iPad Air

iPad Air after a weekend: my thoughts and your questions

I’ve used an iPad 1, 2, and 3 for writing, creating media, and reading, but last year I switched to an iPad mini and gave up that glorious retina display for a single reason: weight. This year, Apple shaved nearly 30 percent of the weight for the iPad Air, which I hoped would be enough to create the best of both worlds—a ‘full-screen’ iPad with room for touch typing in landscape and creating media, yet light enough to one-hand while reading. After spending a weekend with a 128GB silver iPad Air (T-Mobile), I think this is the quintessential iPad.

The iPad Air is a great improvement overall but, by and large, the dramatic weight loss and thinner bezel are the stars this year. These things are so important, Apple changed the device’s name so you can’t miss them.

iPar Air propped upI spent time this weekend using my iPad in my typical scenarios—tinkering with music and writing on my coffee table (including this post), laying on my back on the sofa reading, wandering around the house, and reading in bed. I’ve one-handed my iPad Air and done the “hey check out this neat thing” hand-off to Jessi that makes the iPad such an enjoyable, personal device for real-world sharing in the first place. In all cases, I haven’t missed my iPad mini or its weight. But it’s not just that the iPad Air is “lighter,” it’s that the new 1-pound weight makes it light enough to get under the one-hand threshold.

When it comes to typing, I tried to get used to touch typing on the mini but it’s just too narrow for me, even in landscape. I went on a hunt for an iPad mini keyboard and landed on the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini, but it still means I need an extra piece of hardware to turn on and keep charged for writing. Plus, it’s iPad-mini-sized, so it’s even tighter and more compromised than a netbook keyboard. I always preferred touch typing on a regular sized iPad, and I’ve been pretty happy to return to that with the iPad Air since I can now leave the house with an even lighter bag and do most of my daily work.

For portrait thumb typing situations, my small nerd hands are pretty happy with it, thanks to that thinner bezel. It’s oh so slightly less thumb-able versus the mini, but much better than the previous 9.7-inch designs. Losing a decent chunk of the left and right bezel helped a lot, and I’m already pretty used to it for the typical thumbing tasks in portrait.

Your questions

Instead of going on about this, I opened up the floor to questions on Twitter and App.net. Here are some answers:

The iPad Air really does have the mini’s construction—curved sides with an angled edge around the top rim—so it’s comfortable in my hand for long periods. Battery life is characteristically great, though charging still takes noticeably longer than with a non-retina iPad. Not deal-breaker longer by any means, it’s just a little slower.

kevincray @chartier In your dead honest opinion is it really worth upgrading from my 4th gen? I just got this thing 6 months ago.

That’s a tough one, the iPad 4 is still a really good machine. If you are or plan on pushing it with tough work, it’s worth noting the iPad Air is twice as fast as the 4 and, as I mentioned earlier, just two-thirds the weight. If you’re really thinking about it, see what you could get for your 4 on eBay or Gazelle and decide if paying the difference for an Air is worth it.

Because you touch yourself at night.

As happy as I am with the iPad Air’s size, the only thing that might be a decent reason for you is comics. I wasn’t really thrilled about comics on the mini, and maybe the upcoming retina version will help with that. But for me it’s partly the retina factor, but also the sheer screen size. The larger iPad simply feels more… immersive.

I haven’t noticed that yet, though I’ve only played a couple recent games for a few minutes; I haven’t done any lengthy stints of really pushing it hard.

C’mere and I’ll show you.

cardinal @chartier Lots of people compare performance to the iPad 4, which many of us skipped over. If that applies for you, compare the Air to the 3. I've also seen benchmarks galore, but no mention of if things *feel* faster, or how significant that is.

Yes, my last full-sized iPad was a 3, and I had some time to use iOS 7 on it before I handed it down to my mother-in-law. In short, the iPad 3 felt like it was struggling a little to run iOS 7, but that happens with some of Apple’s releases. With another minor update or two, or maybe 7.1, the iPad 3 and 4 should run it more smoothly.

That said, the iPad Air runs iOS 7 really well, noticeably much better in nearly every aspect. Apps start up faster, iOS features I don’t use often (like Spotlight search) don’t stutter, and long lists of media and cover art (Music and Videos apps) scroll like butter.

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