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iPad Air is the best money can buy

December 23, 2013 10:59 IST

iPad Air is the best money can buy

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The first time I picked up the iPad Air, I was reminded of a movie from childhood I Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Just as the scientist in the movie shrunk his children to the size of insects, Apple, too, has shrunk the regular iPad. Thus, the iPad Air is thinner in width and depth and considerably lighter and easier to hold.

But its screen is identical to that of its predecessor, the fourth-generation iPad, at 9.7 inch. The Air is about 25 per cent lighter (469g for the Wi-Fi Air vis-a-vis 652g for its 4th generation equivalent), 20 per cent slimmer (the Air is 7.5-mm thick while its predecessor’s depth is 9.4 mm) and 10 per cent narrower (the Air’s width is 169.5 mm to the iPad 4’s 185.7 mm).

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Image: Rami Shamis celebrates outside the Apple Store on New York's Fifth Avenue after buying an iPad Air.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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The changed dimensions of the Air means that peripherals such as keyboard cases from previous iPads may become redundant. The placement of the buttons on the Air is identical to its predecessor - power/lock button on top, mute and volume buttons on the right, the Lightning port at the bottom and the headphones jack on top.

Since the review unit was a Wi-Fi model, I assume the Nano SIM slot would be on the left in the cellular models. The buttons on the Air get the metal treatment; so, instead of the black plastic buttons of its predecessor, we have shiny metal ones.

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Image: Boxes of iPad Air tablets on display at the Apple store in San Francisco, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters
Tags: Air , SIM

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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Also, the Apple logo on our space grey review unit was in silver, unlike the black logo on the back of my fourth generation iPad. One noticeable difference was the placement of the speakers - two of them at the bottom, flanking the Lightning port, though I did not find much difference in the sound quality between my old iPad and the Air.

The changes made to the iPad Air aren’t skin-deep. It also gets the 64-bit A7 processor and the low-powered M7 motion co-processor, just like the iPhone 5s. And like the latest iPhone, the Air runs iOS 7. But the iPhone 5s has Touch ID, which the Air, sadly, lacks. If Apple’s listening, we won’t mind a Touch ID sensor with the next generation of devices. It’s so much more convenient to verify purchases than putting in complex passwords.

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Image: A child uses an iPad Air tablet at the Apple store in San Francisco, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters
Tags: Air

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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While my old iPad isn’t a laggard in terms of gaming, I prefer using my Google Nexus 7 for because it’s much lighter and easier to hold. Thus, because of the Air’s form factor, I jumped headlong into gaming. And of course the new processor helps every bit.

Real Racing 3, my favourite game on my old iPad, could be played on the Air devoid of sore wrists. And the cars, too, seemed to have become more nimble. Real Steel World Robot Boxing, my current favourite on my Nexus 7, was quite easy to play on the Air (on my old iPad, I generally struggle to hold the tab and make the quick moves). What’s more, when some friends came over, we managed to beat each other to pulp on multiplayer mode. And hooking up the iPad and the Nexus 7 over the Wi-Fi was a cakewalk.

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Image: A customer holds iPad Air tablet inside the Apple Store on New York's Fifth Avenue.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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Watching movies on Air is as satisfying as on my old iPad. But obviously the former is preferable because it’s lighter. And the screen is quite legible even in direct sunlight. The Air retains the cameras of its predecessor but iOS 7 does have more options for the iSight camera, which is capable of recording videos in Full HD.

Shots taken with the five-megapixel (MP) iSight camera outdoors are very good but the quality dips a bit indoors. It’s a pity Apple doesn’t provide an LED flash for a quite capable camera though it pretty fast to snap pictures with so big a tablet. The front camera is good enough for Facetime.

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Image: An employee carries a stack of iPad Air tablets inside the Apple Store on New York's Fifth Avenue.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters
Tags: LED , Full HD , Air

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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Productivity apps such as Pages (other Apple productivity apps that come gratis with all new iOS 7 devices are iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, Numbers and Keynote), were also easy to work with on the Air, though I could not carry the tab around in my old keyboard case (since then, Logitech has come out with a line of accessories for the iPad Air, though this means an added expense). The bundled apps make a very good value proposition.

The Air also gets an improved Wi-Fi circuitry, which didn’t make much of a difference while using it with my MTNL-provided router. I assume in low signal areas it would be a boon.

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Image: Members of the media look at the iPad Air during an Apple event in San Francisco, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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The Air has a microphone on the back of the device, which helps in cutting out the noise during Facetime calls. There was no noticeable difference using Facetime indoors on the Air and my old iPad, but a session outdoors proved that indeed my voice was clearer to the person I had called.

One would assume with Apple having to shrink all its components for the Air, including the battery, battery life would take a hit. But we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that the Air’s battery lasted for nearly as long as my old iPad.

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Image: iPad Air on display during an Apple event in San Francisco, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tags: Air , Facetime

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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In conclusion, would I put my money down for a shiny new iPad Air? The answer is no, but that’s because I already have the 2013 iPad. If I were, to say, own the original iPad, the Air is a considerable improvement over that. And if I was in the market for a tablet, this is the best money can buy. Perfection does come at a price.

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Image: A collection of iPad Smart Covers are seen at the Apple store in San Francisco, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters
Tags: Air

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iPad Air is the best money can buy

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Specifications

Price: Rs 35,900 onwards

Screen: 9.7-inch, 1536 x 2048 pixels at 264 ppi

Weight: 469 g

OS: iOS 7

RAM: 1GB

Processor: 1.3 Ghz, dual core

Memory: 16GB internal, non-expandable

Camera (rear/front): 5MP/1.2MP

Battery life: up to 10 hours (rated)


Image: Employees help customers buying iPad Air tablets inside the Apple Store on New York's Fifth Avenue.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters
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