The Apple iPad Air went on sale in stores today, and that might have you thinking: Is it time for a new iPad? We bought one this morning to help you answer that question. Our conclusion: It’s a worthwhile upgrade, our preliminary tests show.
In fact, the iPad Air ($500, Wi-Fi, 16GB) is just about the ideal tablet. It's as thin and light as it can be, practically speaking. It sets the speed bar as high as any other tablet or phone. And the display remains tops.
The look and feel
"Air" is the right word to describe this tablet. Like its namesake laptop, the MacBook Air, the iPad Air is super thin and light. If you've used the iPad or any other larger tablet for any period of time, you’ll notice the difference right away.
The Air weighs just a pound, compared to the 1.5 pounds of older models. It's just 0.3 inches thick, while the fourth-generation iPad measures 0.37 inches. Apple even managed to make the Air a half-inch narrower by trimming the bezels on the display—without affecting the 9.7-inch screen size.
The iPad Air’s display looks as impressive as that of the fourth-generation iPad. Colors appear realistic and natural. It's one of the brightest displays available, and easy to read in daylight. And the viewing angle is extremely wide in portrait and landscape orientations.
With the new A7 processor, the iPad Air was faster than you probably need a tablet to be—twice as fast, in fact, as the fourth-generation iPad. That's always a good thing, since new apps are sure to come that will take better advantage of all that power.
Compared to the fourth-generation model, the Ice Storm Extreme graphics benchmark ran 50 percent faster overall and the picture looked much smoother in our tests. Apple says it does all this without sacrificing battery power; we're already testing battery life on the iPad Air and will let you know the results soon.
As for Wi-Fi, Apple says the two antennas built into the iPad Air help push wireless performance to twice as fast as the fourth-generation model. In our tests, Wi-Fi was 38 percent faster.