Tech reviews

iPad Air 2024 Review in Progress: The iPad ‘Pro’ You Should Buy

The basic, standard iPad is the iPad most people I know buy, and the one I most frequently recommend. Maybe that’s because they’re for families or kids. However, in the past year or so, the model I typically pick up to use is the 11-inch M1 iPad Air for its great combo of high-end speed at a not-too-outrageous price.

Starting at $600, the 2024 iPad Air is a $250 uptick over the 10th-gen iPad (the current entry-level model) and looks almost exactly the same from a distance. However, there are a number of benefits for the extra cash: The base model has double the storage at 128GB; a more capable processor; and it works with Apple’s new Pencil Pro, an improved stylus with extra features of its own that will appeal to artists and creatives. The Air and the iPad (and iPad Pro, too) finally all have realigned front-facing cameras along the long landscape edge, which makes Zooms or FaceTimes feel more laptop-like and properly centered (thank goodness).

Watch this: iPad Pro and iPad Air (2024) – Review

The iPad Air is now available in a larger 13-inch (12.9-inch, actually) size, too, like what Apple has offered for the iPad Pro. The larger size starts at $800, and is a more affordable way to go big and “Pro” without getting an iPad Pro. Of course, previous-gen iPad Pros are often on sale and may hover near that price already, too.  


iPad Air (2024, M2)


  • Fast M2 processor

  • Front camera is properly centered for video chat

  • Supports new Pencil Pro stylus

  • Larger screen size option now available

Don’t like

  • Not compatible with Pencil 2 stylus

  • Keyboard case options haven’t changed

  • Configurations can get expensive

I’ve been using the 13-inch iPad Air over the last few days, along with Apple’s Magic Keyboard Case and the Pencil Pro. I’ve been comparing it to the new 13-inch iPad Pro. While the iPad Pro has a nicer OLED display and an even faster processor, the Air is more than enough Pro for most. In fact, I’d recommend it over the Pro just for its price difference, but try to keep configuration creep in mind so you don’t suddenly find yourself spending $1,500.

13-inch iPad Air and iPad Pro models with keyboards and Pencils on a table 13-inch iPad Air and iPad Pro models with keyboards and Pencils on a table

The new iPad Pro (left) vs iPad Air (right). The Pro has an OLED display; the Air doesn’t. But the Air still performs very well regardless.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

iPad Airs can get expensive, too

The iPad Air configuration Apple sent me has 512GB of storage ($1,099), optional 5G cellular connectivity ($150), a Magic Keyboard case ($349) and a Pencil Pro ($129). That comes to $1,727 and is a heck of a lot for an iPad for most people. Then again, the 1TB 13-inch iPad Pro I’m also reviewing is $1,899 for just the Wi-Fi version of the tablet alone.

You can spend less, for sure, but it’s also a reminder that the Air is not a “budget” device. It splits the difference between the entry-level and the super-fancy and offers enough future-proofing via the M-series chip to maybe put it in a different category if and when Apple decides to push the iPad further — maybe to put a Mac-type computing OS on it, for example.

iPad Air from the side with a keyboard case on iPad Air from the side with a keyboard case on

The iPad Air isn’t a chunky tablet. It just isn’t as thin as the iPad Pro, but the difference is a millimeter.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

Air doesn’t mean thinnest

The first Apple “Air” device, the MacBook Air, was called Air because it was super thin. Don’t apply this logic to the iPad Air, because the iPad Pro is actually thinner. The iPad Air is far from chunky, though; it’s the same-looking tablet as previous iPad Pro or Air models. I’m just here to say maybe I agree that the term “Air” has lost its meaning (unless we’re talking about it just being lighter in features and performance). I’d suggest getting rid of the “Air” name and call it the iPad Pro, and then change the iPad Pro to the iPad Ultra. 

All of the iPads are good sizes, regardless. It may make a little difference when putting a Magic Keyboard case on the large 13-inch model and putting it in your bag. The 13-inch iPad Air weighs 1.3 pounds. With the Magic Keyboard, it weighs 2.9 pounds — more than my M2 13-inch MacBook Air (2.6 pounds). The 13-inch Pro with Magic Keyboard shaves a bit off, at 2.6 pounds for that combo. Either way, you won’t want to carry this along with a laptop.

Camera is in the right place

The 10th-gen iPad and both the 2024 iPad Pro and Air lines have moved the front-facing camera to the long landscape edge, which is where it should have been all along. With a case on (which almost all are designed to prop up in landscape mode) or a keyboard case attached, it means video chats are properly centered like a laptop. The iPad cameras are generally better than the MacBook Air’s cameras, so it’s an excellent pick for Zooming.

Apple Pencil Pro and Pencil 2 styluses on a wooden table Apple Pencil Pro and Pencil 2 styluses on a wooden table

The Pencil Pro has new features but looks and feels exactly the same as Pencil 2. Yet the Pencil 2 won’t attach to the new iPad Air or Pro.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

Pencil Pro: An upgrade you’re forced into

I have more thoughts on the Pencil Pro’s new features in my iPad Pro review, but both the Air and Pro 2024 models support the new stylus. It looks and feels exactly the same to hold, but has new rotational capabilities and a haptic-enabled squeeze gesture for supported apps. The new Pencil Pro is the same price as a Pencil 2 ($129), which is great, except… the new Air won’t work with your old Pencil 2 at all. So you have to buy a Pencil Pro, or use the lesser USB-C Pencil stylus which lacks pressure sensitivity. Boo to this — It’s wasteful and forces you to upgrade an accessory you might not have otherwise.

An iPad standing up on a table An iPad standing up on a table

iPadOS keeps improving, but it isn’t MacOS.

Numi Prasarn/CNET

When will iPadOS evolve into MacOS?

My one remaining question for an iPad that costs so much is, when will it fully replace my Mac? I ask this seriously, because the higher-end iPads all have M-series processors, and the M2 on the updated Air is basically the same as the one in my MacBook Air. Apple could let iPads run MacOS if it chose to, especially if you have a keyboard and trackpad attached. IPadOS is more capable every year but is very different from MacOS in many ways. I need my Mac for my workflow, but every year I wonder if the iPad will evolve into being the one computer I can use for everything, all the time. Maybe we’ll know more at WWDC in June. Or maybe not.

Most people are still fine sticking with a regular 10th-gen iPad. But at the right price configuration, the Air offers enough upgrades to merit a bit of a splurge. Just keep an eye on accidental overspending.


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