Ipad 2017 vs ipad air 2

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iPad Q&A

Update Published November 16, 2021

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What are all the differences between the 9.7" iPad 5th Gen models and the iPad Air models replaced? Are any of these older iPad models still worth considering?

Please note that the iPad Air and iPad 5th Gen (Early 2017) models all have been discontinued. This Q&A has been updated subsequently with current iOS support and more and can be quite useful for anyone purchasing one of these models on the used market.

On March 21, 2017, Apple discontinued the iPad Air 2 -- the iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi Only) and iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi/Cellular) -- and replaced it with what the company is referring to simply as the "iPad" in marketing communications and "iPad (5th Gen)" in support documentation.

In terms of its market positioning, Apple considered the iPad (5th Gen) to be a "fun" and inexpensive entry-level product whereas the discontinued iPad Air and iPad Air 2 were once their top-of-the-line offerings in years past.

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Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 5th Gen)

The decision to name the iPad 9.7" (Wi-Fi Only) and iPad 9.7" (Wi-Fi/Cellular) the "5th Gen" for support purposes was an interesting decision as these models released in Early 2017 are actually the seventh full-size 9.7" iPad series.

The original iPad Air models -- the iPad Air (Wi-Fi Only), iPad Air (Wi-Fi/Cellular), and iPad Air (Wi-Fi/TD-LTE/Cellular - China) -- which some users referred to as the fifth generation at the time they were introduced, were the fifth series and the iPad Air 2 models were the sixth series.

There are a number of differences between the original iPad Air, the iPad Air 2, and the iPad 5th Gen. Although many differences are internal or otherwise difficult to detect, this doesn"t mean that the differences are not potentially important. Likewise, there are some important similarities, as well.

External Design Differences

The original iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) models are all 9.4 inches tall and 6.6 inches wide when held in portrait (vertical) orientation, but the original iPad Air and the newer iPad (5th Gen) are basically the same size and weight whereas the iPad Air 2 is a bit thinner and lighter than either its predecessor or its replacement.

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Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad Air - Left, iPad Air 2 - Right)

In terms of size and weight, the newer iPad (5th Gen) clearly has more in common with the original iPad Air than the iPad Air 2, but in terms of design, the situation is reversed.

Like the iPad Air 2, the iPad (5th Gen) has a "Touch ID" fingerprint-capable home button and also lacks the thin "toggle" switch on the right side of the original iPad Air that allowed one to control "Rotation Lock" or "Mute" functionality with the physical switch. The iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) also have a single row of speaker holes and smaller microphone holes.

Color options are different, as well. The original iPad Air is offered with either a white front and a silver colored back or a black front and a "Space Gray" back, but the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) also are available with a white front and a gold colored back in addition to silver and "Space Gray" like the original iPad Air.

All of these models have dual microphones and a "Lightning" port for power and connecting to a Mac or Windows PC, if desired.

Display Differences

The original iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) models all have an IPS LED-backlit 9.7-inch 2048x1536 (264 ppi) "Retina" display. However, these displays are not identical.

In some respects, the newer iPad (5th Gen) display takes a step backwards from the display used in the iPad Air 2 as it does not have an antireflective coating nor is is fully-laminated, which means that like the original iPad Air, there is a gap between the glass cover and the LCD.

Although a display that is not fully laminated means that the display is easier and less expensive to replace, it also is worth noting that the original iPad Air display and iPad (5th Gen) displays are similar in design, but they are not identical, either. As first discovered by iFixit, it is possible to take a display from the newer iPad (5th Gen) and plug it into the older original iPad Air and have it perform acceptably, but not the other way around.

The display in all of these models is excellent, albeit inferior to the iPad Pro, but the antiglare coating on the iPad Air 2 does provide a noticeable difference, particularly in bright light.

Camera Differences

The iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) all have dual cameras -- one front and one back -- but there are significant differences between them.

The front-facing "FaceTime HD" cameras are similar on all three models and each have 1.2 megapixel sensors capable of shooting both still photos and video up to 720p. However, the FaceTime HD camera on the iPad Air 2 provides better low light performance courtesy of a "larger f/2.2 aperture that lets in 81 percent more light" in addition to "an all-new sensor and larger pixels." The specs are identical for the front-facing camera in the iPad (5th Gen) as the iPad Air 2, and the performance is effectively identical, but iFixit determined that the part itself is not the same.

The rear-facing "iSight" camera is significantly better on the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen), which use the exact same part, than the original iPad Air. All three have an f/2.4 aperture and can shoot both still photos and 30 FPS 1080p video, but the original iPad Air only has a 5 megapixel sensor whereas the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) have an 8 megapixel sensor.

However, in software, note that the iPad (5th Gen) does add support for Live Photos, whereas this feature is not supported by the earlier iPad Air 2 even running the same version of the iOS.

Internal Differences

The original iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) models have substantial internal differences:

Perhaps most notably, the iPad Air 2 has three processor cores, so it will be faster in some tasks than either its predecessor or its successor. Internally, in terms of performance, the iPad 5th Gen has much in common with the iPhone 6s from 2015, which reflected its status as an inexpensive entry-level product in 2017.

Identification Differences

If you pay close attention to details and the models are side-by-side, it is possible to visually differentiate the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen). The original iPad Air does not have a "Touch ID" sensor whereas the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) models both do. In turn, the iPad Air 2 has fourteen holes for each speaker on its bottom edge whereas the iPad (5th Gen) only has thirteen.

However, it is not possible to visually differentiate between the different cellular capable original iPad Air models at all, and because many 9.7" iPad models look quite similar to one another, visual identification is not a good long-term method for differentiation.

Instead, one of the best methods for external identification is via Model Number. Model numbers are provided in tiny type toward the bottom of the back of each iPad.

Specifically, these iPad model numbers follow:

iPad

Model Number

iPad Air (Wi-Fi Only)

A1474

iPad Air (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1475

iPad Air (Wi-Fi/TD-LTE - China)

A1476

iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi Only)

A1566

iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1567

iPad 5th Gen (Wi-Fi Only)

A1822

iPad 5th Gen (Wi-Fi/Cellular)

A1823

These iPad models can be differentiated by other identifiers as well, such as the Order Number, which can be located by selecting the Settings app and pressing General > About and scrolling down to what is specified as "Model" within the iOS. For example, the Wi-Fi only configuration of the iPad (5th Gen) in gold with 32 GB of storage is MPGT2LL/A.

To pinpoint an exact iPad by a variety of different identifiers -- including its Serial Number -- please refer to EveryiPad.com"s Ultimate iLookup feature as well as the mochijewellery.com app available for iOS 5 or later.

Connectivity & Battery Life Differences

The original iPad Air and iPad Air 2 support Bluetooth 4.0 whereas the newer iPad (5th Gen) supports Bluetooth 4.2. The cellular capable models from all three lines also support A-GPS, whereas the Wi-Fi only models do not.

However, the original iPad Air models only support dual stream 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi (MIMO) whereas the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) support faster 802.11ac (HT80 with MIMO). The cellular capable iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) models also include support for more LTE bands than the original iPad Air. The applicable iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) models almost support the same LTE bands, but most notably, the iPad (5th Gen) also adds support for LTE band 12.

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Officially, the battery life of all three lines is the same, as well. When using Wi-Fi, each of these models support a maximum of ten hours of runtime, but the cellular data capable models only support a maximum of nine hours of runtime when using cellular connectivity. However, the original iPad Air and iPad (5th Gen) models have a larger battery (32.4 Whr compared to just 27.3 Whr for the iPad Air 2) and in real-world use, the iPad Air 2 delivers slightly less runtime than its predecessor or successor.

Specific mobile data connectivity for these iPad models include:

iPadModelNumberGSMEDGEUMTS/HSPA+DC-HSDPA CDMA EV-DOLTE Bands4G
iPad AirA1474NoneNoneNoneNone
iPad Air (Cell)A1475850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz800, 1900 MHz1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26
iPad Air (CN)A1476850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz, TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A)None38, 39 (TD-LTE)
iPad Air 2A1566NoneNoneNoneNone
iPad Air 2 CellA1567850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz800, 1900 MHz1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41
iPad 5th Gen (Wi-Fi Only)A1822NoneNoneNoneNone
iPad 5th Gen (Wi-Fi/Cellular)A1823850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz800, 1900 MHz1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41

With the exception of the original iPad Air (Wi-Fi/TD-LTE - China) (A1476), which was sold only in mainland China and intended for use on China Mobile, the cellular capable models all shipped unlocked and can be used on any carrier that provides a compatible Nano SIM card and that supports the underlying cellular technology. Nevertheless, even if the device is compatible, some companies may require activation or configuration before the iPad will work on their network.

In many countries, if originally purchased from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller, the cellular capable iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th Gen) models included an "Apple SIM" that is designed to support multiple carriers via a single Apple-issued Nano SIM card, but in real-world use it has a frustrating list of limitations imposed by some carriers.

iOS Support Differences

The original iPad Air models first shipped with iOS 7.0.3, the iPad Air 2 models first shipped with iOS 8.1, and the iPad (5th Gen) first shipped with iOS 10.3.1. No iPad can run a version of the iOS earlier than the one it shipped with initially.

Running iOS 7, the original iPad Air is fully supported with the exception of the "Panorama" and "Filters in Camera" photographic features and fully supported by iOS 8 with the exception of the "Health" and "Apple Pay" features. Interestingly, the first release of iOS 8 did not support Panorama on the original iPad Air, but Apple quietly added Panorama support with iOS 8.0.2.

The iPad Air 2 is fully supported by iOS 8 as well as iOS 9 with the exception of the "Health" functionality. It also supports Apple Pay, but only for apps and not for use within retail stores.Theoriginal iPad Air, on the other hand, supports Transit as well as the "Slide Over" and "Picture-in-Picture" multitasking functionality, but it does not support the more substantial "Split View" multitasking option.

The original iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) all are supported by iOS 10, but none support the minor "Raise to Wake" or Ride-Booking features. Each are supported by iOS 11 and iOS 12, too.

However, the original iPad Air does not support later versions of the iOS. The iPad Air 2 and iPad 5th Gen both support iOS 13 (iPadOS) with the exception of the Adjust Portrait Lighting and "High-Key Mono" photography features as well as modest AR features (Motion Capture and People Occlusion).

The iPad Air 2 and the iPad 5th Gen also both support iPadOS 14, but the iPad 5th Gen supports Video Textures in RealityKit whereas the iPad Air 2 does not. Neither support Location Anchors, Spatial Audio, or On-Device Dictation.

Finally, the iPad Air 2 and iPad 5th Gen each both support the current version of the iPadOS, iPadOS 15, but neither support Universal Control nor the Spatial Audio, Portrait Mode, Maps - 3D Landmarks, Interactive Globe, Live Text in Photos, Live Text Translation, or Visual Look Up features.

Pricing Differences

The much lower initial pricing of the iPad (5th Gen) compared to the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 aptly demonstrates its positioning as an entry-level product.

As first shipped, the original iPad Air was offered for the following prices in the US:

Original iPad Air Capacity: Original Price with Wi-Fi: Original Price with Wi-Fi, Cellular & A-GPS:
16 GB 32 GB 64 GB 128 GB
US$499US$599US$699US$799
US$629US$729US$829US$929

The iPad Air 2was introduced at slightly different price points -- effectively reducing the relative value of the entry-level model and increasing the relative value of the higher-end models. The 64 GB model provided three times the storage of the entry-level model for only 20% more money:

Original iPad Air 2 Capacity: Original Price w/ Wi-Fi: Original Price w/ Wi-Fi, Cellular & A-GPS:
16 GB 32 GB64 GB 128 GB
US$499--US$599US$699
US$629--US$729US$829

The iPad (5th Gen) introductory pricing was significantly less expensive than either of its predecessors when they were first introduced -- around 30% to 40% cheaper -- and the lineup is much simpler, as well:

Original iPad 5th Gen Capacity: Original Price w/ Wi-Fi: Original Price w/ Wi-Fi, Cellular & A-GPS:
16 GB 32 GB64 GB 128 GB
--US$329--US$429
--US$459--US$559

For original pricing details in dozens of other countries, please refer to the iPad specs page for the device of interest as well as EveryiPad.com"s Global Original Prices section.

Comparison Chart

The major differences between the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and iPad (5th Gen) are summarized below:

Original iPad AiriPad Air 2iPad 5th GenDisplay Size:Resolution:PPI:Display Surface:Display Construction:Processor Speed:Processor Cores:Processor Type: Coprocessor:Video Processor:RAM: Storage Options: Data Networks: Wi-Fi Support: MIMO Support: LTE Bands: Bluetooth: Barometer: Front Camera: Rear Camera:Panorama:Burst Mode:Slo-Mo:Live Photos:A-GPS: Touch ID:Side Switch:Apple SIM:Battery Whr:Color Options:Original iOS: Maximum iOS: Apple Pay: Dimensions (In): Weight (Lbs): Model Numbers: Orig. Price (US):
9.7"9.7"9.7"
2048x15362048x15362048x1536
264264264
GlossyAntiglareGlossy
Glass/Digitizer/LCDFully-LaminatedGlass/Digitizer/LCD
1.4 GHz 1.5 GHz1.8 GHz
TwoThreeTwo
Apple A7Apple A8XApple A9
Apple M7Apple M8Apple M9
PVR G6430PVR GXA6850PVR GT7600
1 GB 2 GB2 GB
16, 32, 64, 128 GB16, 32, 64, 128 GB32, 128 GB
Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi & Cellular Data Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi & Cellular Data Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi & Cellular Data
802.11a/b/g/n802.11/a/b/g/n/ac802.11/a/b/g/n/ac
YesYes (HT80)Yes (HT80)
Many (14)Many (20)Many (21)
4.04.04.2
NoYesYes
720p, 1.2 MP, f/2.4720p, 1.2 MP, f/2.2720p, 1.2 MP, f/2.2
1080p, 5 MP, f/2.41080p, 8 MP, f/2.41080p, 8 MP, f/2.4
Yes (iOS 8.0.2+)YesYes
NoYesYes
NoYesYes
NoNoYes
No/YesNo/YesNo/Yes
NoYesYes
YesNoNo
NoYesYes
32.4 Whr27.3 Whr32.4 Whr
Silver/GraySilver/Gold/GraySilver/Gold/Gray
iOS 7.0.3iOS 8.1iOS 10
iOS 12iPadOS 15iPadOS 15
NoLimitedLimited
9.4 x 6.6 x 0.299.4 x 6.6 x 0.249.4 x 6.6 x 0.29
1.0, 1.050.96, 0.981.03, 1.05
A1474/A1475/A1476A1566/A1567A1822/A1823
US$499-US$929US$499-US$829US$329-US$559

So, should I buy an iPad (5th Gen) or iPad Air or iPad Air 2 model?

Just compared to one another, and ignoring newer models, the iPad (5th Gen) was a particularly good value for a new iPad when it was first released. It was quite competitive with the once much more expensive iPad Air and iPad Air 2 models, even on the used market.

If raw specifications are most important to you, the iPad Air 2 is the best iPad of the three in most respects. It (1) has a better, antireflective screen, (2) is a bit faster, and (3) is a bit thinner and lighter. However, the newer iPad (5th Gen) does have the advantage of having (1) a more modern processor and graphics processor, (2) the option of more modern LTE support, and (3) a bit better battery life. Both the iPad Air 2 and iPad 5th Gen still support the current version of the iOS, too.

The original iPad Air also remains a decent choice because it is similar to the newer iPad (5th Gen) in many respects. If price is more important to you than the (1) lack of "Touch ID" support, (2) camera quality, and (3) slower and older connectivity, it could be worth considering. However, because it no longer supports the current version of the iOS, app support will continue to wane going forward, shortening its useful life.

Ultimately, for most users these days, because the price of all three devices are likely to be so close to one another, EveryiPad.com would recommend the iPad (5th Gen) as it likely will be supported longest by the iOS. For someone who takes good care of their hardware, it should cost less on an annual basis over its lifespan.

iPad Purchase & Sale Options

There are an abundance of vendors that sell iPad models. However, buying your iPad from a quality company with extensive knowledge -- and after sales support -- will provide the best experience and save you money and time, too.

In the US, site sponsor Adorama sells new iPad models with free shipping for all. OWC sells used iPad models to individuals and Evertek sells used iPad models at bargain prices for businesses. Evertek also ships bulk orders at wholesale prices worldwide.

In the UK, site sponsor Hoxton Macs has a large number of used and refurbished iPad models with a one-year warranty and free next day delivery throughout the UK. Delivery across Europe also is available starting at just £9.99 for two-day delivery to France and Germany.

Site sponsor GoRoostr can buy your older iPad in the US. GoRoostr has an A+ rating with the BBB, offers an instant price quote, free and insured FedEx shipping, and provides same day payouts 95% of the time.

Please also see EveryiPad.com"s Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPad to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad (new or old alike).