The Versatile New iPad Air Boasts Pro Features At A Great Price

Apple’s latest iPad Air goes big with a new 13″ screen but remain powerful, versatile and portable thanks to the M2 chip and killer accessories.

Photo: Apple

The new iPad Air has officially arrived. Announced at Apple’s recent “Let Loose” event, the middle family of iPads have always been a capable, portable and durable solution for people looking to find the middle ground between power and budget and this year’s model succeeds on both fronts. 

Photo: Apple

This new iPad Air is being offered again with an 11” screen but also, for the first time ever, a 13” model is available, a size that was previously reserved only for the iPad Pro line. For those familiar with the previous generations, the new 11” iPad Air arrives with almost no changes to its outward appearance besides the introduction of blue and purple finishes. It’s a situation of “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” because the large screen, minimal bezel and metal frame feels great and weighty during use and can confidently be tossed into a bag for travel. 

Photo: Apple

This remains true of the 13” model’s form factor as well, though its big, bright screen will obviously be a draw for those relying on the iPad for watching movies and playing games. Regardless of the screen size, either option have more than enough power for anything short of heavy pro use thanks to the integration of Apple’s M2 chip, the same chip found in Apple’s previous Pro iPad as well as the Apple Vision Pro headset. 

Photo: Apple

That means even though the Air models aren’t at the bleeding edge of technology like the new iPad Pro models that feature the M4 chip, they are more than capable of delivering excellent graphics for gaming and can handle most creative software suites, short of the heaviest video creation and rendering. The M2 neural engine also means these iPad Airs are primed to handle artificial intelligence better than ever before which isn’t a coincidence given the rumors that Apple will unveil some heavy new AI features at WWDC next month. 

Photo: Apple

iPad users will also want to keep an eye on next month’s WWDC announcements because it’ll portend the future of the iPadOS which has been one of the shortcomings of the entire iPad family. Criticisms have long dogged the tablet-specific OS as being schizophrenic and holding too tight to similarities with the iOS of the iPhone when, given the CPU and GPU power of these newest iPads, they should be evolving to be more like MacBooks instead. 

Interestingly enough, it really is the iPadOS that seems to be the thing holding back the convergence of the iPad Air and the MacBook Air since Apple Silicon equips both product lines with lots of power, great battery life and slim form factors for superior portability. Apple themselves continue to blur the line between device classes with terrific accessories for the iPad Air. 

Photo: Apple

Don’t get me wrong—the latest MacBook Air is a great traditional laptop that remains incredibly popular for a reason. But taking one of these new iPad Airs—especially the 13”— equipping it with a Magic Keyboard, a Smart Folio and a new Apple Pencil Pro, not only can it do almost everything a MacBook Air can do (provided the necessary app is in the App Store) but it can actually do more. 

Photo: Apple

Each of these iPad-specific accessories gives the iPad Air a leg up. The Magic Keyboard puts the iPad Air on more level footing with the MacBook Air for typing and touchpad AND it provides protection to the device that the MBA doesn’t have without a third-party accessory. As such, it’s easier to feel confident tossing around an iPad Air than anyone ever could with a MacBook Air. 

Photo: Apple

Similarly, the Smart Folio has now been improved to be more versatile with arranging the iPad Air for different circumstances and viewing angles. Watching a movie, the iPad can stand tall. Focusing on drawing, it lies flat. Just want it at a different angle that’s more comfortable for gaming on the couch, it’ll do that too. Ratchet a MacBook Air’s screen too severely too often, especially for a flatter experience, and a visit to an Apple store for repairs is the likely outcome.  

Photo: Apple

Why would anyone want a MacBook Air’s screen to lie as flat as its keyboard though? They wouldn’t. Because you can’t draw on a MacBook Air. But you can on an iPad Air. In fact, with the new Apple Pencil Pro, drawing on the new iPad Air is the best version of that experience so far. The new barrel roll feature is sure to be appreciated by artists who will love the fine-tuning but everyone who uses it will benefit from the low latency, finer precision and, perhaps the best new addition, haptic feedback that makes the Pencil Pro feel like an extension of your hand and less of a tool. 

Photo: Apple

All said, it’s hard to imagine a use case that these new iPad Airs wouldn’t be able to tackle admirably or from anywhere. Starting at $599 for the 11” and $799 for the 13” Apple has given anyone thinking about an iPad Pro a much cheaper alternative without much in the way of sacrifices for the savings. 

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