iPad Air review

iPad Air review

T3 5
  • With a svelte redesign and a full-on spec bump, is this Apple's best full-size tablet yet? Find out in our full iPad Air review

    iPad Air review

    Love

    • Size and weight reduction
    • Faster 64-bit processor
    • Better battery life

    Hate

    • No slo-mo video recording
    • No 8MP rear camera upgrade
    • Price

    Apple's product upgrades can be a funny beast. On paper, they can appear incremental. Eyes-on, the products can look almost identical. Hands-on, you sometimes have to pry to find exactly where the improvements are. Some changes (iMac G3 to G4, iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4) are blatant, some are refinements (iPad to iPad 2). Many, you actually have to get the product in your mitts to see for yourself. And that's definitely the case with the iPad Air (not the iPad 5, as we were expecting it to be called).

    The clearest difference lies with its name - a shock to all but Jony Ive who says he's been working on the concept for years - but start using this new tablet and the improvements are instantly tangible. It's lighter, thinner and more debonair than ever.

    iPad Air: Size and build

    At 6.9mm, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z remains the slimmest tablet in the world but Apple has managed to shave almost 1.5mm (a fifth) off the iPad 4's unibody aluminium girth and almost 2cm off its width. Boasting a one pound (or 469g) heft, at the time of writing, the iPad Air takes the title of the planet's lightest full-size tablet. Article continues after the video.

    With its new rounded and chamfered edges, it looks like a scaled-up iPad Mini – the reduced bezel centring your eyes on the screen and making the chassis almost slim enough to hold in one hand.

    Colour-matching the new iPad Mini Retina, the iPad Air comes in (our favourite) Space Gray and Silver shades. The nano-SIM slot has moved to the bottom right-hand-side edge of the device.

    Picking up the Air and using it for prolonged periods is an improved experience. Where before a case of numb-arm might happen after 20 minutes use, we found ourselves reading and web surfing for much longer.

    iPad Air vs iPad 4: What's changed?

    You'll notice the weight reduction immediately. As will its competitors, the Nokia Lumia 2520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 which are 146g and 78g heavier respectively. The bigger 10-inch Xperia Tablet Z fares better, weighing just 26g more at 495g.

    Width-wise, the 7.5mm iPad Air trumps the Nokia 2520 at 8.7mm, the Nexus 10 at 8.9mm and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 at 8.6mm.

    In short, it's simply a nicer tablet to use – taking all the best bits of the flagship iPad and refining the physical experience. But, there's more than aesthetics that makes this upgrade so different.

  • The new iPad Air is a hugely slimmed down version of Apple's class-leading tablet and it also packs the A7 processor. T3 went hands-on

    iPad Air review

    Love

    • Size and weight reduction
    • Faster 64-bit processor
    • Better battery life

    Hate

    • No slo-mo video recording
    • No 8MP rear camera upgrade
    • Price

    Not 12 months after the iPad 4 hit the shelves, Apple is back with a new iPad and a new name, the Apple iPad Air (not the iPad 5, as we thought it might be). With it comes a thinner and lighter body and an improved processor, courtesy of the A7 chip. Is this Apple's best tablet yet? We went in for a closer look. Article continues after our hands-on video.

    iPad Air: Size and build

    Launched alongside the new iPad Mini Retina, the iPad Air is much thinner and lighter than it's predecessor at it's noticeable the first time you pick up the iPad Air. It certainly lives up to its moniker. At 7.5mm thin, 169.5mm wide and 240mm long and weighing just 469g, it's positively lightweight compared to the 662g heft of the iPad 4 and iPad 3 that both came with a thickness of 9.4mm.

    It also beats all of it's competitors. It trumps, the newly announced, Nokia 2520 at 8.7mm, the Nexus 10 at 8.9mm thin and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 at 8.6mm thin.

    Colours have been updated too but don't expect an iPhone 5c rainbow, instead Apple introduced Space Grey and Champagne into the mix.

    In terms of external buttons and ports, it's business as usual. You'll find a lightning port, volume rocker, on/off button and a screen lock switch.

    iPad Air: Features

    It's go big or go home when it comes to the new features packed into the iPad Air. Alas, there's no Touch ID fingerprint scanning, as on the iPhone 5s so no biometrics on the big screen but there's still plenty to talk about.  

    When it comes to cameras on tablets, Apple has always been a bit behind it's competitors but it's all change on the new iPad. It's true the iPad has always had the same megapixel count as the Nexus 10 and beat the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 but picture quality was never great.

    iPad Air vs iPad 4

    Although it doesn't add megapixels, remaining at five, the picture quality is better. The front-facing video cam has also been updated to the new HD FaceTime camera found on the new iPhone 5c and 5s.

    During our short play with the tablet the pictures were noticeably crisper than those taken on an iPad 3 and a world-apart from those taken on an iPad 2. We're still unconvinced as to whether a tablet should be a picture taking device but if your tablets your snapper of choice then the new iPad Air will certainly do the job.

    iPad Air: Screen

    We've come to expect pin-sharp images on Apple's Retina screen and the iPad Air doesn't disappoint. It's the same size as the iPad 4 at 9.7-inch and the same resolution (2048x1536, 264ppi) but what Apple has managed to do, this time round, is place a Retina screen in a thinner bezel.  iOS 7 icons pop out of the screen and on the bigger screen that parallax-effect even gave us a touch of motion sickness.

    iPad Air: Performance

     

    The chip has been upgraded from the A6X to the A7 with the same 64-bit architecture of the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5s was blisteringly fast and it's the same story with the new iPad Air. For those complaining of the iOS 7 slowing down their iPads, there was no sign of that here.

    Apps open in an instant, scrubbing through videos is a breeze and multitasking is no-problem. Of course, the 64-bit is a future proofing exercise but we can't wait to get our hands on some apps that make the most of the iPad's super-power.

    iPad Air: Battery

    Apple is quoting a 10-battery life for the new iPad. That's upped from the 9 hours on the iPad 4 and beats both the Nexus 10 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Of course, until we get our hands on a review unit we'll have to take Apple's word for it but it's usually near the mark.

    iPad Air: Verdict

    We called the iPad 4 Apple's best full-size tablet yet and the iPad Air is even better. The iPad 4 was a mild update from the iPad 3 with no design changes, the new iPad is all change. The main difference is its design. With a paper-thin chassis and weighing less than the original iPad Mini, it's a design marvel. The Retina screen remains one of the best screens on a tablet and this is now boosted by a blisteringly fast processor. If you're stuck with the iPad 3 then this is a no-brainer, even for those with an iPad 4 it's a tempting upgrade.

    The iPad Mini may be small but it can no longer play the thinner and lighter card and if you're one for bigger is better then you won't get much better than the new iPad Air. Of course, we'll be bringing you a full review in the coming weeks but on first impressions this is probably Apple's best tablet yet.

    iPad Air release Date: 1 November 2013

    iPad Air price: Wi-Fi only: £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB), £639 (128GB)

    Wi-Fi + 4G: £499 (16GB),  £579 (32GB), £659 (64GB) and £739 (128GB)

    Hands-on review by Rhiain Morgan

    • iPad Air review - Is this Apple's best tablet yet?
    • iPad Air unboxing
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  • Apple iPad Air

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