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Apple iPad Air review

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Apple's best tablet ever, it's small, light, incredibly powerful and has an amazing screen

Review Date: 23 Mar 2014

Price when reviewed: £399

Buy it now for: £349
(see more store prices)


Reviewed By: David Ludlow

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

User Rating 5 stars out of 5

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Updated on the 23rd March 2014 with information on iOS 7 and a comparison with the iPad 4, which has been put back on sale

Our one worry about a new iPad was, where could Apple go? After all, with the iPad 4 it already had a slim, light tablet with a high-resolution screen. All fears that improvements would be few or minor were dissipated the second we picked up the iPad Air.


Ditching the numbering system and going for the Air moniker used by the company's super-light laptops really makes sense here, as the iPad Air is staggeringly light. At just 469g (Wi-Fi version) it's 183g lighter than the 652g iPad 4. That's a staggering 28 per cent lighter, which is even more impressive given the iPad Air has the same size screen. Trust us, you need to get yourself to an Apple store to hold one in the flesh to see how light it really is.

In order to get the weight down, Apple had to make iPad Air smaller and thinner than its predecessor. In simple terms, the Air takes its design cues from the iPad Mini with its thinner bezel and slimmer case. It shouldn't be underestimated how much work this takes, as Apple's managed to make the iPad Air a lot smaller than its predecessor, reducing width from 188mm to 169.5mm (a 10 per cent reduction) and depth rom 9mm to 7.5mm (a 16 per cent reduction), while height remains roughly the same.

Apple iPad Air
The iPad Air is 28 per cent lighter than the iPad 4 and a lot smaller

As we've come to expect from Apple, the iPad Air is made from a single piece of aluminium, with a glass front. Available in Space Grey, and White to match the colours of the iPhone 5S, the iPad Air is the most attractive tablet out there. More than that it also feels extremely tough and durable thanks to its metal construction.


Although the iPad Air still has the same size 9.7in screen as used in all full-size iPads since the original, the reduction in size of the case means that it looks bigger. That’s no bad thing, as the screen is the most important thing about a tablet.

Apple has kept the same 2,048x1,536 Retina resolution, originally introduced with the iPad 3. There are some tablets with more resolution, but that doesn't matter. On a screen this size, you don't need more resolution; as Apple states with Retina, it's a resolution at which you can no longer see the individual pixels. As a result everything looks incredibly sharp and detailed.

Apple iPad Air
The screen's the same, but it's one of the best so we're not complaining

As we've come to expect, the screen is also one of the best quality. Thanks to its IPS panel, viewing angles are superb and you can hold the tablet at pretty much any angle and still see what's onscreen clearly. It's bright, too, making it easily usable in pretty much any lighting conditions. Image quality is still incredibly, too. Colours are rich and vibrant, with dark blacks and bright whites. This really helps bring out the quality and detail in any photo.


Although there's a huge market for third-party iPad cases, Apple also has its own range. As with previous models, the basic accessory is the Smart cover. This attaches magnetically to the side of the iPad and protects the screen only. When the case is closed across the screen, the iPad goes into standby; opening the case turns it back on again.

The Smart Cover folds back into a triangle shape, which you can use to prop the iPad Air up at an angle so you can type on it more comfortably. Swivel the iPad round and you can stand the iPad at a slight angle, making it easier to watch movies. At £35, it's not particularly cheap, but it's extremely well made and, given it protects the screen, it's an essential if you don’t want a carry case. There's a wide-range of colours available, so you're bound to find one that you like.

Apple also has the new Smart Case. This operates in the same way as the Smart Cover, but also has a rigid back to protect the iPad Air if you carry it around a lot. At £65 it's fairly expensive, but it's made from leather and is extremely well made. More importantly, it doesn't add too much bulk or weight to the iPad Air, so you can still use your tablet comfortably in one hand. If you do a lot of travelling or want to carry your iPad around every day, the iPad Air Smart Case is a great way to protect it. If you're mostly using at home, the lighter, cheaper Smart Cover is probably a better choice.

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