Apple’s best tablet ever, it’s small, light, incredibly powerful and has an amazing screen
Announced in October this year, the iPad Air updated Apple’s larger tablet range with the new A7 64-bit processor, iOS7, and a redesign of the popular tablet. Would Apple’s new tablet retain their lead in the tablet space against a rush of Android tablets from manufacturers around the world? In a word, yes.
The iPad Air is a worthy name for Cupertino’s new tablet, thanks to the thinner design and comparable battery life to it’s desktop compatriot, the MacBook Air. The iPad Air arguably serves the same purpose, as a lightweight general purpose computing device which is both portable and powerful.
Yes there are countless Android tablets available, with the associated focus on high specifications and the voluminous Google Play store, but the iPad Air is more than an iteration on Apple’s successful product line. It feels like the synthesis of everything that has come before, allowing Apple to create a tablet that can fit into your life without you having to compromise any of your expectations. And when you want to stretch your wings, the iPad Air is ready to take flight.
Opening the box you’ll find the iPad Air sitting on the top of the tray, ready to go online and get started. Underneath you’ll find Apple’s Lightning to USB cable, and a 12W USB Power Adapter. While the iPad Air can charge from a computer (and I suspect that the majority of people will be using iTunes to load music and video to the tablet as quickly as possible), the iPad Air can be 100% standalone, with no need to touch another piece of home computing hardware, which makes the AC charger more than an afterthought.
The obvious design change in the iPad Air is how thin it is. With just 7.5 mm of depth, it’s thinner than some of the thinnest smartphones out there, and the first few moments of holding it do lead you to wonder that ‘something’ is missing. That’s magnified by the weight of the tablet, ducking under the psychological 500g barrier at 469g. It’s still perhaps a touch to heavy to be used for extended periods in the hand without resorting to a table or other support, but if you are looking for ultimate on-the-go portability the iPad mini with Retina Display matches the specs of the iPad Air in a smaller and lighter footprint and you should look there instead.
What is impressive about this redesign is that the iPad Air retains everything that you would have found on the iPad 4 (including the 9.7 inch screen), but shrinks everything non-essential. The bezels at the side of the screen are reduced by 16mm giving the Air an almost iPad mini styling; and in a move that I’m sure pleased the marketing department, the design team even managed to shave a single millimeter off the height of the tablet. Every major physical dimension is smaller.
There are numerous cases and covers that a new iPad Air, ready to hide the svelte nature of your new tablet. Apple continues with the magnetically attaching Smart Cover that protects the screen in transit and folds back to act as a stand. The Smart Case offers the same origami stand, but wraps around the entire iPad Air. While the iPad Air feels solid, the physical size of the tablet and value will lead many to make an almost automatic purchase of a protective case or cover.
Sporting the new A7 processor, the iPad Air is the fastest tablet ever produced by Apple. Because of the increased size over the iPad mini with Retina Display, the iPad Air ups the processor speed very slightly to run at 1.4GHz. That’s still significantly slower than some top-line Android tablets that are available during the festive period (with some of them clocking in at over 2.2GHz), but raw speed is not the only measurement of success. The iPad Air never feels slow, even when working with the iOS versions of GarageBand or iPhoto.
Anyone undecided over an iOS or Android tablet should really put them side by side and do some actual work with them to see which one helps them work faster, as opposed to the knee jerk reaction of going for the one that has the faster CPU.
In any case the slower running CPU, coupled with the new M7 motion co-processor and improvements in the operating system present in iOS 7 mean the battery life on the iPad Air is phenomenal.
There are a few areas of the iPad Air that have not seen the same rapid increase in capability as the internal hardware and the physical dimensions. Let’s start with the screen. Sporting a similar resolution and RGB pixel layout to last year’s iPad, the screen itself is not the best in class. The contrast does not provide as deep a black as some other displays can show, and it can be a touch more reflective than I would expect from a flagship tablet. There are improvements over the previous iPad, but the competition’s focus on screen technology shines through here.
And then there is iOS7, Apple’s reworking of their mobile operating system. The value in iOS7 is not just in the new look that dispenses with the skeumorphism that was on display in previous versions of the OS, but in the move to 64 bit computing. iOS7 is the first step in the next mobile platform for Apple. Apple is transitioning hardware, developers, and code, to the new architecture, and in the three months since iOS7 debuted the code has been updated (over the air) and stability has markedly improved.
I think that sums up the iPad Air. The new look for the ‘large’ Apple tablet does bring it into line with the iPad mini styling, but with the new A7 and M7 chips, with smarter use of a smaller batter to retain the ‘ten hours of use’, and with the general robust feel of the design, the iPad Air is a tablet that is going to stay relevant and remain up to date for a number of years. There are a few small concerns (such as the screen quality and camera compared to the opposition), but they are far from being showstoppers.
For all the Android tablets that have been released during 2013, none of them engendered the sense of trust that I have with the iPad range. With the arrival of the iPad Air, Apple has a ten-inch device that does not rely on specifications or feature lists to deliver a compelling argument to the customer. The iPad Air delivers a tablet that exceeds the expectations of what a tablet should be able to. In every sense of the world, the iPad Air is a personal computer for the twenty first century.
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