iPad Air Review – Worth The Upgrade?

Who thought they would call it the Air? In retrospect, of course they added the wildly popular Macbook Air’s nomenclature to the iPad. The iPad Air is indeed a slimmer, lighter version of the iconic iPad design. Not only that, its A7 chip is twice as powerful as the iPad 4’s A6X chip, which was already impressive.

Mini on top of Air on top of iPad 2. And that kitteh is called Wally, by the way.

Mini on top of Air on top of iPad 2. That extra 16mm of width makes a surprising amount of difference. And that kitteh is called Wally, by the way.

Design
I never really liked the original iPad design; its large bezels made it look like a digital picture frame. If you’ve been using an iPad Mini for a while, the Air will look and feel very familiar. The Mini’s design was so popular that Apple decided the new iPad should probably use some of its design cues. In fact, it used ALL of the Mini’s design cues; apart from the extra microphone hole on the Air’s back, size is the only physical difference between the two.

After shaving a considerable 0.43 pounds off the iPad 4’s weight, and making it 1.9mm thinner, the Air is much more comfortable to hold. Perhaps most importantly, Apple has reduced the bezel width on each side by 8mm, which makes typing in profile mode much easier since your hands are closer to the on-screen keyboard. The old iPad’s wider bezels made profile mode typing a little bit of a thumb stretch. The slimmer bezels also make the Air look sleeker and less like a digital picture frame.

You can barely tell the Air is 1.9mm thinner, but you can definitely feel the difference.

You can barely tell the Air is 1.9mm thinner, but you can definitely feel it.

Performance, iOS 7
Basically, the Air will eat up tasks from email to 3D games and ask for more. If you have an iPad 2, you’ll notice the speed difference in just about everything you do. If you have the 4, however, you won’t notice the difference quite as much unless you play heavy 3D games and apps.

Many people claim that devices powered by Apple’s A7 chip are “future-proof.” I agree with this to an extent, but it won’t be future-proof for long. Soon, app developers will begin making apps that will actually challenge the powerful A7 chip, and we’ll see the Air age just as much as previous iPad generations (albeit, a little more slowly).

You might not notice this unless someone told you, but web browsing is faster, too. The Air houses not one, but two wi-fi antennae using MIMO (multiple in-multiple out) technology), which basically allows for faster data transmissions. And indeed, two antennae are MUCH better than one. In a test to see which could open tonyvstech.com first, the Air wiped the floor with the iPad 2. The Air took a mere 0.84 seconds to pull up the site whilst the iPad 2 crawled at 13.7 seconds.

The Air comes with iOS 7.0.3 and runs it quite well, but I’m still seeing some dropped frames when switching home screens, despite the potent A7 chip. I have the same experience with the Mini, and was hoping the Air would take care of that with its fresh, superior innards, but it seems to be a deficiency in iOS 7.

Screen
The Air dons the same Retina, 2048 x 1536, 264 ppi display as the two previous generations. It’s still a fantastic display, but the spec-watchers will notice that other tablets out there have better resolution. The Air’s slimmer bezels might give the impression that the screen is bigger than previous iPads, but it’s the same 9.7 inches.

Battery Life
I was always pleased with iPad’s battery life, and the Air maintains expectations. It actually has a smaller battery than its predecessors, but seems to last longer with regular use on a single charge, such as web browsing, email, and reading. Perhaps the A7 chip has something to do with this; it’s very powerful, but also very efficient.

Conclusion
If you have the iPad 2, it’s probably about time; the Air’s performance makes a very strong case to upgrade and when app developers make more demanding apps, you’ll really feel the 2’s age.

If you have an iPad 3 or 4, you might be digging for reasons to upgrade at the moment because they still perform very well. But give it some time for those app devs to catch up with the A7 and you’ll have better reason to upgrade. However, that will take some time.

I got the iPad Mini over the regular iPad for a few reasons; weight, comfort, ease of use…basically everything the regular iPad didn’t get quite right for me. However, the Mini has the same A5 chip as the iPad 2, and is starting to lag a little. On one hand, I like the Air because it’s so fast. On the other, it’s still unwieldily and not quite as “mobile” as the Mini. I have a feeling that the Mini with Retina display, which will be brandishing the A7 chip, will be the iPad of choice for portability enthusiasts.