Apple iPad Air 5 (2022) vs Apple iPad 9 (2021): Which tablet should you buy?

Apple iPad Air 5 (2022) vs Apple iPad 9 (2021): Which tablet should you buy?

iPads are great devices for mobile gaming, studying, reading, consuming media, and more. Apple sells a variety of these versatile tablets that cater to different needs and budgets. There are high-end models for those who want the best performance and latest technologies. There are also low-end models for those who want to spend minimally. And, lastly, there are mid-range models that balance budget and performance by bridging the middle gap. This is the iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad 9 (2021) — the battle between a middle-range and an affordable Apple tablet. If you buy the iPad Air 5, it’s a good idea to buy a case and a charger for it. Similarly, if you go for the iPad 9, grab a case to keep it protected.


iPad Air 2022

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Apple iPad Air 5 vs Apple iPad 9: Specifications

Apple iPad Air 5 Apple iPad 9
CPU Apple M1 chip Apple A13 Bionic chip
  • 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1 mm
  • 461 g (462 g for Cellular model)
  • 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5 mm
  • 487 g (498 g for Cellular model)
  • Liquid Retina display
  • 10.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2360-by-1640-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Wide color display (P3)
  • True Tone display
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
  • Fully laminated display
  • Antireflective coating
  • 1.8% reflectivity
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Supports Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
  • Retina display
  • 10.2-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2160-by-1620-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • True Tone display
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Supports Apple Pencil (1st generation)
  • 12MP Wide camera, ƒ/1.8 aperture
  • Digital zoom up to 5x
  • Five-element lens
  • Autofocus with Focus Pixels
  • Panorama (up to 63MP)
  • Smart HDR 3
  • Wide color capture for photos and Live Photos
  • Photo geotagging
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Burst mode
  • 8MP Wide camera, ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Digital zoom up to 5x
  • Five-element lens
  • Panorama (up to 43MP)
  • HDR for photos
  • Photo geotagging
  • Auto image stabilization
  • Burst mode
  • 8GB RAM
  • 64GB/256GB SSD
  • 3GB RAM
  • 64GB/256GB SSD
  • Built‐in 28.6‐watt-hour rechargeable lithium‑polymer battery
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‐Fi or watching video
  • Built‐in 32.4‐watt-hour rechargeable lithium‑polymer battery
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‐Fi or watching video
  • 4G/5G on Cellular model
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G on Cellular model
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
Security Touch ID Touch ID
OS iPadOS 15 iPadOS 15
  • Space Gray
  • Starlight
  • Pink
  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Silver
  • Space Gray
Material Aluminum Aluminum
Price Starts at $599 Starts at $329

Build and Design

Build and design are two important aspects to look into before buying a new tablet. After all, the build material/quality and aesthetics really matter — especially on large devices. You wouldn’t want to carry around a fragile or ugly slab of glass. The iPad Air 5 and affordable iPad 9 have similar builds, featuring an aluminum chassis and a glass front. However, their designs are completely different, particularly on the front side.

iPad 9 colors

The iPad Air 5 has a futuristic, edge-to-edge display with thin bezels. On the other hand, the iPad 9 sticks with the classic iPad design, featuring thick bezels and a physical home button. Both devices depend on Touch ID for security and authentication nonetheless. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Air model comes in five colorful finishes to choose from. Its affordable counterpart comes in two only. If design is an essential factor in your overall evaluation process, the iPad Air 5 wins this round by far.


iPad Air 2022 with M1

Considering tablets are usually used for visual media consumption and other immersive experiences, the display really matters. In this battle we also have a clear winner, despite the two iPads sharing some of the relevant specs. The iPad Air 5 has a larger 2360-by-1640p 10.9-inch display. The iPad 9 on the other hand goes for a 2160-by-1620p 10.2-inch one. Both of them have the same pixel density of 264ppi nonetheless.

iPad 9th gen with keyboard cover and apple pencil

In addition to the superior edge-to-edge design, the Air model’s screen is fully laminated and has an antireflective coating. Additionally, the affordable iPad 9 supports Apple Pencil 1, while the mid-range tablet supports the 2nd-gen model. Overall, the display differences aren’t too significant, especially since neither of them supports 120Hz refresh rates.


m1 chip overview

Performance is an utmost priority on a versatile computing device. After all, Apple advertises the iPad as a PC replacement. A mediocre or below-average performance would make multitasking a nightmare that hinders productivity. In this battle, one iPad his powered by a Mac’s processor, while the other has that which powers the iPhone 11. Additionally, the former has 8GB of RAM — more than double the 3GB included on the latter model. Without doubt, the iPad Air 5 wins over the iPad 9 here.

Ninth-generation iPad promo image

You can expect the iPad Air 5 to work without any lags — even if you’re heavily multitasking. The iPad 9, on the other hand, could kill background apps due to its slower SoC and lower RAM. Ultimately, both (and all) Apple tablets are limited due to iPadOS’ boundaries. Yes, you can build and publish iOS apps on them, but they’re still too restricted from several perspectives.


For many users, rear cameras aren’t very important on a tablet. That’s because we tend to use the front-facing one for online meetings and video calls. For portable photography, we tend to use our smartphones instead. Nonetheless, we should acknowledge that the iPad Air 5’s rear camera wins over that of the iPad 9. It has a 12MP sensor with a better aperture of ƒ/1.8 — which beats the 8MP sensor with an ƒ/2.4 aperture. When it comes to the front side, both cameras share the same resolution, aperture, and wide field of view that enables Center Stage. However, the iPad Air 5 has some extra perks, such as Smart HDR 3 support. Ultimately, the mid-range tablet wins this round.

Battery Life and Charging

iPad Air 2022 from the side

When it comes to battery life, these two iPads have a lot in common. Both include lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that last up to 10 hours when watching videos — according to Apple. So the iPad Air 5 and iPad 9 should last you all day on a single charge with light to moderate use. However, it’s worth noting that the mid-range one has a USB Type-C port, while the affordable one settles for the outdated Lightning port. As a result, the iPad Air 5 wins this round.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Which Apple tablet should you buy?

In the iPad Air 5 (2022) vs iPad 9 (2021) battle, the former wins every single round. The latter’s only advantage is its price tag. If you’re on a low budget or don’t want to spend a lot on a tablet, it makes a good media consumption device. The iPad Air 5 and iPad 9 start at $599 and $329 in the US respectively. So for $270 extra, you get to bump almost all specifications significantly. Which is the right option depends on your personal needs and standards. We’ve only helped you decide by breaking down their details. Are you looking for just an iPad, or do you want something more powerful?

    The new 5th-generation iPad Air is powered by the Apple M1 processor. It supports 5G for the first time, and it comes in an array of beautiful colors.
    The iPad 9 is the latest affordable iPad from Apple. It is powered by the A13 Bionic chip and supports the Apple Pencil 1.

Which of the two Apple tablets will you be buying, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. He can be reached on Twitter @Mahmoudzitani or via [email protected]

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