Mobile Technology

Review: Nine months with the iPad Air

Gizmag revisits the iPad Air after nine months
Gizmag revisits the iPad Air after nine months
View 13 Images
Gizmag revisits the iPad Air after nine months
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Gizmag revisits the iPad Air after nine months
The iPad Air has an aluminum unibody finish
2/13
The iPad Air has an aluminum unibody finish
For reading things like comics, you still can't beat a 10-in tablet like the iPad Air
3/13
For reading things like comics, you still can't beat a 10-in tablet like the iPad Air
Though you get some letter-boxing, the iPad Air is also great for video
4/13
Though you get some letter-boxing, the iPad Air is also great for video
The iPad is the new morning newspaper
5/13
The iPad is the new morning newspaper
Weighing just 469 g (1.03 lb), the iPad Air is very light for its size
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Weighing just 469 g (1.03 lb), the iPad Air is very light for its size
The Air is a piece of cake to hold in one hand
7/13
The Air is a piece of cake to hold in one hand
iOS 7 launched with a surprising amount of bugs, but subsequent updates have squashed them
8/13
iOS 7 launched with a surprising amount of bugs, but subsequent updates have squashed them
The iPad Air's 9.7-in screen is 51 percent bigger than the iPad mini's
9/13
The iPad Air's 9.7-in screen is 51 percent bigger than the iPad mini's
The iPad Air still starts at US$500, but you might be able to find it new, lightly used or refurbished for significantly less than that
10/13
The iPad Air still starts at US$500, but you might be able to find it new, lightly used or refurbished for significantly less than that
We'll likely see a new iPad Air this November, but the iPad's list of obvious upgrades is shorter than ever
11/13
We'll likely see a new iPad Air this November, but the iPad's list of obvious upgrades is shorter than ever
Though the Retina iPad mini is another good buy, after nine months we prefer the iPad Air
12/13
Though the Retina iPad mini is another good buy, after nine months we prefer the iPad Air
The iPad Air is 7.5 mm (0.3-in) thick
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The iPad Air is 7.5 mm (0.3-in) thick

With the iPad Air having been on store shelves as long as a child lives in the womb, we thought this would be a good time to take another look at Apple's premiere tablet. Though we reviewed it shortly after getting our hands on it, why not revisit the iPad Air after nine months?

The iPad Air is the first iPad that doesn't have any obvious room for improvement. Of course Apple will improve it before long, likely with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and some other unknown upgrades. But we're getting to the point where the iPad doesn't really need anything else. All the most important areas – weight, thickness, screen quality, battery life and performance – are all in great shape. If you want an iPad that you won't need to upgrade for several years, then the iPad Air is a great place to start.

The iPad is the new morning newspaper
The iPad is the new morning newspaper

At launch, I was a big fan of both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display. If you had asked me then which tablet was better, it would have been a toss-up. Flip a coin and go on my merry way. But after spending months with both tablets, the iPad Air is the one that I keep going back to. It's my pick for the best iPad yet.

Of course the iPad Air's 51 percent bigger screen is nice, but there are also a few other things working in its favor. First, the Air lives up to its name, weighing in at just 469 g (1.03 lb). That's extremely light for its size. Though the smaller Retina iPad mini is 29 percent lighter, the iPad Air feels less dense. It's a piece of cake to hold with one hand.

For reading things like comics, you still can't beat a 10-in tablet like the iPad Air
For reading things like comics, you still can't beat a 10-in tablet like the iPad Air

The other big notch in the iPad Air's belt relates as much to Samsung as it does to Apple. See, the iPad is no longer King of Light, Thin and "Retina." If you want a feathery tablet with an outstanding display, then both the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Galaxy Tab S 10.5 are lighter, with sharper and richer displays, than their iPad equivalents.

That might sound like trouble for the iPad, and, on a hardware level, it could be. But the iPad has an ace up its sleeve, as Android still can't compete with the App Store's tablet app selection. And this carries more weight on a full-sized slate than it does on a smaller one.

See, on a 7- or 8-in tablet screen, smartphone-first apps might not look great, but they're perfectly serviceable. Once you blow that screen up to 10 inches, though, it's a different ballgame. That's where you really need apps that were designed specifically for a tablet. Advantage, iPad.

In this respect, I'd say there's a wider gap between the iPad Air and its Samsung competition than there is between the iPad mini and its competition. It's one more way that the iPad Air has aged well.

Weighing just 469 g (1.03 lb), the iPad Air is very light for its size
Weighing just 469 g (1.03 lb), the iPad Air is very light for its size

There has actually been one big change to the iPad Air since we first reviewed it. You might have noticed that iOS 7 launched with an unusual amount of bugs. For my first few months with the latest iPads, I'd run into at least one browser crash a day (sometimes many more), along with other random crashes. I spend enough time on the web that it was a borderline deal-breaker. And it was especially embarrassing for Apple, as the big iOS 7 update was all about its new "flat" design. It looked like cosmetic appearances had taken priority over fundamental stability in Cupertino.

Fortunately those bugs were squashed with subsequent iOS 7 updates, as I haven't experienced any iPad browser crashes within the last four or five months. We finally have the polished iPad Air software that we thought we were getting last November. No asterisks necessary.

Though you get some letter-boxing, the iPad Air is also great for video
Though you get some letter-boxing, the iPad Air is also great for video

If you're in the market for a new tablet, or are upgrading from an older iPad, then I'm not sure if anything can beat the iPad Air. Nine months after launch, I'd still call it the best full-sized tablet that you can buy – and probably the best tablet period.

The biggest footnote here relates to Apple's release cycle. If the iPad trains move on the same schedule as they did the last couple of years, then you'll be able to buy an updated iPad Air early this November. It will likely have that Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and ring up for the same price points that you'd pay right now. If you can hold out that long, it's at least worth considering.

On the other hand, now is also a good time to keep an eye out for discounts on new, lightly used or refurbished iPad Airs. Keep your peepers peeled, and you might snag one in the US$300-400 range. That's an offer that's hard to refuse, even if the next model is waiting on the horizon.

The iPad Air is available now, still (officially) starting at $500. Still highly recommended, still hard to beat.

The iPad Air has an aluminum unibody finish
The iPad Air has an aluminum unibody finish

If you want a deeper dive on the things that haven't changed, then you can hit up our original iPad Air review from last November. And if you want to see how the iPad stacks up against the competition, you can check out our latest Tablet Comparison Guide.

Product page: Apple

5 comments
Master C
One other best that the Samsung tablets have over iPad, is thier softaware muititasking capabilty on screen. They can have multiple software programs running at once, on screen. This is a huge deal for people. The iPad can't currently do this. Possible it will change with iOS 8.
NickHeidl
Interesting you can buy a TV for the same price as a used Apple, beggers belief that people think you can "snag" a great price when we all know they are hyper inflated prices.
Naim Hammond
Really? "doesn't have any obvious room for improvement"? What about the obvious - a SD card slot? A standard micro-USB instead of this fakakte connector that costs a fortune and breaks way too easily? These two are just off the top of the list in my head.
Rann Xeroxx
And to expand on Naim's list... * Full digitizer * Flash for the camera * Mouse ability (like Android or a Jailbroken iPad) * Removable battery (like Dell Venue 11 Pro) * Multiple windows (like some Androids or Windows Metro) * USB port (TB is a nice port but almost nothing uses it and you have to tote around dongles of all sorts) Etc. Air is a nice device but A LOT OF ROOM for improvement.
Matt Pro
With the new iPad Air 2 coming out I better sell my old iPad before the value of it drops. I usually search 8-13 different sites to find the best offer, but I just found this company that compares all the buyback companies in one spot, it’s called RecomHub. It’s like Kayak but for electronic devices that show you all the offers in one spot.