Home / iPad / I tested the 11-inch iPad Air (2024) for a week, and it made my $1,200 Android tablet feel ancient

I tested the 11-inch iPad Air (2024) for a week, and it made my $1,200 Android tablet feel ancient

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pros and cons

Pros

  • Increased base storage for the same price as older model
  • Affordable large-screen (13-inch) option
  • Faster M2 Apple Silicon
  • Camera placement is more natural
Cons

  • Thicker and heavier than the iPad Pro
  • No Face ID unlock
  • No headphone jack
  • 60Hz refresh rate display

more buying choices

ZDNET’s buying advice

With a portable feel and increased base storage, the versatile iPad Air (2024) balances performance and price. It’s powerful enough for most tablet-based use cases like multi-app browsing, watching movies and TV shows, and taking video calls while costing hundreds of dollars less than the Pro model and other flagship Android tablets.

That said, while this iPad Air certainly doesn’t outperform the iPad Pro — it shouldn’t — it doesn’t significantly outshine the previous Air model or other cheaper iPads. But if you want a lightweight, big-screen iPad with most of the Apple fix-ins, this year’s model may be the most reasonable option for consumers.

Specifications

iPad Air 11-inch iPad Air 13-inch
Starting price $599 $799
Display Liquid retina display Liquid retina display
Weight 462 grams (16.3 oz) 617 grams (21.8 oz)
Processor Apple M2 chip Apple M2 chip
RAM 8GB 8GB
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Battery Up to 10 hrs, Li-Po 28.93Wh Up to 10 hrs, Li-Po 36.59Wh
Camera Main 12MP | Front 12MP Main 12MP | Front 12MP


How I tested the iPad Air (2024)

I’ve been testing the iPad Air daily for the past week and a half, using various productivity apps to write and work, browsing, playing games, and more. Benchmark testing included performance comparisons with an older iPad (8th generation) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. My review unit is the 11-inch model, though Apple also sells a larger 13-inch size this year. It helps that Apple kept the specifications across both configurations mostly the same, including the processor, RAM and storage, rated battery life, and cameras.

What are the iPad Air’s (2024) best features?

Double the storage for the same price as the last model: The iPad Air (2024) has four storage capacities, starting at 128GB and going up to 1TB for both the 11-inch and 13-inch models. The 11-inch iPad Air with 128GB of storage costs $599, the same price as the previous generation’s 10.9-inch model with half the storage, at 64GB.

iPad Air (2024, 6th generation)

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Doubling the storage for the base model is enough to make some buyers add the new iPad Air to their shopping carts. Add to that all the extra features that come with the latest model, including a front-facing camera that’s now centered on the longer side of the tablet, an M2 processor, and more, and you have one of the better, if not the best, value tablets on the market.

A faster M2 chip is a win for every user type: The new iPad Air has an M2 chip, an upgrade from the M1 on the fifth generation model. How much better is it? Apple says the M2 chip gives the new iPad Air a 50% faster performance than the previous M1 model and three times faster than the A13 Bionic model. 

Also: Apple iPad Air (2024) vs. iPad Air (2022): Which model should you buy?

While I don’t have an M1 model to test those claims, I have two older eighth-generation iPads in my home, both of which felt noticeably less snappy and responsive after I transitioned to the iPad Air this past week. Obviously, the 2024 iPad outperforms the older A12 Bionic chip in benchmark tests, but notice how it compares to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra tablet.

Geekbench 6 scores SC CPU Benchmark MC CPU Benchmark GPU benchmark
iPad Air (2024) 2622 10007 41771
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra 2081 5601 9481
iPad 8th generation 1330 2788 8998

For reference, the Samsung is a 14-inch, $1,200 tablet that’s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Besides outperforming the Ultra tablet in benchmarks, I found everyday use on the iPad Air much more reliable and consistent than the Samsung.

While I like the versatility of the Tab S9 Ultra as a work device and entertainment tablet, the iPad Air is much snappier and less prone to random bugs (i.e., apps crashing, connectivity issues, and overall performance), especially when using apps like CapCut for quick video edits and Photoshop for photos.

iPad Air (2024, 6th generation)

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Large screen option for the first time: Apple is selling a 13-inch iPad Air for the first time ever. It’s naturally heavier than the 11-inch model — by about five ounces — but it offers more screen real estate for improved productivity and content consumption.

Also: I’ve used every iPad since the first one. For the new 2024 models, this is my buying advice

Considering that the 13-inch iPad Air starts at $799, it’s an effective and relatively affordable option for college students and working professionals. Still, I prefer the 11-inch model for its portability. That’s the whole point of an “Air” device, right?

What I’d like to see in the next model 

iPad Air (2024, 6th generation)

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

A true iPad “Air”: Apple missed the mark on the “Air” moniker for this year’s iPad, with the latest iPad Air being both heavier and thicker than the newest iPad Pro.

It’s not that the company didn’t stay true to the iPad Air’s size and weight relative to past versions, but it’s how Apple spent most, if not all, of its efforts on making the more expensive iPad Pro lighter and thinner this year, leaving the iPad Air in the dust.

Also: The M4 iPad Pro’s true potential will be realized at WWDC, and AI will have a lot to do with it

At 462 grams, the latest 11-inch iPad Air is pretty much the same weight as its predecessor, which weighed 461 grams at 10.9 inches. The 2022 and 2024 models are also both 0.24 inches (6.1 mm) thick. Apple didn’t make the iPad Air thinner or lighter this time around, which is disappointing considering how much slimmer the Pro model has become. Perhaps “Air” only represents having the bare essential features now, just like how that applies to the MacBook line.

iPad Air (2024, 6th generation)

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Face ID unlock: I sound like a broken record, but truth be told, many iPad Air users want this feature, but Apple has yet to add it to the model. While this is a minor issue, especially with the very accurate fingerprint reader that’s embedded into the side power button, it’s a matter of convenience. 

You can set up Touch ID with both hands so that you don’t have to reach over with the same hand whenever you need to unlock it, but I’d prefer to lift my tablet up and have it recognize my face to unlock in a seamless manner. 

Final thought  

After testing the latest iPad Air, the biggest reason to upgrade from an older model is the larger 13-inch size option. What was once an iPad Pro benefit has now come downmarket to a price tier that’s much more accessible.

I also feel confident recommending existing users, including those who own the 2022 model, to hold off on upgrading. Besides the larger screen configuration, there’s no generational difference between this year’s iPad and the one from two years ago.

Alternatives to consider 

View at Best BuyView at AppleView at Best Buy


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