iPad Air review

It's no longer king, but the Air is still an excellent choice

TODO alt text
Editor's Choice

Battery life on the iPad Air is quoted at "Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music". I would say that's actually not a bad estimate, although the drain was closer to 2% every 10 minutes in general use, which equates to around nine hours' use.

Standby time is much, much better though. I found that I could stick the iPad Air in a bag, taking it out for the commute and messing about with it on the sofa at home, for at least three days before it began to get low on battery.

In fact, the only real task that killed it was connecting to an amplifier via Wi-Fi while simultaneously streaming music to the same device through Bluetooth. It's doing things like this that make you realise that this is the kind of thing that we envisaged at the turn of the century, a tablet that has the brains and connectivity to do all the tasks we could want.

iPad Air review

When it comes to playing games – another famously power-sapping task – I found that the iPad Air coped reasonably well. Playing Freeblade – one of the most graphically demanding games on the App Store – for 10 minutes drained 7% of the Air's battery.

In running the techradar battery test recently, which involves running a 90-minute 720p looping video with the screen brightness cranked right up, the battery depleted by a consistent 22%. That's just a single percentage point worse than the iPad Air 2, which was a much newer device and (obviously) a new an improved model.

It's not as good as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (16%) or the Nexus 9 (18%), but again, those are newer tablets. It might be worth noting if a primary task for your tablet is watching lots of movies when you don't have access to a charge point.

In terms of connectivity, we've already mentioned the excellent Wi-Fi performance (in terms of distance from router, rather than improved speed) through the Multiple In, Multiple Out (MIMO) technology.

4G bands are now covered throughout the globe, and low-power Bluetooth is also on board as well, making it an incredibly well-connected device.


Apple has thrown on reams of free software with the iPad Air (and other iOS 7, 8 and 9 devices too), so you now get access to the likes of Pages, Numbers and Keynote from the iWork tribe as well as Photos (which integrates a lot of the old iPhoto functionality), iMovie and Garageband for free.

These are incredibly powerful tools for what is still essentially a cut-down mobile device – I can't say that I'd recommend using them regularly without a keyboard (in the case of iWork, or the newer Office for iPad) but elements such as Photos and Garageband really give you the chance to express yourself fluidly.

Having such accomplished software right out of the box (well, you do have to download much of it actually, and it's a fairly hefty download) is a big plus for a shiny new toy, and it's a major part of the appeal of joining Apple's ecosystem.

iPad Air review

On top of that, I still feel the need to laud the Apple App Store for its ability to offer the best apps around. We're talking about things like BBC iPlayer and Sky Go, both of which offer improved user interfaces and allowed downloads first before the Android hop came.

The gap between Apple and Google's app portals is narrowing, but there's no doubt that users will still feel far more secure in the app experience they'll get on an Apple tablet compared to an Android one for now, and that's a big reason to purchase.

iPad Air review

Maps should also gain something of a special mention, as while it was a PR disaster for Apple, it's slowly clawing its way back to usable thanks to constant upgrades.

It's still far from the best out there, and we'd recommend you download the excellent Google Maps as soon as possible, but we rarely find that Apple Maps is offering an inaccurate course for us to navigate down to the shops – just don't ask it to find obscure towns whose names appear in multiple places.


Phones and Tablets Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been part of the mobile phone industry from the era of the brick to the tiny device in the pocket... and now watching them grow back up to behemothic proportions once more. He's spent five years dissecting all the top phones in the world as TechRadar's Phones and Tablets Editor, and still can't resist answering the dreaded question - "which new phone should I get?" - with 15 choices.