Artist Review: iPad Air 5 (2022)

It's a good tablet but there are options that provide better value for your money

The iPad Air 5 was launched in March 2022 and has several upgrades to the previous iPad Air 4 (review) from 2020.

The processor has been upgraded from A14 to M1, the same processor found in the M1 iPad Pro (2021) (review), Macbook Air 2020, 13-inch Macbook Pro 2020 and Mac Mini 2020. RAM has increased from 4GB to 8GB. Camera has the new Centre Stage feature. 5G cellular connectivity added.


The tablet is available in five colours: Space Gray, Pink, Purple, Blue and Starlight.

Prices for models with 64GB and 256GB storage capacity are US $599 and $749 respectively.

Below's the table comparing the iPad Air 5 with the 11-inch iPad Pros from 2020 and 2021.

10.9-inch Pad Air 5 (2022) 11-inch iPad Pro (2020) 11-inch M1 iPad Pro (2021)
Display type IPS LCD at 60Hz IPS LCD at 120Hz IPS LCD at 120Hz
Resolution 2360 x 1640 pixels 2388 x 1668 pixels 2388 x 1668 pixels
Brightness 500 nits 600 nits 600 nits
Processor M1 A12Z M1
Storage 64GB to 256GB 128GB to 1TB 128GB to 2TB
RAM 8GB 6GB 8GB
Camera 12MP, 12MP front 12MP, 10MP, 7MP front 12MP, 10MP, 12MP front
Port USB-C USB-C Thunderbolt/USB 4 USB-C Thunderbolt/USB 4
Connection 5G 4G 5G
Security Fingerprint unlock Face unlock Face unlock
Apple Pencil 2nd generation 2nd generation 2nd generation
Size 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm
Weight 461g 471g 466g
Battery life At least 9 hours At least 9 hours At least 9 hours
Price From US $599 From US $799 From US $799

Bottom line

This review is not complete without comparing the iPad Air 5 to other options. The iPad Air 5 is a good tablet but it's not worth the money when compared to the refurbished 11-inch M1 iPad Pro (2021).

iPad Air 5 (2022) Refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro (2020) 11-inch M1 iPad Pro (2021)
64GB US $599 -
128GB - $609 $799
256GB US $749 US $689 $899
512GBGB - US $859 $1099
1TB - US $1029 $1499
2TB - - $1899

The base model US $599 iPad Air 5 with 64GB is tight on storage capacity. If you upgrade to the 256GB model, it's US $749.

The refurbished 11-inch M1 iPad Pro 2020 with 128GB and 256GB storage are US $609, $689. The refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 with 256GB storage is even cheaper than the iPad Air 5. It's clear that the refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 provides more value for your money as you can get more storage capacity, 120Hz refresh rate and the 4-way speakers.

The refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 is also called 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation) and can be identified by the square module camera.

The M1 processor and 8GB RAM may be substantial upgrades over the iPad Pro 2020, but they don't make any difference when it comes to drawing performance, except you can create more layers in Procreate, e.g. 73 vs 116 layers at A4 300 DPI. Heck, it doesn't even matter if the iPad Air 5 is using M100 processor because the drawing performance is similar.

I do not recommend the iPad Air 5 when the refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro (2020) is available. That's unless you want to get a specific colour that only exists with the iPad Air 5, or you urgently need a tablet but there's no stocks for the refurbished models.

Refurbished models could be returned units from customers during the return period, or could be repaired units. They still come with one year warranty. The refurbished section on Apple's website is only available in selected countries.

Things included

Included in the box:

  • 1m long USB-C to USB-C cable
  • 20W charger
  • Quick start guide
  • 2x Apple stickers

Design


Design of the iPad Air 5 looks good. Actually it looks similar to the iPad Pros with the flat sides. The physical dimension is similar to the 11-inch iPad Pro but the bezels are slightly thicker since it's a 10.9-inch vs 11-inch display in the same body.


The unit I purchased is Starlight which is this beautiful soft shiny subtle yellow. The back has a 12MP f/1.8 camera.

There's slight movement on the back of the tablet giving the impression that it's slightly hollow instead. But it's a small issue, and won't be noticeable if you have a case on.


Since the iPad Air 5 has the same physical dimensions as the 11-inch IPad Pro, accessories such as the keyboard case can be used here too.


There's a USB-C connector at the bottom.


The tablet has four sets of speaker grills but audio only comes out from the bottom two set which can be blocked by your palms.


The power button has a built-in fingerprint sensor which is fast and effective.

I find it confusing that the buttons to adjust the volume would change (increase and decrease) depending on the orientation of the tablet. You can turn off that feature in the settings, thankfully.


The weight of 461g makes it a very portable tablet.


That's how big the iPad Air 5 is compared to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Even with a case added, this is a tablet I can hold comfortably in one hand while standing to draw. I can't do that with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.


The 10.9-inch display provides a good amount of space to draw on. The surface area is almost as big as my A5 sketchbook.


The IPS LCD has vibrant accurate (P3) looking colours. Viewing angles are great with minimal colour shift when viewed from extreme angles. Brightness is up to 500 nits.


Resolution is 2360 x 1640 pixels at 264 PPI so pixelation is not noticeable.


One thing I like about the iPad vs other tablets is iPad displays have oleophobic and anti-reflective coating that significantly reduces the glare of reflections. This is a feature that all other companies should copy.


The display is laminated so there's no gap between the glass and LCD beneath. When drawing, there's no gap between the pen tip and the line beneath.

Pen tip is quite smooth on the glass but not slippery. You can use a matte screen protector if you want a textured drawing surface. The matte screen protector I recommend is SuperShieldz which is cheap and good, and if you don't like it you won't waste too much money. I used to use matte screen protectors but I no longer do so because the anti-glare that diffuses reflections is too glaring for my eyes, and matte screen protectors affect image quality.

Parblo PR100 tablet stand which can adjust to any angle.

Apple Pencil


iPad Air 5 supports Apple Pencil 2 which has a flat side that can attach to the tablet for charging and pairing.

Apple Pencil 2 is sold separately for US $129. Pen tips are replaceable.


You can tap the side of Apple Pencil 2 for some shortcuts which will vary depend on the app you use. The shortcut is usually to switch between brush and eraser. Anyway, I always disable the shortcut because the shortcut has a tendency to activate even when I'm just changing the way I hold the pen.

Drawing performance

Drawing performance of iPad Air 5 and Apple Pencil 2 is fantastic. It really comes down to how good the pen is and Apple Pencil has always been fantastic at drawing since it exists.

Apple Pencil 2 supports tilt, pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. The pen is accurate with predictable and consistent performance.


Initial activation force is minimal. You can draw a thin line easily without applying any pressure as long as the pen tip is touching the display.


When drawing fast, there's a small gap as the line is trying to catch up with the pen tip. That's a minor issue and I still consider the latency to be good. When drawing at normal speed, there's not much visible difference between 60Hz vs 120Hz refresh rate unless you draw extremely fast or draw long lines often.


This was drawn with Procreate.


Overall drawing experience is satisfying because Apple Pencil is very accurate.

Below are the number of layers you can get for an A4 sized 300 DPI canvas in Procreate.

Model RAM No of layers
iPad 9 (2021) 3GB 26
iPad mini 6 (2021) 4GB 26 (at launch)
iPad Air 3 (2019) 3GB 26 (19 before update)
iPad Air 4 (2020) 4GB 57 (19 before update)
iPad Air 5 (2022) 8GB 116
iPad mini 5 (2019) 3GB 19
iPad Pro 2018 4GB 57
iPad Pro 2020 6GB 73 (56 before update)
iPad Pro 2021 8GB and 16GB 116 (26 before update)

The drawing performance of the iPad Air is similar to all other iPads that support Apple Pencil. The main difference between the iPad models come down to the features. E.g. laminated display, ProMotion 120Hz, storage capacity, RAM, processor.

How much storage do you need?


If you draw often, I recommend at least 256GB. If you draw a few times each week, 64GB should be sufficient.

Note that iPadOS takes up 13GB. So actually you're just left with 51GB of storage. And that's if 64GB is 64GB and not 59.3GB due to format discrepancy.

My Procreate files aren't really complex or multi-layer and are between 20MB to 200MB in size. If the average file size is 50MB, 1TB of storage is enough for just 20 files. Professionals who use Procreate are likely to have much larger file sizes than me.

Should you run out of storage in the future, you'll have to deal with the hassle of transferring your art either to online or external storage.

128GB is a good amount to have but Apple does not offer that option because they want to push people to get 256GB and earn that extra $150.


The main advantage of getting an iPad for drawing vs an Android tablet comes down to the huge variety of drawing, graphic design and vector apps available. Android tablets actually have a good variety of drawing apps too, but Android lacks full-featured graphic design and vector apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Vectornator. You can do some graphic design with Krita or Clip Studio Paint on Android, but what's lacking are type-setting features commonly used in graphic design.

There's a good variety of drawing apps to choose from. Procreate is probably the most popular. Clip Studio Paint is great but it's a subscription based app.


My favourite drawing app is actually Concepts.

Battery life


I was able to get around 9 hours of battery life with auto-brightness. Battery life on iPads has always been pretty good.

Conclusion

There's a lot to like about the iPad Air 5. As mentioned earlier, while it's a good tablet, as a budget conscious consumer and value hunter, I would recommend the refurbished 11-inch iPad Pro (2020) instead as it provides more value for money, especially for the 256GB model if you have the budget.

In my review for the iPad Air 4, I also recommended the refurbished iPad Pro. Don't worry about the earlier processor not being as powerful as the M1 processor. I'm still using my 2018 iPad Pro and it still runs blazing fast when drawing.

The iPad Air is positioned as the cheaper version of the current iPad Pro but unfortunately has to compete with the refurbished previous generation iPad Pro, and it loses out to the refurbished unit due to price and value.

There are many things to like about the iPad Air 5 and there is no major deal breaker. The lack of face unlock is non-issue as there's fingerprint unlock. Lack of 120Hz refresh rate is probably not noticeable unless you've used 120Hz displays before. There's slight movement on the back of the tablet but it's such a minor issue. The speakers even when covered by hands still sound surprisingly good.


More concerning would be the 64GB storage because when you run out of storage, you can't work. For professionals, 64GB is not enough. You don't want to run out of storage and have to waste time transferring your files to external drive or cloud storage.

Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.

Availability

In case you still want to buy the iPad Air 5, consider supporting me by getting the tablet through the Amazon affiliate links below. I get to earn some commission for each sale at no extra cost to you.

Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

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