Thinner, smaller, lighter. Launched November 1.
At A Glance
The iPad Air is Apple's fifth generation 9.7-inch tablet introduced at its October 22 media event. The new full-size iPad features an iPad mini-style design with a smaller size, thinner side bezels, and an improved processor. It launched in over 40 countries on November 1.
- 9.7-inch Retina display
- A7 processor
- iOS 7
- Redesigned form factor
- White/Silver and Black/Space Gray
- 16-128 GB capacities
- Priced from $499
The new iPad Air can be summed up with three words that repeatedly appeared in each rumor leading up to its introduction: thinner, smaller, and lighter.
While the third and fourth generation iPads were thicker than Apple's iPad 2, the new fifth-generation iPad uses screen technology that was originally developed for the iPad mini, allowing Apple to shrink its size in all dimensions and give the device its new iPad Air name.
The iPad Air actually takes several design cues from the iPad mini, featuring the same thin size and narrow bezels found in the mini while retaining its 9.7-inch Retina screen. The iPad Air measures in at just 7.5 mm thick and weighs just one pound, marking a significant reduction by all measures.
As with all of Apple's iterative updates, the iPad Air includes improved internals as well. The iPad Air comes with the same A7 chip and M7 motion coprocessor introduced in the iPhone 5s. Connectivity is also improved with faster MIMO Wi-Fi and support for more LTE bands on cellular models.
The iPad Air launched in over 40 countries on November 1. Capacities range from 16 GB to 128 GB, with all models available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular versions and in silver/white and space gray/black color options. Pricing remains the same as the previous generation, starting at $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model and adding $100 for each capacity increment and $130 for cellular connectivity.
Introducing iPad Air
Following Apple's October 22 announcements, press attending the event were given an iPad Air review unit to test. Reviews of the iPad Air have been highly positive, praising the tablet's light weight, solid feel, and fast speed.
Many of the reviews focused on the light weight of the iPad Air, which is nearly half a pound lighter than the fourth-generation iPad. While the Air still has quite a bit more heft than the iPad mini, Engadget declared it to be "the most comfortable 10-inch tablet we've ever used," and Jim Dalrymple of The Loop noted that it was possible to type with two thumbs on the iPad in portrait mode, something that he couldn't do with the previous generation iPad.
Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD highlighted the iPad Air's impressive battery life, which exceeded 10 hours in his tests, and Edward Baig of USA Today called the iPad Air Apple's "most tempting iPad yet," noting that it opened apps and booted up more quickly than the fourth-generation iPad.
AnandTech wrote an in-depth analysis of the iPad Air that includes CPU and GPU benchmarks, ultimately declaring the iPad Air to be "the most significant upgrade to the 9.7-inch iPad in its history."
In Primate Labs' Geekbench 3 benchmarks, the iPad Air's 64-bit A7 chip was revealed to be running at 1.4Ghz, 100Mhz faster than the iPhone 5s at 1.3Ghz. The iPad Air earned a score of 1465 on the single-core benchmark and 2643 on the multi-core benchmark, offering nearly double the performance of the fourth-generation iPad.
Graphics benchmarks revealed similarly impressive gains, with the iPad Air performing 40 to 70 percent better than the fourth-generation iPad.
Apple's iPad Air has improved performance along with 25 percent reduced volume and weight, which has been made possible through indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) display technology.
IGZO offers higher electron mobility than previous a-Si technology, allowing for lower power requirements. According to DisplayMate's Ray Soniera, the iPad Air is 57 percent more power efficient than the previous generation iPad thanks to the use of IGZO.
Soniera's testing also suggested the iPad Air had 23 percent less Reflectance, a 7 percent improvement to Peak Brightness, and a 32 percent better Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light.
How to Buy
Apple launched the iPad Air in a total of 40 countries on November 1. In the U.S., the entry-level Wi-Fi only 16 GB iPad Air costs $499, with a $100 increase for each leap in storage capacity up to 128 GB and an extra $130 for Wi-Fi + Cellular models. Pricing for other individual countries is available on Apple's online store.
While Apple did not offer pre-orders for the iPad Air, the company did, for the first time, allow same day Personal Pickup in the U.S., letting users reserve an iPad Air online when orders began at 12:01 AM Pacific Time. Buyers were then able to pick up their iPads at a local retail store later that same day.
In-store sales began at 8 AM local time across the United States and in various countries, and stock of the iPad Air in multiple locations remained strong following the launch.
Availability has slipped a bit in recent weeks as the iPad Air has proven popular with both holiday shoppers and general purchasers, with Apple's online stores currently quoting shipping estimates of 3-5 or 5-7 business days depending on country.
iPad Air 2
According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is planning to introduce a new iPad Air in 2014, offering an upgraded A8 processor along with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It may launch in the third quarter, possibly in September or October.
An alleged next-generation iPad Air front panel surfaced in mid-April with an integrated display. Currently, the iPad Air uses a separate panel and display but a switch to an integrated front panel and display would reduce the device’s overall thickness, allowing Apple to make the second iPad Air slimmer or include additional components like a larger battery.
While the front panel’s veracity cannot be confirmed, iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens believes the assembly may indeed be legitimate, using a manufacturing process similar to that of the Retina Macbook Pro.
Rumors have also suggested Apple is planning to add a larger iPad to its tablet lineup, which currently comprises the 9.7-inch iPad Air and the 7.9-inch iPad mini. The "iPad Pro" or "iPad Maxi" as it has been called is rumored to include a larger 12.9-inch display, which would be most similar in size to the current 13.3-inch MacBook Air. Based on display panels currently under development in the supply chain, research firm DisplaySearch believes that the larger iPad could ship with a display with a resolution of 2732 x 2048 and 265 pixels-per-inch (ppi).
The display reportedly offers higher pixel density nearing ultra high-definition quality and it will likely adopt many of the design elements offered in the current iPads, like an ultrathin chassis and narrow side bezels. Aside from a larger screen size, not much is known about Apple's larger iPad. According to a research report from Evercore analyst Patrick Wang, Apple's larger iPad may be aimed at the enterprise market. Recent rumors have indicated that the 12.9-inch iPad will launch no earlier than the third quarter of 2014.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple may release the larger 12.9-inch iPad in 2015, but a March report from Digitimes has indicated Apple's iPad Pro plans may be on hold for the foreseeable future.