iPad Air review
- Size and weight reduction
- Faster 64-bit processor
- Better battery life
- No slo-mo video recording
- No 8MP rear camera upgrade
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.