Hands-On With the New M1 iPad Air

Apple last week introduced an updated iPad Air with an M1 chip, and now the new tablet is available for purchase. We picked one up to see how it compares to the iPad Pro, which also has an ‌M1‌ chip, to give you an idea of which of Apple's iPads is right for you.


Design wise, the fifth-generation ‌iPad Air‌ looks just like the fourth-generation ‌iPad Air‌, with the exception of the colors. You can get the new model in purple and a new shade of blue, along with pink, starlight, and space gray.

ipad air m1 1
There are no other visual updates, and the ‌iPad Air‌ features the same all-display design with 10.9-inch screen and Touch ID Power Button. Unlike the ‌iPad Pro‌, it does not have 120Hz ProMotion support, which is now one of the main differences between the Pro and Air iPad lines. If you're used to ProMotion, the lack of it on the ‌iPad Air‌ can be jarring, but if you've never had ProMotion, you won't know the difference.

ipad air m1 3
Though Apple didn't change the look of the ‌iPad Air‌, there are internal changes. Most notably, the ‌iPad Air‌ is using the same ‌M1‌ chip as the ‌iPad Pro‌, so in terms of performance, they're identical. You won't see any speed differences between the two lines until the ‌iPad Pro‌ gets an update with a faster chip, which is expected to happen later this year.

ipad air m1 4
Apple added a new 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front-facing camera to bring the ‌iPad Air‌ in line with the ‌iPad Pro‌, and it supports Center Stage, the feature that keeps you in frame as you move about the room.

ipad air m1 5
The ‌iPad Air‌ has also been upgraded with 5G connectivity, but it is sub-6GHz 5G and it doesn't work with the fastest mmWave 5G networks. The ‌iPad Pro‌ does work with the faster 5G network, so that's worth keeping in mind.

ipad air m1 6
If you have the prior-generation ‌iPad Air‌ or the last two ‌iPad Pro‌ models, it's not going to be worth upgrading to this new fifth-generation ‌iPad Air‌, but if you're coming from anything else, it's worth choosing the ‌iPad Air‌ over the ‌iPad Pro‌ because it has almost the same feature set and it's $200 cheaper.

ipad air m1 2
You're only going to be missing out on the faster 5G mmWave connectivity, the ProMotion display, and Face ID, and if these are important to you, you should hold out for the next-generation ‌iPad Pro‌ before upgrading.

Did you pick up a new ‌iPad Air‌? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Related Roundup: iPad Air
Buyer's Guide: iPad Air (Buy Now)
Related Forum: iPad

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Top Rated Comments

MacBookUser16 Avatar
31 months ago

Nice to see the iPad Air get an M1 chip. Pricing looks pretty good. Wish it had 128GB RAM included in the base model though.
128 GB RAM would indeed be something :cool:
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dabi Avatar
31 months ago
God, if they sold a device like this but with macOS on it, that'd be such a perfect device for me. Basically an answer to the Surface Pro. M1 feels like such an overkill for iOS, idk.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nwcs Avatar
31 months ago
Honestly, I had ProMotion on my old iPad Pro. Went to something else that doesn't have it. Not jarring and not missed, really. It's a minor nice to have for me.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CallMeTheArrow Avatar
31 months ago
I've ordered a 256 GB blue one. :) This will be the first iPad I own.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zorinlynx Avatar
31 months ago
Seeing as the newer iPads now have Macbook level of CPU power and memory, has there been any change to how iPadOS handles background applications?

For example, I have an SSH app that allows you to do port-forwarding, but if I want it to work in the background I have to enable GPS location tracking in the app, which is the developer's workaround to making sure the app doesn't get suspended. Otherise the app only gets 30 seconds.

It's a total hack and shouldn't be necessary on an iPad with an M1 chip.

These restrictions and limitations make sense on a phone, and on iPads from five years ago, but it's absurd that we still have to deal with them today. I'm hoping Apple eventually eases up on this and stops making developers use stupid hacks like using GPS to keep apps running in the background. If they do, I might see it fit to finally buy a new iPad; I'm still using a 2016 era iPad Pro (and using it less and less lately).
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lakersfan74 Avatar
31 months ago
For $50 more you get Face ID, promotion, quad speakers and a better camera with flash going with the 128 GB Pro 11 inch over the 256 GB Air
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)