- iPad Air (2022) vs. iPad Pro (2022): Specs compared
- Touch ID, Face ID, and cameras
- Apple Pencil support
- The bottom line
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- The iPad Air and iPad Pro are ideal options for users with intensive workloads.
- Despite the iPad Pro's newer and more powerful processor, the iPad Air's performance isn't too far behind.
- Buying the iPad Pro makes sense if you need more storage or are a frequent second- generation Apple Pencil user, thanks to Apple's Hover feature.
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In early 2022, Apple unveiled the fifth-generation iPad Air, a value champion for power users. A few months later, the company introduced the sixth-generation iPad Pro, which stands as the most powerful and responsive tablet in Apple's current lineup.
Despite costing significantly less than the $799 11-inch iPad Pro and $1,099 12.9-inch model, the $599 iPad Air is still very much a high-end tablet, and demanding users will be satisfied with its balance of price, performance, and feature-set. The latest iPad Pro models run on Apple's M2 processor, which offers a performance bump over the iPad Air's M1 processor that will be mostly felt in long-term ownership.
What really sets the iPad Pro apart is Apple's new Hover feature for the second-generation Apple Pencil, which brings next-level accuracy in using the stylus. On top of that, the iPad Pro includes Apple's ProMotion high-refresh-rate display for a silky smooth experience when navigating and working on the tablet.
When deciding between the iPad Air or iPad Pro, there are additional details to consider, like Face ID versus Touch ID, storage options, cameras, and USB-C data transfer speed. Whatever you choose, it's worth noting that both come recommended as the best iPads you can buy. Let's dive in.
iPad Air (2022) vs. iPad Pro (2022): Specs compared
|Specification||iPad Air (2022)||11-inch iPad Pro (2022)||12.9-inch iPad Pro (2022)|
|Display||10.9-inch Liquid Retina (2,360 x 1,640)|
11-inch Liquid Retina with ProMotion (2,388 x 1,668)
|12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED with ProMotion (2,732 x 2,048)|
|Processor||Apple M1||Apple M2||Apple M2|
|Memory (RAM)||8GB RAM||8GB, 16GB||8GB, 16GB|
|Storage||64GB, 256GB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB|
|Rear cameras||12MP main camera||12MP main camera, 10MP ultra-wide camera||12MP main camera, 10MP ultra-wide camera|
|Front camera||12MP ultra-wide FaceTime HD camera with Center Stage||12MP ultra-wide TrueDepth camera with Center Stage||12MP ultra-wide TrueDepth camera with Center Stage|
|Battery||28.6 Wh; 20W charger included||28.65 Wh; 20W charger included||40.88 Wh; 20W charger included|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5, 5G sub-6 (optional)||Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.3, 5G sub-6 and mmWave (optional)||Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.3, 5G sub-6 and mmWave (optional)|
|Authentication||Touch ID||Face ID||Face ID|
|Ports||USB-C, up to 10Gb/s (USB 3.1 Gen 2)||USB-C, up to 40Gb/s (Thunderbolt 3, USB 4)||USB-C, up to 40Gb/s (Thunderbolt 3, USB 4)|
|Audio||Stereo speakers||Four speakers||Four speakers|
Apple's M-series processors are serious hardware — they're the same chips you'll find in a range of Apple computers. That kind of power makes iPads ideal portable companions to desktop workstations, or even as primary creation devices.
While both iPads were released in 2022, the iPad Air's M1 processor debuted toward the end of 2020, so it's older than the iPad Pro's M2 processor, which Apple released in June 2022. That age gap is reflected in benchmark results, but the M1 chip is still a workhorse that should please anyone who needs a mobile powerhouse.
In fact, the iPad Air renders a short 10-minute 4K video with light editing in Premiere Rush in the same amount of time as the iPad Pro.
However, if peak performance for more complex editing is necessary and your budget allows for it, the iPad Pro is the iPad of choice. Plus, the iPad Pro will keep up with power-hungry workloads for a year longer than the iPad Air, if not longer.
Apple reserved its excellent 120Hz ProMotion display technology for the iPad Pro models, which delivers an ultra-premium smooth visual experience while navigating around iPadOS. Meanwhile, the iPad Air's display is a more moderate and standard 60Hz, which should be familiar if you've used standard iPads and non-Pro iPhones in the past.
As far as display quality, the iPad Air and 11-inch iPad Pros share the same Liquid Retina Display and just about the same screen size. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a Liquid Retina XDR display based on Mini-LED backlighting, which provides a brighter, accurate, and crisp visual experience.
While the base iPad Air offers tempting value, one its biggest drawbacks is its paltry 64GB of storage, which can be a disadvantage for those working with big content files, like high-resolution video.
If you need more storage, you'll have to upgrade to the $749 256GB iPad Air — a price that's mighty close to the base 128GB iPad Pro. If you know that 128GB is all you need, spending the extra $50 on the base iPad Pro can be easily justified.
External storage devices are another option to add space to an iPad Air or iPad Pro, but they're not ideal for casual, everyday usage. Rather, they're best used for projects. Both models differ in transfer speeds via their USB-C ports, with the iPad Air peaking at 10Gb/s (USB Gen 3.1 Gen 2), and the iPad Pros can muster up to 40Gb/s (Thunderbolt 3/USB 4).
The iPad Air's 10Gb/s USB-C transfer rates should suffice for most projects — theoretically, it should transfer a huge 10 gigabyte file to and from an external drive in one second. If you're working with even larger, nay, humongous files, you'll feel the benefits of the iPad Pro's 40Gb/s second transfer rate.
Touch ID, Face ID, and cameras
You unlock the iPad Air with a Touch ID sensor on the power button located on the edge of the tablet. Apple makes it easy to find with an on-screen prompt to show you where to lay your finger, but I've found it somewhat temperamental with finger placement and unresponsive to damp or excessively dry fingers. I have to tap my PIN code more often than I'd like because the Touch ID sensor doesn't properly register my fingerprint.
The iPad Pros use Face ID for unlocking, which works significantly better. Plus, the iPad Pros don't have a notch like the iPhones do. It's not a good enough reason on its own to spend more on the iPad Pro, but it's still something to consider when looking at the overall picture.
The iPad Pros also include a dual camera that actually produces decent photos and videos compared to the iPad Air's single, serviceable camera. Still, the iPad Pro's superior cameras aren't clinchers — most people use their phones for photos and videos, and transferring from an iPhone to an iPad is incredibly easy with AirDrop. And professionals may opt for professional gear depending on the project. I suppose it can be handy to have an all-in-one camera and workstation.
The iPad Pro cameras include a LiDAR scanner, which captures photos of objects or spaces (like a room) in 3D so you can navigate around the object or space. It's pretty neat, and it could be useful to have on hand if you work in some kind of designing role. These 3D images could even be used in augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).
Both the iPad Air and iPad Pro's front-facing cameras are on the short side of the tablet, which is a shame for video calls. It means your video feed will always show your face at a slight angle instead of directly in front. Still, at least both tablets support Center Stage, which keeps the focus on you, even when you're moving around.
Apple Pencil support
Both the iPad Air and iPad Pros support Apple's second-generation Apple Pencil, but only the iPad Pro supports Apple's new Hover feature thanks to the M2 processor. Whether you use a second-generation Apple Pencil for intricate drawings or taking simple notes, the Hover feature can be the hook to go for the iPad Pro.
Hover gives you a preview of exactly where the second generation Apple Pencil's tip will land on the iPad Pro's screen when you hover it from 12mm above. If you've ever wished you the Apple Pencil had more precision, Hover is the fix.
Beyond added precision, Hover also enables shortcuts when you hover and linger the second generation Apple Pencil's tip above certain on-screen items. It can even preview how a color will blend with another color on your artwork.
The bottom line
Your budget should easily decide which iPad to go for, whether it's the iPad Air or the iPad Pro. If $600 is your limit, the iPad Air won't disappoint. From a sheer value standpoint, the iPad Air should satisfy most people.
But if your budget allows, is it worth spending at least $200 more for the iPad Pro? It's a similar conundrum when deciding between the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro — both are great, but you have to consider whether the Pro's extra features are worth it.
The M2 processor's performance gains aren't massive, but the iPad Pro should maintain usable performance for longer than the iPad Air. You'll also appreciate the smooth ProMotion display and Face ID. And if you frequently use a second-generation Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro's Hover feature could be enough reason to opt for the iPad Pro.
Storage requirement also dictates which model you should go for. If you need up to 128GB of storage, you're better off spending the extra $50 on the base 11-inch iPad Pro. That way, you'll get the newer processor, ProMotion display, and other iPad Pro goodies like Face ID and Hover for Apple Pencil.
If you need more storage, you could save $150 by going for the $749 256GB iPad Air rather than the $899 256GB iPad Pro, but you won't be disappointed by upgrading to the Pro. Storage options for the iPad Air halt at 256GB, so the iPad Pro is your only option if you need even more space.
Senior Tech Reporter
Antonio is a senior tech reporter for Insider's Reviews team, where he helps lead coverage, reviews, and guides of smartphones, tablets, accessories, wearables, smart home products, as well as audio devices from Apple, Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and other major tech companies. Before joining Business Insider, Antonio was a consumer-electronics analyst at PCMag. He graduated from Colgate University in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in history. You can contact Antonio with tips and cool tech via email at: email@example.com Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here. Learn more about how we test tech and electronics.
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