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Apple iPad Air (2022) review: Puts Android tablets to shame

India Today logo India Today 05-04-2022 Manas Tiwari
iPad Air (2022) iPad Air (2022)

The iPad Air (2022) is a unique device. Apple hasn't done anything extraordinarily different here. The iPad Air (2022) is essentially a combination of the 2020 iPad Air model and last year's iPad Pro. It borrows the design, rear camera and display from the last generation iPad Air and packs the same M1 chip as the iPad Pro. Yet, the new iPad is exciting. For two reasons - it uses the same processor that powers Apple's MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac. Apple might have followed the chip with the M1 Pro, Max, and Ultra, but M1 is still one of the most fluid chipsets in the market.

Secondly, the price that iPad Air (2022) comes at makes it an Apple masterstroke. It costs Rs 54,900 for the entry-level variant. This makes the iPad Air (2022) the most affordable Apple device with an M1 chip in the country. You get 5G support on the more expensive WiFi+LTE variant. There are some new colours. Apple has also added a few features of the Pro model. The front camera has been updated with Apple's Center Stage feature and the tablet is compatible with all the cases, keyboard and stylus like the previous generation iPad Air.

Given that we have very few reliable mid-range Android tablets in the market, the iPad Air (2022) becomes an easy recommendation. Let me take you through it in detail.

Design and display

I have been using the iPad Pro (2021) for almost a year now and the iPad Air feels very similar. Of course, they have different display sizes: 11-inch on the iPad Pro vs 10.9-inch on the iPad Air. But, the difference is negligible. Yes, the iPad Air feels thinner and lighter. In fact, it's the most ideally built iPad in recent times. The iPad Mini is too small for most people, while the iPad Pro is harder to hold with just one hand. I used the iPad air to take notes, watch movies and attend video calls -- both while sitting on a chair and lying in the bed -- it was really comfortable to use. A lot of it is because of the right size and the weight of the tablet.

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A lot of the Android tablets (especially Samsung's Tab S series) are trying too hard to replace the laptop. It's not a bad idea. But, the implementation hasn't been that great. The standard approach has been to increase the display size. This makes it very difficult to use these tablets, as a, tablet. The iPad Air, on the other hand, effortlessly achieves that goal. I will talk more about it later.

For now, you can be assured about the build quality. The new iPad has an aluminium body with Apple's familiar design, including uniform bezels and flat sides. The only major difference is that the Air features a single camera at the back instead of the dual setup on the iPad Pro. Probably, that's the only way you can tell them apart. With the iPad Air, Apple also has a more youthful approach and that's why you get some vibrant colour options - space gray, starlight, pink, purple, and blue (iPad Pro is only available in silver and space gray). As you can see in the images, I had the blue colour, which looks good.

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The Touch ID is built into the power button on top. It's fast, works without errors and is more consistent than Face ID on some occasions.

The 10.9-inch screen on the iPad Air (2022) is perfect for a good movie watching experience. It has 2,360x1,640 resolution, Apple's True Tone color management, 500 nits of brightness and an anti-reflective coating on top. The display is bright, colour accurate and highly responsive. It's supposed to be fingerprint resistant but, still catches a few of them. I watched Mythic Quest on Apple TV+ and honestly, the screen is tuned well for an immersive viewing experience.

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A trade-off for the price is the 60Hz panel. The new iPad Air misses out on the ProMotion variable refresh rate display which you get on the Pro. The ProMotion display makes on-screen animations smoother but, I don't think the lack of it, would make much of a difference to most users. Consuming content, reading text or taking notes feels the same.

Performance

The big upgrade this year is the presence of the powerful M1 chip under the hood. Apple claims that its 8-core CPU delivers up to 60 percent faster performance, and the 8-core GPU delivers up to 2x faster graphics performance compared to the previous iPad Air. The device comes with 8GB of RAM and an almost similar level of performance as the more expensive iPad Pro. The new chip ensures an improved day-to-day performance and GPU demanding tasks, like gaming.

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If you plan to use the iPad to watch movies, browse the internet, listen to music or read books, then this setup will probably feel overpowered. There is hardly any day-to-day task that can test the iPad Air or make it slower. It seamlessly gets through 40-minutes of gaming without showing any signs of heating up. I played PUBG: New State, Call of Duty: Mobile and a few other games on the highest settings without any issues. I also used the iPad Air for a lot of multitasking. Even with the Apple TV, Notes and Email app running simultaneously, it felt the same.

The speakers aren't as loud as the iPad Pro. In fact, it feels like the iPad Air (2022) has a quad speaker setup, but it actually comes with only two speakers - one on each side of the tablet. Their positioning allows a stereo experience with clear and loud audio. There are also dynamic volume controls. This means the volume input depends on the orientation of the iPad. The volume up button in the portrait becomes the volume down button in the landscape. It took me a while to get familiar with them, but then they work fine.

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One problem for me though, is the 64GB storage on the base variant. It just doesn't feel enough. Most high-end games take significant space and even the media files are becoming larger in size. For example, Genshin Impact and PUBG New State take more than 6GB space with their base files. Add the in-game data to it and you are staring at more than 10GB of occupied space. Similarly, two episodes of Mythic Quest took more than 1.5GB on the iPad Air. Since most people use Apple products for a good number of years, the base variant may need storage management at some point. You obviously have a 256GB storage option as well, but it costs Rs 14,000 more.

The new iPad is equipped with a type-C USB port but, it's not the same Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port which was used on the iPad Pro. Apple claims to have increased the transfer speed to 10Gbps, which is impressive. So, you can connect external storage devices and copy files directly from them. The iPad Air (2022) can also be connected to an up to 6K external display using the same port.

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Moving on to things that only an iPad can do, the iPad Air (2022) supports several motion gestures to make the best use of it.

- Pinch in using 4 fingers to open background apps.

- Quick pinch using 4 fingers to return to the home screen.

- Select any text and pinch in using 3 fingers to copy it.

- Pinch out using 3 fingers and the text will be pasted.

- Right or left swipe using 3 fingers swipe to undo or redo a task.

- Swipe using 4 or 5 fingers to switch between running apps.

All of these gestures work brilliantly. Separately, you can pinch in on the keyboard using two fingers and convert it into a cute, small, floating keyboard which can be placed anywhere on the screen. You can pinch out to return to the original size.

The Control Centre also gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can achieve on this device. You can select different shortcuts and access them directly from the Control Center. These include the Notes app, Music Recognition, Screen Recording and more. My favourite is Notes because you can simply press and hold the icon to open multiple shortcuts and, including one to scan documents.

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If you use the iPad for work, then you should also look to invest in an Apple Pencil and magic keyboard to increase productivity. It will also help you take advantage of the Universal Control feature, which lets you control the iPad and a Mac running MacOS 12.3 simultaneously with a single mouse and keyboard.

Camera

The cameras on the iPad Air are pretty good for a tablet. The rear camera uses a 12-megapixel sensor -- same as the recently launched iPhone SE. Even though you will hardly use an iPad to take pictures, it does the job perfectly.

The front camera has been upgraded from 7-megapixel on the previous generation to 12-megapixel on this year's model. It gives you a very good video call quality.

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Apple has also added the Center Stage feature here. When enabled, Center Stage automatically adjusts the camera frame by moving it sideways or zooming in and out of the subject. This is useful during video calls, but can be annoying at times as well. There is an option to disable it from the Control Centre.

Battery

Apple claims that iPad Air's battery lasts 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi. It seems fairly accurate. I haven't seen the new iPad drain in a day. My use mostly included watching videos, taking notes and making video calls.

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If you take up more demanding tasks on the iPad like video editing or use it for long sketches, then you may have to charge it more frequently.

Final verdict

The iPad Air (2022) is one hell of a machine which puts mid-range Android tablets to shame. It is fluid, powerful and, at the asked price, comes out as a more exciting package than even the iPad Pro. There is a chance that a lot of users might not be able to make full use of the M1 chip but, even then, the iPad Air is a great investment because you are likely to use it for a good number of years without any performance-related issues.

The only problem for me is 64GB storage on the base model. I don't think it will be enough on a device like this. But, if that's not an issue, then the iPad Air gives you an iPad Pro-like performance for less. That's a sweet deal.

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