Update: Now that the iPad Air is about 6 months old, is it worth waiting for the iPad Air 2 around the bend? See page 9 for what we think might (or should) make it into the airy sequel that would be worth waiting another 6 months for.

Apple's new iPad shows all you need to know about its changed approach to tablets - with a 43% thinner bezel and a 28% lighter device, the iPad Air is championing the 'easier to live with' ideal.

If you haven't seen a picture yet, then imagine an iPad mini that you've just held a little closer to your face, and you're largely there with the Air.

It's got the same smooth back design, thinner bezel and more attractive speakers at the bottom of the phone to make it look like more of a family with the cut down tablet from Apple's stables.

While it's a clear copy, we're not going to get upset about that as the mini already had a stunning design, and the Air takes that message and brings it to the big leagues.

It also has machined buttons that don't feel loose when shaking, bringing up the premium feel to the device.

Ratings in depth
iPad Air review

iPad Air review

iPad Air review

iPad Air review

iPad Air review





On top of the new design, it's also rocking Apple's A7 chip, bringing with it 64-bit processing power and reams of battery saving techniques to keep your tablet going even longer in day to day use.

And the greatest thing about the iPad range in our eyes is the price - Apple is starting the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model at the same cost as its rivals, and while that outlay does spiral up as capacity and connectivity increase, for an Apple device to not charge an (unnecessary) premium is something we're really happy to see.

We're looking at a price range of £399 - £739 ($499 - $929 or AU$598 - AU1049), starting from the 16GB version (Wi-Fi only) to the 64GB cellular option.

Add to that the fact Apple is lobbing in a lot of useful free software, as well as bringing a more refined experience with iOS 7, and you can see that it's put a lot of effort into making the iPad Air the tablet that shows it's not losing its relevancy in the market.

The keynote for the launch of the iPad Air talked a lot about Apple's dominance in terms of tablet usage, but it's no secret that a number of users are starting to warm to the idea of an Android model as their main device - the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is one of the best around at the moment, and offers expandable storage as well as a waterproof casing to trump Apple in that respect.

iPad Air review

But Apple has countered by bringing out the same 128GB model as before, which, while pricey, gives more than ample storage for anything you want to do on the go, be it storing all the HD apps you want as well as your entire music collection and most movies too.

It's worth noting that the 16GB option is nigh-on useless as a purchase if you're thinking of pulling in all the free apps Apple is slinging your way - this was an issue when the Retina display landed on the iPad 3, and has only got worse as more HD apps from developers have been slipped onto the App Store.

iPad Air review]

However, it's still good to see options being offered when it comes to storage, as some Android devices (albeit mostly phones) are starting to eschew expandability and not really upping the internal space.

So you can see that Apple has covered its bases in nearly every area when it comes to the iPad Air - but how does it actually perform in the hand when subjected to rigorous daily use?

iPad Air review

Design

The iPad Air is an odd device when you pick it up for the first time. When you hear all the numbers being bandied about you'd rightly assume that you'd feel something that was almost ghost-like in the hand, a tablet that could almost get blown away.

And we're utterly not disputing that - the iPad Air is the most balanced tablet on the market, with great precision going into the engineering throughout. However, if you've touched an iPad mini or just haven't held an older iPad for a while (and with some people we tested with, even those that had) you won't feel as much of a step up as you'd be expecting.

We've added that caveat to brace you should you be excited to purchase the new iPad, as it's not something that affects the general usage in any way, with one-handed holding very easy, and something that puts the Air into a new product category.

iPad Air review

The design of the iPad Air is, as we've mentioned, very impressive. Yes, it's totally based on the iPad mini, and the smooth aluminium back is really great to feel in the hand. It's a shame that most people feel the need to slap a cover on an iPad as soon as it's bought - while we get the notion of protection, it hides away some cracking design.

That said, at least it keeps the fingers away from the chassis, and the iPad Air is a real magnet for prints. The back cover isn't too bad, but the mirrored Apple logo sucks down finger oil and is loathe to give it back even with hard scrubbing with a cloth.

iPad Air review

It might not sound like a big deal, but it makes your premium new tablet look a bit unkempt right from the start.

But in actual operation, the design of the iPad Air complements the impressive innards superbly. It's unsurprisingly not possible to hold your hand the entire way around the edge of the Air, but then again it's so light (and comes with the ability to disregard erroneous thumbs entering the screen, again like the iPad mini) that it doesn't really make a big difference.

iPad Air review

The rest of the buttonry - the top-mounted power key and the silencing rocker switch and volume buttons at the side - haven't moved far, but protrude nicely to make them very easy to hit no matter when you're holding the device - being able to find such things without looking is often sacrificed in the quest to make tablets look sleeker, so we're happy Apple has gone the other way here.

There is one note of criticism in terms of design for such a decent (and still expensive, despite costing the same as many of its peers) piece of kit: the screen has a plastic thud to it when tapping, thanks to the smaller and lighter innards.

It's most noticeable when grazed with a fingernail, although in a case the effect is lessened. We're surprised Apple let this feature go unchallenged, but it seems in making the design thinner and removing part of the inner cage the overall strength of the chassis is somewhat reduced.

It's not a major issue by any means, and certainly one that you'll only pick up on sporadically, but it's still enough to irk at times when you're expecting a truly premium experience.

Many of you will also be wondering why there's no TouchID onboard the iPad AIr when it's such a large selling point for the iPhone 5S.

iPad Air review

We're in the same boat. The architecture is there. It surely can't be an issue of space seeing as the technology fitted into the iPhone 5S.

So what could it be? Apple surely isn't holding it back as the 'big upgrade' for the iPad Air 2, is it? That would be such an anti-climax... plus we're waiting for the bendable iPad in 2014 anyway.