Don't buy the new iPad, the 4th-gen iPad Air is way better

Apple Event 2020
(Image credit: Apple)

On October 18, Apple dropped a trio of new iPads and although the M2-powered iPad Pro was the star of this announcement, the company also introduced a landmark base iPad that bids farewell to the home button and Lightning port. The only thing is, the company did that already, and better, about two years ago.

While those after a good deal in light of a new product launch might look to a previous entry in the same product line, Apple's made that particularly tricky for iPad buyers this year. This is especially true if you're outside the US, where the company actually jacked up the price of the previous 2021 iPad following its successor's unveiling (not to mention other models too).

The new tenth-generation iPad 2022 serves to finally shed certain vestigial hardware elements from Apple's standard tablet family – namely the home button and Lightning port; elements that persist on the ninth-gen iPad, which the company continues to sell, too.

What's more, you get more powerful A14 Bionic performance (backed up by 4GB of RAM), a larger sRGB 10.9-inch 264ppi Liquid Retina display (with a typical maximum brightness of 500nits), Touch ID in the side button, USB-C connectivity, first-gen Apple Pencil support alongside Magic Keyboard Folio support, a 12MP primary camera and four colorful finishes to choose from.

Back to the future

Apple Event 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

Now, picture that same tablet but with a P3-wide color, laminated, anti-reflective display (granting better colors, reduced glare, and better visibility), second-gen Apple Pencil support (including integrated magnetic wireless charging), Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio compatibility, all wrapped up in a body (available in five colors) that's almost a millimeter thinner and almost 20 grams lighter than the 2022 iPad, while promising the same ten-hour battery life: that's 2020's fourth-gen iPad Air you're looking at.

There are a handful of trade-offs in choosing the older tablet (pretty much all of which Apple fixed on the M1-powered iPad Air 2022) You get a lower-resolution 7MP selfie camera without Center Stage (the 2022 iPad has a 12MP front snapper), those after a cellular iPad have to cope with 4G, rather than 5G speeds, and you likely won't get quite as many iPadOS updates over the tablet's lifetime, but beyond these relatively small shortcomings, the iPad Air 4 still looks to have the edge.

That laminated display is a see-to-believe type upgrade that you'll notice in side-by-side comparisons and the Air 4 solves one of the tenth-gen iPad's most perplexing deficiencies: its Apple Pencil support.

Struggling artists

Apple iPad 2022 with Apple Pencil press image

(Image credit: Apple)

As TechRadar's US Editor in Chief, Lance Ulanoff pointed out just the other day, the iPad 2022 presents existing first-generation Apple Pencil owners upgrading to the tenth-generation tablet with a tricky conundrum.

As the new iPad trades out Lightning for USB-C, if you want to keep using your existing Apple Pencil, you'll have to hold onto a Lightning cable and the Lightning-to-Apple Pencil Adapter (originally included with your purchase of the first-gen Apple Pencil), to keep the stylus powered up, while your new iPad charges separately over USB-C.

Conversely, you can pay Apple an additional $9 / £9 / AU$15 for its new official USB-C to Apple Pencil adapter, in order to charge your existing Pencil with the same charger you use for your new iPad, but that's a messy solution paired with the sting of an added expense to use a piece of compatible Apple hardware you already own.

If you're picking up a new first-gen Apple Pencil with your purchase of a tenth-gen iPad, this is less of an issue, as Apple has confirmed that it includes both a Lightning-to-Apple Pencil Adapter and a USB-C-to-Apple Pencil Adapter in-box, but then the question becomes, would you rather the first or second-gen Apple Pencil with your new iPad?

If you opt for the tenth-gen iPad, you'll have to swing for the older stylus that requires manual charging and find a place for it to live when you're not using it. For those that grab an iPad Air 4 – compatible with the second-gen Apple Pencil, all you have to do is magnetically snap your new stylus onto the side of the tablet, at which point it'll pair and charges automatically. I know which one I'd prefer.

Space at a premium

The last thing to consider is, of course, price. Apple most recently served up the iPad Air 4 – and now the iPad 2022 – in two storage configurations: 64GB and 256GB.

Apple doesn't sell the iPad Air 4 (which still holds a prominent place on our rundown of the best iPads, by the way) directly anymore, which actually works in the buyer's favor. With only third-party sellers now in control of the remaining iPad Air 4 stock, they dictate the price, and a quick search at the time of writing reveals that you can instantly find the larger 256GB storage model of the iPad Air 4 for the same or less than the base 64GB iPad 2022.

Of course, if you don't want to search for yourself, you can always head on over to our best iPad deals roundup (or our Black Friday iPad deals, if you're reading this before November 25), where we constantly comb the web for the best offers on iPads out there. If you're just torn between Apple Pencils, we have an Apple Pencil deals roundup feature for you too.

Alex Walker-Todd
Senior Phones Editor

Alex joined as TechRadar's Senior Phones Editor in June 2022, but brings over a decade's worth of experience to the role, with an expertise in smartphones, tablets and wearables. He's covered keynotes hosted by the biggest brands and attended the launches for some of the most influential mobile products of the last few years. His experience was amassed at some of the most reputable consumer technology publications out there, including GSMArena, TechAdvisor and Trusted Reviews.