Apple iPad Air (2022) review

Everything you need from a tablet… almost

₹ 82,900

(256GB, Wi-Fi + Cellular)

With every new iPad, the gap between Apple’s tablets and MacBooks has steadily decreased. The latest iPad Air (2022), with an M1 processor plugged into its heart, may have just made that remaining gap negligible.  
Can its compact form factor, laptop-grade processor, and compatibility with Apple’s keyboard and trackpad make it a laptop replacement? Read on to find out.

Design: Ageing like wine

The fifth-gen iPad Air looks the same as the fourth-gen iPad Air, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even when it launched back in 2020, the iPad Air looked modern, and its design has aged like a bottle of Fonseca Vintage Port. 
The front continues to be dominated by the display with just enough black bezels to make it comfortable to hold when using the tab. The aluminium rear panel has helped keep the weight down making the tab ultra-portable. We’ve come across reports of users complaining about bad build quality, but we didn’t come across any such issues on our review unit.

On the top-right corner, you’ll find the power button, which also doubles up as the Touch ID sensor. The biometric sensor is fast and secure enough that you won’t miss Face ID. New users may take a bit of time to get used to the placement of the sensor, though Apple does help out with frequent on-screen indicators.

Display: Sharp as a tux

The 10.9in LED backlit display with 2360x1640 pixels resolution and Apple’s True Tone colour management system is a treat for the eyes. It is bright, crisp, and has good viewing angles. Pro users will immediately notice the missing ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate and lower brightness levels. But for the rest of us, there’s not a lot to complain about. 
This iPad supports second-gen Apple Pencil, and while we’re no budding M. F. Husain, we do enjoy the experience. Whether doodling, scribbling or noting down your thoughts, it feels quite close to using a real-life pencil on paper.

Performance: The need for speed

The biggest update to the Air is its heart replacement – upgrading from A14 Bionic to the blazing-fast M1 chip. Needless to say, the iPad’s performance is off the charts, and it handled everything from everyday office drudgery to gaming, streaming UHD content to creative work on apps like Procreate, without breaking a sweat. We could almost feel the iPad taunting us and asking if that’s the best we could throw at it. 
There’s more raw power at hand than most of us would need, but it fares well for the tablet’s longevity. With Apple’s stellar software update record, M1 power under the hood and 5G support, this iPad Air will easily last years before needing an upgrade.

The battery is able to last a day on a single charge, but the overall battery life heavily depends upon your usage. If you’re simply working on documents stored online coupled with a bit of internet browsing and streaming, the battery will last more than a day. 
But add in a bit of video editing, graphics-intensive gaming, and you’ll be hunting for the charger by the end of the day. Unlike the iPhones, the iPads do come with a charger bundled in the box, though it isn’t the fastest around. The 20W USB-C charger takes a couple of hours to fully juice up the battery.

Cameras: Taking centre stage

If you’re among those who do not care about the judgy looks from bystanders when holding a huge tablet to shoot photos, there’s some good news for you. 
The 12MP wide snapper shoots passable photos in ideal lighting conditions. The photos have a decent amount of details and colour accuracy and seem on par with what the iPhone SE (2022) is capable of. But head indoors, and the camera starts struggling.
Among the tab’s highlights is the upgraded 12MP front camera, which comes at a time when video calling and online meetings have become second nature. The latter is why Apple has added the Centre Stage feature where the camera moves around to keep you in the centre of the screen. It works like magic and is a huge relief since you no longer have to be parked in front of the camera during meetings.

Can it replace your laptop?

It’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? And the answer is not so straightforward. On paper, the 2022 iPad Air is as powerful as the M1 MacBooks, and much more portable than those laptops. So in theory it can replace a laptop. But in reality, it isn’t as easy to use as a laptop, and it all comes down to the operating system. 
Despite many improvements, Apple’s iPadOS still isn’t close to the macOS’ multitasking capabilities. Yes, it has a file system, you can have multiple apps open in the background and even run two apps side-by-side, but the experience isn’t the same as Apple’s MacOS or even a Windows laptop. 
Then there’s the added cost factor. For it to really replace a laptop, one needs to use it with Apple’s Magic Keyboard with a trackpad, which is a further investment of ₹27,900. You may choose to use a more affordable third-party Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with the iPad Air, but that would affect the overall experience.

Verdict: Should you buy?

As a tablet, there’s very little to complain about the iPad Air (2022). It’s easy to hold with a sharp display, oodles of raw power to tap into, and future-proof courtesy of 5G support. But, if you look at it as a laptop replacement, you’ll be left disappointed. It may be as powerful as an M1 laptop, but it is held back by the operating system.
Prices for the iPad Air start from ₹54,900, but you only get 64GB storage and Wi-Fi connectivity at that price. In this day and age, 64GB is just not enough, and we’re a tad disappointed with Apple’s decision to not include a 128GB variant. 
The next variant comes with 256GB storage, and one needs to fork out quite a lot for it. The variant’s pricing also comes dangerously close to the 11in 128GB iPad Pro variant, which might confuse buyers. While you lose out half the storage, you do gain an HDR screen with a higher refresh rate, better speakers and cameras, and a LiDAR scanner.

Stuff Says

Apple’s new iPad Air is ever so closer to being a laptop in a tablet’s body.
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Blazing fast performance

  1. Sharp display

  1. Easy-to-hold design with good build quality

  1. Centre Stage is like magic

  1. 64GB entry-level variant

  1. Expensive to kit out the iPad

Display: 10.9in LED-backlit display 2360x1640 px at 264ppi
Processor: Apple M1 octa-core chip
Rear camera: 12MP wide camera
Front camera: 12MP ultra wide with Centre Stage
Security: Touch ID
Accessories: Apple Pencil 2, Magic Keyboard
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1 mm
Weight: 462 grams