Apple releases iPad Air

Rick Otto

Apple just released their 5th generation iPad, the iPad Air, on Friday, November 1st.  Now that it's out people are truly getting to see what the 5th generation iPad is like in actual use.  It's clear that even without the release the new iPad had some wonderful improvements over the 4th generation iPad.

When Apple introduced the 5th generation iPad at their iPad event on Oct. 22nd it was announced that the iPad was being renamed to the iPad Air.  This matches the naming used for the MacBook Air and Apple stated that with all the updates to the iPad including the thinner size and lighter weight, a new name was needed.  The iPad is 28% lighter, weighing just 1 pound.  It also is 20% thinner, just .29 inches thick.  The iPad Air is 9.4 inches high and has a width of 6.6 inches.  It has the same 9.7 inch Retina display.  As expected it's processor has been upgraded to the A7 chip, the same processor used in the new iPhone 5S.  It also has the M7 motion coprocessor that was added to the iPhone 5S.  The means that both the processing and graphics performance is 2x what it was on the 4th generation iPad.  It also means that 64 bit architecture has arrived on the new iPad.  Even with the new processor battery life was not sacrificed.  There is still a 10 hour battery life on the iPad Air.  Wi-Fi has also been improved with the addition of a 2nd antenna and MIMO technology.  This results in 2x faster Wi-Fi and the LTE version also has additional bands making it useable in even more locations around the globe.  It seems like we'll need to wait until at least the next generation to see 802.11 ac.  It also comes with iOS 7.  There's also a new Smart Cover and Smart Case available for the iPad Air.  The cameras were also updated. The front-facing Facetime HD camera had a slight update and the rear-racing camera still has 5MP but is updated to have larger pixels, similar to the upgraded camera in the iPhone 5S.

The iPad Air is available in Silver and Space Gray.  It's also available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + LTE versions.  The pricing is the same as in the past.  For the Wi-Fi only it's available for $499, $599, $699, and $799 for the 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions respectively.  The Wi-Fi + LTE version is available for $629, $729, $829, and $929 for the 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions.

Should you upgrade to the iPad Air?  It definitely is a faster, lighter, and thinner iPad.  If you have a recent iPad such as the 4th generation iPad and possibly even 3rd generation iPad I don't believe it's necessary unless you either are an extreme power user or like to own the newest devices when they come out.  Yet if you own a 2nd generation of earlier iPad it's a purchase that may be worthwhile.  If you are running out of storage space on your iPad, even if it's 4th generation you may want to consider the update.  Those wanting a larger screen may also want to upgrade from an iPad Mini to the iPad Air.  Those who wish to change from Android to iOS may be interested along with those who are making their first tablet purchase.  Although thin is nice I don't believe that warrants the new purchase.  Even though it's lighter it's still not super light and may not necessitate a purchase.  That's why I feel that unless you're running out of storage space or have an iPad that's at least 2-3 years old, it may not be necessary to upgrade.  I also expected the addition of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.  I was surprised this was left off and this is something that may arrive with the next generation along with possibly the addition of Wi-Fi 802.11 ac.  Already as each generation of Mac computers is updated, 802.11 ac is added.  It's likely only a matter of time until it arrives on their mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.  The speed bumps are still nice and the addition of 64-bit architecture is nice.  Few apps are taking advantage of the 64-bit architecture at this point but as that changes it may make the iPad Air more attractive.  

Before making any purchase it's also important to look at the 2nd generation iPad Mini.  What do you think of the iPad Air?  Did you purchase one?  We'd like to hear your opinions.

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