iPad Air: Best tablet ever made

iPad Air: Best tablet ever made

Summary: Having used hundreds of tablets over the past decade, it's clear the latest one from Apple is the best of the lot.

TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
iPad Air in hand
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I love tablets. I've used hundreds of them over the past decade, from the early Tablet PCs to the latest and greatest. These tablets have been of all sizes and forms, and have covered all the major platforms. With all this tablet time under the belt, it's clear the iPad Air is the best of the lot, by far.

CNET Review: Apple iPad Air -- Thinner, lighter, faster, best

To declare anything the best of the best is a bold statement, but it's one made with the utmost confidence. Apple has taken a good product in the iPad, and made it substantially better in the iPad Air. Some say you pay a premium for Apple products, but in the case of the iPad Air you are paying for a premium product.

Form and function

That Apple has crammed so much functionality in such a small package is a testament to its engineers. The iPad Air is barely bigger than the iPad mini, yet packs so much more inside. At less than a third of an inch thick and one pound in weight, this slate is what all other tablets wish to be.

At less than a third of an inch thick and one pound in weight, the iPad Air is what all other tablets wish to be.

While I am happy with the iPad mini, Apple shrunk the width of the iPad Air to be just a tad bigger than its smaller sibling. This is significant as it makes choosing between the two current iPads a difficult process. The iPad Air has a slightly bigger display (9.7in vs. 7.9in), so the small size penalty carries a big benefit.

As delicately thin as the iPad Air might be, it is sturdily constructed. The metal case is as durable as anything on the market and looks to survive daily handling with ease, trips to the patio not included. It feels quite sturdy in the hand because it is.

iPad Air palmed
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Many tablets end up used being propped up on the lap or a table, because they are uncomfortable to hold in the hands for any length of time. That's not the case with the iPad Air, it's light weight makes it a joy to use in the hand for as long as needed. This is the way tablets are meant to be used and it's signifcant in this writer's experience.

The guts of the iPad Air are as impressive as the external casing. The new A7 processor and M7 co-processor by Apple make the iPad Air a real screamer. Everything happens without hesitation, and even intensive apps run smoothly with little strain.

Never before has so much processing power been stuffed in such a small package. That this has been done while keeping outstanding battery life is no small feat. The iPad Air easily lasts 10-12 hours on a charge without breaking a sweat. Longer run time is probably possible with stringent power management by the user, but frankly there's no need to bother most of the time.

Best of the best

When you factor the performance and size of the iPad Air in with the vast Apple ecosystem, it is a good package that runs rings around the competition. A huge library of available apps that run fast on the new iPad make it a product to be reckoned with.

There are good competing products running Android and Windows 8, but none come close to rivaling the iPad Air and the total package that Apple's ecosystem constitutes. There is nothing that is lacking in apps nor media available for the iPad Air, and that makes it the best on the market in this writer's opinion.

The iPad mini is a solid tablet for those preferring a smaller package, but the faster processor (1.4GHz vs 1.3GHz) and larger display makes the iPad Air the better of the two.

iPad mini and Air
iPad mini (top), iPad Air (bottom) (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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  • Hmm

    I'm thinking you have low standards!

    A tablet that gets stuck in one orientation or another is not what I would consider the best!

    A tablet that blows up, while on display, is not what I would consider the best! I noticed you guys really didn't cover this incident!

    A tablet that won't let me choose my default Apps is not what I would consider the best!
    • Really?

      That's your best shot?
      • Really?

        The fact that it doubles an IED should be enough for pretty much anyone! I bet a lot of people walked out of that store in Australia without an iPad Air that day!

        What's funny, I'm typing this on the A7 equipped iPad Mini Retina and you know what, it is sluggish at transitions, the scrolling that used to be smooth on web pages no stutters, and it is generally not a very good performing tablet anymore.

        I said a lot of things about the older versions of iOS but, what Jony has done to this is insane as it is no longer a smooth experience and the design isn't very pleasant either!
    • Not the best

      A tablet take can't display two or more apps at the same time can't be the best. A tablets on which you can't connect directly a USB device can't be the best. A tablet that doesn't have a keyboard connector/cover can't be the best. Worst.... a tablet that doesn't allow you to browse a network surely cannot be the best. Same for office suite.

      The iPad air is the same old. It's good, very good. But it is not the best. It's strongest point is the app catalogue and that, you can get on an older model.

      I have switch to another platform, won't look back.
      • Don't forget

        "it's just a big iPod Touch!"

        Heh heh heh.
        • Yeah, that runs circles around the competition

          Heh heh heh!!
          • Yeah no it doesn't...

            Adreno 330 beats the GPU in the iPad Air / Mini Retina and the CPU is only marginally slower. Bottom line, it doesn't beat the pants off of anything.
          • Re: Adreno 330 beats the GPU in the iPad Air

      • It's not like James hasn't tested them all...

        I see the paid knee-jerk commenters are out in force today.
        • Tested them all

          I have no clue of James's methodology for getting to this conclusion. I can tell about mine. I own and use every day, at home and at work PCs, Macs and tablets. I'm a developer, a database architect and small web development firm owner of 9 employees. I'm 46 and I've been using computer since I was 13. I was an early adopter of the iPod, the iPad 1 then the iPad 2, the BB Playbook, The Surface, and now the Surface 2. I don't give a d* that you might think that I must be paid for having the opinion that Apple doesn't make the best tablet anymore. They just don’t. The have a very rich app catalogue but not the best ecosystem. They have a very good hardware /software combination but the most useful on a daily life.

          It took way too long for Microsoft to put their tablet program on track and another year to make a very, very good one but they did. The Surface 2 is just better than any iPad. It’s not perfect, it’s not even as refined as the iPad is. It’s a second generation product, not a fifth. It might take another year for Microsoft to fully comprehend the subtleties of the consumer market but they will get there. Still, what they already are selling is just way more satisfying, flexible, productive, and useful than any Apple tablet. What makes the biggest difference is the concept. They took a very capable OS a brought it to a tablet. Apple took a very different path by creating a new but very limited OS that makes sure that everything you will put on it will come from the Apple store. It is a money vacuum with a limited set of functionalities. They were there first of for that reason, they have the widest app catalog, good for them and the users. However, the first tablet I got that could browse a network, accept USB devices, opened my eyes on what can and should be a tablet. A descent click-in keyboard/cover is also amazing.
          After a full year on the Skydrive/Outlook/Office and Windows ecosystem, I feel very comfortable saying that it is better than what Apple is presently offering in terms of online/cloud services. When I got my new Surface, switching from one device to the other took less than 5 minutes. All my apps, my cloud storage, my color and scheme, my tiles, bookmarks passwords and Windows setting were transferred from my old to my new Surface while resetting the old one to a factory default setting so I could give to its new owner.

          Don’t get me wrong, I still pick up my iPad from time to time. There are some apps that I can’t live without that are not yet available for Windows 8.1. But as soon as they will be made available, that’ll be for my iPad. Oh I see… Flipboard was released for Windows 8.1 yesterday… mmm.
          • A by the book MS PR response.

            well played, sir, weil played.

            Until Microsoft sort out the schizophrenic frankentablet then it won't appeal to the masses...
          • Typical reply

            This is typical form people who are very anti-Microsoft and who have NEVER used a Surface, Windows Phone or any Win8/Win8.1 device. Very sad. Why don't you try using some of these products first before spouting off your opinion as the previous poster has done. When you use them, then perhaps some people may actaully listen to you little crys.
          • A typical response from among the clueless

            I'm glad on not part of "the masses".
            Surface 2 is the best all around tablet on the market. It may lack the app library but it offers more functionality and features than the iPad or any Android tablet.
          • Ha haaa! Microsoft PR

            Yes, it's hilarious how Microsoft PR people take to the forums to criticize the iPad.

            It seems like just yesterday that they staged that mock iPhone funeral outside the Redmond campus. I know which device will really soon be in need of a funeral.
          • Yes Vbitrate, it has to be MS PR people

            because the alternative is even worse - people actually dismissing you and your recommendations on what to buy, and instead buying what THEY want, not what you want them to own.

            Kind of marginalizes you and your choices, agreed?
          • Re: people buy what they want

            Exactly. And what they want is not coming from Microsoft.
          • Masses?

            By "masses", I take it you mean people who blindly buy iPads because someone told them that they're the best.

            I think that iPads are great... for older people who like to sit at Starbucks and read e-newpapers; but I have REAL work to do.
          • Masses

            "Real work to do" then get a laptop.Stop bashing Apple.
          • Classic "Response of the fearful"

            jgpmolloy just pulled a classic "response of the fearful".

            For some reason the fact that someone from the general buying public champions the use of a non-Apple product, he has to claim that it was someone from MS making the posts.

            Why people like him are afraid of the fact that not everyone thinks or agrees with those like him is the mystery.

            It's only a tablet, not a status symbol, right?
          • Nope

            Not been close.