During last week’s media event, Apple announced a new model of the iPad that is lighter and thinner than the previous generation. The iPad Air weighs only one pound and improved internals. The new tablet features the same 64-bit A7 processor found in the new iPhone 5s, support for MIMO Wi-Fi, and an improved FaceTime camera. All of this is packed into a 7.5mm case, a noticeable improvement over the previous 9.4mm fourth-generation iPad.
Tonight, tech writers across the web published their reviews of the iPad Air. The reviews are mostly positive, with much emphasis on the new form factor. You can find links to each review below.
Surprise: the iPad Air is the best iPad we’ve reviewed. In addition, though, it’s also the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever tested. In addition, though, it’s also the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever tested. Not every manufacturer can produce a thin and light device without also making it feel cheap or flimsy, but Apple nailed it. Factor in a sizable boost in performance and battery life, and the Air is even more compelling. The last two iPads served up relatively few improvements, but the Air provides people with more of a reason to upgrade or even buy a tablet for the first time.
If you found yourself tuning out the last few generations of iPad thanks to their extreme familiarity, it’s time to get yourself dialed back in. The iPad Air is worth getting excited about. Though it brings no new functionality to the table, and we can’t help being disappointed about the lack of Touch ID, the performance increase and solid battery life show that progress is still being made on the inside. It’s the new exterior design, however, that really impresses. The iPad Air is thinner than any tablet this size deserves to be, and lighter, too. The old iPad always felt surprisingly hefty. This one, compellingly lithe.
Having used primarily an iPad mini for the past year, there’s no question that coming back to the 9.7-inch Retina display was an uplifting experience. It felt a little like getting your prescription adjusted and realizing you’ve been seeing everything poorly for a long time. Video shines on the iPad Air, as does image-rich content like comic books and photos. Not to mention that all that extra space makes for a much more comfortable browsing experience, and offers a lot of benefits when it comes to content creation. It doesn’t feel arduous doing work on the iPad; you can start to remember why people touted the iPad as a PC-killer when it debuted, and it edges ever closer to being able to truly replace notebooks for the majority of everyday users…
The Smart Case makes the iPad Air feel quite a bit more bulky, in my opinion, and is fairly difficult to get off once its on. On the other hand, it’s definitely more protective than the Smart Case, and it’s still relatively svelte. Apple has also nailed its leather case designs in terms of putting out a product that feels very high quality, and that’s what they’ve done here, too.
That big public yawn must drive Apple’s engineers crazy. The thing is, making the iPad smaller, lighter, and faster without sacrificing battery life or beauty is a tremendous achievement.
This isn’t a device that sits or hangs in one place its whole life. It’s not a microwave or a TV. You have to hold this thing while you’re using it, and carry it around when you’re not. So size and weight matter a lot.
Still, at $500, an iPad probably doesn’t need replacing every year or even every other year; if you have a 2012 or 2013 model, stick with what you’ve got.
On the other hand, you’ll find the Air a fantastic leap into the future if you’re upgrading from an original iPad, or if you’ve never owned a tablet before.
The battery performance of the iPad Air simply blew me away. In my tough tablet battery test, where I disable automatic screen dimming and other power-saving features, and combine video playback from the device’s memory with leaving Wi-Fi on and email working at normal settings, the iPad has almost always met its claims and beat competitors by a wide margin.
But this new iPad Air just kept going, clocking a battery life of 12 hours and 13 minutes, which exceeded Apple’s claim by more than 20%. The company says its A7 chip, combined with the fact it controls its own operating system, gives the new iPad the ability to tailor under-the-hood processes so unneeded drains on the battery can be minimized.
Bottom line: If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down.
At a high level we’re still talking about two 64-bit Apple Cyclone cores with 128KB L1s per core, a shared 1MB L2 cache and a 3MB L3 cache that services the entire SoC. Apple increased CPU frequency from 1.3GHz to 1.4GHz in the iPad Air, a mild increase but in line with what we’ve seen from previous iPad designs. That’s the first impact on performance – a 7.69% increase in CPU frequency.
The second impact on performance is something I only noticed while digging around under the hood of the A7. It seems like the implementation in the iPad Air can, for whatever reason, hold more instructions in flight (over 20% more) than the A7 in the iPhone 5s. It’s unclear to me whether the A7 in the iPad is configured any differently via firmware/microcode or if perhaps we’re looking at a slightly different revision of the core, but the delta was repeatable in my testing.
The third, and likely biggest change impacting the iPad Air’s implementation of the A7 is the additional thermal headroom afforded by the larger chassis. I’m not going to go into details on exactly what this next test does (unfortunately we’re going to occlude some of the low level work that we do in light of all of the benchmark cheating going on), but we’re looking at a curve of performance vs. time for a particularly power heavy mix of code. We’re running the same exact code on both the iPad Air and iPhone 5s here, the only real difference is the size of the chassis:
Apple has done it again: the iPad Air is a tablet better than the last iPad. Simply put the iPad Air is the best iPad the company has ever made. It’s light, it’s thin, it’s fast, it’s amazing.
For die-hard Apple fans we can see how you would be disappointed in terms of wow factor, there is no stand out feature here that you will want to show your friends the moment they walk through the door in the same way you can with the iPhone 5S and Touch ID, however this is Apple creating the ultimate experience rather than focusing on specs for specs sake.
That’s not to say the iPad Air is lacking. it’s not, but here things just work. It is seamless, and you can see that through and through the moment you pick up the new Apple tablet. You aren’t left questioning why things work, they just do, and do every time and for millions of future customers that is and will be very much welcomed.
The potential “but…” comes when you realise how similar the Air is to the iPad mini Retina in terms of design. As much as that’s great from a power perspective, it knocks both tablets out of their individual defining spaces and that will trouble many as to which one to go for. No longer is the iPad mini the poorer sibling.
At 1 pound, the new iPad Air is impressively light, barely heavier than the iPad mini. My toddler can waddle around the house with it a lot more easily, and I can now use it in bed without worrying that it will smack me in the forehead if I doze off while reading Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” Which has been known to happen with the previous generation iPad.
It’s hard to believe Apple managed to shave nearly a half-pound off last year’s fourth-generation iPad while still maintaining exceptional battery life, which in my all-day usage rarely dropped below 30 percent.