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iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro – Full Comparison

Ever since Apple added the M1 chip to the iPad Air 5, I’ve been thinking about a very interesting question – Will more people get the less-expensive iPad Air 5 instead of the 11” iPad Pro? Or are these two iPads close enough in price, where you’re better off in the long-run, spending the extra cash for the improved features of the iPad Pro? And, I gotta tell you – this was tougher than I thought.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro SIZE

On the surface, these two iPads are very similar – they actually have the exact same height and width, and the Air 5 is .01” or .2mm thicker. So when I look at them from the front, or in a case, they are virtually identical – but there are some important differences. Both have squared-off edges, rounded corners and small bezels all the way around, but they use 2 different forms of biometric authentication. The iPad Air 5 uses Apple’s newer touchID – which is incorporated into the Power button – and the iPad Pro has FaceID with the front-facing true-depth camera.

In terms of accuracy – both have worked really well for me – but for how I use my iPad I prefer FaceID because it’s essentially automated – and I don’t have to think about it – just like on my iPhone. At the same time, each use-case is different, and I’m curious to know which one you prefer – and hopefully with the next iteration of the iPad Pro we get both.

When we continue to look around the edge, we see 4 speaker grills on both iPads – but the iPad Air 5 only has 2 speakers, one on each side. The iPad Pro has a quad speaker system and it’s able to adjust the sound when you switch orientation from portrait to landscape mode. Overall, the sound coming from the iPad Pro is better – it’s fuller, it’s warmer, and it provides a wider soundstage – which is something we’ll re-visit in the gaming section.

Finally, both iPads have a USB-C port for charging and for connecting accessories – the one on the iPad Air 5 has a maximum transfer speed of 10Gbps – and the Thunderbolt/USB 4 port on the iPad Pro – caps out of 40 Gbps.

For the overwhelming majority of users, this difference isn’t likely to matter because 10Gbps is already extremely fast – and if you need more than that – you’re probably using your iPad in a demanding, professional environment – and you’re better off getting the Pro.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro DISPLAY

The sizes of the displays aren’t exactly identical – we’re looking at 11” on the iPad Pro vs 10.9” on the iPad Air 5 – but that is not the most important difference. Both are Liquid Retina displays, we’ve got very similar resolutions – 2388 x 1668 on the iPad Pro vs 2360 x 1640 on the Air 5. And both have a pixel density of 264 PPI. The iPad Pro does have a brighter display with 600 nits max brightness vs 500 on the Air 5 – But the most important difference is ProMotion.

This is the name that Apple gave their adaptive refresh rate with a maximum of 120Hz. This feature is still only available on the iPad Pro and it means that the system can vary the refresh rate based on what you’re doing. So if you’re reading, looking at static content, or watching a lower FPS video – it can reduce the refresh rate and save battery life. Then, if you’re scrolling, opening or closing apps, or doing anything where a higher refresh rate provides smoother animations and a more responsive experience – then it will go ahead and bump it up to 120Hz – and you’re kind of getting the best of both worlds.

I was really hoping we would get ProMotion on the iPad Air 5 – and I get a lot of questions about whether it makes a big difference. So the answer is Yes and Sort of. Because of what I do, I use tablets every day and I use a lot of different types of tablets – so if you give me the choice, I always want 120Hz.

At the same time, it’s not something that ruins my experience with tablets like the iPad 9, the iPad Mini 6 and the iPad Air 5 – I love using all of those displays – because they are good 60Hz displays – and at the same time – the iPad Pro is better. So this is one of those features that I want you to think about – long-term.

Assuming this device is going to be as powerful as you need it to be for the next 5-7 years – is this the type of feature that you’ll regret not getting – is it something that will make you upgrade before you actually need to – and you’ll see that we’ll come back to this in a minute.

PROCESSING POWER

Apple’s biggest update on the iPad Air 5 was that it got the same, incredible M1 chip that we have in the 11 and 12.9” iPad Pro. The Air also comes with 8 GB of RAM – which is exactly what you get with the iPad Pro, unless you get models with 1 or 2TB of internal storage – at which point you get 16GB of RAM.

What this means is that you’re going to get the same level of performance with both devices for anything from the most basic tasks to the most demanding ones. So if the only reason why you were looking to upgrade from your current tablet to the iPad Pro – was the M1 chip – you can now get that with the $599 iPad Air 5 – which is pretty incredible.

Personally – I never really looked at my iPad Air 4 and thought that it didn’t have enough power – so the M1 chip wouldn’t be why I would upgrade to the iPad Pro – but that’s not to say that there aren’t reasons to do it.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro CAMERA

When we look at the camera systems, both iPads now have a 12MP Ultrawide camera with Center Stage.

It’s a feature that uses this ultrawide camera to track a subject as it moves through the frame and then Zoom in and out to make sure that it’s properly framed. I’ve admitted this before, but when I first saw it at the Apple event, I thought it was kind of a gimmick. Now that I’ve used it for a few months, I gotta tell you that I really like it, and it makes video calls more engaging because you sort of feel the other person’s movements and it’s more like being in the same room.

Most of the front-facing camera features are the same – but because the iPad Pro has a TrueDepth camera – we’re getting things like Portrait mode and portrait lighting.

The rear-facing camera modules are very different, but that may or may not be important to you – so let’s quickly break it down. The iPad Air 5 only has a 12MP Wide camera.

The iPad Pro has a 12MP Wide, a 10MP Ultra Wide, a Flash, and a LIDAR scanner.

Personally, I primarily use the cameras on my iPads to scan documents – so for anything else, like taking pictures and shooting video, I’m going to use my phone because it’s always with me and it’s a lot more convenient to use.

If, on the other hand, you use your iPad camera differently, or you have a use case for the LIDAR scanner, and you want the best camera camera system Apple offers in an iPad – that’s the iPad Pro.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro KEYBOARD AND PENCIL

When we look at accessories – both iPads have a smart connector on the back, and they are compatible with the same size Magic Keyboard. There are also some other great options from 3rd party manufacturers like Logitech and ESR if you’re looking for different designs or features.

When it comes to a stylus – both are compatible with the second generation Apple Pencil – which is stored and charges on the side of each iPad. The actual feel of using the Pencil is exactly the same, but the iPad Pro does have a faster refresh rate, so it may feel more responsive. Personally, in my day-to-day use, and for how I use it, I don’t notice any meaningful difference.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro MULTITASKING

Both iPads support the latest iPadOS, so in terms of multi-tasking, we have the exact same set of features like split view, where we can use 2 apps side by side – and slideover windows for additional apps. Both iPads also work with Sidecar, which is an Apple feature that allows you to use your iPad as an additional display for your Mac, iMac or Macbook – and it’s a feature that I use all the time at home and when I travel .

Ultimately, since both iPads have the same processor and the same size display – I’m going to call this section a tie – with maybe a very, very slight edge to the iPad Pro because of ProMotion and the brighter display.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro BATTERY LIFE

With all of this additional workload, it’s important that we look at battery life. Both devices are rated for up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi or watching video, and then 9 hours when using cellular data. If you watched my iPad Battery test with the previous model – the iPad Air 4 – you may have been as surprised as I was at the results.

The iPad 11” has been one of the best iPads I’ve used so far – in terms of battery life – and for the most part – my experience with the iPad Air 5 has been very similar. If I’m using either of these to browse the web, work on the channel, read and respond to your comments, watch some YouTube – things like that – then I can get through a full day without a problem.

But if I sit down and play Genshin, or a couple of hours of PUBG – then I’ll definitely need to charge – and I’m finishing up my edit of the updated battery drain test – so I’m excited to show you the results.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro GAMING

Now, the gameplay experience on both devices has been virtually identical – because we’re getting the same processor and same amount of RAM. Both of these easily ran every game I tried, so whether I was playing COD Mobile, PUBG, Genshin, Asphalt – every single game ran smoothly.

When playing PUBG, both iPads can go up to BALANCED for GRAPHICS if I want EXTREME frame rate, and I can move up to ULTRA HD graphics and ULTRA frame rate.

Because we have an extremely similar form-factor – the ergonomics were also the same, but the one meaningful advantage I’m going to give the iPad Pro is the sound. Again, we’re getting 4 speakers instead of 2; the audio quality is better, and there is more directionality to the sound, so if you’re playing games where it’s important to detect where footsteps or other sounds are coming from – the iPad Pro has the edge.

When connecting an Xbox controller and then streaming games with the Xbox Gamepass app – the actual gameplay was the same – and again, the only noticeable difference was the audio. Neither of them comes with a headphone jack, so you’ll either need a USB-C headset, an adaptor, or to use something wireless.

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro CONFIGURATION AND PRICING

Before I get to my recommendation, let’s talk about the price because it’s a little tricky here. I’m going to use the official prices from the Apple store, but you can usually find better prices by using the links in the description – and also, let me know in the comments section, if the prices are different where you live.

The iPad Air 5 is available with 64GB for $599, and 256GB for $749.

The 11” iPad Pro is available with 128GB for $799 – and goes all the way to 2TB for $1,899. (show 256 for 899, 512 for 1099 and 1TB 1499 – in between)

iPad Air 5 vs 11″ M1 iPad Pro FINAL THOUGHTS

Ultimately the choice comes down to a few factors. If you only need 64GB of storage, and you want this form factor, the amazing processing power of the M1 chip, compatibility with some great keyboard cases and the 2nd generation apple pencil – the $599, base model of the iPad Air 5 is hard to beat.

If you need more than 64GB, then the question is how much more? If you only need 128, then the 128GB 11” iPad Pro is a better value than the 256GB Air 5, because you’re getting ProMotion, a better audio system, an improved camera system with a LIDAR scanner, and a more powerful port for an extra $50.

If we’re comparing the 256GB models of both – now it’s $749 vs $899 and the price difference jumps up to $150. So you need to decide whether the features I just mentioned are going to provide you with enough of a benefit – to offset this cost – over the life of the device. And remember – Apple has outstanding long-term support – and the M1 chip has plenty of processing power to last you for years.

You know what I always say, buy it nice or buy it twice! Good luck and see you soon.

⭐️ Buy the iPad 9: https://geni.us/2MPBQ (affiliate)
⭐️ Buy the iPad Air 5: https://geni.us/R2Ox1j (affiliate)

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