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The iPad Air Got an Overdue Upgrade. Here's What Apple Changed

Apple's latest iPad Air model gained a speedier M1 processor and 5G.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

The iPad Air gets an M1 chip in 2022.

Apple/Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

The iPad Pro, iPad and iPad Mini all received an update last year, but Apple forgot the iPad Air. That is, until Tuesday, when the company announced a new iPad Air during its "Peek Performance" event. It looks like it was worth the wait -- and, maybe, the best iPad for its price.

The Air has the M1 processor of the existing iPad Pro model and recent Macs, but an otherwise similar design to the 2020 model, with an eight-core GPU. It also adds an ultrawide, 12-megapixel Center Stage camera, similar to existing iPad models. 5G is onboard, too, for faster mobile data. But the iPad Air still has the same display as before: no Mini-LED or OLED. It comes in a new blue color, and starts at $599 (£569, AU$929), the same as previously, with 64 and 256GB configurations, also the same as before. The new iPad Air is available March 18, the same date as the new iPhone SE. Preorders open Friday.

Read more: iPad Air 2022 vs. iPad Pro 2021: Apple's 11-Inch Tablets Compared

A new iPad Air was expected at this event; it's the iPad model that was clearly most in need of an upgrade. Reports indicated that the Air would gain the M1 chip, 5G, boosted entry-level storage (128GB instead of 64GB), and a wider-angle front-facing camera with the same digital-zooming Center Stage tech that's already on the other iPad models from 2021. All of these updates happened, with the exception of the starting storage boost.

Watch this: Apple Updates iPad Air With M1 Chip

The Air line has been around for years, and iPad Air models have tended to be midrange models that incorporate some of the iPad Pro's features at a lower price. The 2020 iPad Air looked and felt like a more affordable version of the iPad Pro, adding the Pro line's thinner-bezeled, curved-edge display, USB-C support, and compatibility with smart keyboard cases and the Pencil 2. But it started to feel a step behind Apple's other iPads last year: the 2021 iPad Mini looked like the iPad Air in a smaller size, but with its CenterStage camera and 5G, it had some features the larger Air lacked.

For more, take a look at everything else Apple announced Tuesday, including the iPhone SE 3 (here's how it compares to the 2020 model and why it's for people "who just want an iPhone"), new iPhone 13 colors and Apple's M1 Ultra processor, as well as the Mac Studio and Mac Studio Display. The products arrived alongside a release date for iOS 15.4, Apple's latest iPhone operating system update. You can check out everything Apple debuted at its "Peek Performance" event here.