Apple iPad Air Review - Thinner, Lighter and Future-proofed

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The Apple iPad Air combines a new design with better performance for a thinner and lighter Apple iPad tablet

The Apple iPad Air is the 5th generation tablet in Apple's leading 9.7-inch display tablet range. As the latest in the bunch it packs in the latest and probably most powerful mobile chipset and processor in the Apple stable along with a much improved, thinner and lighter profile. Does it deserve the Air name? Yes. Yes it does. Is it worth your time and money? Well, that depends a lot on your preference for screen size. Read on for all that you need to know about the Apple iPad Air.

Design - Thinner than the MacBook Air

When the MacBook Air first came out it was notable mainly because at 0.3 inches at it's thinnest point, it was at the time the thinnest computer around. The new Apple iPad Air beats this at 0.29 inches or 7.5mm so it well deserves the Air brand name. In terms of design it is flatter than before with less emphasis on a rounded edges than the previous Apple iPad had. Instead, the design looks a lot like the Apple iPad mini complete with narrower bezels and slimmer profile. This has cut down the weight to just 469g making the iPad Air the only 9.7-inch iPad that you can handle one handed.

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The secret to making a thinner, lighter but still very strong tablet is in the layering.

You'll still need two hands to use all of the screen, but you can read an ebook or browse one handed now. The 9.7-inch Retina Display remains the same though and while it still looks as good as the last version, it doesn't bring anything new to the tablet. The Home button also remains unchanged as there is no Touch ID fingerprint scanner hidden underneath it. The iPad Air still looks and feels premium with it's aluminum unibody design, but in terms of style it is nearly identical with the Apple iPad mini. This isn't a bad thing, as a lighter, easier to manage Apple iPad tablet is always a better thing, but it does make it a bit harder to differentiate between the the Apple iPad Air and Apple iPad mini with Retina Display.

Wonder how Apple designed the iPad Air? Check out the video above.

Tech Specs and Features - Slightly faster but more or less the same

Just like the Apple iPhone 5S and Apple iPad mini with Retina Display, the Apple iPad Air uses the new 64-bit A7 apple processor and chipset. The only major difference is that unlike the other two devices which are running at 1.3GHz, the Apple A7 processor on the iPad Air is running at 1.4GHz. This offers a slight performance increase over the other two devices but also ensures that despite the larger screen, the iPad Air is able to keep up. While we still like the new design, the thinner and lighter profile comes at the cost of a smaller 8820 mAh battery. However, the new processor and chipset are surprisingly more energy efficient, allowing the iPad Air to maintain the standard 10 hour battery life. Like the other Apple A7 powered devices, the iPad Air also has 1GB of DDR3 RAM and the M7 motion control coprocessor. The PowerVR G6430 graphics processor is also present so you also get OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics for your next-gen gaming. A new dual-antenna design ensures even better WiFi than before while more 4G LTE bands means you can get 4G LTE connectivity in practically every part of the world which has a 4G LTE mobile network. The other features remain the same though as you still have the 5MP iSight rear camera along with storage options ranging from 16GB to 128GB. The lack of any expandable storage options do mean that you could run out of space fairly quickly, especially as there are now more free Apple software included in the bundle. This is good in that you get more functionality from the iPad Air right out of the box, but bad because they take up space. The iPad Air also comes with the new iOS 7 operating system.

Performance - Easily at the top of the heap

Initial benchmarks of the Apple iPad Air have been few and far in between, but the ones that have come out show that the iPad Air easily outperforms previous versions of the Apple iPad tablet particularly the Apple iPad 4. The only Apple devices to get similar performance are the Apple iPhone 5S and Apple iPad mini with Retina Display. Performance increases seen in these devices are mirrored here in the iPad Air as load times that used to take minutes now take seconds, games and apps that take advantage of OpenGL ES 3.0 look nicer (more particle effects, better textures, etc.). Granted, there aren't that many 64-bit apps available just yet, but even 32-bit apps will see an increase in performance due to the improved processor and chipset.

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The Apple iPad Air performance is nearly double that of the Apple iPad 4

While the battery size has been reduced, the battery life remains around 10 hours to 11 hours on normal use while the overall durability of the iPad Air is still top notch. The tablet feels tough and durable but drops directly on the glass will either shatter, crack or damage it, so getting an impact proof screen protector should be one of the first things to get asides from a casing or cover. As of the time of writing, there aren't any tablets within the same class that offer the same level of performance making it the king of the heap. Camera and video recording performance are still as good as before but since there aren't any hardware upgrades for the camera or it's sensor you can expect that camera performance won't be better than before.

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Apps run faster and look better on the Apple iPad Air

Price - Higher than before

Like the Apple iPhone 5S pricing before it, the Apple iPad Air costs significantly higher than the initial price of the Apple iPad 4. This isn't just because the Malaysian Ringgit is weak at the moment but also because the overall pricing in the US has also gone up. Therefore we can estimate that the price for a 16GB Apple iPad Air with WiFi only could cost as high as RM1799 and above. When the 16GB WiFi Apple iPad 4 came out, it only cost RM1449. While talking about price, we would have to say that getting the base 16GB version for the iPad Air is not a very good idea, especially as you'll only have about half or so of said space when you do get it (due to all the free apps). Just two or three HD movies would easily fill up whatever remaining space there is, so if you can spare the money getting 32GB or 64GB models would be a better option.

Conclusion - Everything is better except the Camera, but no new features

Overall, the Apple iPad Air is a significant tablet upgrade in terms of both design as well as performance. It is now powerful enough to do some serious work and play some really beautiful games and apps. Unfortunately, the increase in price may make it a bit less tempting for those on a tighter budget but if you are in the market for a 10-inch tablet then the 9.7-inch display iPad Air tablet should definitely be on the top of your consideration list. In this case, you will definitely get what you pay for, even more so that it will future proof your apps for the next couple of years or so. Those who bought the Apple iPad 4 are also recommended to get the iPad Air, as they can expect more than double in performance, however, this is only applicable for those who felt that the Apple iPad 4 needed a bit more power. For those who are looking for more unique features, then they are better off waiting for the Apple iPad 6 which will probably get either an upgrade in screen resolutions or a better camera. Despite the the thinner and slimmer design, the new iPad Air still isn't the most portable tablet to bring about now that the Apple iPad mini with Retina Display is out. Of course, if you think that a 7-inch tablet is too small for you, then the Apple iPad Air tablet is the obvious choice.

The Apple iPad Air compared to in terms of form and function with a pencil