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(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced an update to the excellent iPad Air from 2020 on 8 March and made it available from 18 March. Now in its 5th generation, the iPad Air was already starting to creep into iPad Pro territory with its design but now its internals are starting to catch up too. 

Here is how the 2022 iPad Air (5th generation) compares to the iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation). We've also mentioned the larger iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) for reference in case you're trying to decide between all three models.

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Design

  • iPad Air (2022): 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm, 461g
  • iPad Pro 11 (2021): 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm, 466g
  • iPro Pro 12.9 (2021): 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4mm, 682g

The new Apple iPad Air (5th generation) features the same design as its predecessor, though it comes in a couple of new colour options. You get a slim aluminium build with uniformed bezels surrounding the display and Touch ID built into the power button.

The iPad Air (5th generation) comes in Space Grey, Starlight, Pink, Purple and Blue colour options and it is the same size as the iPad Pro 11-inch model, though very marginally thicker. There's a single camera lens in the top right of the rear and the edges of the device are squared off, like most of Apple's newer devices.

The iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9 share the same design, though they differ in measurements. They both have an aluminium build too, like the iPad Air (2022), but they opt for Face ID at the top of their displays within a notch, rather than Touch ID. The iPad Pro models also offer a dual camera system on the rear within a square housing in the top left corner. 

Colour options for the iPad Pro models are Space Grey and Silver so a little less exciting than the iPad Air, though it does of course depend on what you're looking for.

All models have a Smart Connector and all are compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil and Magic Folio Keyboard. The iPad Pro models have Thunderbolt/USB 4 for charging and data transfer, while the iPad Air has USB-C.

Display

  • iPad Air (5th gen): 10.9-inch, 500nits, 264ppi
  • iPad Pro 11 (3rd gen): 11-inch, 600nits, 264ppi, 120hz
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen): 12.9-inch, 1600nits, 264ppi, 120Hz

The Apple iPad Air (2022) has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that offers a resolution of 2360 x 1640 pixels, delivering a pixel density of 264ppi. It offers a maximum brightness of 500nits and it's a very similar display to the iPad Pro 11 (2021).

The iPad Pro 11 has a slightly larger display at 11-inches, though it is still a Liquid Retina screen. It ups the resolution slightly compared to the iPad Air to 2388 x 1668 pixels, though it delivers the same pixel density at 264ppi. Its maximum brightness is a little higher than the iPad Air (2022) at 600nits, though not as bright as the iPad Pro 12.9.

The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) has a 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, which is the largest and brightest of the three iPads being compared here with a 1600nits peak brightness (HDR). It also has a pixel density of 264ppi though so there are still as many pixels per inch on all models.

All three models have an anti-reflective coating, P3 wide colour display, True Tone technology and a fully laminated display.

The iPad Pro models come with Apple's ProMotion technology though, offering a 120Hz variable refresh rate, while the iPad Air doesn't have this on board, marking the biggest distinction between the iPad Pro 11 and iPad Air in terms of display.

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Hardware and specs

  • iPad Air (2022): M1 chip, 8GB RAM, up to 256GB storage, 5G
  • iPad Pro 11 (2021): M1 chip, 8GB/16GB RAM, up to 2TB storage, 5G
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2021): M1 chip, 8GB/16GB RAM, up to 2TB storage, 5G

The Apple iPad Air (2022), iPad Pro 11 (2021) and iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) all run on the M1 chip with 64-bit architecture - which is the same chip that can be found in the iMac and the latest MacBook Pros so you're talking about quite a bit of power here. All three devices offer an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, though while the iPad Pro models offer a choice of 8GB or 16GB of RAM, the iPad Air only comes with 8GB of RAM as an option.

Storage options differ between the iPad Pro (2021) models and the iPad Air (2022) too. The iPad Air (5th generation) comes in 64GB or 256GB variants, while the iPad Pro models start at 128GB and are offered in a number of variants up to 2TB. All models come in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and Cellular models though, with the cellular models offering 5G capabilities.

All three models have a 10-hour battery life. As mentioned though, the iPad Pro models have Thunderbolt/USB 4, while the iPad Air has USB-C. The iPad Pro models also have four-speaker audio, while the iPad Air has two-speaker audio with landscape mode.

Cameras

  • iPad Air (2022): 12MP (f/1.8), 12MP front
  • iPad Pro 11 (2021): 12MP (f/1.8) +10MP (f/2.4) rear, 12MP front
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2021): 12MP (f/1.8) +10MP (f/2.4) rear, 12MP front

The Apple iPad Air (2022) has a single 12-megapixel wide camera on the rear with an f/1.8 aperture. It offers 5x digital zoom and Smart HDR 3 for photos.

Both the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and the iPad Pro 11 (2021) come with a 12-megapixel wide (f/1.8) and 10-megapixel ultra wide (f/2.4) camera on their rear. They also have 2x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom and a brighter True Tone flash, as well as Smart HDR 3 for photos.

On the front, the iPad Air (2022) comes with a 12-megapixel ultra wide camera with an f/2.4 aperture, and features like Center Stage, Smart HDR 3 for photos and extended dynamic range for video up to 30fps.

The iPad Pro 12.9 and the iPad Pro 11 meanwhile, come with a 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera with ultra wide camera. It offers an f/2.4 aperture with 2x optical zoom out and a number of features including Centre Stage, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, Animoji and Memoji and extended dynamic range for video up to 30fps, so they offer a couple of extra features in this department. 

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Conclusion

The Apple iPad Air (2022) offers the same great design as its predecessor but the upgrade in hardware brings it much closer in line with the iPad Pro models. The Pro models still offer a few extra features - as you would expect - such as Face ID over Touch ID, Thunderbolt 4, a choice of RAM, more storage options and more camera features, along with an extra camera.

The iPad Air now runs on the same powerful processor though, introduces features like Center Stage and 5G and it runs the same software - iPadOS - as the iPad Pro models, meaning a very similar user experience. 

The iPad Pro models are naturally more expensive and some will think the extra features are worth the cash, but the iPad Air (2022) has really raised its game this time around and with that boost in power and its lovely design, it's a very appealing option.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.