Apple’s new iPad Air hit stores on November 1, 2013. The new tablet boasts “a ton of advanced technology” in a slimmed design with 24-percent reduction in overall volume from previous models. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best features of the iPad Air – most of them in comparison to the (non “Air”) iPad 2, but also how the ‘Air’ has improved upon the 3rd and 4th generation iPads that have been discontinued.
First, let’s mention a few characteristics Apple’s iPad Air that may not be the tablet’s best features, but are definitely things you want to know. The tablet is available in two colors: Silver and Space Gray. Battery usage is rated up to 10 hours per full charge on a smaller battery than in previous iPads. And, the iPad Air comes with 90 days complimentary Apple technical support over the phone, and a one-year limited warranty on the device.
In terms of pricing, the iPad Air starts at $499 with 16GB storage. With Cellular connectivity (available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon), the same model is priced quite a bit higher at $629. iPad Air is also available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB flash storage capacities. The priciest iPad Air is the 128GB model with Wi-Fi and Cellular listed at $929 US.
1. Apple A7 System on a Chip
The iPad Air features Apple’s newest A7 System on a Chip (SoC). The A7, also used in the iPad mini and iPhone 5s, is built on 64-bit architecture and performs roughly twice as fast and with twice the amount graphics power as the A6X used in the 4th-Generation iPad. The new Apple Cyclone Central Processing Unit (CPU) ranges from 1.3Ghz to 1.4Ghz, much faster than the 1Ghz ARM Cortex-A9 used in the 3rd-Generation and iPad 2. The iPad Air also incorporates the M7 motion coprocessor to measure iPad motion using gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass data. The coprocessor was engineered for specific tasks to free up the A7 to perform other functions.
2. Two-Antennas & MIMO Wireless Technology
The iPad Air features two built-in antennas and MIMO technology to improve bandwidth in wireless communications. MIMO, which stands for multiple-input and multiple-output, is rated with 2-times faster Wi-Fi than previous models. For cellular plans, the iPad Air supports more LTE bands than before (see data carriers mentioned in introduction above).
3. Retina Display Resolution
If you’re looking to upgrade your iPad 2 to the iPad Air, you’ll be pleased to know the display is 2-times sharper. The iPad 2’s display (pre-Retina) was fairly sharp for its time with a resolution of 1024×768 (132ppi). But the Retina display, introduced to the iPad line in the 3rd-Generation, boasts 2048×1536 (264ppi), exactly twice the resolution. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the size of the iPad display, which has remained the same at 9.7-inches (250mm) since the 1st iPad was released in 2010.
iPad Air’s cameras remain the same as the 3rd and 4th-Generation iPad models, but are a huge improvement from the iPad 2. Instead of a back camera shooting video at a maximum of 720p and 960×720 still photos, the iPad Air back camera gives you 1080p video and 5 megapixel still photos. On the front or “FaceTime” camera, the iPad Air delivers 720p video and 1.2 megapixel photos. That’s a big improvement over the VGA-resolution (640×480) photos and videos in the iPad 2.
5. 24-Percent Less Overall Volume
The Apple iPad Air weighs just one pound — almost half-a-pound less than the 4th generation iPad that weighs 1.44lbs. I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about the weight of an iPad, but nevertheless it’s an improvement that many users will appreciate. Besides the overall weight (which, by the way, can be quickly negated depending on what case you choose), the iPad Air is also 20-percent thinner than the 4th-gen iPad, measuring just 0.29-inches (7.5mm) high.
If you waited to upgrade your iPad 2, the iPad Air will be a huge improvement. Essentially, you’ll be getting a tablet that’s twice as powerful. If you own a 3rd or 4th-Generation iPad, not so much. Besides getting a tablet that’s half a pound lighter, and slight improvements in processing and graphics power, there isn’t much more to boast about except the simple satisfaction you might get by telling everyone you’ve got the iPad Air.
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.