iPad Air M2 review: cheaper iPad Pro for rest of us gets bigger

<span>The new 13in iPad Air offers a bigger screen and more premium experience.</span><span>Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian</span>
The new 13in iPad Air offers a bigger screen and more premium experience.Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Apple has more options than ever for those after a tablet with different sizes, prices, screens and power, but the iPad Air is fairly simple to understand – it is the premium big-screen iPad for those who don’t want to fork out thousands for an iPad Pro.

The Air starts at £599 (€699/$599/A$999) and is now available in two screen sizes: the original 11in and a larger 13in model for big-screen viewing. That puts it right in the middle of Apple’s lineup, with the 10th-gen iPad starting at £349 at the bottom and topped by the new iPad Pro M4 starting at £999.

The 11in Air is a straight replacement for the excellent M1 model from 2022, with the same good-looking iPad Pro-like design, the same crisp screen and stereo speakers. The 13in version, as reviewed here, is enlarged by a factor of 1.2 on the diagonal, making it about the same size as previous-generation iPad Pros.

The Air’s screen is a significant upgrade on the base-model iPad, being brighter and of higher quality, matching good-quality laptop screens such as those on the MacBook Air or Surface Laptop. But it lacks the more advanced 120Hz miniLED or OLED technology from the iPad Pro line. That means it is not as bright, contrasty or smooth as Apple’s top tablets. Compared side by side, the difference is night and day, but so is the price.

The stereo speakers are great for watching TV. The aluminium body and glass front feel solid and are only 1mm thicker than the super slender, 5.1mm thick iPad Pro. The webcam has been moved to the top edge in landscape, which makes for a much-improved video call experience over previous iPads.


  • Screen: 10.9in or 12.9in Liquid Retina display (264ppi)

  • Processor: Apple M2

  • RAM: 8GB

  • Storage: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB

  • Operating system: iPadOS 17.5

  • Camera: 12MP rear, 12MP selfie

  • Connectivity: wifi 6E (5G optional eSim-only), Bluetooth 5, USB-C, Touch ID, Smart Connecter

  • Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm or 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.1mm

  • Weight: 462g or 617g

M2 power and accessories

The M1 chip in the previous Air has been replaced with an M2 chip, which was used to great effect in 2022’s iPad Pros as well as Apple’s MacBook Airs and other machines. It is about 15% faster than the outgoing model, miles faster than any competitor tablet and more powerful than most will ever use on an iPad.

It sailed through work, multitasking between the browser, note-taking apps, chat apps, photo editing and word processing. It handles games and heavier-duty applications with aplomb. The base model Air also starts with 128GB storage – twice its predecessor – which is a welcome upgrade.

The tablet runs the same iPadOS 17.5 as the rest of Apple’s tablet lineup, which means it has a very large library of apps and can be plugged into an external monitor, mouse and keyboard, but it is limited in multiple ways compared with an equivalent macOS laptop as a regular computer.

The battery on the 13in version lasts a solid 10 hours while working, browsing or watching movies, certainly long enough for most tasks. The 11in will last about the same nine to 10 hours.

The M2 Air supports the same excellent £129 (€149/$129/A$219) Apple Pencil Pro as the iPad Pro M4, which replaced the second-gen Pencil from previous iPads and magnetically attaches to the side of the tablet for charging and pairing.

The tablet supports the old Magic Keyboard from previous iPads but not the new Magic Keyboard from the iPad Pro. The keyboard turns the iPad Air into a viable laptop replacement but costs from £299 (€399/$299/A$499) on its own.


Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery but it should last in excess of 500 full charge cycles with at least 80% of its original capacity, and can be replaced from £175. The tablet is generally repairable, with a damaged out-of-warranty repair costing from £819.

The tablet contains at least 20% recycled content, including aluminium, copper, gold, tin, plastic and rare earth elements. Apple breaks down the tablet’s environmental impact in its report and offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.


The 11in iPad Air M2 costs from £599 (€699/$599/A$999) and the 13in iPad Air M2 costs from £799 (€949/$799/A$1,299). 5G versions cost £150 (€170/$150/A$250) more.

For comparison, the 10th-gen iPad costs from £349, the iPad Pro M4 costs from £999 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 costs from £799. The M3 MacBook Air starts at £1,099.


The iPad Air is a really great tablet in a difficult spot in Apple’s lineup. It is a highly capable machine that can do almost anything you would want to with an iPad. But it is neither as cheap as the £350 10th-gen iPad, which is perfectly capable of handling the TV watching and browsing tablets are mostly used for, nor is it as spectacularly good as the iPad Pro M4 with its stunning screen and wallet-breaking price tag.

Instead, the iPad Air has plenty of power, a quality LCD screen, good speakers and a solid range of accessories for a premium experience. The 13in version, in particular, offers a considerably bigger screen, making it better for watching TV on the couch or for using it as a computer replacement.

So the Air is the best iPad for people who either want a premium mid-size tablet that can pull double duty as a full computer when needed or want the biggest screen Apple offers that is not an eye-watering £1,300 or more.

Pros: choice of sizes, fast M2 performance, good battery life, great screen, USB-C, long software support life, huge range of apps, good speakers, landscape Centre Stage camera, recycled aluminium, good accessories.

Cons: expensive, no multiuser support, iPadOS still needs work as a laptop replacement, no kickstand without case, no Face ID, must be treated with more care than cheaper rivals.