Apple iPad Air (2022) Review: Fast but Frustrating

If someone told me that the only device I can use for the rest of my life is an iPad Air, I’d probably cry. In theory, the versatility sounds great. I can use it as a laptop during the workday and as a TV in the evening when I’m relaxing. In practice, it is hampered by the frustrating software that is iPadOS. The thought of just using the iPad is enough to keep me clinging to my MacBook for life.

The fifth-generation tablet features the same fast M1 chip as Apple’s MacBooks and desktop computers, making it more powerful than ever for content creators and gamers alike. This new version also gets an improved front-facing camera, faster USB-C port and 5G connectivity. Even with this new guts, the price starts at $599, the same amount as the last iPad Air. But to get your money’s worth, it’s critical to make sure your day-to-day tasks really take advantage of the extra performance and features — and that iPadOS is up to the challenge.

Familiar physique, subtle adjustments

Photo: Apple

In 2020, the iPad Air got a long-awaited makeover. Apple has added a larger, almost borderless display; integrated Touch ID in the top button while omitting the home button; swapped a proprietary Lightning port for an industry-standard USB-C port; and added fun color options such as sky blue, green, and rose gold.

The 2022 iPad Air has almost the same bezel-less design, a 10.9-inch display with 500 nits of brightness, a Touch ID button on the top, USB-C port, 12-megapixel rear camera, and an array of vibrant colors. And while repetition is usually open to criticism, the iPad Air’s redesign is still fresh enough that this new Air doesn’t feel dull. The colorful tablet has a sleek look that begs to be worn without a case.

But if you want to use a case for extra protection, Apple’s own smart connector on the back allows you to magnetically attach the iPad to Apple’s Smart Keyboard, Smart Folio, and Magic Keyboard. And since the new iPad Air has the exact same dimensions as the 2020 version, you don’t need to buy new accessories when upgrading.

It’s also worth noting that if you want to get the most out of your sleek new computer and enjoy the full iPad Air experience, you’ll have to splurge for the Magic Keyboard ($299) and the second-generation Apple Pencil ($129). If you add those things to the $599 with 64GB iPad Air, your total comes to $1,028. Meanwhile, the M1-powered MacBook Air starts at $999. So you might want to check out third-party accessories.

Apple has made a few changes to the exterior that are not apparent to the naked eye. For starters, it’s available in new colors, including pink, purple, blue, and Starlight (a light champagne color). If you’re looking for a more muted tone, opt for the traditional Space Gray. The USB-C port is twice as fast as the previous version, speeding up the transfer of large files and photos from other devices.

There’s also now a 12-megapixel ultra-wide front camera (up from 7 megapixels over its predecessor), complete with Center Stage, making Apple’s intelligent video call framing software a standard feature now available on all iPad models. The camera’s sensor automatically rotates and zooms to keep you (and other people) in view during FaceTime calls, as well as apps like Zoom and WebEx. If you move, the camera will follow you. It should help offset the awkward angle of the iPad camera, which sits on the side of the device when the iPad is in landscape mode, the orientation most natural for video calls. But no software can fix that weird angle. It’s too extreme and Apple will have to physically move the camera to undo that problem. Until then, I’ll have to keep looking sideways — and apologizing for the awkwardness — during video calls.

Center Stage is more convenient if you’re using FaceTime while you’re cooking, cleaning your room, or even doing your makeup. This way you don’t have to constantly drag the iPad with you. But it’s not so convenient when you’re sitting at your desk, as it can be super sensitive at times. During Zoom calls to work, the camera tends to wobble as I adjust my seating position in my chair or slide to the side as I reach for my coffee cup. It’s clumsy and a little sickening if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. Fortunately, you can turn it off whenever you want.

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