iPad Air: Color me surprised

iPad Air: Color me surprised

Summary: Apple took the cover off the new iPad earlier today and while I didn't think it possible the company shocked me with one thing it did and one it left out.

TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
iPad Air
(Image: Apple)

Apple threw its event to unveil its new iPads, chief among them the new iPad Air. It is thinner as expected, but the most surprising spec is the weight. Apple was able to drop almost half a pound in weight from the iPad, and that is significant.

I admit when I'm wrong and earlier today I lamented about the lack of innovation in tablet hardware. I felt that tablets had hit a plateau in the hardware department and that innovation would come on the software side.

It didn't take Apple long to prove me wrong with the unveiling of the next generation iPad, the iPad Air. In addition to the new stuff under the hood, faster processor chief among them, Apple was able to drop .44lb from the weight. The iPad Air weighs in at only 1lb, and that makes it the lightest 10-inch tablet by far.

The last generation iPad weighs in at 1.44lb, a little heavier than the one that came before it. That's pushing the limit I have for a comfortable tablet, just under my 1.5lb limit.

The iPad Air at 1lb will easily be comfortable to use in the hand for extended periods. It's barely heavier than the current iPad mini, and that's very light indeed.

Reducing the weight that much is a tribute to Apple's engineers. To drop almost a third of the weight of a device that was already thin and light is simply amazing. They had to shave weight off virtually every component inside the iPad along with the casing to trim that much total weight off the package.

I didn't believe it possible that Apple could alter the hardware of the iPad as much as it did, so I tip my hat to them for this light iPad Air. Now to figure out how to afford one.

As impressive as the weight loss of the iPad Air is, it's surprising that Apple didn't put 802.11ac in the new tablet. This faster wi-fi debuted in the MacBook Air, and paired with a current Apple AirPort Extreme it is signficantly faster than other wi-fi protocols.

According to specs from Apple for the iPad Air, it only supports 802.11a/b/g/n. That's as fast as everything else but the ac is missing. Maybe the faster wi-fi weighs too much.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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  • So let's see

    It does all the same stuff my iPad v3 does. Same screen. Same apps. Now I have to spend $70 on a new case, probably $100 on a new keyboard. all to save .44 lbs. Now that's innovation. Wow!
    • Uhm

      You don't have to do anything. You can keep your previous iPad and it will still work fine. If however, you want a lighter, thinner and as you left out, faster iPad. Then you can spend whateer you want.

      What exactly do people expect? It's got the A7 in it, and they made it thinner and lighter with the same amount of battery life. At this point everything is driven by software, which people seem to want to change simply for the sake of change.
      • They expect something innovative.

        An evolutionary improvement over an existing product isn't worthy of an event and all the media coverage given to Apple when they hold them.
        • media coverage

          Yes, indeed. When Microsoft claims 75% battery improvements and measurements show 40% at best, all the media cries "liars! you should trust Microsoft".

          Now, when Apple claims nothing and demonstrates, that they can provide more power, same battery life etc in a lighter and slimmer package, we are told this does not deserve mention, because it is "not innovation".

          But, if you are not an engineer, this is understandable.
      • Yes

        Exactly my point. Everything is driven by software. I didn't call it revolutionary, they did. The new one does the same stuff the old one did. A little faster, a little lighter, a little smaller but it doesn't revolutionize anything. There is a point where fast is fast enough, light is light enough, and small is small enough, battery life is more than enough. To me revolutionary means allowing me to do something I couldn't do before or giving me a new way to do a difficult job easier. I am more than happy to keep my old one. Like I said, I didn't call it revolutionary, Tim did.
    • I'm upgrading from my iPad 3...

      The main reason I'm upgrading is the A7. I've upgraded my PC numerous times just because I wanted a faster PC. I didn't need it to do anything new per se, I just needed it to do what it already did but faster. Now I can't say I've been unimpressed with the speed of my iPad 3. It is every bit as fast as my iPad 2 while moving around 4x the pixels to get the Retina display. I never felt inclined to get an iPad 4 but honestly it wasn't THAT much faster than the 3. But the A7 is something different. Partly because it's just faster running ARMv7 code, but where it will really start to distance itself is when developers also optimize for the ARMv8 (see http://gizmodo.com/iphone-a7-chip-benchmarks-forget-the-specs-it-blows-e-1350717023). It's a little bit like the jump from 32bit to 64bit on desktop software, but it's much more like the jump from the Intel Core2 chips to the i5. Since xCode is REALLY good at letting developers build and package for multiple hardware optimizations at the same time, most apps will simply start to get this optimization without doing anything (the app sizes on the App Store will get about 25% bigger but developers need to turn it off to prevent it from making a 64bit version).
  • and that makes it the lightest 10-inch tablet by far ???

    it's only 26grm lighter than the Xperia Z..

    also they are using the same A7 that inside the iphone, it will have batter CPU performance but GPU wise will be similar to last gen...
  • lightest 10-inch tablet by far

    Well really its the lightest 9.7" tablet.

    Most of that lighterness came from reducing the bezel so they cut off weight in glass and frame, installed a smaller SOC, and I'm sure other components would have shrunk in this time as well... so Apple really didn't have to do much at all, really.
  • Worth the upgrade for me

    I'm still on an iPad 2, so this will be a very nice upgrade. I'm in!
    • What will this do that your existing iPad will not?

      This is a serious question. Apple has a way of convincing people their existing equipment is no longer usable and thus a new one is warranted. While I don't know your use case I know many people who replaced perfectly usable things with the latest and greatest with no tangible benefit.
      • What will this do that your existing iPad will not?

        It will run out of memory twice a fast.
      • get real

        as if apple is the ONLY company that pushes out "new" products every year (or even every quarter) which are only marginal upgrades of existing products? and yeah, they all honestly DO NOT wish their customers to dump their still-functioning-alright-but-is-one-generation-older products to buy their "new" products... get real mate, all companies all after your $$$ in your wallet.
      • How do you figure that?

        "Apple has a way of convincing people their existing equipment is no longer usable and thus a new one is warranted."

        How? By releasing a new model every year? Take a look at all the rest of the tablet and smartphone manufacturers ye and tell me they do not release new products every 6 months to a year that are better than the one you have. Personally I'm of the opinion that anyone who rushes out to get the newest device every time it comes out - not matter what company makes it - has entirely too much time and money on their hands. IOW this isn't restricted to just Apple fans nor is it restricted to tech. I know people who get new cars every 2 years... and their old cars are perfectly fine.
  • What if I want to do something useful rather than waste time?

    Please let me know when someone develops some useful engineering software for it.
    • like what software?

      I for example, routinely use AutoCAD on my iPad3 --- figuring now, that the iPad Air might in fact offer much better experience (Apple hinted on showing a picture of the iPad Air with AutoCAD on their site). Not that AutoCAD runs slow on my current iPad, but one never knows....
      Actually, I will always prefer using AutoCAD on the iPad when mobile, than using a laptop. It also provides features not found in desktop versions, such as direct use of the GPS (I know, it is doable, but is very cumbersome on the desktop version).

      There are plenty of other engineering software for the iPad, for years.
    • Er ..

      ... you just have to do some actual work and do what they call a "seach" in the App store.
      • Oops, that's "search"

        I need an actual spell checker.
        • Windows 8

          spell checker built in whenever you are typing.
  • Apple Convert?

    I have looked at Apple products for years but saw no compelling reason to buy one.

    Not being a current iPad owner I will seriously give the iPad Air a serious look when I make my next tablet purchase.

    For a current owner it might not make sense to upgrade but for me there is enough interesting stuff built into the new Air to make me consider purchasing the product.
    • A good upgrade from my iPad 2 ...

      ... for Siri, flawed though it is, and the weight, and the display, and the speed.

      Or the mini? Sigh.