The iPad Air 5 reaches customers on Friday, and the first reviews describe it as a moderately improved version of the already excellent fourth-generation model.
They give us our first hands-on impressions of the tablet with an M1 processor and support for Center Stage.
Good news about the iPad Air 5
The new Air has the same formfactor as the 2020 model, and most reviewers skimmed over that, eager to get to what’s new in the 2022 version.
A highlight of the fifth-gen iPad Air is the M1 processor, the same chip used in many Macs. It includes eight CPU cores: four high-performance and four efficiency cores. It also has eight-core graphics.
Thanks to this processor, the iPad Air 5 offers “unrivalled performance to handle complex image manipulation in Affinity Photo, the drawing and rendering of 3D worlds in SketchUp, or the creation of a cinematic masterpiece in LumaFusion,” according to Samuel Gibbs from The Guardian.
And Mike Epstein from Popular Science reports, “Most apps run incredibly smoothly, particularly those more demanding creative apps for drawing like Penbook, or image editing like Adobe Photoshop, and games like Genshin Impact.”
Benchmark tests show the iPad Air 5 is as fast as the iPad Pro models that also have the M1.
The tablet comes with 8GB of RAM, a notable improvement from its predecessor.
The iPad Air 5 sports a 12 MP, wide-angle, front-facing camera, enabling Center Stage. This uses AI to keep the user centered in their outgoing video stream when using FaceTime, Zoom or other video applications.
“With Center Stage, your face is always in the center of the frame, so there’s no aesthetic downside to taking a call on the iPad,” said Popular Science’s Epstein.
It has its limits, though. “Center Stage is a neat trick, but it doesn’t make up for the placement of the front-facing camera on the side of the screen when you’re using the tablet in landscape mode, an ongoing annoyance across the iPad line,” noted Dan Seifert of The Verge.
“The Air’s 10.9-inch screen is imperceptibly smaller than the 11-inch Pro’s display, but it’s still large enough for a great movie watching experience,” according to The Verge. “Most people won’t miss ProMotion — it can make scrolling animations smoother, but if you’re reading static text or watching video, it won’t make a difference.”
Not everyone agrees. “Unlike the iPad Pro, the iPad Air (2022) does not feature Apple’s ‘ProMotion’ variable refresh rate in its display and you can feel its absence,” said Popular Science.
“Battery life on the Air is just as good with the M1 chip as it was before,” reports N. Ingraham from Engadget. “In my normal routine, I got close to 12 hours of use before needing to charge the Air.”
Bad news about the iPad Air 5
“The base model Air also still comes with 64GB of storage, which is starting to feel a bit stingy at its $600 price point, said Seifert of The Verge. “It doesn’t take much to fill up that amount of space.”
“The 2022 iPad Air is one of the best premium tablets you can buy, now with enough power to be as good at content creation as general-purpose browsing and TV-watching,” says The Guardian.
“If you’re in the market for a new tablet, basically for any reason, the new iPad Air should be your go-to,” opines Popular Science.