iPad Air: One week in

iPad Air: One week in

Summary: My initial impression of the iPad Air was solid, and now that I've been using it for a week has that changed?

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

Apple turned up the heat on competitors by trimming size and weight off the iPad Air. As a firm believer that tablets must be light to use comfortably, I wasted little time in buying a new iPad. My initial impression of the iPad Air was quite favorable, and I'm getting asked often if I still feel that way. Here's my take after heavy usage the first week.

The iPad Air is solidly constructed and it's impressive how much Apple has crammed into such a thin product. The hardware has functioned superbly with heavy usage, and there's nothing I would change if given the opportunity. The one pound weight of the Air feels nice in the hand, and it is effortless to use it for hours at a time.

That's the primary reason my first generation iPad mini has been sitting alone on my desk this past week. While I've always been a fan of smaller tablets, that's primarily been for the lighter weight compared to larger tablets. I was willing to trade the smaller screen for the comfort of using the tablets. That's no longer the case with the iPad Air in tow.

The one pound weight of the Air is perfectly balanced in the hand and it is effortless to use it for hours at a time.

What I used to do a lot with smaller tablets, the iPad mini and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 to be exact, was read ebooks with the Kindle app. Sure, I did all of the other typical tablet tasks with them, but I spent hours reading books. The smaller tablets were more comfortable to hold in the hand for long periods and that's what I used.

That's no longer the case with the iPad Air. While only slightly heavier than those two smaller tablets, the additional weight is negligible. The Air is perfectly balanced too, which makes it as comfortable to use as those smaller models. The bigger iPad has the gorgeous bigger Retina Display, and it is marvelous for reading books. It's a great improvement seeing a bigger page at a time, and the text is crisp and clear. This is a big step up from the smaller screens I've been using.

Watching video on the iPad Air is also a noticeable improvement from doing so on smaller displays. The screen size isn't much bigger, but as it is with reading ebooks, it's big enough to make a world of difference.

It's not just the fun stuff that is improved with the iPad Air. Regular readers know I've long used tablets with keyboards for my work. I've even regularly used both of my small tablets with little keyboards for writing.

This past week I've been using the iPad Air with the ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard almost exclusively for my work, and it's been great. The combo is as thin as can be, and the combined weight is very light. I can slip it into a pocket on almost any bag without noticing it when I carry it around.

When I want to get some writing done I just slide it out of the bag, open it and get writing in seconds. No hassles, no delays, just open it and get to work. This is quite liberating and makes it possible to work without thinking about the tool I'm using. The importance of this can't be overstated, it's very conducive to the creative process.

I am very happy with the iPad Air for both work and play, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Sure, it's not perfect, no gadget is. But it's as close as can be and that's a very nice thing. It's not for everybody, Windows and Android tablets are a better choice for some, but I'm satisfied with the iPad Air.

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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  • To mini or not to mini. That will be the question this holiday season

    Although I don't have a month under my belt with a new Apple A7 equipped iPad Air tablet, I do have three days of experience with another A7 Apple tablet - my first "mini" tablet, BTW - the iPad Mini Retina.

    As I type this comment on my desktop browser, I'm using my new mini tablet to show a Netflix's movie with the audio sent to a Logitech Ue mobile boom box speaker. (A nice setup)

    I agree with all of James' iPad Air performance observations since my experience with the mini version of the iPad Air mirrors those. Safari web pages snap open. Zite and Flipboard are a joy to use. Every app responds with commendable speed. All in all, I can't find anything to complain about. Since Qualcomm and Intel are scrambling to offer the same "PR performance" gains of 64 bit computing in their mobile chip designs, it won't be too much longer when consumers of those products will enjoy the same performance benefits of Apple's A7 64 bit chipset and optimized software synergy. Of course, when Qualcomm and Intel introduce those new 64 bit chipsets, they will have new PR reps to tell the world that it really wasn't a PR stunt after all. (I couldn't resist - forgive me.)

    As some reviewers have noted (and James alludes to), the iPad Air display is capable of revealing the full sRGB color gamut whereas the mini retina (from published reports) reveals "only" 63 percent of those sRGB colors. The mini display's viewing effect upon the user is almost akin to editing a photo by reducing the color saturation "just a bit". The mini's color accuracy is accurate, however. That is to say, it displays it's colors without any "warmth" or "coolness" added to the image. (Red or Blue tints) James does not need to worry about this on his iPad Air display. I've seen the iPad Air and the vibrancy and the saturation of it's displayed colors are optimum.

    One other point that James touched on was the battery charge duration issue. From published reports, a surprising observation was noted. The smaller iPad mini retina was able to work a "tad longer" on a battery charge than it's larger A7 tablet cousin. I've noted the same liberating user experience that James reported regarding his first generation iPad mini's battery performance. 11 hours of use in a 8 inch tablet form factor is indeed liberating.

    As Steve Jobs famously remarked about 7" 16x9 tablets, a 10" 4x3 tablet will give a superior viewing experience over a smaller tablet. Well duh! Somewhat obvious. But it does beg the question whether consumers can adapt to a smaller tablet form factor. The consumers have answered that question with their dollars and a smaller tablet form factor has been deemed quite acceptable. Fortunately the pros are greater or equal to the cons and I have found my first mini tablet a joy to use.

    So that will be the question this holiday buying period. To mini or not to mini. And I don't just refer to Apple products. As some have noted, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is a great Intel bay trail powered mini tablet.

    As James is found of stating, this is a great time period for exciting tablet designs and Apple's latest efforts are superb efforts.
    • Pros & Cons

      iPad Air Pros: Best hardware engineering on any tablet, most mature apps (best looking apps).
      iPad Air Cons: I think the iOS7 interface has ruined the intuitiveness for novice users (eg children), with thin pastel back arrows difficult to find. I'm surprised Apple continued with the 4:3 screen on the iPad Air. I think a 16:9 widescreen is better for both book reading and for watching movies (which are 16:9).
      • Dissagree on the 16:9 aspect being better

        As Arstech puts it, "4:3 aspect ratio makes the tablet usable in portrait and landscape modes where 16:9 and 16:10 tablets this size are better-suited to landscape use". The whole point of the iPad from day one is to use the device in any orientation comfortably, without it feeling too narrow or too wide when holding in hand like 16:9 and 16:10 10" tablets.

        16:9 is ok on smaller 7" tablets but once you go up to 9" - 10" screen size, the thing just feels too awkward in hand. Unless all you do is watch movies.
        • Actually think the opposite

          I like the iPad Mini's 4:3 ratio for a 8" tablet but for larger than that, the 4:3 the screen just looks like those laptops from 8 years ago. Even reading, I tend to hold my tablets in landscape mode. Now that I have a Surface, I not only have my reading pane open but typically another windows pane snapped to the side watching twitter feeds and such.
          Rann Xeroxx
          • Exactly

            Landscape 16:9 allows you to have more than one application on the screen.
          • True for Windows, not for iPad

            A 16:9 screen on an iPad would not help at all, it would just ruin the portrait orientation.

            Note that iPads have their Home button correctly centered when holding the tablet in portrait, unlike Windows and Android tablets. They are meant to be held in portrait mode as their primary orientation.

            I am a huge fan of Windows 8.1 on a tablet, but I am not a fan of 16:9 tablets. If iPad-like hardware could run Windows 8.1, I would absolutely be using Windows 8.1 as my only tablet OS. And I am sure it could multitask multiple apps the screen at one time. You don't need 16:9 for that in Win 8.1.
          • Nexus7

            Home button is centered in portrait, contrary to your statement... No big deal, just for the record.
      • As a father with a 2 year old,

        I'd just like to share that he has ZERO problems with the new interface. The hardest part for him was figuring out how to get past the new lock screen, but otherwise he knows where his apps and the games are on my iPhone, my wife's iPhone, and our iPad Air.

        In fact, watching him with my MIL's first-gen iPad (iOS 5.1.1 or whatever it's running) and my SIL's iPod Touch 3rd generation (same iOS version) was was like watching him try to figure out iOS 7 for the first time.
  • " iPad Air for both work and play".

    Only play I guess.
    • Well, at least an iPad gets used for something

      Unlike Surface. 6 million still sitting unwanted in an MS warehouse.
      • Oh dear, the Redmond Owl is back

        Mr Owl gets fed at Redmond.
      • I see the MythPushers are back

        "6 million still sitting unwanted in an MS warehouse"

        Can you find proof of that? To be honest, I heard only 4 million were produced.

        where did those other 2 million come from? Magic?
        • Re: I heard only 4 million were produced

          Trusting you on this, then 900,000,000 / 4,000,000 = $225.

          So according to your own knowledge, Microsoft has written off $225 from each Surface sale.
          Those who claim Microsoft had more unsold Surfaces were hoping things are not just that bad.
      • Tick for Tack

        Even the Apple Lisa 2 was a marketing failure, does not mean it was a bad product.
        Rann Xeroxx
        • Lisa 2 was great

          once MacWorks was released for it.
    • ? curious

      I can accept that you might not want / need to use one for work. But what makes you think that a lot of us aren't using it productively?
    • Of course

      Of course you "guess". You may only guess, since you're not familiar with the facts. And your guess is always wrong, from some reason.
      Maria Davidenko
      • Really?

        Anyone with a sound mind would know that Windows 8.1 devices are suited for work and play. iPad is just an expensive toy and a total waste of money for what its worth.
        • Having used both...

          ...I can confidently say that you are wrong. I consider the iPad Air to be excellent value for money and use it for work purposes regularly. That's in addition to using it for play.

          You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. And you do look like you're trying so VERY hard!
          Christo the Daddyo
        • As I said...

          As I said - you're not familiar with the facts. Many industries use iPad ACROSS THE WORLD , but you're not able to accept this fact. Will you agree or not - nothing will change.
          Maria Davidenko