domingo, 27 de outubro de 2013

Apple iPad Air Review

As the holiday season approaches, we have today the announcement of the next iPad iteration. It's not called the iPad 5, it's the iPad Air. I suppose the 'Air' name kind of gives away its main changes over its predecessor: A thinner, lighter, and smaller design. Of course there are other improvements in tow, but the big identifier of the iPad Air is its new chassis. Other changes from the iPad 4 include a faster A7 processor and improved LTE connectivity.

Unfortunately, the rumors that the new iPad was going to include the Touch ID fingerprint scanner  didn't pan out. Perhaps it's for the best; I doubt many people would find it useful on a tablet.

Apple iPad Air Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) Apple iPad 4
 Body   240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm, 469g (Wi-Fi)/ 478g (LTE)  243 x 171 x 7.9mm, 540 (Wi-Fi) / 547 (LTE)  241 x 186 x 9.4mm, 652g (Wi-Fi) / 662g (LTE)
 Display   9.7" IPS LCD 2048 x 1536 (264ppi)  10.1" Super Clear LCD 2560 x 1600 (299ppi)  9.7" IPS LCD 2048 x 1536 (264ppi)
 Connectivity   Wi-Fi, GSM (2G), HSDPA (3G), LTE (4G)  Wi-Fi, GSM (2G), HSDPA (3G), LTE (4G)  Wi-Fi, GSM (2G), HSDPA (3G), LTE (4G)
 Storage  16/32/64 GB, 1 GB RAM  16/32/64 GB, 3 GB RAM 16/32/64 GB, 1 GB RAM
 Camera (Rear)  5 MP with face detection and HDR, 1080p video 8 MP with LED flash, face and smile detection and 1080p video  5 MP with face detection and HDR, 1080p video 
 Camera (Front)  1.2 MP with face detection, 720p video  2 MP, 1080p video 1.2 MP with face detection, 720p video
 OS  iOS 7  Android 4.3 Jelly Bean  iOS 7
 Processor Apple A7 (Dual-core Cyclone @ 1.3GHz + PowerVR G6430) Wi-FI model: Exynos 5 Octa 5420 (Quad-core Cortex-A15 @ 1.9GHz/Quad-core Cortex-A7 @ 1.3GHz + Mali-T628)
LTE model: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974 (Quad-core Krait 400 @ 2.3GHz + Adreno 330)
Apple A6X (Dual-core Swift @ 1.4GHz + PowerVR SGX 554MP4)
 Battery  Non-removable 8,760 mAh  Non-removable 8,220 mAh  Non-removable 11,560 mAh
 Starting Price  $549 $499  Discontinued (Previously $499)
 Included Accessories  S Pen stylus


The iPad Air brings with it the biggest overhaul to the iPad design since the introduction of the iPad 2. This time around, the iPad Air borrows the design of the iPad mini: the edges are no longer tapered, and the back is made of the same aluminium that has always covered the iPad, however, this time it'll be available in either Space Gray or Silver. The front is very similar to previous iPads, except that the side bezels are much narrower, making the device easier to hold.

Numerically speaking, the iPad Air is very slim. Weighing just 469g for the Wi-Fi model, and measuring just 7.5mm thick, the iPad Air joins the ranks of the Xperia Tablet Z. The Tablet Z, while still slightly thinner, is also slightly heavier than the iPad Air. But for the power it packs, the iPad Air is impressively thin and light. Of course, Apple had to reduce battery size significantly from the iPad 4 to reach this level of slimness, however Apple is still claiming 10 hours of straight use, so I assume they're relying either on lower power consumption from the A7 chip and/or on optimizations within iOS 7 to use less power to make that claim. Still, whether the iPad Air can still deliver as much battery life as the iPad 4 with a smaller battery is something we'll only find out when the device is up for sale. 


We still have no benchmarks on the A7 chip used on the iPad Air. Of course, I could just put some iPhone 5s benchmarks here, since it also has the same A7 processor, but I think those could turn out to be inaccurate since I suspect Apple will increase GPU clocks on the iPad Air to handle the tablet's very high resolution. Either way, with a dual-core configuration of Apple's home-brewed Cyclone cores, based on ARMv8 64-bit architecture, at a clock speed of (probably) 1.3GHz, plus a OpenGL ES 3.0-supporting PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, the iPad Air will most probably take the top spot in most benchmarks again. Whether it'll be able to beat those monstrous Snapdragon 800 devices or not, that remains to be seen, but you can be sure it's a huge improvement over last year's iPad 4. 


The iPad Air isn't really so different from the iPad 4. There's the same display (not that I have any complaints about that), same camera module and RAM capacity. But the few changes it makes are very significant. The iPad Air sets itself as one of the thinnest and lightest full-sized tablets on the market, and the reduction of side bezels are very appreciable. As the iPad is a very good form factor for gaming, and Apple knows it, the iPad Air brings notable performance improvements that should maintain the iPad's spot as the fastest ultra-mobile device. 

The iPad Air will be available for sale as of November 1, and will sell for $499 for the 16 GB version. Storage increments will cost $100 and LTE connectivity will cost you a $130 premium. While I believe this to be some pretty steep prices, I think the price is worth what you get. If the iPad Air is too pricey, but you still want the big iPad experience, the (very) old iPad 2 is sticking around for $399 (at which point I'd recommend getting a similarly priced Android tablet, like the Nexus 10, which greatly outperforms the iPad 2 in almost every way), and if you want the iPad experience in a smaller package, you could consider the $399 iPad mini 2 (although there are comparable Android alternatives for much less), or the original iPad mini for $299.  

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