iPad Air M2 vs iPad 10th gen: core differences

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Intro

Early this year, we got an upgraded iPad Air — now with the M2 chip inside, it’s inching closer to an iPad Pro with support for the Apple Pencil Pro, Pencil Hover, and a new 13-inch size option.

In the meantime, poor old iPad 10th gen got left behind — it’s now a year and a half old, but powered by an Apple A14 chip from the iPhone 12 era. We do think the base iPad will get an update by the end of this year. But, for the time being — it’s officially the entry point for the Apple tablets.

With its design, it looks like an Air and a Pro. And it does support an Apple Pencil — limited to gen 1 — and its own type of Magic Keyboard, which is a folio instead of the fancy floating one.

All that said, how does the iPad 10th gen (2022) compare to the brand new iPad Air M2 (2024)?

iPad Air M2 vs iPad 10th gen differences explained:

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

We look alike, but we are not the same

On the outside, the base iPad 10th gen looks like it belongs in the family. The same flat slab with an all-screen front as you can see on the Air and the Pro, granted the bezels on the base units are slightly thicker.

And both the iPad Air M2 and iPad 10th gen come in a variety of fun colors. The base iPad’s color options are more saturated, a bit candy-like, whereas the Airs are a bit more muted and “mature”, but the fact remains that these are the “fun” iPads. If you move to Pros — your choice is black and silver, that’s it.

Of course, we can’t ignore the big difference — the iPad Air comes in a 13-inch flavor. If you are specifically looking for a large tablet, the comparison ends here — the base iPad can’t offer that.

As for the displays — none of these screens have a high refresh rate, nor are they fancy OLED panels. We’ve got 60 Hz LCD screens, though, the iPad Air does have a laminated panel. What this means is that the display glass is fused with the touch digitizer, eliminating extra layers between the outer glass and the screen itself. It feels “gapless”, as if the icons are right on the surface in front of you. It’s a premium feel thing — the iPad Air looks and feels better when using, especially when writing and drawing with an Apple Pencil.

Also, the iPad 10th gen does not have an anti-reflective coating like the Air does.

That said, the colors of the base iPad screen are still pretty good — Apple is great at tuning.

For biometrics, both of these tablets use Touch ID sensors in the power button for fingerprint scanning.

Performance and Software

Apple M2 crushes all

The iPad Air (2024) inherited the good old M2 chip from the iPad Pro (2022). The M-class chips are powering MacBooks, iMacs, Mac minis, and are basically desktop-class. Even if the M2 is technically “two years old”, it’s still an overkill chip for a mobile platform. And it ensures that you will be able to play console games as they start hitting the App Store — Assassin’s Creed: Mirage and Resident Evil 4, plus the new AC: Shadows that’s coming out later.

That’s pretty intense. Admittedly, the pro apps on iPads don’t really utilize that power to its fulles. Specifically, most people complain that even though you can render beautiful video with Final Cut for iPad, you have to make extra sure that you don’t minimize or split-screen the app, because that could cause issues. Logic for iPad was also updated with fancy new features and AI “musicians” to jam with.

The iPad 10th gen is a few steps behind in terms of raw power. You can still install those pro-grade apps, and as far as we know, most of their features will work. But it will be slower than an M2 chip, for sure. Plus, a base iPad 10th gen starts at 64 GB storage, which is barely enough if you plan to use it for big, “serious” projects. If you want to update to the next step — 256 GB — that’ll cost you $500. At that point, it makes more sense to buy an iPad Air M2 (2024) with 128 GB for $600.

Performance Benchmarks:

No surprise there, the M2 is classes above the old A14 Bionic.

Battery Life and Charging

iPads always aim to deliver about 10 hours of screen-on time with mixed usage — browsing the web, emails, and YouTube. Of course, if you launch a game or binge high-fidelity Netflix movies, the battery drops faster.

Now, the 13-inch variant of the iPad Air M2 does have more room for a bigger cell inside — which is why it scored so well on our benchmarks below. But the iPad 10th gen is no slouch!

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

Our tests simulate regular usage with a mid-level screen brightness throughout. The browser test reloads and scrolls through multiple pages, the 3D Gaming test ensures that the tablets are running an environment that’s constantly rendering lights and 3D objects.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

Like the iPhones, iPads don’t really have fast charging on board. So, it takes a while to juice them up to 100%. Thankfully, those batteries drain pretty slowly throughout the day!

Audio Quality

Both the iPad 10th gen and iPad Air M2 have dual speakers — they are set up in “landscape stereo”, so when you prop them horizontally, you get a left and right channel. They sound very close to each other, but the iPad 10th gen is just a bit more muffled, maybe compressing a bit more. The iPad Air M2 sounds just a bit better, but then — if you do go for the 13-inch model — that one has some more room inside, so it’s a noticeable improvement.

Specs Comparison

Which one should you buy?

There are very few situations where we can outright recommend the iPad 10th gen. Its hardware is long in the tooth, its base storage option is kind of stingy by 2024 standards, and if you buy the Magic Keyboard Folio — it can’t follow you to a bigger iPad model, it only works with the base iPad. And, if you want to upgrade from 64 GB to 256 GB, it will cost you $500 — that’s $100 short of the 128 GB iPad Air M2, which is infinitely better in terms of screen and performance.

Then, if you simply want a bigger, 13-inch model — the base iPad is not even an option there.

Situations where we might recommend the base iPad 10th gen? If you find it at a discount, if you are looking for a solid tablet that’s only going to be a Netflix / FaceTime machine, if you really, really want to try out working with the Apple Pencil but don’t want to spend Apple money. Yeah, it’s good in those situations.


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