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iPad Air 5: All the power, none of the storage

The new iPad Air is powered by the same in-house M1 chip that powers the iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and 13-inch MacBook Pro — making it on par with some of the most powerful machines for creatives in the field. But does it make the base iPad Air 5 a good alternative if you are getting started as a creator and want to edit images or videos in the creative suite of Apple or Adobe apps? If your answer is yes, you might want to re-think your decision, here’s why.

The storage conundrum

A top-down view of 2022 Apple iPad Apple showing the Apple M1 graphic on the screen. Two hands flank the iPad, with the left hand holding an Apple pencil.

Apple introduced the M1 chip on the MacBook Air and bumped the base storage from 128GB to 256GB. It approached the iPad Pro series in the same way. The iPad Pro now starts at 128GB instead of 64GB and goes up to 2TB of storage. Apple knows to make the most of the M1 chip, having plenty of storage is a must.

On the other hand, the iPad Air 5 is still stuck with 64GB of storage on the base model, which costs $599. it might be attractive to creative professionals getting started in the field or someone looking for a cheap iPad Pro alternative, but I suggest you don’t go for the base variant.

If you are a creative who is editing images in Photoshop with several layers or creating something in Procreate, 64GB is not going to be enough for your use case. More so if you are editing videos in Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro.

For instance, a 10 minute 4K video with a few layers can go up to 10GB. That means you’ll be able to store a maximum of four fully edited videos on the base iPad Air 5 (assuming you also need storage for the apps). You are likely not going to be able to work on several projects without the dongles and external storage if you opt for the 64GB option.

The 256GB variant is the way to go

As in past years, Apple has decided to skip the most popular storage variant on the iPad Air — there is no 128GB option. And the 256GB variant costs $150 more than the 64GB model, setting you back $749. A 128GB model at $674 would have made so much more sense. As things stand, you have two options, get 64GB storage for $599 or the 256GB variant for $749.

You are going to find yourself at an awkward spot if you choose to go with the 64GB iPad Air 5 variant for work that would make the most of that new M1 chip. If you are telling yourself that 64GB is going to be enough for you, then you are likely not going to make use of the M1 processor.

What are the options?

Six Apple iPad Air 5s fanned out in a circle, showing off the various colors of the chassis.

If you are a creative who is looking to make the most of the M1 processor and don’t want to go with the iPad Pro, we strongly recommend you go with the 256GB iPad Air 5. The 64GB model will just won’t make the cut for you.

If you are someone who thinks 64GB is going to be enough, believe me, you are never going to make use of that firepower on the new chipset. You are better off buying the iPad mini or the base iPad with 64GB storage and saving some bucks for consuming media.

If you want your iPad to unlock as soon as you look at it after picking it up, without reaching for the power button, the 11-inch iPad Pro with Face ID is your best bet. It will cost you an extra $50 (though you can often find it on sale) and you’ll get 128GB of storage compared to the $749 iPad Air 5 with 256GB.

Who should buy the 64GB iPad Air 5?

You can go with the iPad Air 5 if:

  • You have $599 and need a bigger display than the iPad mini to use your device for entertainment purposes/consuming media, researching stuff
  • You are really uncomfortable with the design language of the base iPad and need thin bezels with Touch ID in the power button

Put simply, there is no reason to go with the 64GB iPad Air 5 variant purely on the basis of the M1 chip. The storage will either be too little to make use of all the power, or you don’t need that M1 chip and will be well-served by the A-series processors on the base iPad or the iPad mini.

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