Wrap Up: Is This Apple's New Flagship?
The display on the iPad Air is no longer the highest resolution panel found on a tablet but it continues to look as good as ever. I have zero complaints with the IPS display as colors and text were sharp and vivid while brightness remained a strong point. The 4:3 aspect ratio will still cause some to gripe compared to 16:9 offerings that are more suited to video and the outdoor performance isn’t anything to write home about. Either way, I suspect this screen will continue to be used in future iPads as there’s simply nothing wrong with it.
The dual speaker configuration on the iPad Air is a step up from previous generations. Apple still missed the mark with placement, yet audio quality is very good for such a small device. Music remained crystal clear even at maximum volume although the speakers don’t get terribly loud. If you’re serious about your music or movies, a pair of headphones would certainly be an asset.
The Air is also a much cooler running tablet than say, the third generation iPad I last reviewed. I never noticed the new slate getting hot even under heavy loads which says a lot about the efficiency and power draw of the A7 chip.
There’s plenty of performance under the hood and a tablet app ecosystem that goes unrivaled. Redesigning the tablet after the iPad mini was a solid idea and the reduction in weight and slimming of the bezel are my two favorite features.
Off the top of my head, the only things missing on the Air are Touch ID, true stereo speaker placement and an improved rear camera to match the iPhone 5s. Pricing remains at $499 or above, which means you’ll pay a premium compared to most other Android slates.
With all said and done, the iPad Air is a considerable step up from previous generations and possibly the best iPad that Apple has ever released. Note I say possibly because there's also the new iPad mini that just went on sale last week (our review is coming soon). The latest mini is almost identical to the Air internally but put together on a smaller form factor. This changes the equation whereas before the mini was considered the more basic, less expensive tablet, now it's up to par in all respects, including a new base price point of $400.
If you’re looking to pick up a full-sized tablet this holiday season, the iPad should be near the top of your list if Android isn’t a priority for you. In the event you already own an iPad, an upgrade to the Air should be a justifiable investment should you have the third generation tablet or older. If you’re rocking the fourth generation, I would probably stick with it until next year’s model shows up.
Pros: Thinner and lighter, but still solidly built. Great performance with power to spare. Efficient design, runs cooler than previous iPads. iOS 7 is a worthy update and strong app ecosystem.
Cons: No Touch ID. Camera is just ok. iPad mini might give the Air a run for its money.