The iPad Air is the mid-range tablet in Apple’s iPad line-up, combining top-end features that are perfect for creatives with a more affordable price tag than the iPad Pro. Apple updated it to the iPad Air 5 at its Peek Performance event in March 2022, but the key question is this: should you buy it?
If you aren’t sure, you’re in luck, because we’ve put both iPads head-to-head to find a winner. Just like when we compared the iPad vs the iPad mini, we’ve examined every major point of contention, from the design and display to performance and price, to help you work out which device deserves your hard-earned cash.
And if you just want to focus on the latest iPad Air, then check out our full iPad Air 5 review.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: design
Design-wise, both iPad Air models share an almost identical all-screen chassis. Both measure 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm. There are very slight weight differences – the iPad Air 5 weighs 461g (Wi-Fi) or 462g (Wi-Fi + Cellular) while the iPad Air 4 is 458g or 460g.
The latest iPad Air comes in space grey, starlight, pink, purple, and blue colours, while the iPad Air 4 offers silver, space grey, rose gold, green, and sky blue.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: display
The similarities don’t end there, with both devices getting a fully laminated, fingerprint-resistant coating and low 1.8% reflectivity. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to spend more on the iPad Air 5 if the display is your primary concern.
Since the chassis designs are so similar, it’s unsurprising that both iPad Air models come with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display. You get the same 2360x1640 pixel resolution with 264 pixels per inch, the same P3 colour gamut and True Tone technology, and the same 500 nits of brightness.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: battery life
Apple says the battery life on both the iPad Air 4 and iPad Air 5 is identical. The 28.6-watt hour battery that powers each device should get you 10 hours of video playback or web browsing on Wi-Fi, and nine hours of web browsing while using a cellular network.
In our iPad Air 4 review, we were very impressed with the all-day battery life that Apple managed to maintain despite adding tons of new features over the device’s predecessor. In our iPad Air 5 review, we were similarly impressed, although we did notice heavier battery drain when we ran more intensive tasks, like pushing its M1 chip in benchmarking apps. Streaming Apple TV content also dropped the battery significantly, so be aware of that.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: features
One of Apple’s flagship features is Touch ID (and, more recently, Face ID). These iPads lack Face ID, but they offer Touch ID for securely logging into accounts and verifying purchases; it’s located in the lock button. Both the iPad Air 4 and iPad Air 5 have a Smart Connector for quickly hooking up external cases and keyboards, both come with either 64GB or 256GB of storage, and both work with the second-generation Apple Pencil.
There is a key difference, though. While each product has a USB-C port, the one on the iPad Air 5 is much faster, hitting 10Gbps to the iPad Air 4’s 5Gbps. If you like to connect external devices – a camera or SD card reader, for instance – you’ll appreciate the extra speed of the iPad Air 5’s port.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: camera
The rear-facing camera on both models is the same 12MP lens. However, that’s where the camera similarities end, and the front-facing shooter tells a different story.
With the iPad Air 5, Apple upgraded this camera from the 7MP lens found on the iPad Air 4 to a new 12MP lens. Not only that, but the front-facing camera works with Apple’s Centre Stage tech. In compatible apps, this automatically crops you into the picture and adjusts the frame if you move or someone else enters the shot (we found this feature a bit creepy, as we explain in our iPad Pro 11-inch M1 review).
As well as that, the iPad Air 5’s new 12MP camera has an improved f/2.4 aperture over the iPad Air 4’s f/2.2 aperture, and can zoom out 2x where its predecessor couldn’t zoom out at all. Both the front and back camera also have more extensive video shooting options, including extra frame rate choices.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: performance
So far, the iPad Air 5 has pulled ahead in small but noticeable ways when it comes to features and its cameras. However, performance is one area where it really extends its lead in a big way. That’s due to its much more powerful chip.
While the iPad Air 4 has a mobile-class A14 Bionic chip, the iPad Air 5 is outfitted with the same desktop M1 chip that until recently graced the MacBook Pro. In creative apps like Affinity Photo and LumaFusion, it’s incredibly fast. The A14 was already a superb chip – and you might not need the extra power of the M1 – but there’s no doubting it’s a huge step up.
Another thing to note is that the iPad Air 5 brings 5G connectivity to the table. While 5G isn’t yet available to everyone, we’re certainly not complaining about its inclusion.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: price
Now that the iPad Air 5 has launched, Apple has stopped selling the iPad Air 4 online or in-store. That doesn’t mean you can’t get it anywhere, though, and plenty of third-party retailers are still listing it for sale. Now is a great time to buy if you want the previous-generation tablet, and we’ve already seen some impressive discounts.
As for the iPad Air 5, Apple lists the 64GB option for $599 (£569) for the Wi-Fi model and $749 (£719) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular version. When you bump the storage up to 256GB, those prices increase to $749 (£719) and $899 (£869) respectively.
If you’re thinking about buying either of these tablets, be sure to check out our round-up of the best iPad Air deals to see how much money you could save.
iPad Air 4 vs iPad Air 5: the verdict
In some ways, the iPad Air 4 and iPad Air 5 are very similar. They share the same chassis design (albeit with some different colours), come with the same display, and provide more or less similar battery life.
However, there’s no doubting the iPad Air 5 is the more advanced device. It is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of performance, has a faster USB-C port, and a more feature-rich camera setup. It will cost you more, but if you really need those extra features, it’s your best bet and is absolutely worth it.
That said, don’t ignore the iPad Air 4 completely. Its own A14 Bionic chip is still excellent for all but the most demanding tasks, and now is a great time to grab a bargain. If you’re not a super high-end user, it might be the better choice.