Apple's 'Peek Performance' launch event brought the world a refresh of the iPad Air, but the fourth-generation iPad Air 4 (2020) is already a fantastic five-star tablet. Can the new fifth-generation iPad Air 5 (2022) improve on such a fantastic device?
iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad Air 4 (2020): price
Prices for the iPad Air 5 (2022) start at £569 / $599 / AU$929 for the 64GB model and £729 / $749 / AU$1129 for the 256GB model, which are similar to the prices and sizes for the iPad Air 4 (2020). Though, the new iPad Air is slightly less expensive than its predecessor in the U.K. and slightly more expensive in Australia, while in the U.S. prices are unchanged.
Like the previous model, the new iPad Air 5 only comes in 64GB and 256GB configurations, though you can choose between WiFi-only and WiFi/Cellular connectivity. If you opt for cellular, go ahead and add a cool £150 / $150 / AU$230 to your total.
Having only 64GB of storage feels like less in 2022 than it did in 2020, and it wasn't a huge amount back in 2020. If you plan on storing loads of data on your iPad, you're still going to want to opt for the 256GB model. The lack of a 128GB model continues to be disappointing, but it's not the end of the world.
iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad Air 4 (2020): features
From a design perspective, not much has changed with the iPad Air 5 (2022). While the iPad Air 4 (2020) took some inspiration aesthetically from the iPhone 12 line, the iPad Air 5 (2022) takes some inspiration from the iPhone 13 line, but the devices are virtually identical in terms of size and overall design. The only real physical difference between the two tablets is the iPad Air 5 (2022) coming in at 3g heavier, which you'll be hard-pressed to ever notice.
The screen on both iPads measures 10.9in, and both tablets have the same 2360 x 1640 resolution at 264ppi in terms of pixel density. Both iPad Airs have a peak brightness of 500 nits and support Apple's True Tone color temperature technology. Neither have the 120hz refresh rate of the iPad Pro. Both devices support standard HDR alongside Dolby Vision, too.
The biggest difference between the two tablets comes down to what's inside. The iPad Air 4 (2020) has an Apple A14 Bionic chip, while the iPad Air 5 (2022) has an Apple M1 chip, the same custom-designed chip used in Apple's latest Macs and in iPad Pros.
Apple reports the new iPad Air is about 60 percent faster than the old model in terms of CPU performance and about twice as fast in terms of GPU performance. These are massive gains, but the iPad Air 4 (2020) was already powerful enough for casual internet browsing, movie watching, and occasional gaming. Luckily, though, even with these massive upgrades to processing power, the iPad Air 5 (2022) still manages a rock-solid 9-10 hours of battery life just like the iPad Air 4 (2020).
The other major upgrade to the iPad Air (2022) over the older model is the front-facing camera. Now there's a 12MP Ultra Wide camera with Apple's Center Stage support compared to the 7MP front-facing camera without Center Stage support of the iPad Air 4 (2020). A better camera is always a welcome upgrade, but the placement of the camera on the iPad Air 5 (2022) is a bit of a missed opportunity: it can seem like you're avoiding eye contact during video calls due to how far off to the side the camera is located.
Lastly, the iPad Air 5 (2022) has 5G support and a twice-as-fast USB-C port, and that's where the major differences between the two tablets come to an end.
iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad Air 4 (2020): picture
The display in the iPad Air 5 (2022) is almost identical to the one in the iPad Air 4 (2020), so there isn't much difference in visual quality between the two. They've got the same resolution, have the same peak brightness, and support the same display technologies, so while there are minor differences, in theory, the experience should be largely the same.
During our testing of the iPad Air 5 (2022), we did notice it produced a slightly brighter, cleaner picture with punchier contrast with standard HDR and SDR scenes. Dolby Vision content looked very similar on the two tablets.
Apple's known for displays with vibrant, detailed, and subtle image quality, and the iPad Air 4 (2020) still more than holds its own when pitched against the latest iteration. The iPad Air 5 (2022), does offer some minor improvements with standard HDR and SDR image quality on top, but if you're a current iPad Air 4 owner, we wouldn't be rushing to upgrade to the newer model.
iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad Air 4 (2020): sound
Speakers on the new iPad Air 5 (2022) are, as far as we can tell, the same as the iPad Air 4 (2020)'s speakers, but that's not a bad thing.
The iPad Air 4 (2020) introduced speakers placed at either end of the tablet that output true stereo sound, a first for the iPad Air product line. This resulted in a much wider and more convincing spread of sound. It made watching movies, shows, or video content on the iPad Air 4 (2020) a lot of fun, especially for a tablet the size of the iPad Air.
In our testing of the iPad Air 5 (2022), we were treated to the same excellent listening experience. The iPad Air 5 (2022) has a wide, open sound thanks to its true stereo speakers, and watching movies is particularly atmospheric courtesy of the tablet's robust soundstage. Plus, there's plenty of detail on offer and a rich texture to the bass (by tablet standards) that rarely spills over into sounding muddy.
You'll be hard-pressed to hear a difference between the two tablets, but we're confident enough to say you won't be disappointed by the sound quality of either, regardless of the content you're enjoying.
iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad Air 4 (2020): the verdict
The iPad Air 5 (2022) and the iPad Air 4 (2020) share a lot of similarities. The core features and design are the same, and many other important aspects like their displays and their speaker systems are also the same. However, the newer model upgrades a handful of key components which results in some meaningful performance improvements.
Since the price of the new iPad Air is about the same as it was before, if you're in the market for an iPad Air, we'd suggest picking up the latest model. If you already own the iPad Air 4th generation, then you'll have to decide if more processing power, a better front-facing camera, and marginally better image quality is worth paying for.
Either way, you'll have one of Apple's finest tablets at your fingertips.
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