Sat. May 18th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The latest iPad Air features the M2 Silicon chip, a significant upgrade over the M1 iPad Air, and comes in a larger 13-inch screen size.
  • The 11-inch M2 iPad Air costs $599 for the base 128GB model. The 13-inch model starts from $799.
  • Unlike the M1 iPad Air, the M2 iPad Air’s front camera is located on the wider side.

The M2 iPad Air is here, bringing more powerful M2 silicon and a landscape front camera to the Air lineup for the first time. Is it enough to convince you to upgrade from your existing iPad? Let’s compare iPad Air models from 2022 and 2024 to find out.

M2 iPad Air Gets a Bigger Screen

Unlike the M1 iPad Air, Apple offers the M2 iPad Air in two screen sizes. The smaller M2 iPad Air now has an 11-inch screen, thanks to slightly thinner bezels than its predecessor, which had a 10.9-inch display. This time around you can also choose a 13-inch screen option in the iPad Air lineup.

Inspired by the iPad Pro lineup, the 13-inch M2 iPad Air offers a more immersive visual experience, with 30% more screen real estate than the 11-inch model. Further, the stereo speaker setup on the 13-inch iPad Air generates double the bass output compared with the 11-inch model. Hence, if you’re into watching movies, listening to music, or reading audiobooks on your iPad, you’re probably going to benefit from a bigger screen and better audio output.

Image of the 11-inch and 13-inch M2 iPad Air, depicting the screen size.

Beyond the larger screen and better speakers on the 13-inch M2 iPad Air, the lineup shares most of the screen qualities with the M1 model. For instance, both tablets feature an LED-backlit IPS screen with 264 pixels per inch, support for Wide Color Display, and Apple’s True Tone temperature adjustment technology.

A few minor improvements on the newer models include an anti-reflective coating on the screen and 600 nits of peak brightness on the 13-inch M2 iPad Air compared to 500 units on the rest of the lineup.

The Front-Facing Camera Is (Finally) in the Right Place

In terms of design, the M2 iPad Air looks a lot like its predecessor, so much so that one might be unable to tell the difference by looking at them. But there’s one key change to the placement of the front camera. Instead of positioning the front camera on the shorter side (like the M1 iPad Air), Apple has shifted it to the wider side on the M2 iPad Air, like the iPad (10th Generation).

Diagram of the new M2 iPad Air highlighting the position of the new landscape camera.

Even though Apple has retained the same 12MP (f/2.4) ultrawide sensor, moving it to the longer edge will make FaceTime and other video calls more comfortable. Since most iPad cases or keyboards are optimized for landscape usage, the portrait orientation on older iPad models felt unnatural. I own an iPad (9th Generation), and I can tell you that holding it upright for video calls is very tiresome.

Apple has made another change to the M2 design that some people might not like. The new iPad Air doesn’t come in a pink finish anymore. Instead, Apple ships it in four rather subtle (and familiar) finishes: Blue, Purple, Starlight, and Space Gray.

New iPad Air Gets Major Performance Upgrade

Inside the shiny chassis of the M2 iPad Air is Apple’s M2 Silicon. Introduced in 2022, the chip features an eight-core CPU, a 10-core GPU, and 100GB/s memory bandwidth, which is twice that of M1. The M2’s 16-core Neural Engine (used for machine learning) is about 40% faster than its predecessor. Considering all the improvements, Apple says the M2 iPad Air is about 50% faster than the M1 iPad Air.

Screenshot of Apple M2 Silicon's features and specifications.

Previously, Apple used the M2 chip to power its flagship iPad Pro models, which is a testament to its power and abilities. You can rest assured that the M2 chip in the iPad Air will perform well in just about every task you can throw at it. Whether it’s raw performance, efficiency, multitasking, or heavy gaming, the M2 iPad Air can take it all.

For users of older iPad Air models (like the second or third generation), the M2 chip will provide a substantial performance boost, especially for tasks like video editing or graphic designing.

Apple Bumps Up the Base Storage to 128GB

Another welcome change on the new M2 iPad Air is an increase in the base storage. In 2022, Apple released the M1 iPad Air in two storage variants: 64GB ($599) and 256GB ($749). It sure was a good way of reducing the base variant’s price, but I can’t imagine relying on only 64GB in 2024. The 256GB variant, on the other hand, was way too expensive for some buyers.

Screenshot of the Apple's product page with the color options and storage options.

That’s not the case with the M2 iPad Air, which provides 128GB of storage in its base configuration. You also get the option of 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage. I’m not sure who will buy an iPad Air with 1TB of storage (or even 512GB of storage, for that matter), but it’s there if someone needs it.

Both iPads Feature the Same Cameras (And Battery)

While the M2 iPad Air does offer some significant upgrades over the M1 iPad Air, it features the same camera as the 2022 model. This is Apple’s good old 12MP (f/1.8) sensor on the back and a 12MP (f/2.4, 122-degree) on the front. Both iPads support 4K video recording at up to 60 fps. Both devices ship with support for Center Stage, a feature that tracks the subject and keeps it in the center of the frame.

Image of the M2 iPad Air in Space Gray color, highlighting the rear-facing camera.

The only apparent difference is that the M2 iPad Air supports Smart HDR 4 compared with Smart HDR 3 on the M1 iPad Air. Smart HDR is an Apple feature that applies high dynamic range to still images, offering highlights that pop when viewed on a compatible display. The latest iPad Air should shoot slightly better photos, with improved dynamic range and colors thanks to the improved computational photography capabilities of the M2 chip.

Battery life on the latest iPad Air is unchanged in 2024. Instead of the 28.6-watt-hour battery on the 10.9-inch iPad Air (5th Gen), the M2 iPad Air sports a 28.93-watt-hour cell, which is barely an upgrade. You’d expect the 36.59-watt-hour battery in the 13-inch M2 iPad Air to last longer, but that’s not the case either.

Like 2022, the latest models will last for up to 10 hours of web surfing or watching videos via Wi-Fi. Those getting the Wi-Fi + Cellular models should expect up to nine hours of mixed usage. The USB-C port (with support for DisplayPort and up to 10 Gbps data transfer speed) is was seen on the old iPad Air.

M2 iPad Air Supports the Apple Pencil Pro

The M1 iPad Air supports the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) and the Apple Pencil (USB-C). However, the M2 iPad Air supports the all-new Apple Pencil Pro. Announced at the Let Loose event, the input device flaunts some new, intuitive features that target pro users. These include the squeeze gesture, a custom haptic engine, and tool orientation adjustment.

Image of the M2 iPad Air with Apple Pencil Pro attached to its side.

If you frequently misplace your Apple Pencil (like I do), the Find My support on the Apple Pencil Pro will help you locate it. However, since it doesn’t ship with the box, you’ll have to spend another $129 to purchase it.

M2 iPad Air vs. M1 iPad Air: Do You Need a Larger Screen?

As a potential iPad customer, you probably fall into one of the three scenarios.

If you already own the M1 iPad Air, there’s nothing substantial in the M2 iPad Air that you’re missing unless you want to upgrade to a bigger-screen iPad. The 13-inch M2 iPad Air costs $799 for the base variant with 128GB of storage.

Screenshot of M2 iPad Air in two available sizes: 11-inch on the left and 13-inch on the right.

If you’re using an older iPad Air, like the second or third-generation model, or you own a dated version of the regular iPad, the 11-inch M2 iPad Air could be the right device. It’s not too heavy on the pocket, offers you a decent amount of storage and comes with a significant boost in performance. You may also consider the 10.9-inch M1 iPad Air as it’s currently discounted by $100 on Best Buy, but be aware that the base model only has 64GB of storage.

If you don’t own an iPad or any other tablet now and want a budget-friendly option that gets the job done, the M1 iPad Air could be the better option for you.

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By John P.

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