iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Which to Buy?

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9

Are you better off saving money and getting the iPad 9 or is the iPad Air 5 worth spending almost twice as much on?

iPad Air 5iPad 9
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PROSPROS
Larger, less reflective 10.9-inch screen.
M1 chip.
Works with Apple Pencil 2.
USB-C charging.
5G compatibility.
More color options.
Very affordable.
A13 Bionic chip is still plenty powerful.
12MP front-facing camera with Center Stage.
CONSCONS
Significantly more expensive.
Still uses Touch ID, not Face ID.
Not a 120hz ProMotion display.
Dated design.
Smaller 10.2-inch display.
Only supports first-generation Apple Pencil.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Size and Design

The iPad 9 and iPad Air 5 have different overall physical dimensions, but they are very close. So there isn’t much of a difference between these two in terms of portability whether you use a case or not.

In terms of design, the iPad 9 retains the traditional tablet design with rounded edges, larger top and bottom bezels, and a home button with Touch ID for biometric authentication.

The iPad Air 5 has the same updated design as the rest of the iPads. So we have squared off edges, rounded corners, smaller bezels all around, and it uses the newer Touch ID, which is built into the power button on top.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Display

The iPad 9 has a 10.2-inch Retina Display, while the iPad Air 5 has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display. If we just consider size, I’ll give the iPad Air 5 the edge because it’s larger and has a higher resolution of 2360 x 1640 versus 2160 x 1620 on the iPad 9.

Now, this isn’t exactly a night and day difference. We’re not upgrading to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the footprint of both devices is roughly the same, so I don’t have to sacrifice portability.

Both displays run at 60 hertz, have a pixel density of 265 pixels per inch, a maximum brightness of 500 nits, and are True Tone. This means that iPad’s can detect the color of light in your environment and adjust the display’s color so that white always appears white and not yellow or blue.

The most significant difference between the two displays is that the iPad Air 5’s display is fully laminated, whereas the iPad 9’s display is not. Between the display and the combination of the cover glass and the touch layer on the iPad 9, there is an air gap. This isn’t something you’ll notice unless you really look for it while watching movies, playing games, or surfing the web. When using the Apple Pencil, however, you will notice it.

The iPad Air 5 is anti-reflective, whereas the iPad 9 is not. If you’ll be using your iPad outside or in environments where bright lights will reflect off your screen, the iPad Air 5 is the better choice.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Speakers

When it comes to speakers, there are some significant differences. The iPad 9 only has a bottom speaker, whereas the iPad Air 5 has two speakers, one on top and one on bottom.

This gives the iPad Air 5 a distinct advantage in terms of audio because when you play games or watch movies in landscape mode, you get stereo sound with a wider sound stage, giving you a more immersive experience. In those situations, the iPad 9 only has sound coming out of one side. The one advantage that I will give the iPad 9, at least when it comes to audio, is that it still has a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Connectivity

As far as ports, the iPad 9 uses a Lightning port, and the iPad Air 5 uses a faster and more powerful USB-C port with a maximum transfer speed of up to 10 gigabits per second. In general, I want all of my devices to have USB-C ports so that I only have to deal with one type of cable. However, Apple continues to use Lightning ports on all of its iPhones and every model of AirPods, including the $500 AirPods Max, so I’m stuck with two types of cables regardless.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Stylus and Keyboards

The iPad 9 can only use the first generation Apple Pencil, while the iPad Air 5 can only use the second generation Pencil. In terms of how the contact point with the glass feels, they’re nearly identical. However, the second generation Apple Pencil is the clear winner in terms of overall experience. It’s more comfortable to hold because it has a flat edge, and it also pairs wirelessly and can be stored and charged on the iPad Air 5’s side so it’s always ready to use.

The Lightning port on the iPad 9 is used to charge the first generation Apple Pencil. And while this works fine, it does mean that you must remember to charge it. You must be extremely cautious when leaving it protruding from the iPad to avoid damaging either device. It’s also impossible to attach it to the iPad 9 without using a case.

When it comes to keyboard cases, both have a lot to offer. If you want to use a Magic Keyboard, you’ll need an iPad Air 5. The iPad 9 does have a Smart Keyboard, but it’s not one of my favorite accessories. If you’re looking at third-party manufacturers, there are some excellent options for both iPads, and you can, of course, pair them with an external keyboard and mouse if you want to.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Camera

Now both iPads have an ultrawide 12-megapixel front-facing camera with Center Stage, which is a feature that uses artificial intelligence to identify and then follow a subject as it move through the frame. You can use Center Stage for video calls, with FaceTime and with Zoom, and you can even use it for making TikTok videos.

When we look at the rear-facing camera, the iPad Air 5 has the edge with a 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera with Smart HDR3 for photos versus an 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera on the iPad 9 with HDR for photos. And if you’re not sure what any of these terms mean, we’re getting high resolution photos, better low light performance, and better post-processing for HDR photos with the iPad Air 5. Now I mostly use the rear-facing cameras on my tablets for scanning documents, so for me, this isn’t necessarily a big selling point, but if you’re looking for the best camera system on one of these iPads, that would be the iPad Air 5.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Performance and Battery Life

The processor on the iPad Air 5 was also upgraded this year from the A14 to the same M1 chip that Apple uses under top of the line iPad Pro. Now, as you probably expect, the M1 outperforms the A13 Bionic chip on the iPad 9 for both single-core and multi-core performance.

For things like surfing the web, for doing email, working with various productivity apps, taking notes, and for watching videos, you’re not really going to notice a major difference because both chips are extremely powerful. If you plan on using your iPad for much more demanding tasks like editing and rendering video, then you will notice a boost in performance and you’ll need to consider whether that’s worth the increase in cost for your use case.

Now, I love gaming on a tablet because I get a larger display than on my phone, and then at the same time, I pretty much always have a tablet with me. So whether I’m traveling or just waiting in line, I can always jump into a quick game. As far as the gameplay itself, when playing PUBG, I didn’t really notice a difference at all. Gameplay was smooth and responsive. Other games like Genshin and Asphalt and then, of course, less demanding games also ran great on both devices. And the one reason why I would still give the edge to the iPad Air 5 here is because it has a more powerful processor and more RAM.

Looking at battery life, both iPad’s are rated for 10 hours of surfing the web on WiFi or watching video, and then 9 hours when using cellular data.

iPad Air 5 vs iPad 9: Which One Should I Buy?

The iPad 9 costs $329, while the iPad Air 5 costs $599. I’m currently using Apple’s official prices, but you can usually find better deals on e-commerce websites. Personally, I’d prefer to see the iPad Air 5 start with 128GB of storage and then upgrade to 512GB for the higher-end model. Because Apple already has that M1 chip configuration for the 11-inch iPad Pro, and I believe it would have been a better value for a device coming out in 2022. With WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, the iPad Air 5 offers better wireless connectivity than the iPad 9, which has WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2. When it comes to cellular connectivity, the iPad Air 5 has 5G versus 4G LTE on the iPad 9.

Overall, the iPad Air 5 features a more premium design with smaller bezels and a newer Touch ID implementation. It has a stronger port, dual-sided speakers, and a fully laminated display with better color reproduction. The second-generation Apple Pencil provides a better stylus experience. You get Magic Keyboard compatibility, a better rear-facing camera, a much faster processor, and more than twice the RAM.

The iPad 9 offers a very similar size and overall user experience for about half the price. It has the same storage capacity and a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, and replacing a broken display is likely to be less expensive.