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Ipad air 13 inch in hand

Apple iPad Air (2024) Review: Have We Reached Peak iPad?

It’s been a month since I received the new iPad Air (from AUD$999), and it’s quickly become the most confounding piece of technology I’ve used this year.

While I typically relish the opportunity to experience any new release from Apple, I made the mistake of starting my review process on the new (and outstanding) iPad Pro. That meant the latest generation iPad Air has relegated itself to nothing more than a vector for endless movie streaming, YouTube binge sessions on flights, and newspaper reading on my commute.

It’s perfectly designed for these tasks, especially in the new 13-inch form factor (from AUD$1,299). However, it’s also capable of so much more. The question is, how many people will use it for these “other” tasks? Because if you’re a designer, engineer, etc., you’re probably better off purchasing the new iPad Pro. Let me explain.

RELATED: Apple iOS 18 Features: A Complete Guide.

Ipad air 13 inch touch screen
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

Let’s start with the good news for buyers first because the entry price for the iPad Air remains the same as the previous generation, but you get more for your money. The 11-inch iPad Air starts at AUD$999 and comes with 128 GB of storage, exactly twice the capacity of the previous M1 iPad Air (64GB). Meanwhile, the larger 13-inch model starts at AUD$1,299 and comes with the same 128 GB of base storage.

Full pricing for the iPad Air line-up is as follows:

  • iPad Air 11-inch 128 GB – from AUD$999
  • iPad Air 11-inch 256 GB – from AUD$1,179
  • iPad Air 11-inch 512 GB – from AUD$1,529
  • iPad Air 11-inch 1 TB – from AUD$1,879
  • iPad Air 13-inch 128 GB – from AUD$1,299
  • iPad Air 13-inch 256 GB – from AUD$1,479
  • iPad Air 13-inch 512 GB – from AUD$1,829
  • iPad Air 13-inch 1 TB – from AUD$2,179

From there, you can add a cellular connection for an extra AUD$250 on all models.

Ipad air 13 inch using procreate
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

Unfortunately, if productivity is the aim of the game, the maths doesn’t add up. If you want to use your iPad Air as anything but a streaming device or email machine, it gets very expensive. According to Apple, most buyers prefer the larger 13-inch model, which starts from AUD$1,299 with 128 GB of storage. That’s before you add the Magic Keyboard (AUD$499) and Apple Pencil Pro (AUD$219) for a total price of $2,013.

To get an iPad at the same level as the cheapest M3-powered MacBook Air, you’ll pay even more. The MacBook Air starts from AUD$1,799 with 256 GB of storage, while the 13-inch iPad Air with 256 GB of storage and Magic Keyboard is AUD$1,978. I love my new MacBook Air with M3, and I can’t see a situation in which I’d prefer to perform any productivity tasks on the iPad, especially if it costs me more money.

Of course, there are specific situations where the iPad Air is preferred: Drawing, handwriting notes, and watching videos on flights where seat-back TVs aren’t available to name just a few.

To answer my overarching question, “Have we reached peak iPad?” we must look back into the past. The first iPad Air with an M1 chip was released in March 2022, signalling a giant leap forward for the brand with its power, battery life, and liquid-retina LED display. Today, that device looks pretty much identical to the one we have pictured throughout this article, albeit with a larger 13-inch model now part of the line-up.

You get the same Liquid Retina LED-backlit multi-touch display with IPS technology measuring 2360 mm x 1640 mm for the 11-inch model, 2732 mm x 2048 mm for the 13-inch model, and 264 ppi of resolution.

It’s a tasty display, but the colours don’t jump off the screen like the new iPad Pro’s OLED panel and it’s not as smooth, with a 60 hz refresh rate, rather than the Pro’s 120 hz. Still, the display features are comprehensive with wide colour (P3), true tone, fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, an antireflective coating, and 500 nits of peak brightness.

Most buyers will find the display enough for everyday tasks, casual viewing, streaming, and basic social video editing. If you’re worried about display quality and plan to use the iPad for work tasks, get the Pro.

Strangely, the new iPad Air is also heavier and thicker than the iPad Pro, measuring 6.1 mm thick vs. 5.1 mm for the Pro. It’s also heavier, weighing 617 grams for the 13-inch model and 462 grams for the 11-inch model.

Ipad air 13 inch using procreate 2
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

So what’s under the skin? The new iPad Air is powered by an upgraded M2 chip, and it misses out on any of the neural engine features or ray tracing found on the iPad Pro with the M4 chip. However, this is still an M-series chip and is more than powerful enough for day-to-day tasks.

I had no trouble playing most games (tablet gaming is still an arduous task, boring at best), and I experienced no hiccups while using intensive creative apps like Procreate and Adobe Photoshop. Sadly, apps like CapCut are still reduced to stretched versions of the mobile app, not the laptop version.

Performance specs for our 13-inch iPad Air are as follows, according to Geekbench (version 6.3.0):

  • Single-Core Score: 2605
  • Multi-Core Score: 9985
  • Metal Score: 42249

If this is your first iPad or you want to upgrade and use the new Pencil Pro, the larger 13-inch model is a great place to start, but there’s no particular reason to upgrade to this generation if you’re simply after more performance and already own an iPad with an M1 chip.

Ipad air 13 inch using camera
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

The cameras are a carry-over from the M1 iPad released in 2022. That means a single 12MP wide camera at the rear and a 12MP ultra-wide front selfie camera that’s been repositioned to the landscape orientation, as seen in the image above. This is much better for video conferencing and is reason enough to purchase the new iPad Air over the previous generation if this is your first tablet. The cameras themselves are average, but no one should use an iPad to take photos, especially at concerts, Mum.

Battery life is claimed to be 10 hours on Wi-Fi and 9 hours on cellular data, and in my testing, I found that to be accurate. I achieved just over 9 hours of YouTube video streaming while using Wi-Fi and could have extracted a little more if I had used the device on a plane in flight mode. Portable batteries and chargers are so cheap these days, battery life concerns are a thing of the past.

Finally, there are four speakers: two up top and two at the bottom. There’s also no headphone jack, which we’d still love to see on a device aimed at productivity.

Ipad air 13 inch inhand
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

This begs the serious question: Have we reached peak iPad? For most, the answer is a resounding yes. The best iPad for you is still the best iPad you can afford. If you’re looking for a larger screen size and the iPad Pro is out of your budget, get the new 13-inch iPad Air. If you simply want to watch videos and send emails, get whatever iPad you can afford with cellular data, and if you want to use the iPad for work, consider the Pro.

The fact remains that two years after the release of the M1 iPad Air we have the same display, cameras, similar battery life, and the list goes on. There’s no reason to upgrade unless you’re still stuck on an iPad with an A14 Bionic.

Of course, the story is vastly different if you want to upgrade from iPad Air to iPad Pro, but that comes with a hefty AUD$1,699 starting price for the 11-inch model and AUD$2,199 for the 13-inch with Ultra Retina XDR Display. If you’re a university student, social video producer, or simply work an office job and manage large spreadsheets, consider your need for an iPad at all, and get yourself a MacBook Air and be done with it—unless you really love streaming movies in bed.

Ultimately, the iPad Air is not the iPad to buy this year. That crown belongs to the new Pro line-up, which has a noticeably better OLED screen, a more powerful M4 chip, better speakers, full Thunderbolt support on the USB-C connector and portability with a thinner and lighter build.

Ipad air 13 inch ipad top down
iPad Air 13-inch | Image: John Guanzon / Man of Many

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