Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2022) vs. iPad Air (2022)

Even the closest observers would have a tough time distinguishing between Apple’s iPad updates year over year, and that’s the case with the new 11-inch iPad Pro 2022, which is identical to several previous models. While there have been some minor tweaks over time to the iPad Air, the fifth-generation iPad Air tablet is also identical to its predecessor. While some may chide Apple for its adherence to visual tradition, most users give a thumbs up to a familiar design that works well.

When it comes to the iPad’s underlying hardware and software, that’s where Apple readily tosses out the old and rings in the new. Each year, new iPads fresh off the assembly line get loaded with technical improvements invisible to the eye, but obvious in the hand. From upgraded processors and networking components to new Apple Pencil support and performance improvements, paired with operating system upgrades, the 2022 Apple tablets continue to keep users in Apple’s orbit.

While the difference in size is infinitesimal between the 2022 models of the iPad Pro 11-inch and the iPad Air 5th generation, there’s a considerable $200 difference in price. As with all consumer tech, the best choice is the one that suits your unique needs. We’ll compare these two to determine whether the new 11-inch iPad Pro or the iPad Air is the best one for you.

Specs

iPad Pro 11-inch (2022) iPad Air (2022)
Size 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9mm (9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches) 247.6 x 178.5  x 6.1mm (9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches)
Weight Wi-Fi: 466 grams (1.03 pounds)

Wi-Fi + Cellular: 470 grams (1.04 pounds)

Wi-Fi: 461 grams (1.02 pounds)

Wi-Fi + Cellular: 462 grams (1.02 pounds)

Screen size 11 inches 10.9 inches
Screen resolution 2388 x 1668 pixels at 264 ppi 2360 x 1640 pixels at 264 ppi
Operating system iPadOS 16 iPadOS 16
Storage space 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB 64GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services No No
Processor Apple M2 Apple M1
RAM 8GB/16GB RAM 8GB
Camera Rear: 12-megapixel wide and 10MP ultrawide cameras

Front: 12MP TrueDepth camera system with ultrawide

Rear: 12MP wide camera

Front: 12MP ultrawide front camera

Video ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 128GB capacity)

4K at 24/25/30/60 fps

1080p at 25/30/60 fps

4K at 24/25/30/60 fps

1080p at 25/30/60 fps

Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.3 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C supporting Thunderbolt/USB 4 port

Smart Connector

USB-C

Smart Connector

Fingerprint sensor No
Water resistance No No
Battery TBC 28.6Wh
App marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Network support All major carriers (cellular version only) All major carriers (cellular version only)
Colors Silver, Space Gray Space Gray, Starlight, Pink, Purple, Blue
Price $799 $599
Buy from Apple Apple
Review score News 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

apple ipad pro 2022 with keyboards.
Apple

The design and display of the iPad Pro 11-inch for 2022 matches its previous three predecessors, while the iPad Air 5th Generation also matches its immediate predecessor. Both are also similar to each other on the outside.

While observers were hoping for the new mini LED-backlit display now available with its 12.9-inch sibling, that is not the case for the smaller Pro unit. The screen is the same Liquid Retina Display as it was on last year’s model and holds two rear cameras. Still, the new 11-inch iPad screen is no slouch; it’s crisp and colorful. It unlocks via Face ID and features 120Hz Pro Motion tech, which makes a huge difference between the two models. A 120Hz screen refresh rate refreshes the screen 120 times per second, giving a smoother experience. It also varies its refresh rate to suit the current use.

The iPad Air 5th Gen sports a thin aluminum body, one camera lens on the back, and Touch ID embedded in the power button. Its pleasing rounded corners are comfortable, while the 10.9-inch LED-backlit screen with 2360 x 1640 pixel resolution is controlled by Apple’s True Tone color management system. Unfortunately for FaceID fans, Touch ID is the only biometric option for unlocking the tablet.

Both 2022 iPads are compatible with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil for drawing, writing, web browsing, and unlocking apps, and neither iPad model is dust or water-resistant. Differing screen refresh rates separate the Pro model from the Air in terms of quality and user experience. The iPad Pro 11-inch refreshes the screen up to 120Hz, and this makes the whole experience smoother and more pleasing, which gives the nod to the Pro.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

Performance, battery life, and charging

ipad air 5 back in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The new iPad Pro 11 show stars Apple’s latest M2 chip, featuring an eight-core CPU and a 10-core GPU. Between them, the new Pro model promises up to 15% faster performance and up to 35% faster graphics. The built-in Neural Engine is designed to be 40% faster than previous models to expedite machine learning and provide 50% more memory bandwidth. Pro-level users can depend on the M2 chip to facilitate creation of 3D designs, AR models, and accelerated gameplay. Up to 512GB of storage, the tablet packs in 8GB of RAM. However, to support storage up to 2TB, those high-end models come with 16GB of RAM.

In contrast, the iPad Air is outfitted with the previous generation’s octa-core M1 processor, 8GB of RAM, octa-core graphics, and Apple’s Neural Engine, comparable with Apple’s MacBook Air M1 high-performance laptop. But let’s face it, the M1 chip is a monster, delivering almost too much power to the little tablet.

Battery life mostly depends on how you use your tablet, but battery life has never been the iPad’s strong suit, and with the 2022 iPad Pro 11-inch and the iPad Air 5th Generation, tradition still rules. The new Pro model builds a 28.65Wh battery into the 11-inch model, the same as in the iPad Air, and battery life is cited as the same as last year’s models in both. Apple promises a solid 10 hours of use on the Wi-Fi models and nine hours on the cellular models. That means you can charge your tablet in the morning and still have power to spare in the evening. In terms of performance, both are admirable, but as we mentioned earlier, the ProMotion 120Hz screen refresh rate offers a better and more efficient overall tablet experience.

Apple provides a 20-watt charging block and a USB Type-C cable in the iPad Air 5th Gen box, which works well but not quickly, taking 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach 100%. Heavy use throughout the day means the battery may need recharging in the evening. The new 11-inch Pro model includes a USB-C Charge Cable and 20W USB-C Power Adapter in the box. It supports USB-C via a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, and that is the major difference between the two models. Thunderbolt 4 is more powerful and can transfer data at up to 40Gbps — way faster than the 10Gbps throughput of the Air’s USB-C port. This gives the edge to the iPad Pro.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

Camera

the front and back of the m2 ipad pro.
Apple

Shooting photos or videos with an iPad is enough to inspire derisive laughter on the street. But who cares? The new iPad Pro 11-inch model features a stellar two-camera system with 12-megapixel wide and 10MP ultrawide cameras, the same as last year, except they have fresh upgrades. The 2022 iPad Pro offers Smart HDR 4 for photos and ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 128GB models). The media engine on the M2 chip accelerates ProRes performance, letting you convert videos to ProRes three times faster than before. The M2’s image signal processor and advanced cameras also let you capture ProRes video. Five microphones and four speakers supporting Dolby Atmos let you deliver high-quality sound.

Sure, you are not likely to use your iPad Air as your main camera, but its 12MP camera with autofocus, Smart HDR, and an f/1.8 aperture will yield colorful and well-balanced photos, with an excellent dynamic range. Indoor shots show great detail, though indoor lighting may appear harsh. The front 12MP selfie cam is ideal for video conferencing and supports Apple’s Center Stage feature as the camera adjusts its 122-degree field of view to ensure you’re front and center in the frame.

The presence of a lidar scanner and a second rear camera also distinguish the iPad Pro from the iPad Air 5.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

Software and updates

apple ipad air 5 with flowers.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both iPads benefit from the new features delivered by the delayed iPadOS 16, such as multi-tasking via Stage Manager. Apple traditionally offers great long-term software support so your tablet should stay current for at least four years, and probably much longer than that. Since both tablets arrived in the same year, you can expect both to get around the same number of updates in the future, so that shouldn’t be top of your list separating the two.

These two are very difficult to split here, so it’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

m2 ipad pro with apple pencil.
Apple

There’s a new feature on the horizon boosting the functionality of the second-generation Apple Pencil. When you hover your Apple Pencil above the iPad Pro, it will be detected, and show a preview of where your stylus is going to touch the screen, adding a new level of precision. Additionally, with Scribble and other apps, text fields expand as you hover over the screen. The second-generation Pencil works with iPad Air as well, but the new hover feature, in conjunction with iPadOS 16, is exclusive to the iPad Pro.

In addition, you can get the Magic Keyboard accessory for both of these, putting them at a dead heat. As such, the Apple Pencil improvements give it to the iPad Pro 11.

Winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

Price

The iPad Air 5 is available now. It costs $599 for the basic 64GB version with Wi-Fi. Add 5G connectivity and the price rises to $799 for the entry-level model. There’s an option for higher storage at 256GB for $749 for the Wi-Fi version.

The new 11-inch iPad Pro will be available on October 26, but pre-orders are open now. Prices start from $799, the same price as for the last-gen models. Wi-Fi models cost: 256GB for $899, 512GB for $1099, 1TB for $1,499, and  2TB for $1,899. Add $200 to each storage level for a cellular model.

Overall winner: iPad Pro 11-inch (2022)

The iPad Pro 11 takes the win in nearly every category, and that’s why you’ll pay a higher price for it. The iPad Air is an advanced consumer iPad, and the Pro, properly living up to its moniker, is designed for a higher level of professional productivity, especially for photo and video production, creative pursuits, and gaming. In addition to the new M2 chipset, the new iPad Pro features a 120Hz ProMotion Liquid Retina screen, improved Apple Pencil support, Wi-Fi 6E support, Thunderbolt 4, a lidar camera, and multiple mics that put it into a more advanced category than the iPad Air — though both are only so-so performers in the battery department.

However, if you’re not a creative pro, you can save hundreds of dollars by choosing the iPad Air, and get every feature you need. It’s an enormously powerful tablet with a thin attractive design that will suit most professionals, students, and casual users and even act as a laptop substitute in most situations.

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