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iPad Air 2024 Hands-On: An Old Pro in a New Air with Some Weaknesses

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The Apple iPad Air 2024 has a big brother now. In addition to the familiar 11-inch version, there is also a 13-inch version available. This size was previously available only for the iPad Pro. The new iPad Air is likely to be the perfect "daily driver" for many. With new features, Apple struck the perfect balance between the normal iPad and the Pro version. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the trade-offs involved in buying an Air model to avoid being disappointed later. Who should buy the new iPad Air and are there better options? Find out more here at nextpit's first hands-on.

Was this supposed to be a completely redesigned iPad? At first glance, hardly anything has changed in terms of design. Even the front camera on the long side, which was previously located on the narrow segment of the tablet, was not recognizable at first glance.

Despite that, Apple says it has completely redesigned the new iPad models. However, such changes to the iPad Air primarily has everything to do with its inner workings. Relocating the camera has its price, and Apple engineers had to redesign the iPads from the ground up.

Apple iPad Air 2024
The Apple iPad Air 2024 with 13-inch display is a real eye-catcher. / © nextpit

The M2 chip will provide the iPad Air with enough power for years to come

With the Apple M2, the new iPad Air will run on the chip which powers the old iPad Pro (2022) which we reviewed a while back. Even on its release date in 2022, my opinion about the tablet then was this: who can actually harness the full power of the tablet? Even graphically complex games or video editing are not an issue for the Apple tablet.

In any case, the presence of the M2 chip ensures that even in a few years' time, today's iPad Air will still be able to function without any problems. It will also keep up with the latest system upgrades in years to come.

New 13-inch version is a real eye-catcher

Customers will have even more choices this year. While a 13-inch version was previously available only for the iPad Pro, Apple will launch a large tablet for the Air model this year. Just like before, the large model is a real eye-catcher and offers plenty of space for apps and content.

I must admit, if you were to place the new iPad Pro beside the iPad Air, the new OLEDs of the Pro models will immediately catch your eye and create a FOMO effect. However, if you don't necessarily want the best Apple has to offer, you can save some money with the iPad Air.

The cheapest entry-level version, now equipped with 128 GB, is already available for $599 with an 11-inch display and $799 for the 13-inch version. In comparison, Apple is asking $999 and $1,299 for the Pro versions.

What to look for in the new iPad

Let's begin with the good news: The front camera has finally been moved to the broader bezel. That sounds like a minor change at first, but anyone who has ever held video conferences with an older iPad will know how bad the perspective was.

With that, the first real issue cropped up: the place where the new camera is now located was previously the Apple Pencil's charging unit. With this change, old pencils no longer work with the new iPads—and vice versa, the new Pencils no longer work with the old iPads. Unfortunately, there's always a trade-off to be made.

Apple Pencil Pro on the Apple iPad Air 2024
The new Apple Pencil Pro has some new functions to offer. Visually, it hasn't changed. / © nextpit

If you want to take a positive angle on the situation, you can argue how the new Apple Pencil Pro has improved. You can launch a new menu in many apps by pressing the pen, allowing you to select colors, pens, and tools quickly and easily. There is also an additional sensor that registers the pen's rotation. This means the pen can now be used even more intuitively—as if it were a real pen.

The second drawback compared to the iPad Pro is the lack of Face ID recognition. Instead, Apple continues to rely on Touch ID on the iPad Air via the fingerprint sensor in the tablet's on/off button.

Apple iPad Air 2024 power button, which also works as a fingerprint reader
Unfortunately, unlocking the Apple iPad Air 2024 only works with Touch ID via the sensor in the on/off button. / © nextpit

Finally, there are a few things that Apple will have to make do without in the future, which you might desperately look for after unboxing. Apple will no longer provide a power adapter to charge its tablets within the EU and the UK.

There will only be a USB-C cable in the box. I welcome this move personally. After all, I have piles of power plugs in my drawers that I never use due to their redundancy. However, if you don't have one at home, you might be surprised at first—followed by annoyance.

In addition, there will no longer be a SIM card slot. Instead, Apple is relying entirely on eSIMs. Once again, I think this is a good and understandable approach. An eSIM is so much more practical and quicker to use than physical SIM cards. However, not everyone is likely to share my joy. After all, there are still several mobile carriers that do not yet support virtual SIM cards for mobile phone plans.

Conclusion: For many people, the iPad Air is the perfect computer for everyday work

If you want to surf the web on the couch occasionally and send an email or message once in a while, you shouldn't go for the iPad Air. Instead, the standard iPad is available for just $349. That's still $100 cheaper than last year. This model can also be paired with a stylus and a keyboard, so you are perfectly equipped for most simple tasks.

However, if you want to do creative work with the Apple Pencil, have the really practical Magic Keyboard under your fingers, need significantly more power, or don't want to live without a 13-inch display. The new Apple iPad Air is the perfect choice.

The M2 chip offers plenty of power now and for years to come, so even simple video editing projects will not pose a challenge.

There are a few things, such as the OLED display, that the iPad has to live without compared to the new iPad Pro. For starters, the price of the iPad Air with 128 GB starts at $599, which is considerably less than the "Professional" model.

All in all, you cannot go wrong with buying an iPad Air, as you will be able to work with it for many years to come.

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