The last time Apple updated the iPad Air way back in the 2020, there was a sense that its very existence made the smaller iPad Pro unappealing. By replicating many of the Pro’s features at a more sensible price tag, the 2020 iPad Air offered a compelling blend of power and affordability. The world has changed since then, with the Pro line upgraded with M1 processors in 2021 and the Air neglected for the entire year. But based on the latest rumors, the Air’s glory days could return at the company’s Peek Performance spring event.
According to information seen by 9to5Mac, the new iPad Air (codenamed J408, the site’s sources say) will feature the same M1 chip that was previously confined to the iPad Pro and Apple’s Mac range. Combined with the 5G capabilities that pundits largely agree will also be added to the Air’s feature set, and the Air’s existing USB-C port and ability to work with the second-generation Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, this will elevate the mid-range Apple tablet to the realms of Pro-killer once again.
The M1 chip, as we outlined in our in-depth explainer, is a devastatingly powerful desktop-class component with two more performance cores than the A14 Bionic deployed in the current iPad Air and four more GPU cores. In our Geekbench 5 multi-core testing, the M1 iPad Pro outperformed the Air 2020 by a wide margin (7,285 to 4,197), an advantage of roughly 74 percent. There are details to be worked out–namely the how much RAM the Air will get and how many GPU cores it will have–but the potential for performance gains as apps become more demanding over the coming years is enormous.
Which brings us back to the old question: Why would the average tablet hunter buy the smallest iPad Pro when an up-to-date iPad Air exists? The premium tablet will still have some exclusive features to set itself apart from the rest of the range, such as ProMotion, Thunderbolt support, multi-terabyte storage options, but the 12.9-inch model with its XDR display seems like a no-brainer for well-heeled creative professionals.
The launch may be bad news for the 11-inch iPad Pro, at least until another version appears later this year, but it sounds like good news for the rest of us. That’s assuming, of course, that the prediction is correct. We’ll find out the truth later today at Apple’s Peek Performance event. Tune in with us for the info you need: Here on Macworld.com we’ll be reporting and analyzing all the announcements as they happen, starting at 10 am PT.