It's hard to believe but it’s been less than four years since Apple released the iPad, opening the door to an entirely new market of portable devices that, along with smartphones, has eroded the traditional PC industry in a way that most people would have never imagined a few short years ago.

Apple iPad Air - $499+

  • 9.7" 2048 x 1536 IPS LCD display (264 ppi)
  • Apple A7 CPU, M7 coprocessor
  • 1.3 GHz dual-core CPU, PowerVR G6430 GPU
  • 16 GB - 128 GB storage
  • 5 MP rear camera, 1.2 MP front camera
  • 32.3 WHr 2-cell battery
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n dual channel, LTE available, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Apple iOS 7
  • 469 grams, 7.5mm thick

The iPad is now on its fifth iteration and with it comes a new name, the iPad Air. True to the moniker, Apple’s latest full-size tablet has been put on a significant diet. It retains the same 9.7-inch display but with a bezel that is 43 percent thinner along with a 20 percent reduction in overall thickness.

Measuring just 7.5mm thin, it’s actually a tiny bit thinner than the iPhone 5s and at a weight of 1 pound even, it’s the lightest full-size tablet currently in the market. Full dimensions are 9.4 inches (240mm) x 6.6 inches (1.695mm) x 0.29 inch (7.5mm) for the Wi-Fi only version we have on hand today. Cellular models feature identical measurements but weigh a hair more at 1.05 pounds.

Design and Overall Impressions

The iPad Air is still instantly recognizable as an iPad, with the redesign following many cues first introduced on the smaller iPad mini. Compared to previous generations, the iPad Air feels better in the hands due to the reduction in weight and more rounded corners.

It feels much like going from the bulky iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5, the Air feels substantially lighter as if it was a dummy device (it's obviously not) and yet without the compromise of feeling cheap or that it could break at a moment’s notice. If you’ve ever held a full-sized tablet for any length of time in front of you, you’ll immediately appreciate the lighter Air.

The front of the iPad Air looks no different from previous models save for the narrower bezels. As previous alluded to, the same 9.7-inch IPS display returns with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 (264 PPI) and fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. Above the display is a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera capable of 720p HD video while the home button sits centered below the screen.

One of the major disappointments with the iPad Air is the lack of Touch ID, Apple’s new fingerprint reader technology embedded into the home button on the iPhone 5s. Pretty much everyone expected this feature to carry over to the new iPads but clearly Cupertino had other plans. No official reason for Touch ID being MIA has been given, although it's been rumored that Apple had to keep all inventory of the fingerprint scanner to the 5s as to avoid delays, also giving them some extra room to update the iPad Air sometime in 2014.

Examining the perimeter of the iPad Air reveals other subtle changes. Starting at the bottom, we find the Lightning port that debuted on the 4th-gen iPad. Unlike last year’s model, however, it’s flanked by two stereo speakers – a first for the iPad. Unfortunately, the speakers are both on the bottom of the iPad which does little for providing true stereo audio when using the tablet in landscape mode as you would when watching a movie or TV show.

Across the top of the Air is a headphone jack, microphone and power button – in that order from left to right. The left edge of the iPad is bare with the metal volume buttons and the mute /rotation lock located on the right side.

Around back we find a 5-megapixel camera, another microphone and the obligatory Apple logo / mirror for selfies mixed in with the traditional Apple aluminum shell. I was again disappointed in the fact that Apple hasn’t upgraded the rear camera on the iPad to match the one found on the iPhone. The camera is essentially the same that debuted on the third generation iPad over a year and a half ago and there still isn’t a flash to assist in low light conditions.

Not that I’d ever be caught dead using a tablet as my primary camera out in public, but I’ve seen many people guilty of this. I can’t help but chuckle a bit but it’s these very people that would benefit the most from a rear camera upgrade on the iPad Air.

Interestingly enough, I noticed that Apple no longer stamps the back of the iPad with the tablet’s storage capacity. IAnd speaking of capacity, both the Wi-Fi only and cellular-enabled Airs are available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities ranging in price from $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model to $929 for the 128GB cellular variant.