frame. I used it for FaceTime calls. It works well and you don’t feel like you’re missing anything.

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Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Battery life

This is another area where there is not much to say. Look at almost any iPad data sheet – whether it’s for the current models or the ones dating back to 2018 – and you’ll see the same claim. That is, the battery will keep going for “up to 10 hours” of web browsing on WiFi or watching videos. You’ll also get up to nine hours of web usage when you’re on a mobile data network.

Actually, this always feels about right. These tablets aren’t quite designed to compete with something like the M3 MacBook Air on battery life, but they will deliver something that feels like almost every day use in normal conditions.

This is a bit “inside baseball” but it works as a real-life example – to travel light at Apple Park, I used an M1 iPad Air instead of a laptop while covering the iPhone launch last September, and it got me through most days before needing a recharge at about the time I was finishing processing the handheld photos from the event. On that day, I was carrying a 10K power bank, which I recommend everyone to keep in their backpack.

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Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Disadvantages

None of the “reductions” associated with the iPad Air are real dealers, but I would be lying if I said that I did not hope for just a few more upgrades. This is more than a basic spec bump, especially with the support it brings to the new artist-ready Apple Pencil Pro.

Notably, however, this is not a Face ID feature. I wish he did. It is much more seamless than the fingerprint reader. I wouldn’t mind if this also had a high refresh rate screen for those super-smooth animations throughout the interface, but it’s not a disaster that it’s missing.

It’s also a shame that while this does support the Magic Keyboard, it’s the existing version rather than the completely revamped one for the iPad Pro. That one has aluminum armrests, a larger trackpad, function keys above the number row. It feels so premium and I would love a version of it that supports this iPad Air.

Arguably, much has remained the same compared to its predecessor as well. I think the addition of the 13-inch size and the M2 chip make this more than a small refresh, but if you have this and the iPad Air M1 side by side, there is no huge difference. Because of that, I would highly recommend trying to find deals on that iPad because the price will drop this time.

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Simon Cocks

Apple iPad Air (2024): Verdict

Let me simplify your iPad buying experience. If you want a versatile Apple tablet with a great display, a simple design, a chip that can handle anything you can throw at it and supports the latest Apple Pencil and existing Magic Keyboard, just choose the iPad Air. Need it to be closer for travel. Go for the 11-inch Air. Need a bigger one for better multitasking, entertainment and photo editing? You are after the 13-inch Air.

The 11-inch starts at the same price as the old version and both come with a small but significant upgrade that I haven’t mentioned much so far – the base storage is up to 128GB from 64GB. That’s something I value.

The new M2 iPad Air is now the best iPad for most people, and the 13-inch Air is the best large iPad for most of us. If you’re sure you don’t need multitasking features, accessory support, extra storage or a better screen, that’s when you should look at the most affordable 10th generation iPad, now starting at £349 in the UK.

Apple iPad Air (2024): Other products to consider

The most important product I would consider replacing this new iPad Air is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the iPad Air. I mean the one from 2022, of course. If you can get it, that one still supports my most essential accessory for productivity (the Magic Keyboard) while still having the power of the M1 chip (as mentioned, more than enough) and support for the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. For most users, this is probably still more than you need.

I can only recommend going for the iPad Pro if you are a real professional or just want to overspend on an iPad with more power than you will ever need. If that sounds like you, then go for it. The 10th generation iPad is worth considering for starters, but I’d argue that the Air is the better buy overall.

Meanwhile, Android users probably won’t be thinking about the iPad at all. If you’re looking for a Google-powered tablet, we suggest you pick up the Google Pixel tablet – it’s now on sale without the speaker dock and at a lower price, if you were never going to use it as a home hub. anyway. Samsung instead? The Galaxy Tab S9 is the best tablet for most Samsung users.

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