Apple has once again delivered several compelling reasons to choose its iPad Air over the company’s pricier iPad Pros. Although the cheapest iPad is probably still the one you’ll want to buy for your parents who can’t live without a home button, the 5th-generation iPad Air revealed Tuesday will include the powerful M1 processor that can also be found in the company’s laptops.
Even with the M1 bump, the iPad Air will still start at $600 when available for pre-order starting on Friday with delivery expected on March 18. The upgrade means that choosing between the iPad Pro and the cheaper iPad Air is much easier, although you might struggle with what color to go with, as the new iPad Air will be available in space gray, pink, blue, starlight, and purple options.
The last version of the iPad Air arrived with a complete redesign that aesthetically made the tablet look a lot more like Apple’s iPad Pro—a flat-edged design that facilitated support for accessories like the second-generation Apple Pencil, and a $600 price tag that still made the iPad Air feel like you were shelling out for a tablet rather than a full-blown laptop replacement. But that iPad was powered by the A14 bionic chip, which has since been replaced with the A15 in Apple’s newest iPhones. For the new 5th generation of the iPad, Apple is skipping the A15 and upgrading the thinner iPad Air with its M1 chip, previously only the property of desktops and laptops like the Mac Mini, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and even the 24-inch iMac. With the addition of the chip, Apple is promising a 60% performance increase over the last generation iPad Air, and twice the graphics performance.
The new iPad Air also comes with improvements made to the front-facing camera with a new 12MP sensor (up from 7MP) and an ultra-wide lens that brings the iPad OS Center Stage feature to the tablet. Center Stage allows FaceTime to track subjects to ensure they’re always properly framed during a video call.
Other improvements include the addition of 5G, making the new iPad Air even more of a mobile workhorse than a media consumption device, and a USB-C port that can copy files from a connected external drive or card reader twice as fast as its predecessor. The new iPad Air is also still compatible with Apple’s keyboard accessories as well as the second-generation Apple Pencil.