Originally released in 2010, Apple’s full sized 9.7″ iPad has largely looked the same for the past 2.5 years. It actually got ever so slightly heavier and thicker in 2012 when the first iPad with Retina display came along. Couple that with an impending iPad Mini with Retina display and many wondered if the iPad would remain a must have tablet. Luckily for us, Apple raised the bar again and announced the iPad Air at their event last month.
The iPad Air is available in Space Gray or Silver, Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular, and storage capacities of 16, 32, 64, or 128GB. The 16GB Wi-Fi model starts at $499 while the 16GB Wi-Fi +Cellular model is $629. Each increase in storage will cost you an additional $100, topping out at a whopping $929 for the 128GB Wi-Fi +Cellular model.
I’ve had the iPad Air for almost a week now and here are my impressions:
- I’m not the first, nor will I be the last to say that the iPad Air looks like a scaled up version of the iPad Mini. All of its bezels are slimmed down, especially the left and right bezels when holding in portrait orientation. This makes for a much more immersive experience. I feel like I am just holding a large touch screen, unlike older models where it was as if I was holding a picture frame that housed a touch screen.
- Don’t worry about the smaller bezels causing accidental touch registers. iOS does a great job recognizing if you are resting your thumbs on the screen by accident or if you are indeed trying to manipulate the screen.
- At just 1.0 lb (469 g) this thing is unbelievably light. Remember, the prior two generations of iPads weighed 1.44 lbs (652 g). It took some remarkable engineering to pull this off.
- While it feels light, it doesn’t feel densely packed like the iPad Mini does. The weight seems to be distributed evenly and for the first time I can hold a full sized iPad in one hand for long periods of time. When I tried to do this with my iPad 3 my wrist became tired in a matter of minutes.
- It’s very thin. 0.29 inches (7.5mm) to be exact. Compared to last year’s 0.37 inches (9.4mm) it’s definitely a welcomed improvement.
- The A7 chip is fast and should be so for years to come.
- The large screen is better for watching video than some of its smaller competition. This is kind of a no-brainer, but if you plan to use this device to stream a lot of Netflix or Hulu+, and not much else, this may be the tablet for you.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the iPad Air’s wide color gamut. It’s unparalleled, and when you compare it side by side to other tablets you realize just how accurate the colors are.
- Battery life is fantastic. After two days of intense use I still had 15% battery left. YMMV, but I got close to 13 hours of usage with my screen brightness over 50%. Needless to say you probably won’t need to charge this thing more than once or twice a week.
- The new speakers seem like an upgrade. They are noticeably louder than my iPad 3 speakers. The sound now comes out of both speaker grills.
- The 5MP rear camera is good in ideal conditions.Then again, if you’re using the rear camera on a full sized iPad in any more than a pinch you’re doing it wrong. The 1.2MP, 720 P front facing camera is good for FaceTime or the occasional selfie.
- There are now dual microphones on the back which should make for better FaceTime calls as well.
The Not So Good
- The location of the speakers. When you hold the tablet in landscape you will most likely cover up at least one of the speaker grills.
- The Price. Starting at $499 there are several less expensive options that can do most of what the iPad Air can do with varying degrees of success.
- iOS7: The larger the device, the more room for improvement there is. Some apps such as Calendar and Reminders just don’t look as good as they should.
The combination of form factor and screen real estate make the iPad Air an unparalleled device. Whether you own an iPad and are looking to upgrade or this is your first tablet, you can’t do better than the iPad Air.