Ever since I upgraded to iOS 7, everything I do on my old iPad 3 has been nothing more than a mental torture. Apps keep crashing randomly and multitasking between apps sometimes force the iPad to restart itself. It’s just so painfully slow that perhaps even the most patient and grateful person on this planet could go nuts when they use it… and God knows how slow the iOS 7 is on the iPad 2.
But now the iPad Air is here. As usual, Apple claims its latest device to be twice as fast, dramatically thinner, and significantly lighter than the last generation iPad. Hell, they even put the “Air” label on it! So how good is it? – Read below for my review of the new iPad Air!
Design & Build Quality
Compared to my old iPad 3, the iPad air is noticeably thinner and lighter, although it’s not significantly smaller than the previous generations iPad in terms of its actually foot-print size. The first thing that you’d notice when you open the box is the ultra thin bezel that’s about 43% thinner than the previous generation iPad (the top and bottom bezels are the same as the previous generations though). This makes the iPad Air really easy to hold even with one hand, in portrait mode of course. But that’s not the best thing about the iPad Air.
“The moment you pick it up with your hands, you’ll realise that the “Air” label is more than just a clever marketing trick.”
The moment you pick it up with your hands, you’ll realise that the “Air” label is more than just a clever marketing trick. It’s extremely light – Apple says it’s about 28% or half a pound lighter than the iPad 4 – but forget about the numbers! You just got to pick it up yourself to appreciate how thin and light the iPad Air is. I’ve got myself the WiFi + 4G model, so the 4G parts may add tiny meenie bit of weight in there. On the launch day, Apple also debuted a TV Ad, “Pencil”, narrated by Bryan Cranston (A.K.A Walter White from Breaking Bad) showing off how thin the device is. I tried to recreate this myself and managed to get the same effect. Yes, it’s actually thinner than a pencil and fits nicely in my new H13 Hoodie from AyeGear!
Below is the comparison between the iPad Air with the MacBook Air to help you see how ridiculously thin the iPad Air is.
The only one thing that I don’t like about the iPad is the lack of Fingerprint Sensor used on the iPhone 5S. I get so used to using the sensor that I keep finding myself pressing down the iPad home button to unlock it. It’s annoying, but not a deal-breaker.
Performance & Battery Life
The iPad Air sports the same A7 CPU in the iPhone 5S clocked at a slightly higher 1.2GHz speed and 1GB of RAM. I’m not going to bore you with stats and some benchmark numbers here, so I’m just going to focus on how it actually performs in real life situation.
On day to day basis, I mainly use the iPad to watch films on Netflix, check social media, watch YouTube videos, browse the web, and sometimes do some light HTML/CSS coding (If you’re a developer / web designer, try this handy app called Penultimate!). So far, I don’t see any lags or stuttering that I normally found while using the iPad 3. It did, however, crash multiple times while using Facebook app although it may be more of a 3rd party app issue than the device itself. Editing and exporting High Definition videos using iMovie is really fast, about 3 times faster than the iPad 3.
“It’s really hard to kill off the battery in a day, even under constant heavy usage!”
Gaming on a tablet or phone is never really my cup of tea, but for the sake of this review, I downloaded FIFA 14 and Infinity Blade 3. Again, here I found everything to run very smoothly with no noticeable lags although the iPad got a little warm after about an hour rocking on Infinity Blade 3. This clearly supports some geekbench tests that I saw on other reviews – If you really want to know the numbers, it’s scored an average of over 1,400 on the multi-core test, blowing any current tablets/phones out of the water.
Just like the previous generations iPad, it’s really hard to kill off the battery in a single day even under constant heavy usage. My iPad Air manage to last about 4 days with moderate to heavy usage on a single charge. The battery drains a little bit quicker when I turned on the 4G data, but fortunately there’s wifi almost everywhere I go.
It’s the same old story here. The new iPad Air has the same retina display found on the iPad 3 and iPad 4 – a 2048 x 1536 resolution display at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). There are a lot of other tablets or phones out there that sports far higher resolution display. But at such high level of pixel density, it’s just really hard for normal human eye to distinguish. I use a Samsung Galaxy S4 my secondary phone and it’s got a ridiculously high-res 441 ppi screen. But in all honesty though, I couldn’t really spot any differences with the 264 ppi on the iPad Air, or the 326 ppi iPhone 5S. However, having said all that, I think Apple should try to keep up with the competition next year with new screen technology and to finally upgrade its 3-year old retina screen standard.
Please, please, please don’t use the back iSight camera of the iPad as your main shooter. At least not in public.. because it’d literally make you look like a douchebag. So in this section, I’m only going to talk about the front-facing camera that you can publicly use for FaceTime, Skype Call, or even take some selfies. The iSight camera uses a 5-megapixel camera by the way, if you’re still interested to know.
The iPad Air front-facing camera has been upgraded to support HD resolution, making video calling experience even better. But at the same time this also means that FaceTime may requires more data to operate. If you love to take selfies, than pictures taken with PhotoBooth are now slightly better with a 1.2MP shooter, 1280 x 960, f/2.4, 2.15mm – if you know what those number means! Nevertheless, I’m not entirely sure though if this is due to the updated software or the camera hardware itself.
iPad Air: Space Grey vs Silver
This is probably the only dilemma that most people will have when choosing the iPad this year. It’s a probably just a personal choice, but if you can’t decide between the two, my opinions on this may help you decide.
I previously always owned a black iPad and iPhone simply because, to me, the content that I regularly view (mainly photos & videos) look much better in a black frame, especially when you’re using at night or in a dark room. The frame just dissolved together with the content if that makes sense. There’s almost no shiny white-framed TV for a reason! However, if you’re mainly going to use the iPad ONLY to browse the web, read books, check social media, and exchanging emails, then really you should go for the white iPad, because of websites and apps out there have light coloured background. In this case, text will blend in better with the white frame.
Now, iOS 7 messes all that up because it uses white/light backgrounds on most of its core apps (e.g. calendar, iMessage, Photos, etc). Moreover, 3rd party apps that try to make their apps as flat and as simple as iOS 7 also follows the same trend. So, unless you only use your iPad to watch movies, I would recommend getting the silver iPad Air over the space grey. It just looks much better with iOS 7.
There’s no doubt that this is the best iPad ever, and probably the biggest update since the introduction of the original iPad. At the moment, the iPad Air is probably the only iPad capable of running iOS 7 smoothly.
The design and the build quality alone justifies its new name. It’s very powerful, but at the same time it’s extremely thin and light. Is it worth the upgrade from the iPad 4? My answer is, it’s really hard not to recommend you to upgrade. If you travel a lot and love to carry your iPad wherever you go (like me!), then yes it’s definitely worth the upgrade. The weight difference itself, to me, making it a no-brainer upgrade.
The iPad Air does live up to its name and much more. You\'d probably come to same conclusion the moment you pick one up yourself. It\'s ridiculously thin and light.