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Apple iPad Air 5th Gen Review: “Powerful” Is An Understatement

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

The iPad Air 5th Gen has been around for a while now. We’ve been testing it for the past couple of months, and we can finally give our verdict on whether or not the 5th iteration of the iPad Air is worth your hard earned monthly salary. In short, the answer’s yes. But, there’s also a long answer that you’ll want to read on to know. Spoiler alert, the long answer is also a ‘yes’.

Priced from RM2,699, we’ll be looking into almost every aspect of the tablet and what it has to offer.

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Apple iPad Air 5th Gen – Specifications

ModelApple iPad Air 5th Gen
CPUApple M1 Chip
RAMUp to 8GB
Storage64GB / 256GB
Display10.9-inch Retina Display
21640 x 2360
60Hz Refresh Rate
Camera (Front)12MP Main Ultra-wide
Camera (Rear)12MP Main Wide-Angle
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
BatteryLi-Ion (28.6Wh)
StylusApple Pencil
BiometricsTouch ID (Power Button)
OSiPadOS 15.5 (iPadOS 16 coming soon)

What’s In The Box?

  • iPad Air 5th Gen
  • USB-C Charge Cable
  • 20W USB-C Power Adapter
  • Apple Pencil 2nd Gen and Magic Keyboard are sold separately*

Design

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Following the flat edge approach since the iPhone 12, the 5th gen iPad Air features the same flat edged sides which actually feels really good in the hands. The front comprises of the 10.9-inch Retina display with the 12MP ultra wide front camera with Centre Stage hidden in the bezel. The back is just mainly the 12MP wide angle camera, and a flat surface that’s smooth to the touch. On the bottom, there’s the USB-C port, along with two speaker grilles. On the top there’s the other two speaker grille with the Touch ID power button, and the volume button with the magnetic slot for the Apple Pencil is on the right side of the tablet.

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

The iPad Air 5th Gen is one hell of a looker. It looks great with the overall matte finish, flat edges, and minimalism approach. They say “less is more”, and I totally agree in this case as the iPad Air is subtle with its design, and it still manage to retain its elegance.

Display

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

The iPad Air 5th Gen’s display is what I would call a missed opportunity. The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display is absolutely amazing because the amount of brightness, clarity, and colour you can get from this display is insanely aesthetic. It is equipped with True Tone, P3 wide colour, and an anti-reflective coating to make viewing even more comfortable. That being said, all that visual eye candy is hampered by a 60Hz refresh rate.

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

The 60Hz refresh rate isn’t exactly a dealbreaker, it’s good enough for everyday use but we’re in 2022. The viewing experience would’ve been a lot more smooth, comfortable, and appealing if all that visual prowess was upscaled into 120Hz goodness.

User Experience

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

From the day I unboxed the iPad Air 5th gen, I’ve been in love with my overall experience with the tablet. It has almost everything I need to work and play on-the-go, that I’ve quite literally ditched my Windows PC. And because of how fluid the experience is on iPad OS, I’m intrigued to try out MacOS either with the M1-powered Mac Mini or the new M2 MacBook Air. Sure, they’re different platforms, but the user interface and experience should be somewhat similar, no?

On top of the iPad Air being lightweight to carry around anywhere, the tablet is responsive and fast to the touch. Navigation on iPadOS is so intuitive, it’s like second nature. Even if you’re coming from Android, or you’ve never used an Apple device before, it isn’t hard to pick up iPadOS. With the Apple Pencil and Apple Magic Keyboard, the entire experience gets elevated to a whole different level.

Apple Pencil

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

When you need that extra bit of accuracy, or just the real feel of writing on a piece of paper, know that the 2nd generation Apple Pencil is magnetically attached on the side. Note that the Apple Pencil is a separate purchase, and doesn’t come with the purchase of the iPad Air.

Design wise, the Apple Pencil also has a minimalist design to it, no physical buttons, just a touch sensor near your thumb resting area. It has a matte finish, magnetic attachment, wireless pairing and charging, even tilt and pressure sensitivity.

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

In terms of daily usage, the Apple Pencil feels remarkably real when writing/doodling on the iPad Air. It doesn’t have that natural coarseness you feel when writing with a pen/pencil on paper, but it does give you the same accuracy. Couple that with the Pencil features on iPadOS, you can do things like scratch to delete words, Scribble which allows you to write in any text field, convert handwritten notes to text, and even double tap to quickly switch back to your last used tool.

If I had to nitpick one thing I dislike about the Apple Pencil, it would be that I can’t use it to swipe up to return to the homepage. I’d need to change to my thumb/finger to do that. Again, not a dealbreaker, just a jarring bit of interference in the whole fluidity of navigating on the iPad Air.

Apple Magic Keyboard

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Ah, the Apple Magic Keyboard, it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole iPad Air experience. The Magic Keyboard attaches to the back of the iPad Air magnetically, which in turn pairs both devices together, and lights up the white backlighting on the keyboard keys. It lifts up the tablet and makes it as if the tablet is floating in the air, hence the use of the word “magic”.

As for the tilt, it’s quite limited and I would’ve preferred if Apple allowed the tablet to be tilted even further back. This would be more useful especially when you’re using the iPad Air on a surface lower than you like a short table.

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Typing experience is acceptable. It’s no mechanical keyboard, but it provides a nice, defined feedback that isn’t mushy. Keys are well isolated, and has a travel distance that feels just right. Arrow cluster is a bit tight, but Apple needed to fit the keyboard into the rectangle layout.

The trackpad on the bottom of the keyboard is what makes the iPad Air feel like it could be a MacBook replacement. For casual users who mostly work on the interwebs, I feel the iPad Air and Magic Keyboard combo is a killer option for those digital nomads who work on-the-go. But for more hardcore power users, you’re better off sticking with the MacBooks for more firepower.

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Apple iPad Air 5th Gen Review: "Powerful" Is An Understatement 25
iPad Air 5th Gen Review

It’s not the perfect accessory, and I think Apple could improve it a little more. If the company could make it lighter, with a wider tilt angle, it would certainly improve the overall user experience.

Gaming

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Remember when I said I ditched my Windows PC for the iPad Air? I transitioned my entire Genshin Impact journey to the iPad Air too, and never looked back. I’ve been playing the game on the PS5, PC, and on mobile since launch day, but ever since I got my hands on the iPad Air, I’ve been gaming on it full-time. I even paired the DualSense controller with it from the PS5, and it works flawlessly.

Whatever graphic demanding game you throw at the iPad Air, it renders everything beautifully and doesn’t break a sweat. It’s rare to catch the iPad Air struggling to load games, as most of the time everything runs nicely even on high load. That said, the gaming experience would be a whole lot better if the display’s refresh rate got bumped up from the standard 60Hz refresh rate, just saying it again in case Apple didn’t catch that.

If you’re playing games that require two-handed control, the tablet might be a bit big for you. But not so big that you can’t do it.

Camera

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

The camera system on the iPad Air 5th gen is nothing to shout about, but it does have a few neat tricks up its sleeve. It has a 12MP sensor on the front and the back, with the former being an ultra-wide angle sensor, while the back is just a wide angle sensor. These cameras take decent shots and selfies with the Smart HDR feature, and records 4K video footage that’s good enough for whatever projects you may have.

That’s great and all, but the feature that I want to highlight is a feature called “Centre Stage”. Basically, it’s a feature that tracks your face and allows the front facing camera to automatically pan to keep you centered in the shot. When more people join the shot, the view expands. When there are less people in the frame, it zooms in. This is such a small but such an ingenious idea, and kudos to Apple for developing it.

Audio

iPad Air 5th Gen Review
iPad Air w/ Smart Folio Case. Just look at how thin it still is.

In the audio department, the iPad Air 5th gen features a stereo speaker system with the left and right speaker grilles placed on the top and bottom of the tablet. The audio experience changes slightly depending on how the tablet’s being used. When you’re holding it, sometimes your hands might cover the speaker, muffling it. But when it’s mounted on the Magic Keyboard, the audio would be more consistent.

Sound quality wise, the iPad Air 5th gen’s speakers packs a punch in volume and can fill up the entire room no problem, without distortion too. It has highs aren’t overly bright, and mids that really brings out the clarity and depth in a person’s voice. As for the lows, they aren’t as thumpy but you still a fragment of it in the form of these really clean and crisp kicks.

When it comes to entertainment and media consumption, the speakers on the iPad Air 5th gen are phenomenal. It’s got rich sound, great volume, and a really immersive experience regardless of what you’re watching, playing, or listening to.

Battery

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

To me, there’s a lot to love about the iPad Air 5th gen. But, I feel like its battery life is my favourite feature of the device. Charge this baby to a 100%, and watch it last for four to five days. Depending on usage, of course. On days when I’m more casual with the iPad, I can get four to five days. On days when I’m working, gaming on the device, it can still last me two days. Once I charged the tablet to full, left for a business trip for a week, and came back to it still having 55% battery left.

Sure, it doesn’t feature 100W charging like some brands do. But with the iPad Air, I don’t need that, because the tablet lasts twice or thrice as long on a single charge. Even when I do need to charge it, it’s during my downtime and within two hours, it’s ready to go for me already.

Conclusion

iPad Air 5th Gen Review

Quite frankly, after using Android tablets for quite some time now, iPadOS on the iPad Air 5th gen is a digital breath of fresh air. It’s shown me a different landscape of the tablet scene, and to be honest, I’m loving it here. I look forward to picking up the tablet and just start doing whatever it is I was going to do on it. Gaming, watching a Netflix show, catching up on work, listening to some music, the iPad Air never fails in providing a reliable experience. I can’t say ‘smooth’ because I’m still disappointed the screen only supports 60Hz refresh rate.

If the iPad Air 5th gen is too big for you, or you need something that’s even more portable, then consider the iPad or the iPad Mini. They’re smaller, run on previous generation Apple Bionic processors, but they still work great too. If you want that extra power and a bit more screen real estate, you’re going to want to go pro with the iPad Pro. You get the same M1 processor, but a larger display, larger battery, and more flexibility to work around with.

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Apple iPad Air 5th Gen Review: "Powerful" Is An Understatement 25
Written By

Chief Content Developer at The AXO

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