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Apple iPad Air (M2) - What More Do You Need?

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 7 Jun 2024, 2:34pm

Apple iPad Air (M2) - What More Do You Need?

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Fri, 7 Jun 2024, 2:34pm

Although Apple originally launched the iPad Air in 2013 and we wouldn't see the first iPad Pro until two years later, there was nothing awkward about it suddenly becoming the middle child.

It was instantly the perfect solution for all those entry-level iPad users who looked on at those Pro creator types in envy, coveting the extra processing power, more advanced displays and other added extras.

While every new generation of iPad Pro would set a new standard for all other tablets to follow, the iPad Air tended to eventually pick up many of those power-user features and then offer them a year or two later at a far more accessible price.

This is a trend Apple has been only too happy to continue in 2024.


This year's iPad Air comes in four colours; Space Gray, Starlight, Blue and Purple. Strangely, this is one colour less than in 2022 - no pink this time around - but still twice as many options as the new iPad Pro I'll be reviewing next week.

There are matching accessories of course, including the new Smart Folio case, now redesigned to support the iPad Air at extra angles. 

Even more useful is the amazing Magic Keyboard. This hasn’t really changed for the iPad Air, although there’s a new cursor experience when using the trackpad that’s easier to follow. As much as I love this accessory, I find the NZ$599.00 asking price to be truly eye-watering. I do believe I may have complained about this before.

The other (and probably most notable) accessory to mention is the all-new Apple Pencil Pro. Some may have expected this powerful tool to be compatible with the new iPad Pro only but Apple surprised many by allowing it to be paired with the M2 iPad Air as well. There are quite a few new tricks up its sleeve; you can now squeeze it to bring up an on-screen tool shortcut, there’s a new hover-to-preview functionality that ties in nicely with its barrel-roll abilities. This means you can roll wider brushes and pens while you’re drawing to alter the thickness of the line on screen. I’m not explaining it very well but you can see me demonstrate it in the video below.

Outwardly, the M2 iPad Air doesn’t look a whole lot different to its predecessor, other than this year's Air has now moved the selfie camera from the short side to the long side. I’d argue this is long overdue. In fact, I pointed out my frustration at the portrait-based camera on the last model in 2022. Thankfully, now it’s a lot easier to look your virtual meeting mates in the eye.

But the really big news - and I do mean “big” - is the iPad Air now comes in both 11 and 13-inch models. This larger size option now matches that of the iPad Pro and it makes a big difference when it comes to stacking multiple windows from different apps.

The 13-inch model also promises “twice as much bass” - not sure how that is measured, or indeed, what that sounds like because I only have the 11-inch version to review. I’m sure it sounds pretty good, because the sound on this one is already quite impressive.

Whichever size you go with, the Liquid Retina display is clear and bright, as we’ve all come to expect from any Apple device. In fact, this is another area where the larger model has a slight advantage, promising up to 600 nits of brightness as opposed to 500 from the device I’m typing on now. Either way, despite what Apple claims, if you take the iPad Air outside into the bright sunshine, you won’t see much in the murkier scenes of a show like “Dark Matter”. Mind you, there aren’t many screens that would perform in those conditions… or are there? Watch this space.

Some of the most significant iPad Air upgrades are also some of the least visible; improved connectivity is a biggie. You now have Wi-Fi 6e for a faster, more reliable connection (assuming you have a a Wi-Fi 6e router, obviously.) If you opt for the cellular version you can access 5G where available via eSIM. If you haven’t used eSIM before, don’t be afraid - I’ve been using it on my phone for months and it’s great. Bluetooth has been bumped up to the latest 5.3 iteration which is a significant boost for range and less delay. You’ll get up to 10GB/s fast data transfer via USB (using the right cable, of course) and perhaps most helpful of all, you now get simultaneous dual-band connection over Wi-Fi. I haven’t heard many people talking about this but it’s very useful when it comes to tasks like mirroring your screen using Apple TV. Whether you’re streaming, browsing or gaming, thanks to simultaneous dual-band you shouldn’t run into any of the stuttering, delays or dropouts you may have encountered when screen-sharing in the past.

In fact, stuttering, freezing or glitching are things that simply don’t happen with this device. By now Apple’s M2 chip has a proven (and highly regarded) performance record, both in MacBooks and the last iPad Pro. You won’t find many other laptops out there that keep things humming along as efficiently as the M2, let alone other tablets.

Whether editing audio and video, gaming or browsing multiple tabs, I haven’t really been able to make this iPad Air break much of a sweat and if it’s AI future-proofing you’re looking for, the M2 chip promises a great deal with its 16-core Apple Neural Engine. It’s capable of completing up to 15.8 trillion operations per second, so when it comes to on-device machine learning, you’re pretty well placed.

In fact, given I’ve yet to find something the M2 iPad Air can’t do, I really wonder what the 2024 iPad Pro has in store for me.

Oh wait, there is one thing. Face unlock. For some reason, we’re still left with the fingerprint sensor under the power button on the iPad Air, despite that very good 12MP Ultra Wide front-facing camera. I don’t know why we can’t have the same face-unlock most iPhones now offer, but there you go. The rear 12MP Wide camera is more than adequate for a tablet, offering Autofocus, Smart HDR and 5 X Digital Zoom. If you thought iPads couldn’t take decent photos and video, think again.

As expected, the M2 iPad Air is a slim, light yet extremely powerful device with excellent battery life, great sound and a lovely display - now available in a significantly larger size. The entry-level option starts at NZ$1199.00 which I consider to be excellent buying - especially since that base model now comes with 128GB of internal storage - thankfully nobody will ever be lured into thinking 64GB is a viable option ever again.

Unfortunately, accessories like the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro, although stunningly well designed are also stunningly expensive. If you really want to turn your iPad Air into a laptop, perhaps you should consider a MacBook Air instead? No touch-screen on a MacBook though. Tricky, isn’t it?




Click here for more information and pricing on the Apple iPad Air (M2).


Click here for more information and pricing on the Apple Pencil Pro.

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