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