Six years ago, Apple released the Macbook Air, a laptop so thin that it could fit in a manila envelope. The tagline of the Macbook Air was ‘thinnovation’, which signatures the Macbook Air’s slimness and innovative technology. At Apple’s conference on the 22nd of October, it did something similar by introducing the all new iPad Air, a more slimmer, faster, and more powerful variant of it’s counterpart. As it’s name indicates, the new iPad loses about half a pound of weight along with a couple millimeters of thickness. But, it still retains the 9.7 inch retina display. While all of that is splendid enough, Apple also managed to make the device more powerful, thanks to the same A7 chip that already powers the iPhone 5s.
The one part of the iPad Air that is not much lighter is the price, with it’s regular 16 GigaByte Wifi only model starting at $499 and from there the price goes as far as $900 for it’s most expensive configuration that is the WiFi + Cellular model with 128 GigaBytes of storage.
Let’s start with the hardware. The iPad Air’s design haven’t changed much(nor have the others). The iPad 2 offered the most radical change in Apple’s line of tablets in terms of shape and size, while the third- and fourth-gen models offered few adjustments aside from a Retina display and Lightning port. What’s enthralling is that the design of the iPad Air is the same as the iPad Mini.
Yes, as odd as it may sound, the iPad Air is just a larger version of the 7.9 inch iPad Mini. Calling it the iPad ‘Air’ was fitting indeed, since it is preposterously 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 pounds lighter than the iPad 4.
The SIM slot, meanwhile, has been trimmed down to support nano-SIMs (instead of micro-SIMs) and it has moved to the lower-right side of the body. The remaining improvements to the Air are all internal: It gains the Apple A7 chipset (which claims twice the performance power as the A6X, not to mention 64-bit compatibility), as well as the M7 motion-tracking co-processor.
When it comes to connectivity, Apple now uses a baseband that offers support for 14 LTE bands. In addition to the standard Bluetooth 4.0 and aGPS/GLONASS, it also has dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, with one major difference: The Air includes MIMO (Multiple input, multiple output) connectivity, a feature that is starting to become more common in tablets nowadays. For those who do not know what MIMO is, it means that the iPad takes advantage of more than one antenna, allowing the device to send and receive data much more quickly. In particular, Apple says you can enjoy double the data speeds (up to 300 Mbps).
One particular piece that has not been added to the iPad Air is the Touch ID feature which had been introduced in the recently released iPhone 5S. This component is also missing from the new iPad mini. The display also remains unchanged with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536, giving the device a pixel density of 264 ppi.
The iPad air comes with the latest revision of iOS 7, version 7.0.3. Beside a few bug fixes, it also includes iCloud Keychain, a feature that lets you share passwords and credit card info across your iOS devices, as well as a new Safari password generator. Other than that, there are no other improvements or enhancements made specifically for the iPad Air.
Apple settled not to make any changes to the iPad Air’s iSight camera. It is a 5mp camera with AF that was found in the previous two iPads. The overall image quality is pleasing, and the camera can shoot 12 pictures in 5 seconds. The flash is not present, so, naturally night-time photos are a bit fuzzy.
As for videos, we are once again, looking at the same specifications on the previous iPads. the FaceTime HD module on the front of the device can record 720p footage, while the rear camera is capable of 1080p.
Performance and Battery Life
The iPad Air is powered by the A7 chip which, Apple claims it delivers twice the performance and rendering than the A6 chip. As I said before, the A7 chip powers the iPhone 5S too but on the iPad Air, it is slightly overclocked at 1.4GHz, instead of the iPhone’s 1.3GHz. It also comes with 1 GB of RAM.
Let’s not forget that the A7 chip has a 64 bit architecture which has been big news for the developers. Including the iPad Air and the iPad mini 2, there are a total of 3 Apple devices which has a 64 bit architecture. It is reported that a handful of games and apps have already been made by developers.
When it comes to battery life, there has not been any changes this time around too. The iPad Air seems to have a battery life of 10 hours, which is the exact amount of time given for each of the fully-sized iPads.
It seems that the iPad Air is the best tablet Apple has made so far. In addition, it is the most comfortable to used 10 inch tablet out there. Not every manufacturer can produce a thin and light device without also making it feel cheap or flimsy, but Apple nailed it.
Additionally, the Air may lose a few potential buyers to the iPad mini with Retina display, which will essentially be the Air in a smaller size. The features, specs and performance should be roughly the same. The iPad Air is going to have some fierce competition because of the upcoming Nexus 10 by Google, But it will still be able to push through.