iPad Air review - Fantastic value now just £319
Processor: Dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A7, Screen size: 9.7in, Screen resolution: 2,048x1,536, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 16/32/64/128GB, Wireless data: 4G (optional), Size: 240x169.5x7.5mm, Weight: 469g, Operating system: iOS 7.1
The iPad Air is no longer Apple's top-end tablet, thanks to the release of new iPad Air 2. The original Air may not be top dog but the price has been sliced by £80 down to £319, pretty good for a device that's only a year old and still attracts attention for its slender design. In fact at this price we're even more impressed with the Air than we were when it launched 12 months ago.
Adopting 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. The new iPad Air 2 is lighter still admittedly, down to 437g, but the 32g drop isn't anywhere like as radical.
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 from 9mm to 7.5mm (a 16 per cent reduction), while height remains roughly the same. The newer model slims down again to just 6.1mm, but the other dimensions remain the same.
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, laongside its new sibling, is the best-looking tablet around. 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.
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 incredible, too. Colours are rich and vibrant, with dark blacks and bright whites. This really helps bring out the quality and detail in any photo.
One surprising omission from the iPad Air was the lack of the TouchID fingerprint reader, which is now included on the new iPad Air 2. Currently this reader is just used to unlock the phone and make app store purchases, but the long-term play would seem to be to use this technology for authentication for a wide-variety of applications, such as online payments. As it stands, the iPad Air just has a traditional Home button; it's not a big loss day-to-day. If you really want Touch ID then you'll have to spend the extra £80 for the Air 2.