- Smaller and lighter than predecessors
- Significantly faster than earlier iPads
- Beautiful display
- Long battery life
- Barely adequate RAM
- Non-standard data/power port
- No memory card slot
- No active touchscreen
Quick TakeAlthough not without its limitations, the iPad Air is among the best tablets available for professionals who don't specifically need a Windows device.
The Apple iPad Air is the fifth full-size tablet from this company. Although it retains the 9.7-inch Retina screen of its predecessors, it’s smaller and lighter than they were, with a new 64-bit processor.
We gave this computer a thorough testing…here’s what we found.
Build and Design
Ever since the launch of the first iPad, there has been pressure on Apple to reduce the overall size of each successive generation. What people who couldn’t understand the need for the large bezels on either side of their screens didn’t realize was that all that that “excess” space made room for very large batteries. And the iPad’s ability to go a full workday without needing a charge is one of its hallmarks.
With the iPad Air, Apple was finally able to trim down the screen bezel and reduce the overall thickness of the device, with a corresponding decrease in weight. Doing so required making the processor and the screen use much less power — without reducing the quality of these components. That’s how the company was able to produce a computer that’s 0.3 inches thick and just a pound in weight.
While any reduction in size and weight is welcome, regular users of previous-generation iPads won’t find themselves astonished by how light it is. Although after using it for a while, they might be surprised by how heavy their old iPad is in comparison.
The change in shape does make it a bit more difficult to use this device in portrait mode, as there’s less room on the sides to hold it without accidentally touching the screen. Even though it isn’t as wide as its predecessors, only those with very large hands will be able to palm it.
The iPad Air’s screen is the same size and resolution as its predecessors: 9.7 inches and 2048 x1536 pixels, putting it at 264 ppi. That makes each pixel so small that there’s absolutely no pixillation; everything looks smooth.
As was already mentioned, Apple’s goal with this screen wasn’t to make it look better — the displays on the third- and fourth-generation iPads were amazing — but to have it use less power. Apple did so by building in less than half the number of LED backlights and including optical film layers to spread the existing light around.
The result is a screen that looks just as good as its predecessors while putting less strain on the battery. Even with far fewer backlights, this tablet is plenty bright enough to be used outdoors, and even in full Sun.
But keep in mind, this is a simple capacitive touchscreen, so it lacks pressure sensitivity. This somewhat limits its usefulness for apps that involve drawing on the screen.
Other Buttons, Ports, and Controls
Apple’s head of design Jony Ive believes in simplicity, which is why the iPad series has always had a minimal set of buttons. Just about everything on the Air is controlled with the Home button or on-screen gestures. Aside from that that, there’s a Power button, a pair of Volume Up/Down buttons, and a switch that can either lock the screen in one orientation or put the device on Mute.
Like its predecessors, this tablet has no memory card slot, forcing those who would like to access files on SD cards or USB drives to use an accessory like the Kingston MobileLite Wireless or Apotop Wi-Reader Pro.
Unfortunately, it uses Apple’s own Lightning port for data and charging, not the industry standard micro-USB port.
Apple offers a selection of semi-protective covers for the Air. The Smart Cover clips to the front with magnets, and can be folded into a stand.
It’s possible that Apple’s own weak selection of accessories has actually helped to foster a strong market for third-parties to make their own. Several companies like OtterBox and Belkin are making external keyboards, cases, styli, external memory card readers, and more for this newly-released tablet.
Dont stop now… Page 2 discusses the performance of the iPad Air.