by Joe White
October 30, 2013
Orders for Apple's iPad Air are set to launch on Nov. 1, and as such, the first reviews are in for the new, slimmer 9.7-inch tablet. It's no surprise that all of these reviews are positive, claiming that the fifth-generation iPad is the "best" yet. Below, we take a look at the praise (and minor criticism) on offer in more depth. Form factor is a recurrent point of praise in the reviews published thus far, and while easy on the eyes, reviewers also note that the iPad Air's slimmer, lighter look means the new iPad is more comfortable to use. Brad Molen with Engadget notes: "Surprise: the iPad Air is the best iPad we’ve reviewed. In addition, though, it’s also the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we’ve ever tested. Not every manufacturer can produce a thin and light device without also making it feel cheap or flimsy, but Apple nailed it." David Pogue continues, noting that "making the iPad smaller, lighter, and faster without sacrificing battery life or beauty is a tremendous achievement." Indeed, the iPad Air's 10-hour battery life is another aspect of the tablet consistently praised, and critics credit Apple with being able to put together a 9.7-inch tablet that's more powerful, slimmer, and lighter, yet still maintains its day-long battery power. Walt Mossberg's review, published by The Wall Street Journal, elaborates on this point:
The battery performance of the iPad Air simply blew me away. In my tough tablet battery test, where I disable automatic screen dimming and other power-saving features, and combine video playback from the device’s memory with leaving Wi-Fi on and email working at normal settings, the iPad has almost always met its claims and beat competitors by a wide margin. But this new iPad Air just kept going, clocking a battery life of 12 hours and 13 minutes, which exceeded Apple’s claim by more than 20%. The company says its A7 chip, combined with the fact it controls its own operating system, gives the new iPad the ability to tailor under-the-hood processes so unneeded drains on the battery can be minimized.He adds: "Bottom line: If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down." The absence of Touch ID on either the iPad Air or iPad mini had us disappointed, and the reviews of Apple's new 9.7-inch tablet pick up on this, too. It's not a huge problem, however, as Tim Stevens with CNET notes: "Though it brings no new functionality to the table, and we can’t help being disappointed about the lack of Touch ID, the performance increase and solid battery life show that progress is still being made on the inside." He goes on to praise changes made to the iPad's exterior design, continuing:
It’s the new exterior design, however, that really impresses. The iPad Air is thinner than any tablet this size deserves to be, and lighter, too. The old iPad always felt surprisingly hefty. This one, compellingly lithe.Finally, in a remark particularly applicable to those who ditched the 9.7-inch iPad for Apple's 7.9-inch iPad mini, last year, Darrell Ethrington with TechCrunch explains:
Having used primarily an iPad mini for the past year, there’s no question that coming back to the 9.7-inch Retina display was an uplifting experience. It felt a little like getting your prescription adjusted and realizing you’ve been seeing everything poorly for a long time. Video shines on the iPad Air, as does image-rich content like comic books and photos.He adds, however: "The Smart Case makes the iPad Air feel quite a bit more bulky, in my opinion, and is fairly difficult to get off once its [sic] on. On the other hand, it’s definitely more protective than the Smart Case [sic, Cover], and it’s still relatively svelte. Apple has also nailed its leather case designs in terms of putting out a product that feels very high quality, and that’s what they’ve done here, too." For more information on iPad Air accessories, be sure to see our roundup. Have the above reviews changed your opinion of the iPad Air? Are you planning on picking one up on Nov. 1, or are you instead going to head down to an Apple Store and go hands-on with the new 9.7-inch tablet before making your decision? As a reminder, the iPad mini with Retina display is indeed in the pipeline, and is set to launch "later in November," though supplies are said to be particularly low. See also: Today's Best Apps: Bad Candy, Nike SB, Slomo+ And Number Rush: Power Surge, Quirky App Of The Day: Keep Calm And Chive On In ChiveSpy, and Slow Fast Slow Allows You To Do Some Crazy Things To Your Videos.