AIR TIME! Our expert cosies up with the new top-end iPad
The original fondleslab - now even slabbier. How old's yours?
Walking on Air
The other main change, of course, is the new 64-bit A7 processor. This has the same 1.4GHz clock speed as the A6 processor used in the Pad 4, but a quick check with GeekBench 3 registered a score of 2683.
The older GeekBench 2 rated the Air at 2378, compared to 1766 for the iPad 4. That’s certainly not the 2x increase claimed by Apple, but it’s still a healthy step up. Having said that, my iPad 3 has always seemed snappy enough to handle every app or game that I’ve ever thrown at it, so the extra performance on offer in the iPad Air isn’t noticeable most of the time.
Skinniest iPad yet - but not the thinnest tablet ever made
It does, however, give the iPad Air scope to flex its muscles with new games and apps in the future. I was somewhat flabbergasted when Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was released for the iPad a few months ago, so it’s mouth-watering to imagine what the iPad Air will be able to do with the extra performance provided by the A7 processor.
One thing that Apple didn’t make a big fuss about was the battery life of the iPad Air – the company is merely commenting that the Air stays at around 10 hours. In fact, the iPad Air gave me a full 10 hours of streaming video using BBC iPlayer, compared to about eight for my iPad 3. You could probably squeeze another hour out of it if you’re not hammering the Wi-Fi non-stop.
One other minor change I also appreciated was the addition of twin-aerial MIMO for the iPad’s 802.11n Wi-Fi. One result: the iPad Air didn’t keep dropping the signal in the Wi-Fi deadspot in my office, as my iPad 3 does on a regular basis.
The new iPad is as tall as the old one, but rather less wide
It’s annoying, though, that Apple hasn’t upgraded the iPad’s Wi-Fi to 802.11ac as it has done with the latest Mac models. There’s no change to the 5MP rear camera or 1.2MP front camera, either, adding to the impression that Apple is holding back on a number of features for use in future upgrades.
But at least it didn’t increase the price, so I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. The 16GB Wi-Fi model still starts at £399, with the 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models priced at 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models priced at £479, £559 and £639. As before, the cellular models simply add £100 to those prices.
Those prices have been fairly constant for a few years now, and by now I’d have expected the £399 model to provide 32GB of storage – which would allow me to cram my entire iTunes library onto it at last.
Geekbench 3 results: 52 per cent higher than 2012’s iPad 4
I’m also rather unimpressed to see that the iPad 2, which remains on sale as Apple’s "low-cost" option, still starts at £329 – £70 less than the Air. The iPad 2 is approaching its third birthday and its pre-Retina, 1024 x 768 display just isn’t up to scratch at that price.
And, of course, there are those perennial little iPad niggles that we all like to complain about: the lack of built-in HDMI, USB or memory card slots, and the expensive adaptors that Apple sells to overcome the connectivity limitations that it imposed in the first place. Those limitations haven’t stopped Apple selling 170 million iPads so far, so they’re probably not going to make any difference this time either.
The Reg Verdict
Apple always likes to talk about the “magical” experience of using the iPad, and holding the iPad Air in my hands does remind me of what it was like when the very first iPad was launched. I can understand why the fanbois who already own the iPad 4 weren’t tempted to queue overnight to buy the iPad Air, but people like me who have an older iPad may well find the urge to upgrade hard to resist this Christmas. ®
Thanks to the Square Group for lending us a review unit