The external differences between the iPad (2022) on the left and the iPad Air (2022) on the right are almost nonexistent.
Apple might have more individual tablet models out now than at any other time in its history. Confusing things further is the fact that some lines, including the two we’ll be looking at today, have converged to the point where it’s hard to tell them apart just by looking at them.
That said, big differences in internal components, peripheral support, and overall capabilities mean these seemingly identical devices are better for very different users with very different priorities. Our goal today is to help you decide, based on your own personal needs and budget, which of these two models is the best fit for you.
|iPad (2022)||iPad Air (2022)|
|Display||10.9-inch IPS running at 2,360 x 1,640||10.9-inch IPS running at 2,360 x 1,640|
|Apple Pencil support||Supports Apple Pencil (1st gen)||Supports Apple Pencil (2nd gen)|
|Physical connectivity||USB-C charging and data port, Nano-SIM tray (cellular models)||USB-C charging and data port, Nano-SIM tray (cellular models), magnetic connector|
|Storage options||64GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB|
|Cameras||12MP rear camera; 12MP ultra-wide front camera||12MP rear camera; 12MP ultra-wide front camera|
|Wireless connectivity||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, 5G (cellular models)||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 5G (cellular models)|
|Colors||Silver, blue, pink, and yellow||Space gray, starlight, pink, purple, and blue|
|Battery||10 hours of web browsing or video watching on Wi-Fi||10 hours of web browsing or video watching on Wi-Fi|
|Price||Starting at $400||Starting at $500|
You should buy the iPad (2022) if…
1. You’re buying a tablet for a child or young student
Apple’s line has been a popular way to keep kids entertained and educated for the better part of a decade. The standard-model iPad is more than enough tablets for this purpose. It matches the Air in every way that matters for a youngster, including screen size, battery life, local storage, and connectivity.
While it doesn’t feature the magnetic connector included with the Air that lets that model connect with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, the standard iPad does support the new Magic Keyboard Folio, which offers nearly all of the same capabilities, and turns the device into a homework powerhouse.
2. You want the latest Bluetooth audio protocol
Despite the Air technically being a more premium device than the standard iPad, the standard iPad features a slight upgrade to its Bluetooth connectivity that the iPad Air doesn’t: The Air uses Bluetooth 5.0, while the standard iPad uses the newer Bluetooth 5.2. The jump between the two versions isn’t revolutionary, but the newer 5.2 protocol offers faster pairing and longer battery life through improvements to transmission efficiency. Both of these enhancements could be handy for someone who’s constantly pairing new headphones, keyboards, or other peripherals with their iPad.
3. The unusual Apple Pencil support doesn’t bother you
Apple’s iPad has supported the Apple Pencil for several generations now. However, Apple chose not to add support for the newer, second-generation Apple Pencil to this updated iPad. Instead, it continues to support the older first-generation Apple Pencil, just like its predecessors.
The only problem is that the first-gen Pencil is designed to charge via its built-in Lightning connector and the latest iPad has switched its power/data port to USB-C. This means you’ll need an adapter cable to connect and charge your Pencil, adding more hassle and another thing to forget. If this doesn’t bother you, or you never planned to buy an Apple Pencil at all, you can save some cash by ignoring Apple’s somewhat questionable decisions on stylus support.
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You should buy the iPad Air 2022 if…
1. You want laptop-like performance from your tablet
Despite their physical similarities, there’s a major gap between the processing power housed in the standard iPad mentioned above and the Air. That’s because the iPad Air’s latest update uses the same M1 chip that Apple used in its MacBook and Mac Mini lines. This laptop-class CPU provides far more oomph than most tablet apps will ever need, ensuring you can get work done without slowdown no matter how many tabs you have open, or how intense your creative processes are. Even photo and video editing on the iPad are now a real possibility thanks to its M1 core.
2. You expect to make extensive use of the Apple Pencil
As mentioned above, the standard iPad’s Apple Pencil implementation leaves a bit to be desired. However, the Air provides all of the same convenience as the iPad Pro thanks to its included magnetic connector. This little extra makes it possible to use and charge Apple’s second-generation Apple Pencil, which sticks right to the side of the tablet for easy charging and travel.
The newer stylus also features a matte finish and angular design that makes it more pleasant to hold in the hand and less likely to roll away on you. If you plan to use your iPad of choice as a drawing tablet, note-taking device, or for any purpose that requires a stylus, the extra price difference might be worth it for this one upgrade alone.
3. You want the full Magic Keyboard experience
Apple’s Magic Keyboard is a big part of the reason why you might now consider the iPad as a legitimate replacement for your laptop or desktop. The Magic Keyboard Folio supported by the standard iPad gets you most of the way there by adding a trackpad and physical keyboard to your device, but it’s missing the floating cantilever hinge that makes it viable to use your iPad as a literal laptop device, as well as the USB-C pass-through port that provides connectivity for peripherals like external storage, wired input devices, and more.
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Alternatives to consider
Open to other iPad and tablet prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:
If you want the best iPad money can buy, the Pro still has its advantages. The M2 chip in the latest model puts just about every other laptop to shame, while its upgraded camera array is useful for some serious content creation, which it can store thanks to its 2TB of maximum space. The extra cost isn’t worth it for everyone, but for professionals who want a true laptop-replacement tablet, it’s still the best.
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Size isn’t always everything. Sometimes you want the same capabilities as the big boys in a smaller package. For that reason, Apple’s latest iPad Mini features an A15 Bionic Chip, a full range of connectivity, and even the same camera array as the iPad (2022). you won’t save any cash by going smaller, but if it’s the most ideal size for you, the Mini is worth it, even at about the same price.
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Android’s multi-manufacturer nature means there are far more options to choose from than Apple’s one-company lineup. Because of this, shoppers are often confused about which one might be best for them. Well, in ZDNet’s opinion, currently the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the best Android choice.
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