Apple iPad Air Review: Hands-on with the Light, Thin and Ultra-Fast Tablet

On Tuesday, tech giant invelied its new fifth-gen iPad, claiming it’s ‘thinner, lighter, more powerful than ever before’.

Priced at $499 for the 16GB entry-level model and $799 for the 128GB model, the new iPad Air is not only thinner than the iPad 4, but it also features a smaller bezel, making it almost a mirror image of the iPad mini. Photo: Apple Inc.

Apple may be the producer of the most popular tablet on the market, but that doesn’t mean the company is content to rest on its laurels. Apple announced the iPad Air, its fifth-generation iPad, October 22 in San Francisco at the company’s annual unveiling event.

“The next generation iPad: thinner, lighter, more powerful than ever before, and it’s new in so many ways that it deserves a new name,” Apple’s Phil Schiller said onstage as he unveiled the company’s latest tablet.

The 9.7-inch, one-pound, 7.5mm-thick device feels much better in one hand than it used to, though it’s certainly not as portable as the iPad mini — which now has a 2048 x 1536 screen to match the Air’s as well.

A new A7 chip inside makes the Air eight times faster than the iPad 4, according to Apple. For reference, this is the same 64-bit chip populating the iPhone 5S. Like Apple’s latest smartphone, the Air’s A7 also comes with the M7 motion coprocessor, which promises graphics that render at twice the rate of the previous iPad.

In terms of graphics, that means that this iPad Air is 72 times faster than the original iPad in GPU performance. Talking about Wi-Fi, there’s MIMO wireless technology onboard, but the Air is using the 802.11n standard, not the more current “ac” Wi-Fi designation.

The iPad Air features a 5-megapixel iSight camera on the rear that Apple says takes improved low-light shots. On the front, video-chatters will find the refreshed FaceTime HD camera, which gives you larger pixels to make images look clearer, according to the claim. Dual microphones will help capture even sound.

The tablet runs iOS 7, which was released for the iPad 2 and up last month. The new multitasking features, the improved Safari web browsing experience and Control Center all improve the big-screen experience, and new iLife and iWork apps make the tablet much more than just a consumption device.

Apple is always cagey when it comes to sharing battery capacity details, but the company does list a 32.4-watt-hour rechargeable lithium battery, and promises to keep up its 10-hour battery life rate on the Air, says CNet.

The iPad Air comes in white with a silver rear casing, or black with a space gray case. The space gray variation looked particularly nice in person, matching what the iPad mini had already offered with its first iteration.

One of the rumours that didn’t come true was the introduction of the fingerprint reader from the iPhone 5s. Apple must be waiting to see how successful it is on the iPhone before filtering it out to the rest of its products.

Unsurprisingly, prices remain at the same level as the previous model, with the 16GB Wi-Fi costing $499 inc VAT, but with all new iPads now including iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers and Keynote in the price, plus improved MIMO-based Wi-Fi and better cameras on front and back, the new iPad Air looks to be better value than ever. And as the PC Pro says, it’s an incremental upgrade, but a worthwhile one.

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