The new fifth-generation iPad Air will begin arriving to customers on Friday and, ahead of time, the first hands-on reviews of the device have surfaced. We've rounded up some of the reviews and unboxing videos below.
Key new features of the iPad Air include the same M1 chip found in the iPad Pro, 5G connectivity on cellular models, an upgraded 12-megapixel front camera with support for Center Stage, up to a 2x faster USB-C port for data transfer, and new color options. Pricing continues to start at $599 in the U.S. for 64GB of storage.
Overall, the new iPad Air remains a great value, with performance now on par with the iPad Pro thanks to the M1 chip and other Pro-like features.
Geekbench 5 benchmark results that surfaced earlier this week confirmed that the M1 chip is not downclocked in the new iPad Air, resulting in the device having virtually identical performance as the iPad Pro.
Nevertheless, several reviewers pointed out that iPadOS makes it challenging to take advantage of the performance capabilities.
If you're using the iPad for things like browsing the web, reading books, watching movies or TV shows, or even light productivity, you won't likely notice the extra performance headroom the M1 chip provides. It mostly shines when doing especially demanding tasks, like editing and exporting 4K video or managing large file transfers. The Air is capable of doing those jobs, but there are better tools available if that's what you intend to do that don't have the limitations of iPadOS and a relatively small screen.
The iPad Air now supports 5G networks on Wi-Fi + Cellular models, but not faster mmWave 5G like the iPad Pro does.
CNET's Scott Stein tested 5G on the new iPad Air:
This iPad doesn't support mmWave, just sub-6 5G. Effectively, at many times, it feels similar to LTE: Speeds at my home were around 290 megabits per second on Verizon, while in Washington Square Park in New York speeds were only around 60Mbps to 80Mbps.
Center Stage Camera
With an upgraded 12-megapixel front camera, the new iPad Air is the last iPad to gain support for Center Stage, a feature that helps keep you and anyone else with you in the frame as you move around during video calls. Center Stage is available for FaceTime calls and in supported third-party video calling apps, such as Zoom.
The front camera has gotten a 12MP upgrade too – and is definitely improved from the previous Air. Facetime gets that nice Center Stage enhancement we saw come through on the iPad Pros last year too. As I said in my review of those this is a pretty huge quality of life improvement for those who video chat a lot as the auto-crop and tracking feature mitigates the odd left hand side placement of the camera when the iPad Air is in landscape mode. The angles feel more natural and less awkward overall. The color and contrast of the video call quality is improved as well.
- WIRED's Brenda Stolyar
- MacStories' Federico Viticci
- Six Colors' Jason Snell
- iMore's Luke Filipowicz
- The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs
- Pocket-lint's Stuart Miles