iPad Air: Best tablet ever made

Having used hundreds of tablets over the past decade, it's clear the latest one from Apple is the best of the lot.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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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