Review: Three Weeks With the M2 iPad Air

It's been three weeks since Apple introduced the new iPad Pro and iPad Air models, and after revisiting the iPad Pro last week, we thought we'd take a deeper look at the ‌iPad Air‌ now that it's been out long enough for day-to-day usage testing.


The ‌iPad Air‌ is the best iPad for people who want a powerful tablet that's also fairly affordable. The M2 chip is close to the same chip that Apple used in the prior-generation ‌iPad Pro‌, and while it's a little older now, it's still more than powerful enough for anything you might want to do on a tablet.

It is worth noting that Apple recently admitted an error and clarified that the ‌M2‌ chip in the ‌iPad Air‌ has a 9-core GPU instead of a 10-core GPU, but in comparing the ‌M2‌ ‌iPad Pro‌ with 10-core GPU to the ‌M2‌ ‌iPad Air‌ with 9-core GPU, there was basically no difference in performance for day-to-day tasks and even with more system intensive apps like those used for video editing.

As we said in our M4 ‌iPad Pro‌ review, there's nothing that can really tax the M4 chip, and that's also true of the ‌M2‌. With iPadOS 18 and the AI capabilities that Apple is working on, chip performance might become much more important in the future, but as of now, the ‌M2‌ ‌iPad Air‌ isn't going to really struggle with anything you throw at it.

The ‌iPad Air‌ doesn't have the OLED display technology of the ‌iPad Pro‌, and it lacks features like ProMotion 120Hz refresh rates, but it otherwise offers a lot of the features you get with the ‌iPad Pro‌ at much more affordable prices. The ‌iPad Pro‌ starts at $999, while the ‌iPad Air‌ starts at $599.

Face ID is not available on the ‌iPad Air‌, with Apple instead using a Touch ID power button. ‌Touch ID‌ isn't as reliable as ‌Face ID‌ because it can fail depending on finger placement, but it works fine for the most part. The ‌iPad Pro‌ has a Thunderbolt port, but the ‌iPad Air‌ is limited to USB-C, so you can't connect Thunderbolt devices.

You're mostly missing out on OLED and the M4 chip with the ‌iPad Pro‌, but you also won't be able to use the redesigned Magic Keyboard that Apple made for the ‌iPad Pro‌ because it isn't compatible with the ‌iPad Air‌. Apple is selling the older Magic Keyboard alongside the ‌iPad Air‌, and it lacks the aluminum frame and palm rest, function keys, and the larger glass trackpad. You can still use the Apple Pencil Pro and all of its features with the ‌iPad Air‌, though.

One of the nice features about the ‌iPad Air‌ compared to prior-generation models is the relocated front-facing camera, which is now on the landscape edge instead of the portrait edge. That means the camera is in an upright orientation when it's in landscape mode, such as when connected to a keyboard, so it no longer looks funny if you're FaceTiming while holding the ‌iPad‌ horizontally.

The ‌M2‌ ‌iPad Air‌ is essentially an ‌M2‌ ‌iPad Pro‌ without the higher-quality display, and it's a good middle tier option if you want solid performance for futureproofing but also don't want to spend $1,000+ on a tablet. For a lot of people who just want a tablet for browsing the web, sending emails, and other simple day-to-day tasks, the ‌iPad Air‌ may even be overkill.

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

Popular Stories

iOS 18 CarPlay Feature

iOS 18 Adds These 5 New Features to CarPlay

Thursday June 13, 2024 7:44 am PDT by
Apple did not mention CarPlay during its WWDC keynote this week, but iOS 18 includes a handful of new features for the in-car software. Overall, there is not a whole lot new for CarPlay on iOS 18, with changes seemingly limited to the Messages and Settings apps so far. Below, we recap everything new for CarPlay on iOS 18. New for CarPlay on iOS 18 1. Contact Photos in Messages App...
ios 18 button bulge

iOS 18 Adds Pop-Out Bezel Animation When Pressing iPhone Buttons

Tuesday June 11, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
iOS 18 includes a small but interesting change for the buttons on the iPhone, adding more of a visual element when changing volume, activating the Action button, or locking the screen. When you press an iPhone button in iOS 18, the display bezel bulges outward slightly. This feature is available for the volume buttons, Action button and the power button, and it will also likely be used for...
iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

Revealed: iOS 18 Works With These iPhone Models

Monday June 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the same iPhone models as iOS 17, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and hence also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, but older iPhone models will miss out. Here is the full...
maxresdefault

First Look at Messages via Satellite in iOS 18

Thursday June 13, 2024 11:29 am PDT by
Apple has been gradually expanding its suite of satellite connectivity features for iPhone, and iOS 18 brings a significant new one in the form of Messages via satellite. The feature allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, while out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. CNET met up with Apple's senior director of platform product marketing,...
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Massive iPhone Upgrade Coming This Week But These Devices Will Miss Out

Sunday June 9, 2024 1:25 pm PDT by
Apple is planning a major AI overhaul in iOS 18, with a feature set it is referring to as "Apple Intelligence." However, these new features will not work on older iPhones, even if they do appear on the new operating system's device compatibility list. Apple's initial AI roadmap for iOS 18 is said to come in two parts: Basic AI features that will be processed on-device, and more advanced...
Generic iOS 18 Feature Real Mock

Your iPhone 15 Can Show the Time When It's Out of Battery in iOS 18

Wednesday June 12, 2024 2:57 pm PDT by
The iPhone has had a Power Reserve function that holds back a small amount of battery life to allow features like Find My and NFC unlocking to work even when your device has died, and in iOS 18, Apple seems to be improving the feature further for the iPhone 15 models. As demonstrated on Reddit, when the battery on an iPhone running iOS 18 is exhausted, the phone can continue to show the time ...

Top Rated Comments

GMShadow Avatar
1 week ago

Why does that matter? In what real world way does that affect anything?
Their eyes will literally explode if they see something below 120hz.

Never mind that Apple's ProMotion displays are adaptive refresh and they're seeing sub-120hz content all the time.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jwhazel Avatar
1 week ago

Why does that matter? In what real world way does that affect anything?
It affects everything?
Source: switched from owning an iPad Pro to an Air and it’s immediately noticeable.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jmausmuc Avatar
1 week ago
No brainer if it had 120hz but with 60hz no way.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Johnny907 Avatar
1 week ago

No brainer if it had 120hz but with 60hz no way.
Why does that matter? In what real world way does that affect anything?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
subjonas Avatar
1 week ago

It affects everything?
Source: switched from owning an iPad Pro to an Air and it’s immediately noticeable.
It’s weird how people are different. I have both Promotion and non-Promotion devices and I can only notice the difference when I use them side by side, which is never.
Retina though was a totally different story for me. I remember going to the Apple store to get a non-Retina MBP when I saw the Retina MBP on display. I looked at its crisp resolution, took one look back at the non-Retina and I knew I was ruined. I spent more money and happily got the Retina.
But yeah, 120hz—couldn’t care less. Actually I would prefer not to have 120hz as it would be a waste of battery for me, if 60hz also had variable refresh that is.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GMShadow Avatar
1 week ago

I wonder if the M2 iPad Pro will become compatible with the Pencil Pro. Really seems like that's something they can update over software.
The magnets are completely different, they don't snap onto each other.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)