CNET First Look
iPad Air: Thinner, lighter, faster, betterApple made the new iPad Air thinner and lighter, yet it's faster and still offers great battery life. Is it worth the premium price?
Hi, everybody. I'm Tim Stevens, and this is the 5th generation iPad. It's the biggest refresh to the iPads since the 2nd generation came out. In fact, there's such a big change to the design that they've gone ahead and change the name. So, meet the iPad Air. It still has the same 9.7-inch retina display upfront that you've seen in the 4th generation and earlier generations of the iPad. But this generation is critically 20 percent thinner and 40 percent lighter. They may not sound like big numbers but actually, it is a very noticeable difference. When we pick up and hold this tablet, it's incredibly light and incredibly thin-- much more so than before. It really feels great, much more close to the iPad Mini than indeed to the 4th generation and the previous generation iPads that came before. It has the A7 processor which we just saw introduced in the iPhone 5S, which is a 64-bit chip, which gives really great performance. We've actually seen noticeable improvements over the 4th generation iPad, which itself was quite a performer. Games will run really well especially new releases like the latest Infinity Blade and applications will load more quickly and web pages will launch more quickly as well. However, it's not a huge difference from the previous generation. Interestingly, this is the same CPU as found in the iPhone 5S. Previous versions of the iPad have had upgraded versions of the chips. But this is the same version benchmarks proven to be about the same speed as the iPhone 5S. It's not a bad thing by any means. The 5S is indeed a very quick phone but if you're hoping for something even quicker, you're not gonna see that here. Now we've got the same selection of ports says before, which is basically just one port, the lightning port on the bottom of the device. We do now have stereo speakers which is great. However, they're both still located on the bottom of the tablet. We would have like to see one of the speakers situation on the top so that when you hold it sideways and watch a movie you'll get proper stereo separation. The other thing that we would have like t see would be touch ID that something that Apple introduce with the iPhone 5S so that you can just hold your finger on the home button and unlock the phone without having to type in your pin-code. Unfortunately, that's not present here on the iPad Air. You still need to type in your pin-code to unlock the tablet. Now, of course, most iPads never leave the home so security isn't such a big deal. But certainly, when you're buying applications as it does get a little bit annoying to have to type in your password especially if you've gotten used to doing things on the iPhone 5S with just a fingerprint. Overall, we're really big fans of the new iPad Air. It's nothing really that drastically different over the 4th generation. But the thinnest and lightness do make it much more of a portable tablet than before. You barely will even notice it in your bag. In terms of the competition, it certainly does stack up pretty well in terms of specs and performance. However, it's still a fairly expensive tablets starting at $499 for the 16-gigabyte version and going up $100 each as you go to 32, 64 and 128 gigabytes. If you like the 3G or LTE versions of the tablet, you can get those for an additional $130 each, again, pricing very similar to the 4th generation iPad. There are quite a few lower cost tablets on the market, but none offer the sort of quality of design of the iPad Air has. However, there is some new competition for the iPad Air and that is the iPad Mini retina which Apple also introduced. The iPad Mini retina doesn't come to the market to a little bit after the iPad Air. But with the retina display and also the A7 processor inside, we think that Apple's got more competition on the inside than does on the outside of the market right now. Overall again, we're really happy with the iPad Air, we think it's a great tablet. If you've been waiting for an upgrade, I think now is probably the time to do so. But if you've got a 4th generation iPad, the performance difference isn't all that drastic unless you would be looking for something thinner and lighter. You think it probably be happy to stick with that for at least another year. Again, this is Tim Stevens, and this is the Apple iPad Air.