If you read any of my posts yesterday, you’ll know by now that I got up ridiculously early to go and grab a new iPad yesterday morning. More than 24 hours later, the atmosphere and buzz surrounding that release at the Apple Store has worn off, and I’ve finally had a chance to sit down with it and use it as I would any device. And first impressions are generally very good.
In every way – apart from size – the iPad Air looks like an iPad mini. It’s one of the reasons I decided to go for it. I’ve been living with the iPad mini as my exclusive iPad for around 4 months. Even before that, my 3rd generation iPad was only being used by my kids to watch Netflix and use some awesome education apps. Once I got an Apple TV, it become an unused device. The biggest reason for that was that I favored the smaller form factor of the iPad mini over the iPad 3. Despite my love for the Retina display, it felt heavy and cumbersome. And it wasn’t just the weight. It was the size and shape. Its sharp edges made it uncomfortable to hold for long periods, gaming – despite the graphic superiority – became unpleasant. Apart from reading comics and working on articles, I preferred using the mini for everything. So when the new iPad Air was announced it was almost like the best of both worlds came together. Gone are the sharp edges, it’s lost almost half a pound in weight and is down to just 7.5mm thinness. And it still has the awesome 9.7” Retina, framed by slimmer bezels.
I have to be honest, for the first couple of hours, it was something of a learning curve getting used to the larger size again. Despite the fact that it’s clearly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it’s bigger than the iPad mini I’ve been using for the past 12 months. The mini has its restraints though. Using keyboard cases designed for it was frustrating due to the small and cramped typing experience, and the small, lower resolution display really didn’t lend itself to smaller text sizes often used. Regardless, once I’d played a few games of FIFA 2014 and read a handful of comics, I didn’t need any more convincing. The Air’s display is fantastic, it’s way more immersive than the mini, and is far more comfortable to hold than the iPad 3/4.
One thing I won’t say is that the iPad Air offers a great one-handed experience. It doesn’t. Holding the iPad mini in one hand will always be more comfortable. You’d need hands the size of the Hulk to say that this new 9.7” model was designed to be used one-handedly. I can rest it in one hand, and I can grip it in one hand (with my thumb, pinky and ring finger), but it’s not that comfortable to do. Still, better in that regard than any previous full-size iPad.
I was looking forward to seeing what the A7 could do for the iPad Air. Loading up apps and transitioning between them in the Air is very fluid and responsive. That’s partly down to the A7, but is also down to the way iOS has been coded to go with your touch input first. The one thing that really impressed me was web browsing. Pages loaded so quickly at times that I assumed it was just opening up old versions of pages stored in my history/cache. But it wasn’t. Even when I first opened it to browse our own site and a few others, they loaded ridiculously fast. It could be the processor, but it’s more likely that the MiMo wireless technology using two antennas at once is what’s making it so “zippy”.
I don’t have any opinions on battery life yet, as I’m yet to charge and drain it fully. That will come in time. One area the iPad has improved massively since iPad 3/4 is in the sound department. Having the stereo speakers instead of the single makes a world of difference to audio. I’ll need to test it more in-depth again, but I’d say it was even louder, better balanced and clearer than the iPad mini. Don’t take my word on that yet though, it could just be me in my “new device honeymoon phase”.
Overall, Apple’s addressed every issue I had with my old iPad 3 with the Air. It’s smaller, lighter, thinner and more powerful. Also, it has a smaller battery and won’t take as long to charge and still has a 12W power supply to ensure the fastest charging possible for an iOS device. It’s reminded me of everything I loved about the 3rd and 4th generation models, without bringing any of their hangups.