iPad Air Review Roundup

iPad Air

As the fifth generation full-sized iPad, users likely know what to expect from the newly-released iPad Air. And while the device doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel by radically altering the iPad’s genetics in either abilities or form factor, the mere fact that Apple has proven able to further hone what was already a winning concept — by decreasing the size and weight, upping the speed and power, all while maintaining battery life — is reason enough to mark down the iPad Air as an assured winner in the tablet category. This verdict is more than backed up by the reviews which have begun flooding in over the past 24 hours, with reviewers now having had around a week to test Apple’s newest tablet.

Leading the way is Walt Mossberg’s review for All Things D in which the veteran tech reporter gushingly refers to the iPad Air as, “the best tablet I’ve ever reviewed”.

I found the iPad Air to be much more comfortable to hold for long periods than the last two, heavier models. And I found it to be noticeably faster than prior iPads. Apple claims it offers up to twice the speed of past models. It attributes that to a new processor, of its own design, called the A7, which also will be in the new Mini. This processor, like most PC processors, is what’s called a 64-bit chip, which means it can handle data in bigger chunks.Wi-Fi is improved with two antennas instead of one. The iPad Air repeatedly recorded higher Internet speeds than its predecessors, essentially matching the Internet speed of my laptops.

Smaller improvements have been made to the cameras, especially the front camera most commonly used for video chats. And the iPad now has two microphones instead of one.

Bottom line: If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down.

Jim Dalrymple at The Loop meanwhile praised the iPad Air’s weight (appropriate given the name) and noted how Apple had thrown down the gauntlet for itself by invoking the MacBook Air’s name as a “lightweight, powerful, professional device” before observing that the iPad Air “lives up to all of those expectations and more.”

When I first picked up the iPad Air, I noticed how light it was. I mean really light. In reality, Apple shaved about half a pound of weight off the new iPad compared to the previous generations. That may not seem like much, but when the old iPad only weighed approximately 1.5 pounds, knocking off half a pound is significant.

In another rave review, TechCrunch‘s Darrell Etherington opined that, with the iPad Air, Apple has made “Big Tablets Beautiful All Over Again.”

The design is the star of Apple’s iPad Air refresh this time around; the 9.7-inch Apple tablet has had the same form factor for two generations now, and that one actually made the design worse – it got heavier, and it got thicker. This new iPad mini-inspired look sheds both size and weight, giving the iPad Air a 43 percent smaller bezel, a 20 percent thinner case, and making it 28 percent lighter, at just one pound.

Over at Engadget, Brad Molen commented (in the most in-depth iPad Air review so far released) that,

[A]s strange as it may sound, the latest iPad is actually just a larger version of the 7.9-inch mini. It’s as if the smaller device — which launched at the same time as the fourth-gen iPad — was a pilot test for Jony Ive’s new design language. Calling it the “Air” was fitting indeed, since it’s ridiculously small and light compared to previous models. It measures 7.5mm thick and weighs only one pound (1.03 pounds, to be exact), making it 1.9mm thinner and 0.43 pound lighter than the iPad 4. Apple’s also trimmed the left and right bezel by roughly 8mm on each side. If that doesn’t sound significant, just hold the Air for a minute and then pick up an older iPad; the difference is immediately noticeable. Simply put, the iPad Air is the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever used.

TechRadar‘s Patrick Goss praised the iPad Air’s power, noting that,

Under the hood, the iPad 5 has the 64-bit architecture of the A7 chip that debuted in the flagshipiPhone 5S, but as a bigger device that power is even more important here, described by Phil Schiller on stage as ‘screamingly fast.’

The gap between tablets and laptops has not just narrowed but all but disappeared, and the advancements made by Apple in this area are key to its success.

At The New York Times, Damon Darlin similarly gave plaudits to the device’s battery life, writing how,

It easily runs for 10 hours on a charge, just as Apple promises — despite the battery’s smaller size and the increased demands put on it. In my test of pretty heavy use, it downloaded and played three hourlong episodes of “Game of Thrones” and a few hours of music. I scrolled through Twitter and Flipboard, played games and perused the web. That’s almost a typical day for me and my iPad. It will get you through a normal day and then some with no worries.

Finally in the UK, The Telegraph reviewer Matt Warman gave as close to a (five-star) final word as anyone, commenting that,  wrote that,

If there are faults with the iPad Air, the only two I can find are the suggestion, in the branding, that it’s a totally new product, and the fact that the smartcover now adopts the flimsier three-panel design used in the original iPad Mini. But these are tiny issues. This is the iPad that was already brilliant in an even better design. Almost entirely thanks to the 475,000 tablet apps, iPad Air is the best tablet on the market. And Kindle fans beware – the Air is now more useful for reading, its clever software knowing whether your thumb is interacting with the device or simply holding it.

So there you have it: iPad Air. Ballpark. Knocked out of.

The real question, then, is whether to buy the iPad Air or to go for the Mini. More than ever, it’s about what you use your tablet for…

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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