iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Air (2020): Which Apple tablet should you buy?
Which mid-range iOS tablet is for you? It's probably going to be an iPad Air, but do you go for power or affordability? Here's the verdict.
If you want to buy a mid-range Apple iPad, two of your best options right now are the new iPad Air (5th gen) and its predecessor, the iPad Air (4th gen).
The Air series is for anyone who finds the iPad mini too compact but doesn’t need the powerful performance offered by the pricier iPad Pro. It sits in the middle of the tablet family, and serves as a great balance between those two siblings.
The 4th generation iPad Air, which first came out in October 2020, is still on sale despite being recently succeeded by the new 5th gen model in March 2022.
That means anyone who is shopping for a new iPad Air has a choice to make: old or new? The same goes for anyone with a 2020-era iPad Air who is thinking about upgrading: is it worth it? To find out, let’s compare the specs of each model.
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Obsessed with Apple tech and shopping for a new tablet? Don’t miss our in-depth breakdown of the best iPad you can buy in 2022, based on hands-on testing.
- Key differences at a glance
- Specs and features
- Battery life
- 5G connectivity
- Which should you buy
- Where to buy
The two iPad Air models have more in common than they do apart, especially in the looks department, but there are of course a couple of key differences:
- iPad Air 5th gen comes with the latest M1 chip, while the 2020 iPad Air 4th gen has an A14 Bionic chip - the same as found in the iPhone 12.
- iPad Air 5th gen has a 12MP (megapixel) ultra-wide “selfie” camera, while the iPad Air 4th gen has a 7MP FaceTime HD camera.
- iPad Air 5th gen supports 5G connectivity for faster internet speeds and downloads, while the iPad Air 4th gen is 4G LTE cellular only.
iPad Air (2022) vs iPad Air (2020): key differences in detail
The latest 2022 iPad Air is a fantastic tablet, there’s no doubt. But it has managed to win that award not by overhauling its design or specs on a grand scale, but by adding iterative updates under the hood. In other words, the iPad Air 4th gen was already great; the new version is now slightly better. Put them side by side and it’s likely that most, if not all, people would struggle to tell them apart.
Both are 247.6 mm in height, 178.5 mm in width and have a thickness of 6.1 mm – although the new iPad Air is ever-so-slightly heavier. Both have a 10.9-inch LED-backlit display, the same build materials and receive power via a USB-C port.
The 2022 model has five colours: Space Grey, Starlight, Pink, Purple and Blue. The 2020 model also comes in five colours: Grey, Rose Gold, Silver, Blue and Green.
The major upgrade with the new model is the M1 chip, which boosts performance speeds by about 60 per cent compared to the 2020 model, according to Apple.
On top of that, the iPad Air 5 now comes with 5G, and the USB-C port has up to 2x faster transfer speeds. The majority of features are found via iPadOS 15, which is on both models so there is no difference in what the tablets can do day-to-day but the newer model may just complete some tasks a little faster and smoother.
The iPad Air 5th gen is the more recent tablet, so it costs more. The 2020 model is not what we would describe as being affordable, but it is now being discounted by around £50-£70 at various UK retailers. The new iPad Air 5 model starts from £569.
iPad Air 5th gen pricing:
- 64GB WiFi: £579
- 64GB Cellular: £769
- 256GB WiFi: £759
- 256GB Cellular: £945
iPad Air 4th gen pricing:
- 64GB WiFi: £499
- 64GB Cellular: £709
- 256GB WiFi: £629
- 256GB Cellular: £749
Both iPad Air models come with two storage sizes: 64GB and 256GB. They come in as Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi cellular. Only the new 5th gen supports 5G networks.
iPad battery life will depend on how much the device is being used throughout the full day. As a guide, Apple measures how long the tablets can browse the web on Wi-Fi or watch videos to demonstrate roughly how each performs.
Spoiler alert: they are the same, with the Air 5th gen, Air 4th gen and the Pro models all having “up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching videos” and “up to nine hours of surfing the web using a mobile data network".
The two iPad Air tablets have the same back cameras, consisting of a 12MP wide single camera set-up at the back that has a digital zoom of up to 5x, alongside the ability to shoot 4K video at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps. The main difference is the front selfie camera, which is 12MP on the 5th gen and 7MP on the 4th.
Whether it’s drawing a sketch using the Apple Pencil 2 or watching a new Netflix show you get the same display on both tablets. It’s a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina (LED-backlit) IPS display with True Tone, which adjusts the brightness based on your surroundings. They have 2360x1640 resolution and approximately 500 nits of brightness.
The iPad Air 5th gen has 5G, while the previous model does not. In terms of wider connectivity, both of the tablets have Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6 and built-in GPS.
As you could probably tell from this comparison, the iPad Air 5th gen is similar to the iPad Air 4th gen. They have more in common than not. Both slates look the same, have the same display, same rear camera and compatibility with accessories including the Magic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio case and Apple Pencil 2.
There are some key differences, however: the new model has 5G, a better selfie camera set-up but, crucially, it comes with the same M1 chip found in the pricier iPad Pro. The slightly older iPad Air is currently about £70 more affordable.
So here’s the bottom line: If you can afford it, we recommend buying the new iPad Air. Performance is better than ever thanks to Apple’s M1 chip, it is future-proofed with 5G connectivity, and the front-facing camera gives you more clarity when on video calls. The design of the tablet remains attractive and premium, and the same on both, so if you do need to save money, the iPad Air 4th gen remains a top buy.
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at Very
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at Currys
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at Amazon
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at John Lewis
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at AO
- Buy the iPad Air (5th Gen) at Argos
Where to buy the iPad Air 4th gen:
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at Very
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at Currys
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at Amazon
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at John Lewis
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at AO
- Buy the iPad Air 4th gen at Argos