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iPad (2022) vs. iPad Air (2022): Which one's really better for you?

Finding the right fit for your needs and budget in Apple's ever-evolving tablet lineup can be a challenge. Let us help you decide whether to save cash by opting for the latest iteration of its base-model iPad, or if the iPad Air's upgraded features make it worth the extra cost.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer
iPad with colorful screen and iPad Air with dark black and white screen

The external differences between the iPad (2022) on the left and iPad Air (2022) on the right are almost nonexistent. 

Image: Apple

Apple might have more individual tablet models out now than at any other time in its history. Confusing things further is the fact that some lines, including the two we'll be looking at today, have converged to the point where it's hard to tell them apart just by looking at them. That said, big differences in internal components, peripheral support, and overall capabilities mean these seemingly identical devices are better for very different users with very different priorities. Our goal today is to help you decide, based on your own personal needs and budget, which of these two models is the best fit for you.


iPad (2022)

iPad Air (2022)


10.9-inch IPS running at 2,360 x 1,640

10.9-inch IPS running at 2,360 x 1,640

Apple Pencil support

Supports Apple Pencil (1st gen)

Supports Apple Pencil (2nd gen)


A14 Bionic


Physical connectivityUSB-C charging and data port, Nano-SIM tray (cellular models) USB-C charging and data port, Nano-SIM tray (cellular models), magnetic connector
Storage options64GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB
Cameras12MP rear camera; 12MP ultra-wide front camera
12MP rear camera; 12MP ultra-wide front camera
Wireless connectivityWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, 5G (cellular models) Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 5G (cellular models)


Silver, blue, pink, and yellow

Space gray, starlight, pink, purple, and blue


10 hours of web browsing or video watching on Wi-Fi

10 hours of web browsing or video watching on Wi-Fi

PriceStarting at $400
Starting at $500

You should buy the iPad (2022) if...

A person's hands holding an iPad (2022)

1. You're buying a tablet for a child or young student

Apple's iPad line has been a popular way to keep kids entertained and educated for the better part of a decade. The standard-model 2022 iPad is more than enough tablet for this purpose. It matches the iPad Air in every way that matters for a youngster, including screen size, battery life, local storage, and connectivity. While it doesn't feature the magnetic connector included with the iPad Air that lets that model connect with Apple's Magic Keyboard, the standard iPad does support the new Magic Keyboard Folio, which offers nearly all of the same capabilities, and turns the device into a homework powerhouse. 

2. You want the latest Bluetooth audio protocol

Despite the iPad Air technically being a more premium device than the standard iPad, the standard iPad features a slight upgrade to its Bluetooth connectivity that the iPad Air doesn't: The iPad Air uses Bluetooth 5.0, while the standard iPad uses the newer Bluetooth 5.2. The jump between the two versions isn't revolutionary, but the newer 5.2 protocol offers faster pairing and longer battery life through improvements to transmission efficiency. Both of these enhancements could be handy for someone who's constantly pairing new headphones, keyboards, or other peripherals with their iPad.

3. The unusual Apple Pencil support doesn't bother you

Apple's iPad has supported the Apple Pencil for several generations now. However, Apple chose not to add support for the newer, second-generation Apple Pencil to this updated iPad. Instead, it continues to support the older first-generation Apple Pencil, just like its predecessors. The only problem is that the first-gen Pencil is designed to charge via its built-in Lightning connector and the latest iPad has switched its power/data port to USB-C. This means you'll need an adapter cable to connect and charge your Pencil, adding more hassle and another thing to forget. If this doesn't bother you, or you never planned to buy an Apple Pencil at all, you can save some cash by ignoring Apple's somewhat questionable decisions on stylus support.

More: iPad 2022 (10th Gen) review: A confusingly good iPad

You should buy the iPad Air 2022 if...

two iPad Air tablets floating in front of a green background

1. You want laptop-like performance from your tablet

Despite their physical similarities, there's a major gap between the processing power housed in the standard iPad mentioned above, and the iPad Air. That's because the iPad Air's latest update uses the same M1 chip that Apple used in its MacBook and Mac Mini lines. This laptop-class CPU provides far more oomph than most tablet apps will ever need, ensuring you can get work done without slowdown no matter how many tabs you have open, or how intense your creative processes are. Even photo and video editing on the iPad are now a real possibility thanks to its M1 core.

2. You expect to make extensive use of the Apple Pencil

As mentioned above, the standard iPad's Apple Pencil implementation leaves a bit to be desired. However, the iPad Air provides all of the same convenience as the iPad Pro thanks to its included magnetic connector. This little extra makes it possible to use and charge Apple's second-generation Apple Pencil, which sticks right to the side of the tablet for easy charging and travel. The newer stylus also features a matte finish and angular design that makes it more pleasant to hold in the hand and less likely to roll away on you. If you plan to use your iPad of choice as a drawing tablet, note-taking device, or for any purpose that requires a stylus, the extra price difference might be worth it for this one upgrade alone. 

3. You want the full Magic Keyboard experience

Apple's Magic Keyboard is a big part of the reason why you might now consider iPad as a legitimate replacement for your laptop or desktop. The Magic Keyboard Folio supported by the standard iPad gets you most of the way there by adding a trackpad and physical keyboard to your device, but it's missing the floating cantilever hinge that makes it viable to use your iPad as a literal lap-top device, as well as the USB-C pass-through port that provides connectivity for peripherals like external storage, wired input devices, and more. 

More: iPad Air (2022) review: So good I almost regret buying my iPad Pro

Alternatives to consider

Open to other iPad and tablet prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

If you want the best iPad money can buy, the Pro still has its advantages. The M2 chip in the latest model puts just about every other laptop to shame, while its upgraded camera array is useful for some serious content creation, which it can store thanks to its 2TB of maximum space. The extra cost isn't worth it for everyone, but for professionals who want a true laptop-replacement tablet, it's still the best. 

More: iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Pro (2022): How to choose

Size isn't always everything. Sometimes you want the same capabilities as the big boys in a smaller package. For that reason, Apple's latest iPad Mini features an A15 Bionic Chip, a full range of connectivity, and even the same camera array as the iPad (2022). you won't save any cash by going smaller, but if it's the most ideal size for your, the Mini is worth it, even at about the same price. 

More: Apple iPad Mini (6th Gen) review: Unmatched portability and power

Android's multi-manufacturer nature means there are far more options to choose from than Apple's one-company lineup. Because of this, shoppers are often confused by which one might be best for them. Well, in ZDNET's opinion, currently the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the best Android choice.

More: The 7 best Android tablets of 2022

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