iPad Air: One week in

My initial impression of the iPad Air was solid, and now that I've been using it for a week has that changed?
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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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