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An M1 iPad Air 5 makes the iPad Pro 11-inch a tough sell

Apple has just announced the iPad Air 5 at its Peek Performance event and it looks like another worthy update to arguably the best all-around tablet going. But in making its mid-range tablet even better, is there any reason to pay even more for iPad Pro?

The iPad Air 5, or iPad Air 2022, is a replacement for the tablet I awarded a very rare 5-star rating when it was released towards the end of 2020. I stand by that score to this day and if someone asked for my advice on which tablet to buy, my answer would be (99% of the time) an iPad Air.

The latest version, which was announced alongside an iPhone SE 3, isn’t a huge rethink but a modest update that should make an excellent tablet even better. There’s a 5G option now; the front camera has the same Center Stage skills as the iPad Mini 6 and the colour options have been refreshed.

Most notably though, the iPad Air 5 plucks a key feature from the iPad Pro in the form of the M1 Apple Silicon chip powering the tablet. This is a desktop-quality chipset – it powers the iMac 24-inch – and leads to some fantastic performance in Apple’s high-end tablet. I’d be the first to say that there isn’t much available on the App Store to really harness all the power available, but it still leads to a very speedy tablet experience.

I had been under the impression that Apple would keep its M-series chips for the Pro tablet, instead using the A-series chips, which are more commonly seen on iPhones, for the lower-end tablets. That’s not the case, and in my mind, it leaves the 11-inch iPad Pro, in its current form, without a reason to exist.

iPad Pro 2021 showing front image
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The iPad Pro 11-inch, for example, looks very much like the iPad Air. It has the same accessory support, basically the same display size and now the same powerful chipset.

Really, the only big reason to splurge that extra cash is for the ProMotion 120Hz display. This screen, which can refresh anywhere between 1-120Hz, rather than the static 60Hz on the Air, is a great addition but I don’t think it’s worth the added price.

The iPad Pro 11-inch currently also lacks the outstanding Mini LED display you’ll get if you pay even more for the big 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This Mini LED panel is a huge upgrade over the IPS LCD, giving richer colours and deeper blacks.

Of course, the elephant in the room here is that it’s very likely the 11-inch iPad Pro will get an update sometime in the not too distant future. This could be a hefty upgrade, possibly with the Mini LED tech added, the processor upgraded to an M2 and rumours suggest that even wireless charging could make an appearance.

But that product doesn’t exist yet, and in its current form, the 11-inch iPad Pro feels like a tough sell for the majority of people.

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