Apple iPad Air review: Apple iPad Air

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 38 user reviews

The Good Screen; speed; size; weight; battery life.

The Bad Price.

The Bottom Line Apple makes the best tablets, and the sleeker, lighter iPad Air maintains its lead over the competition.

8.8 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Nov '13

If you want a tablet and you have the money, one of the new iPads is the best way to go. The main choice you have to make is whether to buy the big one, starting at £399 (the iPad Air I'm reviewing here), or the little one starting at £319 (the iPad mini with retina display). Personally, I prefer the small one, but this big one is good too. My suggestion: pop along to a shop and try both out to see which you prefer.

If you've got the cash, it's worth considering one of the new iPads.

Compared to the version it replaces, it's the weight of the iPad Air that makes the most difference. The new Air is around 180g lighter than the last big iPad, which doesn't sound like much, but when you hold the old one and the new one in two hands to compare them, you really notice it. The weight is different enough that there's a case to be made for buying the new model even if you already own one of the past versions.

64-bit chip

Another reason to upgrade is the speed of the Air. My third-generation iPad, for example, is starting to struggle with even some simple browsing tasks. When I try and read one of Buzzfeed's infamous lists of GIFs, it wheezes so badly it's hard to enjoy seeing a woman being attacked by a toilet paper leaf blower. That's just not acceptable in 2013. With the iPad Air, the picture of a cat playing Jenga on this post is buttery smooth. I'm sure we can all agree that's a good use of £399.

The new iPad is smaller than the previous model and two sides of the bezel have been shrunk.

Inside is a 64-bit chip that's the same as the one used in the iPhone 5S (although Apple has actually speeded it up slightly for the iPad). 64-bit chips in tablets may have a tangible benefit for you and I one day, but today it doesn't mean much apart from the fact that it is really fast.

One of the reasons the iPad Air is lighter than the model it replaces is because it's a bit smaller. Two sides of the bezel have been shrunk, which means that when you hold the tablet, your thumb may rest on the screen. The good news is that the iPad ignores it if it's at the edge of the screen, so you don't end up accidentally turning the page of a book, for example.

Camera, battery and apps

Other than that, it's business as usual, which is no bad thing. The screen is amazing, just like previous models. The rear camera is fine -- not as good as the best smart phones, but nothing dreadful -- and the front camera is slightly better in low light if you're video calling. Battery life is amazing -- Apple claims 10 hours of use, but it lasted 13 hours in CNET's battery test.

Apple says there are over 400,000 apps for iPad, and it certainly feels that way. For me though, the iPad's best feature is how easy it is to buy and download loads of different bits of music, TV, movies and books, and there's nothing different here. If you start downloading lots of movies, you might find yourself short on space.

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