iPad Air M2 (2024) vs iPad Pro M4 (2024) preview

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Intro

They are here, folks — the iPad Pro has been refreshed with a brand-new M4 chip inside, and the iPad Air has grown to offer the 13-inch size at a lower price! The question is, how does the Air compare to the new Pro? Is it worth shelling out top-tier dollar for the max-sized iPad Pro M4 13″, or can you do just fine with a much more reasonably-priced iPad Air M2?

Well, there are teensy tiny differences between them. Let’s explore them:
iPad Air M2 (2024) vs iPad Pro M4 (2024):

  • 11-inch and 13-inch options for both models
  • 120 Hz refresh rate only on Pro line
  • OLED screens only on Pro line
  • USB C with USB 3 speeds on Air, Thunderbolt speeds (4x) on iPad Pro
  • Two speakers (landscape stereo) vs four speakers (stereo)
  • LiDAR camera still only a Pro feature

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Old, meet new
The modern iPad Air line is there to give you an iPad Pro for less money. The corners that were cut — it has a 60 Hz screen instead of 120 Hz ProMotion, it lacks a Face ID array and uses Touch ID fingerprint reading instead, and doesn’t have the new OLED display of the Pros, but more on that later.

However, the Air does have an 11-inch and 13-inch model, and does support the new Apple Pencil Pro (or an older gen Apple Pencil, if you so wish). It’s also a lovely deisgn, 0.24 in (6.1 mm) thick for both models, weighing 1.02 lbs (462 g) and 1.36 lbs (617 g) for the 11-inch and 13-inch variants respectively.

The iPad Pro looks familiar, but has in fact been redesigned. The new Pro slates are now ultra-thin, at 0.21 in (5.3 mm) and 0.2 in (5.1 mm) for the 11″ and 13″ model respectively. They are also quite light at 0.98 pounds (444 grams) and 1.28 pounds (579 grams).

OK, so the iPad Air gets to look a bit more “old style” — that’s not a big deal. The good news is that it is compatible with the old Magic Keyboard accessories, which were originally released for the 2020, 2021, 2022 iPad Pros. Then again, the new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro M4 sure looks nice — bigger touchpad with haptic feedback, aluminum arm rest, function key row — pretty desirable upgrades.

At least, both the Air and Pro fit and pair with the new Apple Pencil Pro — an upgraded stylus that now has a squeeze control, haptic feedback, and a gyroscope for barrel rolls and angle brushing.

The iPads have had USB C ports for a while now, so no change expected there. But, as before, we have Thunderbolt file transfer speeds (40 Gbps) exclusive to the iPad Pro M4 line, and the iPad Air M2 has USB 3 (10 Gbps).

The display sizes of the Airs and the Pros are the same, but that’s where the similarities end. The new iPad Pro M4 (2024) comes with a brand-new Tandem OLED screen — dual layers of OLED with better color balance and increased brightness (1,000 nits SDR, 1,600 nits peak HDR). Plus, they are still 120 Hz ProMotion panels, keeping the high refresh rate exclusive to the Pro models. The whole package has been dubbed Ultra Retina XDR.

The iPad Air M2 (2024) sticks to good old 60 Hz LCD (ahem, Liquid Retina) and has a 500 nit max brightness (600 nits for the 13-inch model).

Aside from those very core specs, the displays do share premium features — like a laminated construction, where the glass and the touch panel are fused together for an overall thinner build. And they have a special anti-glare coating that has been on the premium iPads for years now — pretty effective. The specs page also lists oleophobic coating — we do wish this one is upgraded in some way as well. Ever since the Apple Pencil has been introduced, the oleophobic coating on iPads was changed to something… far less effective. And that goes for all units that support some version of the Pencil.

Display Measurements:

The 1 TB and 2 TB iPad Pro M4 models can also be upgraded to nano-textuded glass for glare reduction. That’s a $100 extra, but if you’re already buying a 1 TB or 2 TB model… we imagine it won’t bother you too much.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, the iPad Air M2 (2024) now gets the Pencil Hover feature — just going over the screen with the tip of the stylus will act as a cursor. This was introduced with the iPad Pro (2022) and was exclusive to that model until now.

Performance and Software

#M2
The upper-range iPads have been getting the Apple M processors for a couple of years now. The M1 from the MacBooks made it to the iPad Pros of 2021, then the M2 was put in the iPad Pro (2022), while the iPad Air (2022) got the M1. See the trend? We thought we did, but lo and behold — the iPad Pro (2024) is the first device to get the newest M4 chip! Before it makes it to a Mac or anything else.

And it’s not just a rebranded M3 — the new M4 is legit more powerful than the chips you get with the latest MacBooks. Now, whether you will make use of that power is another question. But here’s how the benchmarks went:

Performance Benchmarks:

Does this mean that the iPad Air M2, or — indeed — the iPad Pro (2022) are now… bad? Nah, not nearly. M-class processors have insane headroom, especially when it comes to mobile applications. Sure, the new M4 is fancy and capable, but in real life — both of these tablets fly. Well, obviously, the Pro feels smoother thanks to that 120 Hz screen, but rest assured that the Air can render video and audio, apply photo edits, and game just as well!

Where the Air line differs is its base storage tier. It has now been upgraded to 128 GB at tier 1 — and that’s for the same $599 price as before. Not incredible, but you can live with 128 GB in 2024, if you do some housekeeping. The iPad Pro’s minimum storage is now 256 GB, but the starting price for the M4 model has now jumped to $999.

As mentioned above, there are differences in USB transfer speeds, too. The iPad Air M2 has a USB C with 10 Gbps (which is pretty fast, actually), the Pro line has Thunderbolt ports for instanely fast 40 Gbps transfers.

Camera

Are tablets cameras?
Typically, you want two cameras on a tablet — the selfie camera for video calls, and then some kind of rear-facing camera to scan documents or for some sort of emergency “Hey, look at that” picture-taking.

The iPad Air and iPad Pro lines typically have a 12 MP selfie camera with the ultra-wide lens that enables Center Stage (the camera follows your face automatically), and a 12 MP main camera in the back, which is pretty usable.

Video Thumbnail

Video Thumbnail

The same story repeats here, though, the iPad Pro now has a new adaptive True Tone flash on the back, which is supposedly better for balancing out colors when you are taking photos of documents specifically.

The iPad Pro M4 also has the LiDAR sensor on the back for better accuracy in AR applications — something that hasn’t really gone mainstream, but Apple hasn’t decided to axe it yet. The same can not be said about the ultra-wide camera — iPad Pros used to have ultra-wide snappers, the 2024 models do not.

Audio Quality

The iPad Air line has two speakers, located on the top and bottom of the tablet — otherwise known as “landscape stereo”, as they end up as left and right speakers when watching movies or YouTube videos. The iPad Pros have quad speakers, full stereo in both landscape and portrait (arguably, when held in portrait mode, the left and right side are so close to each other that it’s not real “stereo” sound).The Air’s dual speakers are only slightly worse than the Pro. They sound a bit boxier, with a slight mid hump, and compress a bit more at higher volumes, where the quad speakers of the iPad Pros find it easier to push air and sound a bit more spatious. The difference is there but is not huge, so the speaker setup will not be a make or break here.

Battery Life and Charging

iPads last
iPads, any model iPad, generally give us around 10 hours of screen-on time. We’ve used the large 12.9-inch iPad Pros, the 11-inchers, the Airs, and the base iPads, and it’s usually the same story. They are dependable for a full day, unless you want to play those shiny console-level games or render 4K video on them, of course. For binging YouTube, for web-based work, or even music-based apps, they can easily get 10 hours of screen time. For heavy workloads — you can get about 6 hours out of them still.

Apple provides its battery information in watt-hours. Assuming the batteries inside are 3.77 V, here’s how that translates to the “mAh” capacity spec that we are all used to:

  • iPad Air M2 11″ – 28.93‐watt‐hour ~ 7,670 mAh
  • iPad Air M2 13″ – 36.59‐watt‐hour ~ 9,700 mAh
  • iPad Pro M4 11″ – 31.29-watt-hour ~ 8,300 mAh
  • iPad Pro M4 13″ – 38.99-watt-hour ~ 10,340 mAh

Battery tests are ongoing and will be updated as numbers become available:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

Specs Comparison

The iPad Air usually trucks a step behind the iPad Pro. So, it wasn’t a surprise that the new Airs get the M2 chip. The surprise was the M4 chip in the Pros!

So, the iPad Air M2 (2024) is coming in as an iPad Pro (2022) replacement, more or less. You will still miss the 120 Hz display and, if you ask us, once it launches — it will be better to hunt down an iPad Pro 11 (2022) at clearance prices rather than going for a new iPad Air.

Summary

So, does the iPad Air M2 replace the iPad Pro M4? Not entirely — the Pro line has the new design, Face ID, the new OLED panel, and that sweet, sweet 120 Hz refresh rate going for it. Do these features warrant paying $400 more for the entry model, over the cheapest iPad Air M2? Maybe not…

In fact, we kind of think now’s the best time to buy an iPad Pro (2022). Retailers will begin clearing them out, and stock will last for a couple of months — keep an eye out for discounts! That’ll be a better tablet than the current iPad Air M2, and just a slight downgrade from the iPad Pro M4 (2024).

Yup, right now, at this very moment, your best options are either to go all out and find an old iPad Pro while they are around, or go all out, buy the newest iPad Pro, and enjoy that OLED goodness. A few months from now — that’s when the iPad Air M2 will be a viable choice. The old Pros will simply be gone.


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