iPad Air review: I guess that’s why they call it the Air
It’s not called Air now for nothing. The Apple iPad Air seems almost ethereally light on first acquintance – Apple was quoting 1 pound in weight at its launch, and that’s 454g in modern measurements. A closer look at the official specs tells us it’s really 469 or 478 g, depending if you select the standard Wi-Fi or with added cellular 3G/4G option. (For further detail, see our pieces iPad Air 5th generation release date, specs and new features and iPad Air and iPad mini 2 price in the UK.
It feels solid enough, or rather sufficiently stiff, despite its light weight. The body has the same style and construction as the iPad mini, with a thinner bezel along the sides when held in portrait mode. This might be a problem with accidental finger touches on the screen when gripping the edges, although when tried with at least the iBooks app, the iPad Air seems to intelligently ignore touchscreen input here.
And at only around 170 mm wide, larger hands can even span and grip the iPad Air with one hand. Holding it thus you can really appreciate just how light it feels, helped by the reduced thickness of just 7.5 mm against the previous model’s 9.3 mm. (See also: The top 10 best tablets: What’s the best tablet you can buy in 2013?)
iPad Air review: battery life, processor
To reduce weight, and to squeeze into the that smaller space, Apple has reduced the size of the battery from 42.5Wh to 32.4Wh. Overall battery life is said to be the same though at 10 hours of web browsing or video playback.
Savings in efficiency may be coming from the new Apple A7 processor – the same as found in the iPhone 5s and complete with the M7 motion processor. The main processor’s clock speed is not quoted, as is usual by Apple and with good reason, leaving the empty spec chasing to other brands.
Apple iPad Air and its Lightning port and perforated speaker grille
Looking around the edges, there’s the same now-familiar layout of buttons – Lightning port central at the bottom, volume rocker and screen lock (or volume mute) on the right, then On/Off button on the top-right edge, and headset jack at top left. What is visible is an additional pin hole on top, for a new second microphone that should enable improved reduction of ambient noise as found on the iPhone and various MacBook models now. (See also: New MacBook Pro laptop features, specification, UK release date – what you need to know about new MacBook Pro.)
Apple iPad Air has the same button layout as earlier models
The screen itself looks to be the same as previous Retina iPads, with four times the pixel count of the original iPad’s 1024 x 768, giving once again 2048 x 1536 pixels, and the same Retina-class 264 ppi density.
Apple iPad Air still has a Retina-class touchscreen display
Wi-Fi performance looks to be improved, now that the iPad Air has a dual antennae setup to allow multiple in/multiple out (MIMO) connectivity, although this is with long-standing 802.11n rather than the latest and even quicker 11ac that we’ve just seen rolled out to the MacBook Air, iMac, MacBook Pro with Retina display and Mac Pro.
Unlike the iPhone 5s, the Apple iPad Air does not receive the Touch ID fingerprint sensor
More LTE networks are supported, and we were told it supports more LTE bands than any other tablet, and this is specified to cover at least EE and Vodafone’s 4G services in the UK at the moment.
For cameras, the iPad Air has a full-HD-capable main camera on the back, like the iPad 4, which also takes 5Mp stills; and 720p video camera up front for FaceTime and Skype, which also takes 1.2MP still images. So no changes here, which seems to include no upgrade to slo-mo video, despite the faster Apple A7 processor that we were told enabled this feature on the iPhone 5s.
Graphics benefit from the Apple A7 upgrade too, and although we couldn’t run any benchmark tests just yet we can say that the interface looked and felt supremely smooth, whether twisting around Autocad rendered models or playing Infinity Blade 3.
We didn’t see any examples on show at the London launch of the iPad Air, but new covers and cases are available, made from PVC and in a variety of colours. (See also: 22 October Apple event as it happened.)
9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch Retina display with IPS technology 2048×1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor FaceTime HD Camera (1.2MP photos, 720p HD video)
iSight Camera (5MP photos) Height: 240 mm (9.4 inches) Width: 169.5 mm (6.6 inches) Depth: 7.5 mm (0.29 inches) Weight: 469 g (1 pound)