The iPad Air series made its debut in 2013 and was an instant hit. The concept of the iPad Air emulated that of the MacBook Air — a thinner, lighter version of the original. Since the iPad was a handheld device, a sleeker, lighter tablet appealed to many people, which is why it saw excellent sales figures after launch and every year since. But what is the difference between iPad and iPad Air, besides aesthetics? Join us as we analyze these two devices in an iPad vs iPad Air comparison.
Difference Between iPad and iPad Air
The iPad and iPad Air may seem similar in many ways, but there are some clear differences too, as these devices target slightly different demographics. Generally speaking, the iPad is an entry-level device; it will appeal to those who want a tablet to watch movies, browse the internet, and play the occasional game.
On the other hand, the iPad Air is more powerful, a bit more stylish, and could even replace your work laptop. It sits in between the iPad and the iPad Pro, which is the best Apple tablet that money can buy. Before we look at the similarities and differences between these tablets, let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
- Affordable compared to other iPad models
- Excellent value for money
- Superior to any of its competitors’ tablets
- Improved cameras on the front and back
- Now supports Smart Keyboard
- Still has a headphone jack
- Design seems outdated
- Struggles with video editing and graphic-heavy games
- Has a lightning port unlike other iPads that have Type-C ports
- The 2022 iPad Air Is powered by the M1 chipset, which is incredibly powerful
- The display is stunning
- Impressive battery life
- Beautiful design
- Expensive (closer in price to iPad Pro models)
- No FaceID
- No 5G support
- Peripherals are pricey
Differences & Similarities between iPad and iPad Air
Let’s start off with the similarities between the iPad and iPad Air.
- Both offer all the best features of iPadOS, including Apple TV, Arcade, etc.
- Compatible with Apple Pencil.
- Access to all apps in the App Store.
- Both have WiFi-only and WiFi+Cellular models.
- Both max out at 256GB of storage space.
- The screens have very similar resolution and pixel density.
- Both the iPad and iPad Air feature Touch ID.
Now, let’s look at the differences between the iPad and iPad Air.
- The iPad has a Home button but the iPad Air does not.
- The iPad is powered by an A13 Bionic chip, whereas the iPad Air packs the incredible Apple M1 chipset.
- The display on the iPad Air measures 10.9 inches across whereas the iPad offers a 10.2-inch screen.
- You get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPad, whereas the iPad Air has no headphone port.
- The iPad Air supports both Apple Pencil 1 and 2, whereas the iPad only supports Gen 1 Apple Pencil.
- At 12MP, the rear camera is much better on the iPad Air compared to the iPad, which has an 8MP snapper.
- You can shoot 4K videos with the iPad Air, something the iPad can’t do.
- The iPad allows you to connect to 4G networks whereas the iPad is capable of connecting to faster 5G networks.
- The iPad has the older lightning port, whereas the iPad Air comes with a Type-C USB port.
Now, here’s a table with the main specs, side by side.
|Features||iPad (2021)||iPad Air (2022)|
|Display||10.2 inches||10.9 inches|
|Resolution||2160 x 1620||2360 x 1640|
|Chipset||Apple A13 Bionic||Apple M1|
|Memory and storage||3GB RAM, with 64GB/256GB storage options||8GB RAM, with 64GB/256GB storage options|
|Audio||Stereo speakers||Stereo speakers|
|Authentication||Touch ID (Home button)||Touch ID (Power button)|
|Price||Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon|
iPad vs iPad Air: Features Face to Face
The categories above may have given you a heads-up about the differences between the iPad and iPad Air, but let’s look at each of those specs to see if the difference is significant.
Design and display
The iPad Air was meant to be thinner than the iPad, and it succeeds by being 1.5mm thinner. But that’s not all, the iPad Air has a refreshed new look with its aluminum frame, thin bezels, and the Home button removed. The iPad, in comparison, looks outdated, even though it was launched just a year ago. In the looks department, the iPad Air comfortably wins.
As for display quality, both screens have a max brightness of 500 nits and have a pixel density of 265 ppi (pixels per inch). The iPad Air offers a resolution of 1640 x 2360 pixels compared to the 1620 x 2160 pixels on the iPad.
The iPad is equipped with an A13 Bionic chip, an incredible chipset that ensures you get a smooth, consistent experience every time you use the iPad. The iPad Air is powered by the all-new ARM Apple M1 chip, which made its debut in 2021. This is the same chipset inside the 2021 M1 MacBook, a laptop that left the competition in the dust with its benchmark figures. In short, you’re looking at beastly computing power from the iPad Air, so performance should be the least of your concerns. The iPad Air wins this round!
The battery specs on the iPad and iPad Air are significantly different as there is an 8557mAh cell inside the iPad and a battery with an approximate capacity of 10,000mAh inside the iPad Air. But numerous tests indicate that the battery life is very similar for both these devices. The iPad Air offers much more computing power and yet manages to offer as much battery life as the iPad. Another point to note is that the iPad Air supports 30W charging whereas the iPad peaks at 20W. Objectively speaking, this round is a tie because of the matching battery life!
By the way, if you’ve been running into battery issues with your current iPad, here’s an article about replacing the iPad battery!
Accessories enhance the experience of owning a tablet, and the two best peripherals that you can get for your iPad are a keyboard and a stylus. In fact, keyboards are so important that we wrote a whole guide on buying a good keyboard for your iPad! Back to the topic, let’s look at how accessories work with the iPad and iPad Air.
The iPad Air works with both the Apple Pencil 1 & 2, whereas Apple has not extended the same compatibility to the iPad, which only works with the Apple Pencil 1. If you’re looking for precision and are particular about your drawing, then you would notice a huge difference between the two Pencils. If you’d like to read more about the differences between these styluses, here’s an article comparing Apple Pencil 1 and Apple Pencil 2!
We’re happy to see that the iPad works with Apple’s Smart Keyboard, but it doesn’t work with the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio like the iPad Air can. This is because the Smart Connector is not present on the iPad. You can always get a third-party keyboard+trackpad unit from Amazon, for the iPad.
The Type-C USB port on the iPad Air also supports DisplayPort technology, which the iPad does not, allowing you to connect external displays. Clearly, the iPad Air wins this round, taking the score to 3-0!
Processor, RAM, and storage
Apple’s M1 chipset has managed to put all of its competitors to shame, and the only chipset that can beat it are the M1 Pro and the M1 Max processors, which are only present in Apple’s Mac range for now. In comparison, the iPad features the A13 Bionic chip which is quite competent and can crush competitors from other manufacturers but pales in comparison to the M1.
In terms of RAM, the iPad Air packs about 8GB of it whereas the iPad comes with 3GB of RAM. Storage options are a tie as both the iPad and iPad Air offer 64GB and 256GB models. The iPad Air gets a huge advantage thanks to its chipset, so we have to give this round to the iPad Air!
On the front, the iPad and iPad Air have pretty similar cameras — both are 12MP, both have a 122˚ field of view, and both have a similar f-stop at f/2.4. However, it’s a different story with the rear camera specs as the iPad Air features a 12MP f/1.8 wide camera, which delivers stunning results. In comparison, the iPad sports an 8MP shooter at f/2.4 with a standard lens. Another feather in the cap for the iPad Air!
The iPad and iPad Air both get the latest iPadOS version from Apple, so you’re looking at any difference while operating your tablet. Of, course, you do get a snappier experience with heavy apps and games on the iPad Air but that’s mainly due to the processor. The iPad still delivers the goods in terms of software experience and because of that, we had to declare this round a draw.
As an end-user, we feel that you will definitely enjoy using the iPad Air more than the iPad. This is because the tablet feels much more premium to hold and apps open almost instantly, thanks to the monstrous Apple M1 chipset. We also like how thin the bezels are, which makes watching videos and playing games far more immersive, as the Home button sticks out like a sore thumb.
We also felt that the iPad Air is more future-proof than the iPad because of its 5G-ready modem. Add to that the chipset which can chew through anything you throw at it, and you’re looking at the iPad Air serving you well for many years to come. With these critical points, the iPad Air wins.
The iPad can shoot full HD videos at 1080p, whereas you can go all out with the iPad Air and shoot 4K videos at 60 fps (frames per second). You can even record 1080p videos at 240fps on the iPad Air, giving you the ability to shoot stunning slo-mo footage. Front camera results are the same on both devices as they both shoot full HD videos at 60fps. When it comes to video quality, this round goes to the iPad Air.
We found a great video comparing the iPad Air to other iPads that you can check out:
The price difference is stark between the iPad and the iPad Air, as the base model of the iPad costs about half of what the iPad Air costs. But, if you keep your eyes peeled for deals online, we’re pretty sure you could shave off about $100 from the price tag, especially during the holidays. We found a couple of links for good deals we saw on Amazon:
Apple iPad 10.2-inch (2021)
Apple iPad Air M1 10.9-inch (2022)
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an iPad and an iPad Air?
The biggest difference between the iPad and iPad Air is the processor — the iPad comes with an A13 Bionic whereas the iPad Air has an Apple M1 chipset under its hood. Additionally, the iPad Air is much thinner, has slimmer bezels, no Home button, a better rear camera, and supports Apple Pencil 2, which the iPad does not.
Is iPad Air worth buying?
The iPad Air is definitely worth buying, as it is an excellent mid-range tablet that could work pretty well for students, and could even replace your work laptop, for many users. It’s powered by an incredibly powerful chipset, it has excellent cameras and impressive battery life, and it works with Apple Pencils 1 and 2. It is ideal for someone who is looking for something a bit more capable than the iPad but does not want to spend on an iPad Pro.
Why is it called iPad Air?
The iPad Air gets its name because of how thin it is. Apple puts a lot of emphasis on the design of its products, and with the Air series of iPads, it aimed to have thinner tablets that were just as capable as the regular iPads, if not more.
How is iPad Air different than iPad Pro?
The iPad Air and the iPad Pro may rock the same processor, but there are other differences. For example, the memory and storage options are significantly more on the iPad Pro, with the top model offering 2TB and 16GB of RAM compared to the 8GB 256GB offered by the iPad Air. The iPad Pro also has superior cameras on the front and back, and also offers Face ID authentication. You also get a larger battery, a much better display, and 4 speakers on the iPad Pro compared to the iPad Air’s twin stereo speakers.
If you’re looking for a beginner tablet, then the iPad is perfect for you. While it may not be able to match the iPad Air in terms of specs, it’s still an excellent tablet that offers great value for money. In fact, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t notice the difference between the two tablets most of the time! The difference between iPad and iPad air would matter more to power users instead of the average user. We hope our iPad vs iPad Air article answers a lot of questions for you, and if you have any more, feel free to write to us in the comments below!