The iPad Air goes on sale Friday, but the first reviews are in today. And if you were on the fence about buying Apple’s latest large screen tablet before, you won’t be after reading the reviews, which are unanimous in their praise.
Apple is being lauded for its thinnest and lightest full-sized iPad yet, along with fast new internals. Most reviews mention the lack of Touch ID, and there’s some doubt as to how it will fare against the upcoming iPad mini with retina display, but there’s no denying Apple has another hit on its hands with the iPad Air.
Below are some highlights to give you a sense of what everyone is saying.
As strange as it may sound, the latest iPad is actually just a larger version of the 7.9-inch mini. It’s as if the smaller device — which launched at the same time as the fourth-gen iPad — was a pilot test for Jony Ive’s new design language. Calling it the “Air” was fitting indeed, since it’s ridiculously small and light compared to previous models… Simply put, the iPad Air is the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever used.
Trying to summarize what makes the iPad Air special quickly turns into a list of the things Apple likes to have with any evolution of an existing product: it’s smaller, lighter and faster with absolutely no tradeoffs made in the process. The iPad Air feels like a true successor to the iPad 2.
We coached the iPad Air through some of our favorite benchmarks, along with a fourth-gen iPad running the most recent version of iOS (7.0.3). The results were quite compelling. In Sunspider 1.0.1, the old iPad took 661ms on average to complete the tests, whereas the new Air blasted through in 402ms average. That’s a greater than 50 percent improvement in Web rendering speed. (The iPhone 5S scored 417ms.) Geekbench 2 was similarly improved, 1,797 vs. 2,382 (higher is better here), and on Geekbench 3 the gap widened, 1,429 vs. 2,688. In fact, the iPad Air’s single-core score of 1,475 is higher than the dual-core score of the fourth-generation iPad.
So should you upgrade if you already own, say, a third or fourth generation iPad? There’s no overarching reason to spend the $499 on up for a Wi-Fi only model, or $699 on up for a model that adds cellular. Your current iPad runs all 475,000-plus apps in the App Store that have been especially produced for Apple’s tablets. It also runs iOS 7 like the Air, assuming you upgraded.
In other words, your existing iPad can pretty much do everything that the iPad Air can do. That said, if you’re new to iPad or are in the market to buy a tablet anyway, I expect you’ll be more than thrilled with an Air.
Speaking of power—let’s talk about the battery. I don’t use my iPad all day, every day, but I do use it on occasion throughout the day. For instance, if I have an appointment, I’ll take the iPad with me and do some writing. I did that today.
I sat for a few hours today, utilizing LTE for Internet, and writing in Byword. I was doing simple things really—nothing that was taxing for such a powerful device, but still important work for me.
I used it a few more times during the day for research, email, surfing the Web and other such tasks. I wrote and edited part of this review on it. As I type this, there is 84% of my battery remaining. Not bad for having a device at my disposal all day long, ready to do anything I need.
I’ve been testing the iPad Air for about a week and found it a pleasure to use. This new iPad isn’t a radical rethinking of what a tablet can be, but it’s a major improvement on a successful product. It is the best tablet I’ve ever reviewed.
We’ll plan to follow up with our own thoughts after spending time with the new iPad Air, but for now, it seems like Apple has yet another winning tablet on its hands.