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iPad Air 3 (2019) vs M1 iPad Pro 11” (2021)

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

I recently upgraded my work iPad from a 2019 iPad Air 3rd Generation, to a 2021 11” M1 iPad Pro. These iPads are like chalk and cheese, so lets take a look at the key differences and why I upgraded now in 2022.

iPad Air 3 (2019)

Lets start with the Air shall we?!

2019 iPad Air 3 in White
2019 iPad Air 3rd Generation

This is the 2019 iPad Air 3rd generation in white/silver with 64GB of memory and Apple’s A12 Bionic chip - the same one found in the iPhone XS and XR.

It has a 10.5” display, a lightning port for charging, touch ID in the home button, support for the first generation of Apple Pencil and, frankly, rubbish cameras nobody would ever really use for anything beyond the odd FaceTime call to their mammy!

I bought this new for about €550 in 2019 during a previous job and it did exactly what I needed it to. Take notes, do some light word processing, create the odd Powerpoint, watching movies & videos - nothing overtly challenging or difficult and mostly work that honestly any cheap as chips tablet could manage!

I’ve been using it all that time with the Logitech Combo Touch keyboard & case.

All very nice and easy. Not very powerful or pro!

M1 iPad Pro 11” (2021)

Now for the upgrade. And when I said I upgraded recently…I really meant recently! This arrived only this week!

2021 M1 iPad Pro 11"
2021 M1 iPad Pro 11"

This is the 2021 iPad Pro 11” in space grey with 128GB of storage.

It comes packed with the powerhouse that is the Apple M1 chip with an 8core CPU, 8core GPU, and 8GB unified memory (Apple’s fancy new version of RAM)! This, ridiculously, is the exact same spec processor as my previous 13” MacBook Pro! Having that kind of power in a tablet is probably overkill but part of the appeal is that this should very comfortably last me about 5-8 years if I want it to!

The Air is already on it’s last legs in terms of updates! It’s actually the oldest iPad which will receive the iPadOS16 update this year meaning iPadOS17 next year will probably drop it, after only 4 years! With everything now being designed around Apple’s M1 style chips going forward this new one should get updates for considerably longer than that!

And in fact Apple has ALREADY dropped support for the 2020 iPad on certain features of iPadOS16 like the incredible looking new Stage Manager feature! This is only available on M1 iPads, showing Apple’s rapid move to kill off anything that doesn’t have an M1 or newer!

This has the 11” Liquid Retina display, 120hz promotion which is basically the frame rate of the screen - the new one maxes out at the equivalent of 120frames per second, while the old one is stuck at 60.

The display is also rated at 600nits of brightness compared to 500 on the Air which is nice for outdoor or coffee shop working.

The 2021 Pro has12mp wide and 10mp ultra wide rear cameras with a LiDar sensor for better low light and Augmented Reality stuff - like Angry Birds AR because why not?!

This camera system was a big selling point for me because I now have a 2nd high end 4k video camera for filming content with clients without having to lug around a big awkward cube of a camera!

The front camera is a big upgrade too over the rubbish old one! It’s now a 12mp ultra wide camera with a TrueDepth sensor for FaceID and Apple’s new CentreStage system which follows you around the room and is such a gimmick but a very cool one nonetheless! I’ll almost certainly be using this as my video conferencing camera going forward as even my MacBook doesn’t have this feature!

Key Specs of iPads as Tested


2021 M1 iPad Pro 11”

2019 iPad Air 3


11” Liquid Retina display

120hz ProMotion True Tone

2388x1668 resolution at 264ppi

600 Nits Max Brightness

Fully laminated display

Wide Colour Display (P3)

10.5” Retina display

True Tone

2224x1668 resolution at 264ppi

500 Nits Max Brightness

Fully laminated display

Wide Colour display (P3)


Apple M1 Chip with next-gen Neural Engine

8core CPU (4 high performance, 4 high efficiency), 8core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory

Apple A12 Bionic Chip with Neural Engine 6core CPU (2 high performance, 4 high efficiency), 4core GPU, 3GB RAM

Size & Weight

H - 247.6mm W - 178.5mm

D - 5.9mm

Weight - 466 grams (1.03 pounds)

H - 250.6mm

W - 174.1mm

D - 6.1mm

Weight - 456 grams (1.0 pounds)

Power & Battery

Up to 10 hours web surfing on wifi or watching video

Up to 10 hours web surfing on wifi or watching video


Face ID Enabled by TrueDepth camera for facial recognition

Touch ID

Second-generation fingerprint identity sensor built into Home button





Rear Camera System

12mp Wide / 10mp Ultra-Wide

4K Video recording at 24, 25, 30 or 60 fps

Extended Dynamic range up to 30 fps

Audio Zoom

Slo-mo 1080p at 120 or 240 fps


Stereo Recording

2x optical zoom out / digital zoom up to 5x (photos) and 3x (videos)

LiDAR Scanner

Brighter True Tone flash

f1.8 Aperture Wide

f2.5 Aperture Ultra-Wide

Smart HDR 3 for Photos

Stereo Recording Front Camera System

12mp Ultra-Wide

TrueDepth Camera

Retina Flash

Portrait Mode & Lighting

Centre Stage

1080p Video recording at 25, 30 or 60 fps

Animoji & Memoji Extended dynamic range up to 30 fps Smart HDR 3 for photos f2.4 aperture

2x Zoom Out

Rear Camera System

8mp Wide Camera

1080p HD Video recording at 30 fps

3x video zoom

Slo-mo 720p at 120fps

Time lapse

f2.4 Aperture

Digital Zoom up to 5x

Auto HDR for Photos

Front Camera System

7mp FaceTime Camera

Retina Flash

Auto HDR for photos

1080p HD video recording

F2.2 aperture


Four-speaker Audio

Two-speaker Audio


USB-C Type support for USB 4 / Thunderbolt 4

Smart Connector (back)


Smart Connector (side)

Geekbench 5 CPU Scores

Single-Core - 1,699

Multi-Core - 7,314

Single-Core - 1,112

Multi-Core - 2,933

Geekbench 5 Compute Scores

Metal Score - 21,547

Metal Score - 5,647

2019 iPad Air 3 and 2021 M1 iPad Pro 11"
The 2021 iPad Pro is an excellent upgrade from the 2019 iPad Air

So, Why The Upgrade?

Well firstly, I adore my MacBook! It’s an absolute powerhouse which I use mainly as a desktop docked up to my larger monitor. But it’s so powerful and with such a big screen inbuilt that when I travel, which I did recently, I was still able to work at 100% without hooking it up to any external monitors or devices!

BUT…there is a but. It is massive, there’s no getting around that! And while I don’t mind the weight for a long trip where I want absolute certainty that I can work at 100%; for short trips, client visits & meetings, working from bed, or the couch or the coffee shop or my mother’s house, I want something smaller and more mobile that will still allow me to do about 80-90% of my work - including photo & video editing.

And quite frankly the Air just couldn’t manage that anymore!

As SMK Marketing has grown in the past 18 months, so too have our service offerings and the demand of power beyond the basics. Simple apps that we all use like Canva and even PowerPoint had become achingly slow, while video editing apps like Premier Rush and even iMovie are fine for short videos but once 4K footage is introduced, they’re hopeless.

Don’t even get me started on trying to use Facebook’s Ads Manager! The Facebook Business Suite app is useless - that’s not apple’s fault, its Facebook’s, and for the level of ads I do for clients I need to use the full desktop version in Safari and quite simply the Air could not keep up!

Now, granted I might be a bit spoiled having used an M1-powered MacBook for these types of tasks for nearly 2 years…but I want and need that power in a tablet again! I’ve already done a few test today on the Pro and it’s already handling everything far more smoothly!

Other benefits?

Well the USB-C port is just more convenient since the MacBook charges with it too. And it being a Thunderbolt-4 Port I can actually use peripherals like external hard drives and displays which just weren’t really possible with Lightning (Apple, if you’re reading, put USB-C in the iPhone…just do it, Europe is making it the law anyway)!

On a personal level, the display is gorgeous for watching videos even if it’s not the full XDR display of the 12.9” iPad or my MacBook but it’s still a significant upgrade from the Air! The 4 speakers are a huge improvement too.

The keyboard, you’ll probably have noticed looks identical and that’s because it is! I picked up the new Logitech Combo Touch for the Pro which while looking similar is also a big upgrade on the older one!

Keys are still the same which is to say phenomenal and very similar to the wireless Magic Keyboard I use for my MacBook.

The Trackpad is MUCH bigger and better, making navigating and editing far easier. With FaceID now I don’t care as much that the iPad sits quite far away which was annoying on the old one having to reach to touch the home button at an angle all the time.

And conveniently the Keyboard now attaches backwards, which it didn’t before which is nice as it means I don’t have to leave it behind somewhere when I don’t need it

I haven’t got my hands on a new apple pencil just yet as I barely used the old one anyway but Im sure I will at some point - the 120hz ProMotion display is too nice to not make full use of

2021 M1 iPad Pro 11" and 2019 iPad Air 3 in Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard Cases
The 2021 iPad Pro is technically a bit smaller, but the .5" larger screen makes it feel like a much, much bigger device than the 2019 iPad Air


So, there we go, a quick-ish comparison between the 2019 iPad Air and 2021 M1 iPad Pro!

Do I think everyone should make this upgrade?! Honestly, yes! If you’re coming from the 2019 iPad Air or older then definitely consider the M1 iPad Pro.

The iPad Air has gotten so insanely expensive since 2019 that the 2022 iPad Air is so close to the Pro, you’re as well to save up an extra month or two and make the full leap - even if you only want it for browsing the web and watching Netflix, the better display and speakers alone are worth the extra little bit!

I’m going to be working off this a LOT in the coming weeks and will report back with how it’s been.

For the full video review of these 2 iPads, be sure to check out my recent YouTube Video here.

If you’re a small company looking for help with digital or social marketing, contact us at We’re based in Ireland but work with companies world wide.

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