Apple Ipad Air Review: The Great Master

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Apple Ipad Air in Hand
Apple Ipad Air

Our one worry about a new iPad was, where could Apple go? After all, with the iPad 4 it already had a slim, light tablet with a high-resolution screen. All fears that improvements would be few or minor were dissipated the second we picked up the iPad Air.

iPad Air Build/Quality:

Ditching the numbering system and going for the Air moniker used by the company's super-light laptops really makes sense here, as the iPad Air is staggeringly light. At just 469g (Wi-Fi version) it's 183g lighter than the 652g iPad 4. That's a staggering 28 per cent lighter, which is even more impressive given the iPad Air has the same size screen. Trust us, you need to get yourself to an Apple store to hold one in the flesh to see how light it really is.

In order to get the weight down, Apple had to make iPad Air smaller and thinner than its predecessor. In simple terms, the Air takes its design cues from the iPad Mini with its thinner bezel and slimmer case. It shouldn't be underestimated how much work this takes, as Apple's managed to make the iPad Air a lot smaller than its predecessor, reducing width from 188mm to 169.5mm (a 10 per cent reduction) and depth rom 9mm to 7.5mm (a 16 per cent reduction), while height remains roughly the same.

The iPad Air is 28 per cent lighter than the iPad 4 and a lot smaller As we've come to expect from Apple, the iPad Air is made from a single piece of aluminium, with a glass front. Available in Space Grey, and White to match the colours of the iPhone 5S, the iPad Air is the most attractive tablet out there. More than that it also feels extremely tough and durable thanks to its metal construction.

iPad Air Screen:

Although the iPad Air still has the same size 9.7in screen as used in all full-size iPads since the original, the reduction in size of the case means that it looks bigger. That's no bad thing, as the screen is the most important thing about a tablet. People has kept the same 2,048x1,536 Retina resolution, originally introduced with the iPad 3. There are some tablets with more resolution, but that doesn't matter. On a screen this size, you don't need more resolution; as Apple states with Retina, it's a resolution at which you can no longer see the individual pixels. As a result everything looks incredibly sharp and detailed.

The screen's the same, but it's one of the best so we're not complaining As we've come to expect, the screen is also one of the best quality. Thanks to its IPS panel, viewing angles are superb and you can hold the tablet at pretty much any angle and still see what's onscreen clearly. It's bright, too, making it easily usable in pretty much any lighting conditions. Image quality is still incredibly, too. Colours are rich and vibrant, with dark blacks and bright whites. This really helps bring out the quality and detail in any photo.

iPad Air Processor:

Apple has used the A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC) that it introduced with the iPhone 5S. It's the first 64-bit mobile processor, which means that the tablet is capable of handling more data and running more complicated apps. For example, we've seen the iPad Air running full CAD software, scaling and editing complex 3D models - that's impressive on a desktop computer, let alone a tablet.

New architecture in the chip also means that there are more and larger general-purpose registers. This means that the processor needs to spend less time dealing with relatively slow system RAM, speeding up apps whether they're 32-bit or 64-bit. The A7 has a dual-core CPU. While there are quad-core CPUs out there, it's not the number of cores that's the most important thing, but how fast each core is and how each core is actually used. With that in mind, the A7 is much faster than any other mobile processor we've ever seen. It managed to complete the Sunspider JavaScript test in just 402ms - that's even faster score than on the iPhone 5S. The slight discrepancy is because for the iPad Air Apple has upped the clock speed from 1.3GHz to 1.4GHz.

A second part of the A7 SoC is an improved graphics core. With previous iPads Apple had to create a special version of its mobile chip with quad-core graphics; so, the iPad 4 got the A6X, which was a modified version of the A6 used in the iPhone 5. This time around, the A7 is plenty powerful enough as it is, so it comes with the regular graphics core as used in the iPhone 5S. Again, this is the fastest that we've ever seen. We ran the 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark, which maxed out on the Ice Storm and Ice Storm Extreme tests. In the Ice Storm Unlimited test it got score of 14,281, which is higher than most devices get in the lower tests. It's safe to say that no matter what game you want to play, the iPad Air is plenty fast enough to handle it.

Needless to say, the iPad Air is lightning fast in day-to-day use. All of the animations in iOS 7 are super-smooth and the system is always responsive. Android may have made a lot of headway in recent years, speeding up its OS and making it smoother, but the iPad and iOS are still out in front. As with the iPhone 5S, the iPad Air also has the M7 motion co-processor. This low-power part receives data from all of the iPad's sensors. This means that the iPad knows if it's stationary, if you're walking or if you're driving. The data can be used in clever ways. For example, if you put your 4G iPad down and there's no signal, the M7 knows it's not moving and there's no point in hunting for a signal. At the moment there aren't many uses for the M7, but with the technology there and open to app developers we expect to see it used more and more.

iPad Air iOS 7:

Apple ships the iPad Air with iOS 7. This is the biggest overhaul to the operating system since it was first unveiled and, in our opinion, the best version. The main point is that iOS 7 is cleaner and easier to use than before. While the main home screen hasn't changed, we love the new pull-up Control Centre menu. Accessible from any app, Control Centre lets you toggle Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Do-not disturb and the rotation lock, as well as adjusting screen brightness. It also provides media playback controls and shortcuts to common apps, including the stopwatch, flashlight, calculator and camera.

We also love the new Today screen in the pull-down Notification Centre menu. This gives you an at-a-glance view of what you've got on today. You can also use the tabs to view Missed or All notifications. With iCloud Keychain now standard, you can synchronize all of your usernames and passwords across all of your iOS and OS X Mavericks devices, which is brilliant if you use Safari on everything.
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