iPad Air review

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

iPad Air from Apple
Editor's Choice
Apple delivers one of its most stunning devices yet

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The iPad Air represents a big step forward for Apple in so many ways – not least in terms of design and setting a precedent for the future.

It's 28% lighter and 20% thinner than the iPad 4, taking up 24% less volume overall. I can see that Apple has really pushed the envelope when it comes to design, and the result is pretty phenomenal.

It's getting a little longer in the tooth now (check out our review of the iPad Air 2 for all the info about the sequel or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 range if you're on the market for an Android option) so if you've got the money to spare perhaps see what else is out there.

We liked

Reading back over the iPad 4 review, the issues I came across before have largely been resolved. The design is better. The bezel is smaller. The price is palatable in comparison to the competition.

The speaker output is immensely impressive, the overall look and feel of the initial iOS 7 offering was more intuitive – and it's got even better with iOS 9 – while the general speed of operation remains decent.

The range of accessories, the ecosystem and the general speed with which the iPad works, especially when it comes to the heavy lifting, is massively impressive. Nothing is a huge leap forward, more a set of constant steps towards the perfect tablet that make everything that little bit more slick to use.

We disliked

As mentioned, there's very little that Apple hasn't addressed here for me to really criticise. The 16GB option of the tablet simply isn't enough storage for most to be able to get the best out of their iPad.

iOS 9 gone a long way to improving things, and feels more like a complete operating system for this advanced device, but much of it still feels like a stretched-out iPhone operating system. And while I'm not that bothered with the simplistic functionality, which is almost a plus to some, the absence of Touch ID is strange given that it was so widely expected.

The camera is no great shakes, but I wouldn't be complaining if Apple had got rid of it altogether; however, to not offer the camera software that was found on the iPhone 5S at around the same time is odd.

And here's an odd one: the iPad Air is lighter than older iPads, but it's not light. It's not got the same feel we found when we first picked up the iPad mini, or the iPhone 5, or the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. It's not too heavy or anything, but it didn't wow me the first time I held it.


Make no mistake: Apple finally nailed the tablet with a great combination of specs, power and a decent OS in this option.

It's a joy to hold the iPad Air, even though it's now the thickest option in the iPad range. From the clever construction to the perpetually capable processor to the improved user interface, Apple has found an answer to every criticism I had of the older devices, and then some.

The fact it's not even more expensive than its large-screen brethren is really impressive for an Apple product, and the suite of apps that are now free, coupled with the excellent App Store and premium build, make this a no-brainer for anyone looking to enter the tablet market at well under the £400 mark.

I'd advise that you get the largest-capacity iPad Air your budget can manage – although now that the iPad Air is the entry-level model you no longer get the larger options, which is a shame. What's more, with rumours of an iPad Air 3 on the horizon, the iPad Air's days may be numbered.

But we can only review what's in front of us, not what might be in the future. You've seen the score, and for those keeping tabs you'll realise the iPad Air is techradar's first five-star tablet. It's a device with almost no flaws – and even though the iPad Air 2 is out, it remains one of the best tablets available today.

First reviewed: November 2013

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.