iPad Air: Everything You Need To Know About Apple's Svelte New Tablet

Apple just announced iPad Air, the fifth in its line of (nearly) 10-inch tablets. Last year, Apple's big boy got a perfunctory upgrade, but the iPad adds a new super-skinny design this time around with a batch of significant improvements that will carry the iPad through the next year. Here's what you need to know.

Design

The rumours about an iPad redesign were true, but it's even slicker than we thought. iPad Air features the first significant update to the tablet's hardware since the iPad 3, which added a retina display and an increase in heft due to a hulking battery.

The new iPad is 44 per cent thinner than its predecessor, with a flat-backed design resembling the iPad Mini. It basically looks like a big iPad Mini. Very handsome. It's also way lighter, weighing just 453 grams, compared to around 650 grams before. Apple says it's the lightest full-size tablet in the world.

The iPad's 9.7-inch screen size and 2048×1536 resolution remain unchanged. It will be available in silver and space grey.

Guts

Inside, the new iPad runs the already burly new A7 system chip in the iPhone 5s. According to Apple, the new chip makes iPad Air up to 8x faster processor performance and 72x faster graphics performance.

The new chip, as we noted before, introduces support for 64-bit architecture — basically future-proofing for higher RAM devices. The CPU features an underlying improvement in architecture (ARMv8 from ARMv7, if you must know), which will greatly improve battery life.

The A7's new M7 Motion Coprocessor, which manages inputs from the iPads built-in sensors. Although, we're less sure what we'd use this extra power for given that you're less likely to go for a run with iPad in tow.

Apple now has Wi-Fi with MIMO that's two times faster than before.

Camera

The iPad's camera has always lagged behind the camera on the iPhone, and it won't catch up this year — not on resolution at least. It's not clear if this is the image sensor is the new one that's on the iPhone 5s or an older model design. The 1.2-megapixel 720p FaceTime camera has been upgraded to a camera that can shoot in Full HD 1920x1080 resolution.

iPad Air will also comes with dual built-in microphones that will help improve the audio quality.

Battery Life

As we noted before, the iPad 3 was big one because it needed a big battery to power that beautiful retina display. Now that the iPad is a a skinny slate, the concern would be that battery life might suffer if Apple used a smaller battery. According to Phil Schiller the iPad Air will get 10 hours, just like before. Impressive.

Smart Cases

Apple will now offer colourful Smart Cover cases that cover the whole iPad. They'll cost $99 for the iPad Air.

Pricing

The iPad Air will be available on November 1 and starts at $598 in Australia for the Wi-Fi models. The Wi-Fi + 3G models will start at $749 for the 16GB model. There are no pre-orders this time.

The iPad 2 will remain in the line at $449, which is really expensive for what is now an older tablet.


Comments

    I'm curious as to why they removed the ipad3 and kept ipad2. Is this because the iPad air isn't all that different? I mean, it certainly looks like a big upgrade when you go to apple's website and compare the current iPad with the "previous" version. Just seems really lame.

      Because cheap people and schools do not care about retina. All the ipads bought by the schools I work at have been 2's. Smart decision in my opinion.

      Not sure how much component recycling is going on, but one does wonder...

      The 3rd and 4th generation iPads use SoCs (A5X and A6X respectively) that are not used in any other Apple product. The iPad 2 uses the A5, as does the low-spec iPad mini, the current-gen iPod touch and the Apple TV. The new iPad, the new mini and the iPhone 5s now all use the A7. It's all about minimising the number of different chips they have to produce.

      They probably removed it for the same reason that they removed the iPhone 5 and kept the iPhone 4S, to make it look more impressive. I think this is more evident for the phones, where the 5c and the 5 are exactly the same thing...

      I asked a Mac fan today why this was the case. He says that the non-Retina iPads crap all over the new ones in terms of battery life, and that Apple's reasoning was to give people a choice between battery life and a good screen. As @darren said, it's good for schools who don't care about retina displays.

      However, I still think this is nonsense, and think that it's purely a "relative" thing -- the current iPad is going to look better on paper and in the hand, compared to the 2-generations-ago model, so the "ooh shiny and new" factor is going to be greater.

      But you still feel kinda pissed, buying a new iPad, only to have it discontinued about a year later, and the model you upgraded from then, is still relevant. Sure the support will still be there, but for how long? Will they bring back the second-last generation iPad when the 2-generations-ago model becomes obsolete?

    My biggest gripe is that the iPad 2 is only $150 less than this new iPad. Doesn't seem like a huge saving for such an old device, relatively speaking.

    Significant improvements?? It's alot lighter and has a new CPU, that's pretty much it.. Oh and the sales pitch of 8x faster and 72x better graphics - that's compared to the ORIGINAL iPad. Come on, enough advertising already.. I'll stick with my iPad 4.

      This will be great for me. I'm upgrading from the original but if I had an iPad 4 I'd stick with it too.

      I'm sticking with my iPad 3 for another year as well, though the improvements are fairly significant. maintaining the best parts of the tablet while reducing weight is no easy feat, and it's pretty awesome that they didnt have to beef up the gpu to run that screen, which is probably a massive saving on battery as a result. But I'm ok with not needing to upgrade. Plenty of people will have reason to, but I will get a longer life out of my gadget!

    most of those "features" are meh. A7 a nice addition, but was there any word on RAM increase or SSD storage? Don't care about the weight as current generations are not a problem.
    would like a 13" tablet, but I guess I'll have to look at what others are offering instead.

      What would you actually use a 13" tablet for? I can't imagine they'd be even slightly convenient.

    $99 for the case? WTF

      ...and Apple already sells colourful smart cases that cover the whole device, for much less than $99...

    I've upgraded from the iPhone 5 to the 5S and am very happy with it. Great bump in speed and excellent responsiveness with Siri which I use a lot. The iPad air should have much better responsiveness too. For more on how I use Siri you can check out my top 15 commands to save you an hour a week on this link : http://bit.ly/15Irkc5

    Half a kg for the new air still sounds a bit heavy - I like reading in bed and holding up half a kg while lying down doesn't cut it for me. But I'll suspend judgement until the actual iPad Air arrives and then make up my mind.

    Last edited 23/10/13 11:21 am

    The new iPad highlights what is wrong with Apple mobile products at the moment - sacrificing battery size to make it "thin and light". It's why for the first time since their inception I haven't picked up an iPhone or iPad on release day. I'd rather deal with carrying a few extra grams of useful weight than carrying nothing but dead weight when my battery sputters out by midday.

      My guess is their will be 3rd party battery cases produced for it that will make it around the same weight as the last gen with a non-battery case and you will then get far longer life out of it than the last generation.

    Not saying a case can't be worth $99 but THAT case is not worth $99.

    I'd be interested if it was running OSX, instead of iOS (obviously with an intel x86-64 processor)

    So where the hell is 802.11ac???????

    OMG that would have guaranteed my purchase!

      Not sure you would notice any difference in internet speeds with AC unless you're on google fibre. Copying over your network maybe but I would imagine that would exceed the speed of the storage on the device anyway so you would still be bottle necked.

    Ironically, literally 'everything you need to know' is contained right within your headline: it's called the Air, it's svelte, and...well, that about covers it.

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