- Editor's Rating
- Thinner and lighter than past models
- Long battery life
- Powerful A7 chip allows for more productivity
- Lacks expandable storage
- Limited to 1GB of RAM
The Apple iPad Air is faster, lighter, and thinner than past iterations with a long battery life, but the limited 1GB of RAM hinders the performance of the powerful A7 64-bit processor.
The iPad Air is Apple’s fifth 9.7-inch iOS tablet, featuring a smaller and lighter profile than its predecessors. While externally it remains similar to past iterations, including its Retina display, the iPad Air boasts a new A7 64-bit processing chip. Apple also scaled down the screen bezel and thickness of the iPad Air, measuring .3 inches thin and weighing 1 pound. However, TabletPCReview noted that the decrease in the size of the bezel made it more difficult to hold the tablet in portrait mode.
The Retina display has the same resolution as the past model, 264 ppi, and it features the same capacitive touchscreen technology, so users are still left without any pressure sensitivity. Apple decreased the number of LED back lights in the display to half from the previous model, and instead included optical film layers to disperse the light evenly. This means that users get the same great Retina display, but with less strain on battery life. TCPR noted that the decrease in LED back lighting wasn’t noticeable and the device was still bright enough to read outside in direct sunlight.
Battery life with the iPad Air lets users go a full day on one charge, with TCPR clocking 11.5 hours for web browsing and reading eBooks on a single charge while connected to Wi-Fi. This exceeded Apple’s marketed 10 hours of battery life, but a cellular connection trimmed an hour off the 11.5 hour total, bringing it closer to the advertised 10 hours.
The iPad Air is the first iOS tablet to receive to Apple A7 64-bit CPU, which TPCR states “has the potential to bring desktop-quality software to the iOS.” However, that is only a potential for now, since only a few third-party apps currently exist that are compatible with the 64-bit technology. In terms of speed, TPCR found that the A7 chip offers “80% faster performance than the one in the iPad 4,” and that it’s “five times faster than the processor in the iPad 3.” Testers also found that the iPad Air didn’t overheat while playing video or graphic-intensive games, something iPad 3 owners griped about.
While the faster chip might offer better speeds and the possibility of desktop-like apps in the future, the iPad Air is saddled with only 1GB of RAM, thus limiting the full potential of the A7 processor. The paltry RAM mainly affects the amount of web pages that users can open at once, meaning pages will have to reload when a user has a number of tabs open.
The iPad Air runs iOS 7, Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system. Apple is also offering iWork and iLife free to anyone that purchases a new iOS device. This bodes well for businesses and consumers, making it easy to open up Microsoft Office documents or to use iPhoto, iMovie, or GarageBand.
Overall, the iPad Air is faster and lighter than its iOS predecessors and it features an excellent display and lengthy battery life. The iPad Air falls short when it comes to available RAM, with the 1GB limiting the performance of the A7 chip. The 16GB Wi-Fi model retails for $500, with the 32GB, 64GB, 128GB each increasing by $100 respectively at the time of review.