Erik Eckel takes a look at the sleek design and impressive performance of Apple's new iPad Air.
Say what you will about Apple, but the company definitely sets standards. With hardware systems that have earned design awards, and software platforms — iOS and OS X — that are posed to exceed Windows' market share, Apple has earned a reputation for innovation, simplicity, and performance. In fact, Apple's most recent product, the iPad Air, continues its winning ways.
The first iPad models changed the way people work. Most manufacturers had given up on the tablet market. Don’t forget, Microsoft canceled its own Courier tablet initiative. Netbooks were all the rage. But the iPad changed all that, transforming the manner in which users interact with electronic devices. Developers designed applications to take advantage of the iPad’s strengths and didn’t just port existing applications to the tablet. The result was a revolutionary new product that re-ignited the category.
Apple’s design influence on the newest iPad model is immediately apparent. The iPad Air is trim. At just 7.5 mm thin, the tablet weighs only one pound. That’s 28% lighter and 20% thinner than previous models.
Despite the reduction, the unit feels hardy. Thanks to unibody construction and incredibly tight tolerances, the tablet computer is light yet solid.
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Manufacturing such a slim, lightweight device frequently requires compromise. Often times, battery life must be sacrificed in favor of weight, or processing power and display features are trimmed to improve battery life.
Apple’s iPad Air makes no compromises. The 9.7-in screen powers 2048x1536 resolution. The Retina display’s 3.1 million pixels produce stunning videos and razor sharp images.
An A7 chip, meanwhile, delivers 64-bit desktop-class architecture to the tablet. OpenGL ES version 3.0 graphics power visual effects, rendering applications, videos, and even games quickly and efficiently. True to the mobile device’s nature, offloading accelerometer and gyro operations to an M7 coprocessor helps fuel smooth app operations on the go.
Thanks to intelligent architecture and engineering, battery life also remains impressive. Although the iPad Air is twice as fast as previous models, plus thinner and lighter, mobile users can still work for 10 hours between charges.
Connectivity is stellar on the iPad Air, which boast two antennas and multiple-input / multiple-output design, with Wi-Fi performance approaching 300 Mbps. Even mobile business users requiring connectivity on-the-go are in luck, because Wi-Fi + Cellular models support a growing number of LTE networks, plus GSM/UMTS, HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA systems. These devices can also serve as mobile hotspots, where supported by local cellular data network providers.
The iPad Air ships with iOS 7, which sweeten the deal. AirPlay simplifies giving presentations, AirPrint technology makes it easy to print on wireless networks, and iCloud makes it easier to share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. When you add in the fact that almost a half a million applications are now available within the App Store, it becomes clear that business users will be hard pressed to find a better tablet that's capable of meeting mobile performance computing needs.
What are your thoughts about the iPad Air? Will these devices make their way into your organization? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.