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Which one should you buy?


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The line between the 11-inch iPad Pro and the iPad Air series had become quite blurry early in 2022 when Apple unveiled the latter, making it challenging to choose between them. But with the 11-inch M2 iPad Pro — launched in October 2022 — Apple brings changes to internal hardware on its top-of-the-line tablet, once again creating distinct differences between it and the iPad Air 5.


While Apple has yet to untangle the devices entirely, there are more differences than before. Here we break down the hardware on these tablets to help you identify which is ideal for your use.

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Price

Starting with the price, the 11-inch M2 iPad Pro starts at $799; the iPad Air 5 comes $200 cheaper at $599. You gain a smoother display, better speakers, a more powerful processor, and more storage for the extra amount — the iPad Pro starts with 128GB of storage compared to 64GB on iPad Air 5. There’s also the better camera array on the Pro model, but we wouldn’t call it a deciding factor. The price breakdown below might help you create a better picture of which iPad to buy.

Category11-inch iPad Pro (2022)iPad Air 5 (2022)
Wi-Fi
  • 128GB: $799
  • 256GB: $899
  • 512GB: $1,099
  • 1TB: $1,499
  • 2TB: $1,899
Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • 128GB: $999
  • 256GB: $1,099
  • 512GB: $1,299
  • 1TB: $1,699
  • 2TB: $2,099

Design and Display

LI iPad Air 5th generation on blue background

The design differences between iPad models have narrowed in the last five years. Every iPad model has a version that implements uniform bezels on all sides with no Home Button. These two aren’t much different from their predecessors. The iPad Air does have newer colors — some of which now have a darker tint — but that’s about it.

You’ll notice three distinct differences when you put these devices next to each other; first, the thicker front bezels on iPad Air 5. Second, the Top Button on iPad Air 5 includes the Touch ID sensor — on the 11-inch iPad Pro you will see Face ID in action. Lastly, the camera setup on the back; iPad Air 5 uses a single lens setup, while the iPad Pro has a dual camera system with flash.

Diving into display details, although the panel sizes don’t differ much, the hardware in place does show some change. The iPad Pro can typically hit 600 nits of peak brightness compared to 500 nits on the iPad Air 5. The Pro model also supports ProMotion which lets the panel display smoother visuals, making its animations look more fluid and snappy.

The brighter panel will make media consumption more enjoyable, especially if you’re used to staying out in open areas, but both models will serve just fine if you’re often indoors. So, consider the iPad Pro only if you know you’ll appreciate having a 120Hz display.

Processor and Battery

Apple M2 vs Apple M1

The processor difference between the two devices introduces a 15% performance improvement for the 11-inch iPad Pro over iPad Air 5, owing to the faster 8-core CPU on the M2 processor. There’s also 35% better graphics performance with the 10-core GPU. Memory bandwidth, an element Apple says plays a role in its Stage Manager feature, also sees a 50% increase.

Apple’s Neural Engine — which handles machine learning-related tasks affecting image processing, video analysis, and more — also sees a 40% improvement over the M1. The M2 also brings Wi-Fi 6E to iPad M2 iPad Pro and, according to Apple, enables the Apple Pencil Hover experience.

While the newer processor does show an overall improvement in capability, iPad Air 5 isn’t a slouch. It will be able to do everything the Pro does with no trouble. You will notice differences only appear when you’re pushing the iPad Air by running multiple layers in creative applications like Procreate, Affinity Designer, and the upcoming Da Vinci Resolve. If your use case will involve running these applications and working with a high-resolution external monitor is essential, you should pick up an iPad Pro.

Battery performance between the two devices is quite easy to compare. Each comes with Apple’s standard claim of a 10-hour battery life and features a similarly sized battery. These even ship with the same 20W charger and can use the Smart Connector to charge if required.

Accessories

Apple-iPad-Pro-Magic-Keyboard-M2-hero-2up-221018

Lastly, we’ll touch upon the accessories these devices can use. The 11-inch iPad Pro and iPad Air 5 support similar accessories — unless a seller distinctly indicates a difference, keep your eye out for such warnings.

We’ve noticed that all of Apple’s accessories, be it the Magic Keyboard for iPad, Smart Keyboard Folio, or 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, each work flawlessly with both models, providing an identical productivity boost and user experience.

But you will see a difference when you pair the iPads with USB-C accessories. The Pro model works with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4 hardware, allowing data transfer speeds up to 40 Gbps. The iPad Air 5, with its support for USB 3.2 Gen 1, is limited to 10 Gbps.​​​​​​​

Verdict: M2 iPad Pro (2022) vs. iPad Air 5 (2022)

When it comes to value for money, at $599, the iPad Air 5 ticks a lot of boxes, yes, the 2022 iteration of iPad Pro does widen the gap between the two devices, but the cheaper tablet will get things done for the most part.

If you’re a student, the savings you make by purchasing the cheaper tablet will also go a long way. Putting it towards some of the best iPad accessories on the market will also help make it more versatile.

Now, if you’re looking for the best experience available, springing for the M2 iPad Pro will ensure you use unmatched hardware. But if you begin deal hunting, look into how the current generation compares to its predecessor, as deals on the M1 iPad Pro might be easier to find.

PBI M2 iPad Pro 11-inch

iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

Apple’s latest and greatest iPad Pro comes with the all-new powerful M2 chipset. It also supports Apple Pencil’s new hover feature. Check out all the deals on the device using the links given below.

PBI-iPad-Air-5-Space-Grey-1

iPad Air (5th Generation)

iPad Air 5th Gen brings the highly rated M1 processor, 5G connectivity (for cellular models), Center Stage capability, and all-new colors. It starts at $599 for the 64GB WiFi-only model, with an upgrade to 256GB of internal storage available.



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