Apple iPad Air 5th Gen Review: Fully Loaded and Ultra-Fast

Apple unveiled several updates to its existing product lineup at its Peek Performance event last week, notably choosing its sleek iPad Air to load up with new features. The slim device is known for its versatility and portability, and it has been made even more favorable with the addition of the powerful M1 chip — the same used in the iPad Pro.

The M1 chip was first released in November 2020 and has been slowly rolled out across Apple’s devices. The custom silicon is available in four configurations — M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max and the all-new supersized new M1 Ultra — and adds incredible graphics performance and speed to Apple offerings. The M1 chip used in the new iPad Air boasts an 8-core CPU with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, delivering up to 60% faster CPU than the A14 Bionic. The 8-core GPU supplies up to 2x faster graphics performance compared to the previous iPad Air, while the 16-core Neural Engine powers advanced machine learning functions and can complete up to 11 trillion operations per second.

Impressively, the speed and functionality of the M1 chip do not come at the cost of the battery — a fully charged iPad Air can persevere for up to 10 hours while completing complex tasks with ease.

Center Stage, a favorite feature among iPad users, also joins the iPad Air update alongside a new 12MP front camera. The 12MP Wide back camera captures 4K video and crisp photos, with editing and sharing capabilities built into the device.

The wide stereo audio speaker system has a landscape orientation that widens the sound stage and offers a more immersive listening experience, particularly for watching movies on the 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display. The screen packs in 3.8 million pixels and integrates Touch ID built into the top of the device for easy authentication and use of apps like Apple Pay. The USB-C port on the device has been updated with 2x faster data transfer speeds and allows it to connect to displays and other external storage devices.

The addition of WiFi + cellular support makes it easy to connect to 5G while on the go for super fast downloads and high-quality streaming. Offered in 64GB and 256GB configurations, the compact device weighs about 1.02 pounds and stands 9.74 inches high and 7.02 inches wide. It is available in space gray, starlight, pink, purple and blue finishes, and is compatible with a number of color-matched Apple accessories on the market, including the Apple Pencil (2nd generation), Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio and the Smart Folio covers. It runs on iPadOS 15.4, which offers features like Universal Control to seamlessly move between Mac and iPad, a new multitasking menu, split-screen view, new widgets, keyboard shortcuts and more.

It is available for pre-order and begins shipping on March 18. Prices start at $599 USD, which sits in the middle of the other iPad offerings (iPad at $329 USD; iPad mini at $499 USD; and iPad Pro at $799 USD).

Overall, the M1 chip has further enhanced the experience of iPad Air, which users turn to for its versatility, portability and sleek design. If you’re looking to upgrade your device or are seeking a well-rounded, mid-level entry point into the iPad ecosystem, the new iPad Air hits the mark.
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