iPad Air review

Apple lays down the gauntlet for future tablets with a stunning effort

TODO alt text
Editor's Choice

Our Verdict

Want the best tablet on the market? Then get the iPad Air. It's got a stunning design, powerful innards and a superb suite of apps. It's as near to tablet perfection as you're going to get.

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 2048 x 1536
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 5 Megapixel

View full specification


  • Sleek design
  • Powerful innards
  • Great suite of free apps


  • No TouchID
  • Camera features lacking
  • 16GB version is too small

The original iPad Air showed us all what we needed to know about Apple's changed approach to tablets - with a 43% thinner bezel and a 28% lighter body than the iPads that came before it, the iPad Air champions the 'easier to live with' ideal.

Although the iPad Air's successor, the iPad Air 2, has now been out a while it doesn't mean that the original iPad Air isn't worth considering if you're after a tablet, especially since the price has dropped now that there's a new iPad Air on the block.

The original iPad Air took many of its design cues from the iPad mini 2. It's got the same smooth back design, thinner bezel and more attractive speakers at the bottom of the slate to make it look like more of a family with the cut down tablet from Apple's stables.

While it's a clear copy of that smaller device, I'm not going to get upset 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.

On top of the improved design the Air also got 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. Again, that's been superseded by the A8X chip in the Air 2, but you still get a decent slug of power here.

And the greatest thing about the iPad range in my 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 I'm really happy to see.

Even better, since the arrival of the iPad Air 2, prices for the original iPad Air have fallen.

You're looking at a price range of £319 - £459 ($399 - $579 or AU$499 - AU$709), starting from the 16GB version (Wi-Fi only) to the 32GB cellular option.

Apple has discontinued the 64GB version of the iPad Air, so if you're after a larger capacity then you'll want to invest in the iPad Air 2.

You could also scour the internet for a second hand iPad Air 64GB model. With the launch of the iPad Air 2 many people have put their perfectly good original iPad Airs up for sale, so with a bit of careful shopping you could net yourself a bargain.

iPad Air review

Apple has lobbed in a lot of useful free software, as well as bringing a more refined experience with iOS 8 and now iOS 9, 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, even if it's nearly been two years since its launch.

If you're coming here thinking about buying the iPad Air right now - remember that the iPad Air 2 is now out with a number of enhancements over this model.

The keynote for the launch of the iPad Air talked a lot about Apple's dominance in terms of tablet usage, but since then a large number of users are starting to warm to the idea of an Android model as their main device - Samsung is currently the big name in Android, with its Galaxy Tab S line offering an improved screen and better ergonomics for those preferring the Android experience in a tablet.

iPad Air review

It's worth noting that the 16GB option of the iPad Air 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.

The fact that the original iPad Air now only comes in 16GB and 32GB configurations may make you reconsider your purchase if you're looking on storing a large number of photos, music, videos and apps.

iPad Air review

Even so, the iPad Air remains a tempting purchase on paper - but how does it actually perform in the hand when subjected to rigorous daily use?


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 I'm 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.

iPad Air review

The design of the iPad Air is, as I'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 I 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 where 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 I'm 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. I'm 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 Touch ID 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.

Turns out Apple held it back as one of the 'big upgrades' for the iPad Air 2 - which certainly raised a few eyebrows.


Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet
Flash Memory Capacity16 GB
Processor ManufacturerApple
Graphics Controller ManufacturerImagination Technologies
Graphics Controller ModelPowerVR G6430
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Maximum Battery Run Time10 Hour
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyiPad Air
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformiOS
ColourSpace Gray
Operating SystemiOS 7
Brand NameApple
Form FactorSlate
Processor Speed1.30 GHz
Processor TypeA7
Screen Size24.6 cm (9.7")
Screen Resolution2048 x 1536
Weight (Approximate)453.6 g
Cache1 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyIn-plane Switching (IPS) Technology, Retina Display
WWAN SupportedNo
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution5 Megapixel
Height238.8 mm
Width167.6 mm
Depth7.4 mm
Screen ModeQXGA
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMD785LL/A
Product NameiPad Air Tablet
Product LineiPad Air
Aspect Ratio4:3
Manufacturer Part NumberMD785LL/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

All-new design. A ton of advanced technology. In just one pound. You have to hold iPad Air to believe it. It"s just 7.5 millimeters thin and weighs just one pound. The stunning Retina display sits inside thinner bezels, so all you see is your content. And an incredible amount of power lies inside the sleek enclosure. So you can do so much more. With so much less.

Limited Warranty1 Year